So, the next day I trotted happily to my seat with my camera, having gained entry without comment - not even a search of my bag.
Early in the afternoon, I heard the heavy footsteps approach from behind. They stepped to the seat behind me, and a hand touched my shoulder. I turned and the security guard leaned over to ask if I would mind putting the camera away. I held it up for him to see, and pointed out that there was no flash attached. He told me that it was not the flash - it was the lens. It was considered a professional lens, and the press didn't like it. I should point out I have a good telephoto lens, but it was back in Scotland at the time. I'm having problems carrying it and some other kit around just now due to a neck injury from a minor fender-bender in January. I was using a standard lens, with a little zoom, but not much. I told him about what had been said to the photographer the previous day, and he told me that there had been a meeting called by management that morning. I was surprised, and asked him "They change the rules overnight, and don't put any information up about it?". He said yes, and smiled sympathetically. I used to be door staff myself, so I realised it wasn't worth arguing with him further - he was only acting on his remit. Besides which, the players had returned to court, so chattering on was not an option.
I grudgingly switched the camera off and set it down for the rest of the afternoon. Assuming that the press would only be concerned about saleable photographs, I took the chance of grabbing a few shots of the players when they were leaving the court, and wanted in particular to get a shot of Pat Cash for my sister. Pat Cash was in great form, and paused by the exit to pose for several people who begged him to smile or kiss in their direction. I rushed over with my camera to grab a quick shot as my sister got his autograph. Someone stepped between us, so I missed the photo of her receiving her autograph from him, but I ran off a few as he smiled around at the rest of the cameras. Just as Pat was turning toward me, a loud voice boomed in his ear. "Hey you! You were told not to use that camera. Put it away!" shouted the security guard (a different one than had spoken to me) at Pat's side. Pat was as startled as the rest of us, and glanced at the guard, to follow his gaze. I had been about to argue, but on seeing Pat's reaction I realised that I had no desire to make a scene in front of him - particularly as the scorekeeping and umpiring had been so poor in his match. What must he think of the whole setup in Belfast?
I lowered the camera, and showed the guard I was putting the lens cap back on and switching it off. He continued to shout at me, but I was too mortified to hear much of it, and could only blush pathetically at Pat Cash as he looked at me, clearly uncertain as to why I was being singled out. I waited for my sister, and we both left the venue with a weird mix of elation for the tennis, embarrassment for the shoddy and unprofessional umpiring, and fury at the jobsworth who obviously felt it was more important to act like he was the big man in front of Cash, than have consideration for descretion in his job. The upshot of this - I now feel I have every right to use the photos I got as I see fit, where normally I would keep them for personal use only. I will not publish the photo I got of Cash and his son together, as I see this as an infringement of their right to privacy. I am not part of the papparazzi wolfpack. I will however bring you some shots from the tournament that I was able to get in the next few days. It was a public event, and initially there were no restrictions on the types of cameras allowed. I brought my camera in in an open topped bag, and was not challenged on it on entry to the venue, which is where those sort of checks should really occur. I adhered completely to the no-flash rule, and am infuriated at the way this was blatently ignored by much of the audience, and was not enforced by the security staff.
I feel it is time now, with the advent of smaller, cheaper, higher standard cameras, that event management reconsider this ridiculous rule about 'professional' lenses. There should be consistency about use of cameras - either without flash, or not at all, but this discrimination against people who prefer to use SLRs should stop. The arguments against them don't add up, and new technology is making the whole point moot anyway.
If you manage events - anywhere - please think this issue through properly. All cameras, or none.
Please support me in encouraging venues to allow all of us the same chance to take home permanent memories of these wonderful events.