Umm…exactly what is a photowalk?
A photowalk is one of those things you hear about, plan to try, then – maybe – never get around to doing it. Gimme two minutes and I’ll convince you that it’s the greatest thing ever.
There is a community of people who want to take it slow. People who like to relax while exploring. Those who want to do ALL THE THINGS, but not all at once. So, they photowalk.
At its bare bones, a photowalk is an event where people get together, mill, talk, walk around, and take some pictures. It’s an opportunity to explore a place in a laid back, chill way with folks who like to find adventure in the most common of places.
Who Leads a Photowalk and What Will I See?
The group leader is typically a seasoned photographer who has scouted an area of town for great photo opportunities. Maybe she finds a place that has amazing light or knows a metro stop near a café that rushes with new people every 15 minutes. Photowalk leaders have a way of finding unusual views of well-known things. For instance, everyone who goes to Paris takes the same head-on shot of the Eiffel Tower (boring). Fewer get to snap a picture of their kids romping in the playground on the other side of the famous site with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop (freaking awesome). This is a chance to get those weird shots.
A photowalk brings attention to those small things that often get missed on big tours.
I recently had the opportunity to go on a photowalk of a place I’d been to a few times before – Fort Monroe. I need to stress to you guys that I really knew this place. Not only had I been there, but I’ve freaking lectured about some of its history. And yet, because I was going slowly with a mindset of openness (not the usual rush of sightseeing or research), I actually saw new things.
I caught scenes that I would have otherwise missed because they weren’t historical enough.
Look, I get it. That’s on me. But that mindset shift is hard on a typical sightseeing day. A photowalk gives you time to breathe.
Convinced yet? I’m going to pretend you nodded and move on.
What To Expect On A Photowalk
The leader will select a central meeting point. They’ll spend a few minutes of introduction, along with a general layout of the walking route. Usually, the leader has an idea of when the sunlight will hit certain points on the journey.
Expect to have ten to fifteen minutes at each stop. That’s enough time to set up your camera and tripod (if you bring one), then get your lenses in order. Not everyone takes pictures of the same thing. Expect something like, “We’ll be at this block for the next few minutes. To the left is a bagel shop. To the right is an abandoned building. Let’s meet back here in twenty minutes. We’ll walk across that bridge to our next spot.”
Everyone scatters in different directions like an outstretched hand. You’ll meet new friends at each stop. Small groups will form but don’t worry if you’re a solitary person. You’ll be left alone if you like…
Or not, if I creep up behind you and snap a picture.
When it’s time to move on to the next spot, people show off their images, ask for lighting tips, or just kinda smile about the great shot they just got.
What To Take On A Photowalk
Any camera is fine. Good gracious, take your cell phone and have at it. Beyond that, it’s good to have:
- Bug spray
- A backpack or shoulder bag
- A jacket (many photowalks start in the afternoon and can go on until after sunset)
- Extra batteries
- One of those cheap, folding ponchos in case of unexpected rain
- Comfortable shoes
And don’t worry if you have a camera that you don’t know how to use. A photowalk is a great chance for some free lessons. Folks are always willing to help. Usually, the leader isn’t taking pictures. They’re there to be a point of information and will happily suggest ISO settings or lenses or whatever else you need.
As for lenses, don’t bring them all. Seriously. You will be walking – a lot. Don’t bring a bunch of stuff to weigh you down. Maybe on 50mm (basic kit lens) or a telephoto. Certainly not everything in between. Here’s what I took:
- My Sony H300: It’s a bridge camera – not a point and shoot, but not a DSLR either. It allows me to shoot manually, but I can’t attach extra lenses to it.
- I also took my SONY Alpha 65 DSLR with a Minolta 75-300mm telephoto lens. Between the two of them, I was able to get all the shots I needed.
How to Find a Photowalk
Easy. Go to Facebook, Meetup or Eventbrite, type in the city you’re headed to (or live in) and search for one. Most are led by volunteers and cost you nothing.
- Find a photowalk.
- Go forth and be awesome.
Every picture here is from the Kirby Photowalk in Fort Monroe. Our walk leader was the awesome Wayne Berry.
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