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Bay Area Photographer Facing Action After Taking Photo of Golden Gate Bridge From 'Illegal Angle'

A Bay Area photographer is facing legal trouble for posting a composited picture of the Golden Gate Bridge with the blood moon, which was taken from an “illegal angle.” The Bridge District claims the angle shows that the photographer must have trespassed into a restricted area in order to get the shot and wants the photo removed from his website — something he refuses to do.

Bruce Getty says he is “just a guy who likes to go on the rocks and get a unique angle of the bridge.” After snapping his photo of the bridge, he later Photoshopped another of his images into it: that of the blood moon from 2014. He then uploaded the composited image onto his website, where it eventually caught the attention of the Bridge District, who issued a cease and desist letter. The District is seeking any profits Getty has made from the image, although Getty claims he hasn’t sold any copies of the image and simply wants it for his own portfolio. "I'm just a nobody taking pictures; I like to have fun," he said.

The shot in question.

Speaking to Fstoppers, Getty says photography helped him turn his life around after getting sober in 2008 and that he has not currently responded to the District’s letter, as he can’t afford an attorney: “It’s not like I have some thriving business. I’m an artist, and I live check to check.”

By his own admission, Getty has been cited for trespassing back in 2014, as well as stopped last December by a police officer who insisted he delete the images, which he declined. The District has threatened prosecution should Getty be found in the same area again.

More of Getty's Golden Gate Bridge work.

See more of Bruce Getty's work at his website and Instagram.

Images courtesy and with permission of Bruce Getty.

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Mike Ditz's picture

I don't know what the rules or laws are about the photos that may have been taken while Getty was on GG property. I guess he could be given a ticket for trespassing using the photo as evidence but would they have a claim on the photo or profits from the photo? I really don't know.

But the cop telling him to delete the photos might be covered by the 4th amendment IIRC Mr. Smith's 11th grade government class. The cop can "ask" anything and the uninformed citizen may comply but many of the police know what they can legally demand so they will ask.

Jeff Walsh's picture

Man this is all over the place. First off, I am not a lawyer, so all my opinions are coming straight outta my ass, but I find it hard to believe that they can legally tell him to delete the photo. At best I can see him getting fined, but this stinks of a cop turning this into a pissing contest because he told someone to do something he wasn't legally allowed to tell them, and then getting pissed they wouldn't comply.

It's such a sticky situation because the fact remains that this guy broke the law. So on one side, he shouldn't be allowed to keep the photo because it was illegally taken. But on the other side, I don't think the government has a place to tell him to delete the photo.

I am legit torn on this because I empathize on both sides. It pisses me off that this dude did something illegal, because it just makes it harder for people who don't. It also pisses me off that this cop appears to have over extended his authority, which seems to run rampant these days in the states.

Dylan Bishop's picture

Well they could just be trying to set a precedent to deter others from trespassing. I could imagine that growing into a problem for them if it were to go viral.

Eric Salas's picture

There are multiple signs stating a $10,000 fine or two years in prison for trespassing.

Some people don’t give a shit so they break the law despite 50 cameras pointed at that location.

Andrew Swanson's picture

We have to think of the implications of government having the authority to FORCE someone to delete a photograph for this reason. If I take a picture of a government official committing treason but I happen to be on property that is considered trespassing, will the government have the right to force me delete that photo?

Bernie Bros's picture

Nothing in law allows a police officer to do that. Maybe they can sue civillaly, but even then, I doubt they could force destruction, just monetary compensation.

Jeff Walsh's picture

That's the issue. They can't do that....yet. But if by chance this is the outcome here, it does set a president for future cases.

nigel walker's picture

Consider the bridge is a big economic target hence the restrictions around bridges like these since 911 and before that in this case. Then consider if you post a picture from a restricted area you maybe sharing what the authorities consider sensitive information on the bridges structure and the access to it.

Bernie Bros's picture

Then they can advocate for a change to the law, not make it up as they go along.

barry cash's picture

I’m pretty sure sanctuary city laws allow you to do any misdemeanor crime without penalty!
San Francisco is a city that ignores crime right? The city is so well run that the police and public departments have unlimited free time.

MC G's picture

Only if you are an illegal immigrant though. Regular citizens gotta follow dem rules!

Jarred Decker's picture

Totally necessary to bring politics into it.

Brook Brown's picture

I agree about bringing politics into a photography forum; but, you gotta admit it's an excellent point!

Mike Wade's picture

I'd say he brought facts into it...

Matt Simmons's picture

Congrats on bringing your stupid politics into this. Crawl back into your hole.

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

What a pathetic comment...

Robert Nurse's picture

I’m pretty sure laws don't allow stealing from charitable foundations, stiffing contractor and setting up bogus learning institutions either. But, yet, here we are.

Bernie Bros's picture

Or the highest ranking diplomat, the Secretary of State, storing and transmitting classified, even Top Secret, information on a private server located in her home, putting the nation's secrets at risk to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests that could be politically damaging.

Robert Nurse's picture

Compromise: let them share a cell.

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

And what exactly has this to do with the article? In this case is your corrupt government not responsible that this guy was trespassing.

Mike Wade's picture

or operating an illegal server in your home to conduct gov't business, weaponizing gov't agencies to target your political opponents, etc....but yet here we are.

Another Username's picture

Photography site post article 100% about photography and NOT about politics at all....and MAGA-hat guy and his Tough guy friends will make it about politics ....and then call the rest of us triggered because we just want to read and discuss about photography. Good job MAGA-hat Tough guys! I love Larry David. He hit the nail right on the MAGA-hat!

Bernie Bros's picture

The article is about law enforcement by government entities. The comparison to San Francisco's otherwise extraordinarily lax law enforcement, say, against public defacation, open air heroin use, and refusing to cooperate with the federal authorities to apprehend criminal illegal aliens, is perfectly relevant.

Your incessant, childish reference to hats and a has-been television comedy variety show, and the substance free ad hominem attacks made by your like minded compatriots demonstrate who the group devoid of intelligence is.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

Your misuse of "Bernie Bros" as a username shows that you're not here to talk about photography.

Bernie Bros's picture

Your eagerness to find any excuse not to address the substance of my comment, but rather, use my username as the focus of your attention demonstrates how fundamental intellectually dishonesty is the basis of your low character.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

Seriously? You chose a pejorative political username, and then complain when someone mentions that fact?

Bernie Bros's picture

Awww, precious downvoters. You can't dispute the reality of San Francisco's law enforcement situation, but the negative effects of the your ideology send you into a tantrum despite having no factual basis to disagree.

scott lynch's picture

Just a callout for reading comprehension. The article clearly mentions that it's the Golden Gate Bridge District that is pushing the issue. Not the city of San Francisco. Consider it to be an 'alternative fact'.

Michelle Maani's picture

You are conflating this with "sanctuary city." Obviously you don't understand the concept of the city not doing the feds job for them. Demanding that the city police also acts like federal police is the problem. The federal police mucks up local law enforcement. A sanctuary city sets its own rules.

Kieran Stone's picture

I like Bruce's work. Trying not to be bias towards him, if someone took a photo that was obviously taken from within property I owned without my knowledge and consent, I'd be pretty pissed and want to make an example of them.
I hope this works out without any issues for him though. You can tell that no harm was intended.

Jozef Povazan's picture

Hm, but what is so irresistible about this angle that he actually went for it?

William Donnelly's picture

most likely just too have a different shot from the others

Dan Marchant's picture

They have no power to get the photo removed or deleted (and neither did the police officer).

He can be prosecuted for trespass but that would happen in state court. Copyright is a federal law and as such the state court has no jurisdiction and therefore can't compel him to give up the images.

Richard Sandlant's picture

Come on San Francisco what are you doing beating up on Bruce Getty? For one thing, the guy is an artist, cut him a little slack please, and for another he's an excellent photographer the city should be proud of and support, or at least not punish like this for minor infractions. I'm an international visitor who came to San Francisco to do a workshop with Mr Getty - one of many as you can tell from his Instagram feed.

Kieran Stone's picture

He would be responsible for a small increase in the tourism economy in San Francisco!

Bill Christian's picture

I was trying to take a photo of the bridge once and I wasn't in an illegal spot just on the rocks a bit and a police man was stern telling me to move back. But surfers were moving under the bridge every which way near the rocks. After 911 there seems to be these annoying security fences blocking some good views.

Eric Salas's picture

Because you weren’t in the water and you were in a dangerous spot where people fall and get injured daily. The surfers understand the consequence of that area and the fence is to prohibit people from accessing areas around Fort Point.
Getty was shooting at a location with signs all over it stating you will be fine and may go to prison for trespassing. There is a big difference.

Getty is a local and knows he shouldn’t do this but he did anyways...

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

So the pricture is oviously taken within the no trespassing area.

Here the place in Google Maps:

stuartcarver's picture

Some would argue he should be fined for doing stupid moon composite's

davidlovephotog's picture

Uh also from that angle if you really zoom in you can see a statue I made out of gum. I'll need some money for that as well.

chris bryant's picture

The article says that Mr. Getty wants the picture for his own portfolio. How come it is for sale on his site?

...and says "I'm just a nobody taking pictures" but has a full comercial site with workshops and prints for sale. Hardly a nobody taking pictures.

stuartcarver's picture

Hahaha well spotted, if he is a 'nobody' taking pictures id hate to think what i am... i mean the guy even has a stock photo site named after him;)

Erpillar Bendy's picture

You never heard of photographers setting up a web site using their name, or selling prints from their portfolio? Welcome to the Internet.

Greg G's picture

It was a joke about his name, Getty. As in "Getty Images", the massive stock photo site.

Robert Nurse's picture

There is soooooo much money to be had in situations like this: i.e. photo permits. Yet, the gate keepers fail to see the potential.

Bernie Bros's picture

Government entities rarely care about opportunities to raise funds in an entrepreneurial manner. The ability to tax, and the fact no one's paycheck will increase regardless of their individual negate any incentive.

Robert Nurse's picture

But, clearly, if you're willing to put up threats of fines, money matters. So, why not make some. Why not a sign that says, "No trespassing without written consent from blah, blah, blah. Inquire at (555) 555-5555 for permits/consent 30 days or more prior" or some such. Unless there's something on the property that's lethal or sensitive, blanket bans are just lazy. I've shot in places where you wouldn't otherwise think you could. I showed up the SCOTUS once with a small light stand and was told I couldn't shoot. Then I realized the problem: it was the modifier that spooked them. Once, I told them that it could come off, "Have fun shooting!". Just some flexibility on everyone's part, that's all.

Jim Doughty's picture

The fact that he trespassed (put his body someplace the law said he couldn't) and the fact that he took a photograph while doing it ought to be separate considerations. His legal/criminal liability for the trespassing should be no less or greater than that of anyone who trespassed without a camera.

At most, the photo serves as (self-"inflicted") evidence of the trespassing, but the photo itself didn't commit any infraction, and it is and should remain his property.

(Please don't mistake my indignant blurt for anything like legal training)

Josh Sanders's picture

This is a frustrating one for me. I understand the desire to bend the rules to "get the shot" and it's easy to justify it to yourself as a "no harm, no foul" situation. I generally have nothing but respect for Bruce Getty and enjoy his work, but there are a few problems here.

First, this is the same attitude that saw people trample the wildflowers in California's superbloom, or go into restricted areas in National Parks, etc. Generally speaking, these areas are closed for a reason--in National Parks, often due to their ecological sensitivity, and in the case of the Golden Gate Bridge, likely due to liability, security, or both.

Which brings me to my second point. You have to be a special kind of arrogant in the post-9/11 world to hop a fence into a clearly marked no-trespassing area around a piece of critical infrastructure--and then take a picture of it, post it for sale on your website, and refuse to take it down when you get caught. For better or for worse, that's not the world we live in. As a side note, I've also noticed that there are tv commercials for a startup watch company (which I won't name here) that clearly use drone footage of an illegal hike in Hawaii--could be stock footage, but it seems like an odd thing to randomly pull footage from. I guess I'll never understand the mindset of people who so publicly advertise breaking the law.

I'm not aware of the legal precedents at play here in terms of their ability to get him to take the photo down, but I would imagine it's being done to discourage others from trying to do the same. How often these days do people see a cool image on Instagram and go off in chase of that same shot (just ask the entire country of Iceland)? In some cases it's great for tourism and local businesses (albeit perhaps annoying for locals and sometimes detrimental to the environment). Here, at best it seems to create a nuisance for the Bridge District, and at worst it's a security risk.

Bernie Bros's picture

The only thing they can do here is try to prosecute for trespass, but I don't know if the pic is enough evidence to do that.

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