Photography is often a rather solitary activity; standing behind the camera trying to best utilize or manipulate the scene to produce great pictures. Unless we speak to a model (or indeed there is a model), there is very little communication that transpires at any given “session”. And while many enjoy solitude, photography doesn’t always have to be a socially closed activity, it can be a “team sport”. One popular means is to mix a love of photography with a good dose of socializing is an event known as a photo walk.
The premise is simple; you, and at least one other person, grabs a camera, meet at a specified location and walk around shooting pictures. It can be at any location and it doesn’t even have to be somewhere exciting. Small towns, large cities, parks all provide opportunities for this photographic social experiment. What benefits are gained through said activity?:
- An opportunity to use your camera. Many people have cameras (and often expensive ones at that) that are nothing but dust collectors. Often the problem is that people do not know what to shoot and they feel awkward going about in public with a camera around their necks. Photo walks cure both problems since the subject is already decided (alleys of Chicago, carnival at Eureka, etc) and there will be at least one other person looking just as silly.
- Gain friends. Spending time walking and talking invariably leads to a better understanding of the people you are with. Since all the other people are doing the same thing, you now have at least one thing in common with every person in the group. Remember, these events are not just about taking pictures and if you come away from an event without having participated in some meaningful conversation, you missed the point.
- Learn the basics of photography. I find that photographers are, by and large, a knowledge sharing community. We are all in this hobby because we love it and generally we all love to help other with the craft. As you walk around, ask questions about the specific shooting situations you find yourself.
- Become a better photographer. No matter your skill level, spending time walking around with people and seeing what they shoot and how they shoot is bound to provide you with ideas that you otherwise would have missed. Notice the postures people take when shooting. Notice the subjects that others shoot and how they approach those subjects. Try to see the world momentarily through their eyes.
- Develop your eyes. Too often we are in a hurry to shoot. The photo walks forces us to slow down and take a deeper look at the world. Often the things we miss by driving by an area, will scream out at us while walking. Up close, what is often mundane can become spectacular. Shoot things you normally wouldn’t: garbage cans, sidewalks or even sides of buildings. Who knows what wonderful things you appear when you look at the pictures on the computer.
Photo walks are simple to organize; simply pick a destination, a time and contact some people to see if they are interested. It is that simple. IF you are fortunate enough to live in a large city, there are probably camera clubs and meetup groups (www.meetup.com) that have walks that you can join. If nothing else, find just one person to go shooting with.
So, break out of your shell and enjoy the combination of two great things people and photography. And even if you don’t come away with a good picture you will have come away with a good time.