In the past few weeks, I have received quite a few emails with questions about my upcoming photowalk but also about photowalking in general. I thought it would be a good idea to examine all aspects of a photowalk from what it is to what to carry to how to organize one. So let’s jump right in.
Q. – What exactly is a Photowalk ?
A. – A photowalk is the act of walking around with your camera and photographing your surroundings. Recently the term has become synonymous with a group of photographers, walking in predetermined locations and then sharing their imagery. Alone or with a group, the purpose is still the same and that is to go out and shoot.
Q. What is the difference between a Photo Safari and a Photowalk?
The best way I can figure it is that photo safaris are usually associated with a class or workshop environment. A photo safari may just be to a specific location and is usually a little more of a learning atmosphere. That’s not to say that you can’t do a little learning during a photowalk, in fact I would be disappointed if I didn’t learn something on a photowalk. Photowalks also seem to be a little bit more on the social side.
Q. – So what am I supposed to take pictures of?
A. – What ever you find interesting. Try to look beyond the obvious and see what the casual pedestrian doesn’t, than capture it in your camera. There’s color and shapes, and patterns. Light and shadow. Of course these are just my thoughts but you get the idea. Maybe you are a people watcher so you could try and capture the diversity of the people you see along the way. Perhaps you could shoot the entire time with the intent of making all black & white images. The sky is the limit.
Q. – What do I need to bring with me?
A. – There is of course the obvious answer, your camera. But you should put some thought into how much gear you want to haul around with you. Try to think in terms of being a minimalist when it comes to your gear. My best advice is to stick with two to three lenses. Two would probably be best, a wide to medium zoom and a medium to telephoto zoom would probably cover most scenarios. If your walk is during the daylight hours, which most are, you can probably leave that flash at home. Tripods are a personal choice but they will add to your load and you may run into some issues when trying to use them. They seem to make some folks nervous, especially the Police. Maybe you could try a monopod instead. Make sure that you have adequate storage cards or film (does anyone still shoot film?). A well charged camera battery is something to add to your checklist. My best advice is to travel light. A camera bag or photo-backpack will feel twice as heavy after you have walked a mile. Some other notables are comfortable shoes and clothes that suit the weather (think layers).
Q. – I don’t own a dslr or slr, can I just use my point-and-shoot?
A. – Of course you can. Don’t be intimidated by all those big cameras and long lenses. I have seen some spectacular images created with a 4MP digital point-n-shoot. Just check out some of the work being posted in this Flickr group.
Q. – How long does a photowalk last, how far do you walk?
A. – Unlike a marathon, there are no predetermined distances associated with a photowalk. It could be around a block or a few miles. In the case of my upcoming walk, I have selected a route that is slightly less than two miles. The amount of time is really dependent upon how fast you cover the route. Another factor would be the number of people who attend. A large group will tend to move a little slower.
Q. – Do I have to stick with the group?
A. – This isn’t a paid tour and no one will be taking attendance at the end so if you get tired or sidetracked during the walk then you should, by all means, do your own thing. Remember though that one of the purposes of doing this with a group is the interaction with other photographers. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to chat it up with others on the walk. There will probably be photographers of differing skill levels and you might be able to learn something, teach something, or just make some new friends.
Q. – So what do we do when it’s over?
A. – Let the chimping begin (chimping is a term used for reviewing your shots on your lcd screen on the back of your camera, usually accompanied by lots of ooh, oohs and aah, aahs) One of the great benefits of the photowalk is seeing how others photographed the scenery and what their creative interpretations were. It can be amazing how everyone can walk the same path and yet come up with such different photographs. One very popular thing to do after a photowalk is for everyone to post their images on a Flickr group page. This is truly the best way for everyone to share their images and experience.
Q. – How do I go about finding a photowalk where I live?
A. – There are a few resources for locating local photowalks. There is actually a site dedicated to posting upcoming events called Photowalking.Org. A good Google search can also be very effective. Just type in photowalk and the location that you are interested in. Here’s a little hint, start with a larger metropolitan area, e.g. Washington DC, or Philadelphia, or Sacramento. This will probably give you better results. There are also many local camera clubs that sponsor such events. Try finding one or two in your area and go from there.
Q. – How do I go about planning one of these events on my own?
A. – The Internet will probably be your best bet for organizing and advertising an event.
1.) The first thing you should do is find the location that you believe would be appropriate. Do a little scouting to find areas that will offer a variety of subject matter that a variety of photographers might find interesting. Try to think beyond what you like and focus on what would have the widest appeal to a wide variety of shooters.
2.) Make sure the area is pedestrian-friendly. It is a photowalk after all.
3.) Public access areas are usually the best since there are less restrictions on photography in general.
4.) Once you have a location, pick a date that will work for you and make sure it is far enough out to raise interest. It’s nice to be flexible but let’s face it, there will never be a date that will work for everyone so go ahead and pick one and stick to it. There will be opportunities later on for those that can’t make it.
5.) Advertise in a as many on-line locations as possible. There are multiple web sites that are dedicated to either local photography or photowalking. One site that is dedicated to posting information on photowalking is www.photowalking.org. They would be happy to post your information and help get the word out. If you don’t have a blog, pop on over to WordPress or Blogger and set one up that is dedicated to your photowalk. It will get picked up by search engines and it will serve as a nice focal point for posting your information (and they are free, it doesn’t get any better than that).
6.) Another great resource for getting the word out is to invite your local camera clubs. Most of them have web sites and are happy to pass the word out amongst their members. I was actually very surprised at how many camera clubs there were in my area. The great thing is that once you start getting the word out to them, they usually start spreading it quickly amongst themselves. I was amazed at how many people I have been able to attract to my photowalk by reaching out to the clubs.
7.) Set up a Flickr group and post information about your walk on there. This can be the focal point for everyone to discuss the event, gather information, and post photos at the end of the walk. I have one set up here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/dcphotowalk/
8.) Keep your photowalk manageable in terms of time and distance. From what I have been told, the longer the walk, the more your walkers will lose interest. Two hours seems to be just about right. Make sure your distance will be adequate but not too long. This is a hard one but I am guessing that somewhere between 1 and 2 miles would be just about right. There is a great free website that will allow you to map a route and save it for others to reference. Here is the link to the site: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ Here is the map that I set up for my walk: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=1633130
9.) On the day of the walk, have a short introduction period at the beginning so that people know who you are and a little about each other. This will hopefully get a little more interaction between the participants. Try writing down the names of everyone participating and get their homepage or Flickr address so that you can link back to them after the walk. Everyone loves a little link-love.
So there you go. That’s a lot of information about something that really isn’t too complicated, especially if you are just a participant. So now that you are armed with all of this photowalking knowledge, rev up your search engines and find yourself a photowalk to call your own.