This morning was like every morning for me. I woke up with a purpose. A majority of my purpose is my photography business and taking care of my clients that are part of my tribe "Tribe MikeCon". I was going through my future booked client list and shoot sequences for 2017 that I have scheduled. I stopped for a second and noticed that I have a lot of shoots near the reservoirs located at the state parks. So the first one I called up was Cherry Creek State Park because it was the closest one and I remember a few years ago I was being interrogated by one of the Park Rangers there as I was shooting with Andrea Gerringer and Marcus Johnson, both who are WBFF Pros.
Well, I called and spoke with one of the office managers there named Kelli. After a few minutes of chatting, she told me about a form that's will alleviate any issues with Park Rangers and will allow you to do your work there in peace if you're getting paid to do photography there. Now, as we're talking on the phone, neither one of us could find the form on the park's website, so she said she could print some off at the office, and I quickly responded with excitement, "I'm on my way!!". Off I went!!
Luckily, I had posted on Facebook that I had some exciting news about doing photography at Cherry Creek State Park (Reservoir). As soon I posted that, there were lots of comments, questions, and opinions. So as soon as I get there I began my mini interrogation to find out the truth. I used the word "interrogation" out of love because I was basically there to advocate for all of my photography peers. There are so many different things that have happened to each photographer in general, and too many rumors, stories, that it was becoming a mad house of miscommunication/misinformation. If you know me, I'm all about trying to stick to rules and regulations, hell....that's the Marine in me! Here are the questions and answers below:
1. Question: Do I need to pay to do a photo shoot at Cherry Creek State Park? Answer: If the photo shoot is for personal use, no. All you need is a park pass. If you're getting paid for the photo shoot, then yes. That means no earned income can be done prior or after the photo shoot.
2. Question: What do I need to do a photo shoot there if I am getting paid from clients? Answer: Get a current "Special Activities Agreement", fill it out and pay $20.00 for the entire year.
3. Question: Can I use this form at other State Parks located in Colorado? Answer: No! The form can only be used at that specific State Park and you must have it on you at all times.
4. Question: Why can't I use the form at other state parks if they're all ran by the state? Answer: Each park has a different management team/person. Yes, they're all part of the same team, however, each park is run differently. You must contact the representative at each state park separately to get their permission to do photo shoots at their facility.
5. Question: Why do I get "harassed" by the Park Rangers when I'm out there doing photo shoots? Answer: Rangers do not always know. They actually rotate and hire on new Park Rangers all the time. They bring in different Park Rangers from different parks and some of them do not know the regulations fully. If they see a camera, lights and a model, they generally know and understand that you need a "Special Activities Agreement" (Permit) to do a photo shoot, and they automatically assume that you're getting paid to do the photo shoot.
Conclusion: The rules are rules, and they're there to ensure that everyone is doing what they need to. For those of you that are just out there to shoot and have fun, go for it! Have fun and have a great shoot. However, I will say this as my personal/professional opinion... if you're that broke and can't coordinate a day off to take your form over to the office at Cherry Creek, then you shouldn't be doing photography. It's $20.00 for goodness sake and you can use it to do shoots all year long....why lie and end up embarrassing yourself, and your client while you're out there? That's not a smart move professionally! One of my Facebook friends said, "When in doubt, assume it is OK. Forgiveness is easier to get than permission". I personally disagree because that's what's is hurting our reputations as professional photographers by assuming. It's the root of confusion and miscommunication.
I once did a shoot on private property at Fairmount Cemetery in Colorado, and I received a huge "Thank you" email from the main guy there, and all because I asked permission. During the photo shoot, I had a lady from the management there running up to me angrily until I showed her the email traffic and her tune changed quickly. She was upset because so many previous artists came into the cemetery and had desecrated/disrespected the graves for their "art". There's a lot of people who don't ask and mess it up for everyone, unfortunately. "Assuming only makes an Ass out of U and Me". Asking for permission, getting a permit, and planning ahead in a polite way, helps build better community relations between us all. Oh...by the way...I asked a fellow photographer about going into Fairmount Cemetery, and I was told (paraphrasing), "I just went in and did my own thing without asking anyone." I'm glad I didn't listen to them!
I have attached the "2017 Special Activities Agreement for Cherry Creek State Park" form in this blog. Fill it out, and take it over to the Park Manager's office and pay your $20.00. They accept cash or credit cards. If you need assistance filling out the form, please contact the office at the number listed on their website. If you have any further questions for me, please feel free to contact me via this website in the "Contact me" section. Thank you for your time.
Semper Fi! (Your favorite Marine!)