Trip to Descanso Gardens Starts Off On Wrong Foot

At the beginning of this year, my wife and I bought an annual pass to a local gem of a park that we had never before heard about (and I have lived in the San Fernando Valley all 41 years of my life) – Descanso Gardens in La Cañada/Flintridge.

This morning, we got the bright idea to take a family picture, along with my in-laws. Their 43rd anniversary is coming up in a few weeks, and we thought the photo (with frame and appropriate Costco super-sizing) would make a great present.

So, garbed in white tops and blue jeans, we gathered together at the entrance of the Gardens. Marie was, of course, holding her awesome Canon Rebel XSi around her neck. I was at the admissions desk to pay for my in-law’s tickets, with a tripod in hand.

“Are you planning on taking a family picture?”

smiled the pretty, young, brunette gal at the desk. Small talk, I thought.

“Why yes,” I replied, holding back the urge to continue with: “the matching outfits gave us away?”

“Well, there’s a charge for you do that,” she said with a stern look, and as she looked at Marie’s awesome camera, she added “especially with a professional camera like that” (note: your standard $200 pocket digital camera is okay).

Confident and expecting something fairly reasonable especially considering that we were already annual pass holders, I stuttered: “O-Okay, how much?”

“A minimum of $300,” she said.

I never got into the why there’s a minimum, and what the maximum could possibly be. I did get out a resounding

“What?!?!?!?!?!”

(I couldn’t hold that in) before recklessly asking a few, brief questions to determine that this did not include a professional photographer, framing, post-production, or a set of Ginsu knives. It only included the ability to take a family photograph in the Garden where we had paid about $100 for a Family season pass only 6 months ago.

Frazzled, I got out of line (without buying tickets for my in-laws) and walked away to explain the situation to Marie and my in-laws. Marie, clearly undeterred with the SLR firmly secured around her neck, told me to just put the tripod in the car.

“But, they clearly had a problem with the CAMERA, Sweets,” I explained, frustrated.

Well, God forgive us. We went back to the car, put the tripod in the trunk, and stuffed the SLR into our backpack. And, when I walked back up to buy the tickets for my in-laws, the same young lady asked me: “Is the camera in that backpack?”

“No,” I lied.

We never did get a full picture of all of us in it, but we did get some nice shots… this one is my favorite.

Moral of the story: Bring a backpack that contains your “professional” camera and your matching shirts should you decide to take a family photo at Descanso Gardens. You won’t have to sin to get an anniversary present for your in-laws.

18 thoughts on “Trip to Descanso Gardens Starts Off On Wrong Foot

  1. Descanso Gardens is one my favorite places in the L.A. area. Your experience is a terrible blow to my fondness for the park. How very sad that we have to lie to do something totally harmless. Could that be the reason our society is falling apart?
    What do our kids learn from these experiences? Enough said.

    1. I agree, Edith, and thanks for the comment. Very sad. I have had some time to think about this, and – especially in this day and age – I have since posted the photo from Descanso on this blog and on facebook.

      If anything, allowing free use for families to take as many family pictures as they like – in today’s internet age – only means more exposure for them (and more paying visitors).

      Someone needs to fire who ever came up with that rule.

  2. Next time, try the Japanese Gardens off of Woodley Avenue, south of Victory Blvd. GREAT opportunities for photos! And I’ll bet they won’t want 300 bucks!

  3. Well…now that the Reed family violated a major national security family photo park directive, and their whereabouts still unknown, I will certainly take extra precautions and double lock my doors tonight.
    What is this country coming to!
    Heaven help us!!!

  4. It’s funny. I totally get your frustration but I’m aware of these sorts of rules and appreciate them exactly BECAUSE I pay for admission with an expectation that I don’t have to wait for a family (or sixteen familes!) to finish their business so that I can enjoy the park. Just imagine how out of hand it could get!

    It’s not at all unusual for private (and even some public) parks to have these sorts of rules, it is really just done to keep the atmosphere appropriate–ironically–for members like you and your family, Rob. If they didn’t have some fee in there, every pro photographer in the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys would have that location on their list. Ughh.

    I once was in a musical ensemble that had a semi-pro photo taken at a similar park and we paid a fee and I can tell you that we were a fairly major disruption for a good half-hour or more as we were taking the picture in a major traffic area (on a little bridge over a pond) and a lot of the guests of the park were grumbling about our presence there.

    One of the big gardens here in Portland has a “no professional photography whatsoever” policy that goes on to define professional as anyone acting as a professional.

    Also, regular visitors are much more likely to stay “on the path.” I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen over the years step over a chain in order to get the perfect angle. Trample, trample, squash, squish.

    Just my $0.02 however.

    1. I do get what you’re saying here, Scott… but I think there is a major difference between “professional photography” and a family with a nice camera and a tripod. Granted, it would be difficult to police this at the gate (and a professional photographer may have entered separately)…

      This being said, I think that park’s are best suited by enforcing this if – as you described – the photography process interferes with other’s ability to enjoy the park.

      I believe, also, that special courtesy should be granted to annual members with particular instructions not to use a professional photographer (tripod alone on a stand taking the photo is a good indicator), and that forfeiture of the annual pass and removal from the park will result if basic respect is not afforded the park by the family taking their own picture…

  5. Well what this world is coming to ? is just this.
    Under the guise of the lord our fellow Christians are teaching our children to 1) lie
    2) its ok to snub their noses @ any rules or guidelines.
    How Christian of you Mr Rob or should I say Mr. Entitlement.
    Not to mention Descanso Gardens is a non profit organization, one of the ways they are supported is photography & film shoots .
    I,m truly relieved the gates will stay open 1 more day because of your BIG donation Mr. Do as I please $100(really) and by the way Descanso Gardens is a botanical garden not a park if your looking for a park to do as you please there are plenty of them free to the public try Pacoima and all its beauty.
    As a member of Descanso Gardens I support these rules and guidelines for the peace and quiet that I have become so thankful for.

    1. I’ll just say that we were never told any rules or guidelines when we signed up. The Visitor’s Guide that is passed out makes no mention of the photography.

      The primary reasons why any family would pay for a membership to such a garden, in my view, is two-fold: (1) to admire the surroundings and enjoy the peace and tranquility; and (2) to take photos.

      The bottom line is that if we were not all dressed in a white top and if we had a cheaper camera… and no tripod… there would have been no questions asked. We were a small family intending to take a beautiful picture (ourselves – camera sitting on a tripod on auto), but our camera just happened to be “too professional” (a $700 Canon).

      How this qualifies as a “professional” photograph under these circumstances, I still do not understand… so I’ll agree to disagree with you on this one… but thanks for dropping by!

  6. I think its really pathetic that a man of your reputation thinks its acceptable to LIE about something and feel good about it . It’s people like you that make his world a sad place. I’m shocked that the price was so high, but if you did have a problem about the price then I’m sure you could’ve gone to many other places or asked one of the workers for a recommendation.

    1. Perhaps you are right. The world is going to pot because people are taking pictures of themselves in botanical gardens. When will the madness stop?

  7. I see you still make no reference to the fact that you lied to get ahead. Although those prices are a little much ( to you), I find the policies for this nonprofit organization are reasonable. You’re a Worship leader? to see that you flaunt that fact that you lied to be inappropriate. I think i’ll keep my faith and morals to myself and stay out of organized religion if this is how you as a leader view society.

  8. I cannot believe everything I am reading in this blog. The bickering alone makes my stomach turn. I agree with you Rob and the three hundred dollar price is entirely way to steep for just a family portrait. Also again you are right why were there not disclaimers and or warnings that some cammeras are “too professional” and would be considered professional in quality. Rob you are absolutely allowed to be upset and disappointed with what you believed to be a simple family outting that turned south.

    Now my only problem is that you post how you are a lawyer. I will not pretend that I know more about the law than you but I do know right from wrong and I do understand why society has rules and regulations, you have a better understanding than most and instead of setting a good example for your son you decided to show him that it is ok to lie and to cheat. You have also posted that you are a man of God, this after reading everything here makes me believe that I have a better understanding of our Lord and can say that I know what the divine would have done in this situation. But again you chose the easy path the path many have probably taken before, you choose to turn away from what God would have wanted you to do. It saddens me to see that in this single act you had no problem turning your back on what you should have done.

    There are many things you could have done to rectify this situation, such as; ask to speak a manager an explain the problem and if it is not handled to your satisfaction ask for a refund.

    What bothers me the most Rob is not the fact that you set a horrible example for your son, but that you had no problem posting on line that you did cheat the system and then told everyone willing to listen to you how they to could lie and for lack of a better word steal.

    Bravo Rob bravo.

    1. Thanks for the comment, John, and the spirit in which you wrote it… I appreciate it, truly.

      Hindsight, as the old saying goes, is always 20-20.

      Frankly, I was in shock at the price ($300 was a “minimum,” remember), and didn’t know exactly what to do. We had brought out our in-laws via invitation (they drove on their own), and we had taken numerous family photos on previous occasions with the same camera (no matching shirts, though).

      Personally, I don’t see it as stealing because I consider it an arbitrary difference if we (1) put on different color shirts and (2) used my mother-in-law’s $200 8 megapixel Canon rather than our $700 12 megapixel Canon (got a great deal at Costco last Christmas).

      It was the camera that was at issue, and I imagine I could have talked to the manager, etc. The simple truth is that I didn’t expect the woman at the counter to ask me the question that I lied to on the fly.

      I go from goat to hero of this story if our Canon was not in the backpack and I had my in-law’s Canon around my neck as we bought my in-laws their tickets. To me, that’s ridiculous. But, great minds can differ.

      I intend for the this blog to reveal me… a flawed person who, without the Amazing Grace of God, is nothing. So, perfection you won’t find here… just the real me.

      God’s blessings to you and yours and thanks again for the comment,
      Rob

  9. Oh Rob,

    I’m not Monday morning quarterbacking your play although I may be saying how I feel. What is most disappointing is not that you did what you did, but with what you have done since. There really is no need to post what you have and encourage others to follow your lead. You are a leader and as you say a flawed one at that, but we all are, it’s in our nature and although we are all made in Gods image we can never be as loving and perfect as he is.

    Things did not start off on the wrong foot for you and your family at Descanso Gardens, you ended on the wrong foot.

    I believe you had good intentions when you first started writing this rant, but that is not what it has turned into. If you had just left it at how disappointed you were about the price or the non communication you received prior to arriving that day, everything would have been perfect.

    Rob delete this rant and start over, keep it to what your complaint is… it’s a rant not a blue print on how to be mischievous.

    John

  10. amen john amen! rob I heard about this rant through a member at this park and think its very discouraging that you are advising others to do what you did and in your words “lie” and as mentioned earlier cheat the system.

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