Guidance on photography in churches: Homer's Rules
Visiting churches is one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Europe, and provides a fascinating insight into the most powerful influencethat has shaped European cultures of the past couple of millenia.
Unlike some other religions - where access to places of worship may be restricted to members of that religious group or a specific gender - the vast majority of Christian churches will allow tourists to visit at most times, including routine services (although some may charge an admission fee for doing so, and access may be denied for private events such as weddings and funerals). However, tourists should realise that most churches are still active places of worship, and so visitors need to exhibit a certain sensitivity to display respect to the culture and avoid giving offence to people at prayer.
The following guidelines are based on wonderful advice offered by Homer (homaned) - who does this for a living - in a forum response, and although specifically written for Christian places of worship, would apply equally to places of worship for other religions
So, here is a general list of do's and don'ts for people wishing to photograph during a church service:
READ THE SIGNS
If photography is not permitted - because, for example, it may damage paint on delicate murals - this will usually be indicated by a pictogram of a camera with a red line through it. Under most circumstances, you can assume that photography will be allowed (unless otherwise indicated), but may not be permitted during services. If in doubt, ask for clarification - this shows respect and will very seldom be met with anything other than a helpful response.
TURN OFF YOUR FLASH!
Every camera on the market has a button on it which will turn off the flash. The number one most alarming and distracting thing that can happen during a liturgy, and one which will even get you kicked out of some churches, is the bright flash that goes off when you take a picture. Not only is it distracting, but it usually makes the picture turn out dark, because your camera's flash only has about a 10-15' range. Turn off the flash, and hold the camera up against your eye, using the viewfinder, and you will likely get a better picture (and you definitely won't have any red-eye problems!).
DON'T MOVE AROUND ALL OVER THE PLACE! (UNLESS YOU HAVE PERMISSION)
Instead of walking all over down the main aisle and in front of everybody, pick a good place from which to take a picture at the beginning of the liturgy, and stay there. Unless you're a professional photographer with practice at stealthily moving during liturgies, you're a distraction, and you're being disrespectful. Even if you're a pro, try to stick to one out-of-the-way place, and use a zoom lens and zoom in to get pictures. Walking in front of people is a surefire way to distract and disrespect and closing in on priests or other celebrants just to capitalise on a photo opportunity is offensive.
TURN OFF THE CAMERA'S SOUND!
Every camera has some way to mute all its 'cute' beeps and clicking noises. If you press a button, and hear a beep, or if you take a picture and hear an obnoxious shutter clicking sound, you need to turn off those sounds (the muting option is usually in one of the menus). Along with the flashing, it's an obvious sign that someone is taking pictures and not showing much respect for those trying to pay attention to the liturgy.
TURN OFF THE 'FOCUS ASSIST' LIGHT!
If your camera can't focus without the little laser-light that shines in everyone's eyes before your camera takes a picture, then don't use your camera. You have to turn that light off! It is very distracting to be watching a lector or priest, and see a little red dot or lines pop up on his face all of the sudden. It's as if some rifleman is making his mark! Turn the light off (again, look in the menus for the option to turn off the 'AF assist' or 'focus assist' light). If you can't turn it off, put a piece of duct tape or some other opaque material over the area where the light is, so the light won't shine on someone.
TURN OFF THE CAMERA'S LCD!
You should never use the LCD to compose your shots anyways; just put your eye up to the viewfinder, and that will not only not distract, it will also steady your camera against your face, making for a better picture (especially if you don't have the flash on). And if you must review the pictures you've taken, hold the camera in front of you, down low, so people behind you don't notice the big, bright LCD display on your camera
CERTAIN PARTS OF THE CEREMONY ARE PARTICULARLY SENSITIVE
The consecration (blessing) of the eucharist (bread and wine) and distribution of communion to the congregation are considered to be particularly sacred parts of the service, and it is offensive to photograph these activities.
The main thing is to try to be respectful of the culture and of other people present at the service. Don't distract. And, if you are asked to not take pictures, or if there's a sign saying 'no photography allowed,' then don't take pictures. You can always ask a priest's permission before the liturgy, but if he says 'No,' put away your camera and enjoy the freedom you have to focus on the privilege of being able to share an experience with people who consider these religious rituals core to their culture and identity, rather than focusing on your camera's LCD!
Homer's Rules ... Homer rules!
Bonn felt very safe, especially the city centre. Nortstadt, once popular with the working class, feels a bit rough and there are a few drunks that hang about the cheap boozers, but it's not threatening.
Be Careful around the "Hole"
"Dat Bonner Loch" -- The Bonn Hole -- this is the nickname for the underpass of the Central Railway Station (Hauptbahnhof). Bonn is generally speaking a very safe city, and "The Hole" is the only spot where you should be cautious. Railway stations always attract a lot of riff-raff, and sadly they all seem to gather around this underpass, especially where it opens up towards the pedestrian zone. Plans are underway to convert this area so that it becomes more attractive to normal citizens and visitors, but so far nothing has happened. Watch your bags and wallets and make a big detour around people who seem to be stoned... chances are they really are...
Update 2008: The city has issued a total ban of alcoholic beverages in the underpass area and this has led to a big improvement in safety. The "hole" still isn't exactly a picturesque architectural highlight of Bonn, but it looks and feels a lot safer now.
Lots of drunkards in the station subway
My first experience in this city was not good. It may dissappoint a lot but I have to put down my experience. As soon as we got down from the train and came almost to the exit towards the Bonner Münster, there were three guys approaching us, especially my husband, saying something that we could not understand with our poor knowledge of German language. It took us some time to realise that they were actually too drunk and we had to be rescued by a policeman who came to help us. Surprising!!!
If you are visiting Bonn with your car, I hope you will not experience this phenomenon, but people here do feel it is happening with increasing frequency: Owing to the limited number of Rhine crossings and also the railway lines cutting right through Bonn, the traffic system is extremely vulnerable and tends to break down on the city's main thoroughfares already when there is a problem occurring at one single spot. Such as an accident or a traffic light failure. Particularly prone are the B (Bundesstraße) 9 in its entire length through the city, all Autobahns in and around Bonn as well as the B 56 from Bonn through Sankt Augustin all the way to Siegburg, which is another nightmarish bottleneck. My worst experience is a 2,5 hour jam on the B 56 in Sankt Augustin due to christmas shopping and bad weather in Siegburg. If you can, avoid the rush hour times in the morning and early evening.
Unless you have excellent local knowledge, don't leave the motorways in case of a congestion -- chances are high that alternative routes are also jammed and take even longer.
- Road Trip
Not always pedestrian
The Old Town is all pedestrianised but do not think this means that you can wander around at your leasure. During weekday mornings, all sorts of delivery vans are parked everywhere and will eventually need to leave one way or another, usually where you walk. On top of that, people bike furiously around those streets too. The combination gives a situation worth looking out for!
- Hiking and Walking
- Family Travel
Gastronomy Black List
I have a feeling that there are more and more booby traps in going out. For that reason I am creating a list of places that you should avoid due to bad quality food and/or poor service
1. Buena Vida Havanna
Zickenalarm! (Rude waitresses). We were basically kicked out of this place with our VT-Meeting-Group. Avoid under all circumstances.
2. Beueler Bahnhöfchen
This scenic restaurant is handy for a beer after a walk along the Beuel Rhine promenade or during a stop on the Rhine bike path. However, you pay a surcharge for the nice location and my feeling is that in most cases this is not justified at all. Service is poor and the food is rather dull and definitely overpriced for its quality. If you want better value for money, head about 300 metres south and try the Cafe Rheinlust there.
- Hiking and Walking
- Food and Dining
Hbf is in Red Light District
If possible, try to get a room away from the Main Station, we found that although our hotel was very nice, it was across the street from many sex shops, and just around the corner from the local red light district. This shop was plain view from our room window. Oh, and 3 channels of hard core porn are found at the InterCity Hotel on Graph Adolf Strasse. No other hotel we stayed in had these channels.
- Family Travel
There are no dangers in Bonn...
There are no dangers in Bonn. This is the first place in my life where I've walked across an unlit park in the dead of night and felt completely safe. And I'm a fairly intimidating guy. (Stop laughing.) It's a happy place, Bonn.
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