MALIBU, Calif. — The beaches of Malibu are famed for their beauty and their surfers. So when Diana Lundin needed some nature shots recently for a photography evening course, a trip to Malibu seemed like a good choice. But when Lundin arrived at sunset with camera gear, she was surrounded by angry young men, demanding to know if she was a paparazzo.

"They just treated me like I was trash," said Lundin, a Web site editor. "I felt very nervous. I had to get out of there."

Now is a bad time to carry a camera on a Malibu beach. A bizarre conflict has broken out in this sleepy seaside city that perhaps plays home to more celebrities per square mile than any other place on the planet. Malibu has become the frontline in the battle against the paparazzi.