Tuesday, December 13, 2016

So, you're going on a Photowalk? Help yourself enjoy it!

The Statue of Liberty made during a Photowalk in New York CitySome might say that if you take your camera and go for a walk, you're on a photowalk. While it's true you would be making photos while you walk, it's not really a photowalk as it's known today.

These days, photowalks are organized events. They typically involve photography of a specific area or genre.

For example, I lead wildlife photography photowalks at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge ten months per year, as well as travel photography photowalks in Philadelphia, New York, Washington and other cities. I've also led photowalks in botanical gardens for participants to learn about and practice macro/close-up photography, in national parks for landscape photography, at night for night photography, and in cities for street photography.

A critical part of photowalks is their social aspect. Photowalks are for group of photographers, who may or may not know each other. A photowalk permits group interaction to enhance the experience by have participants help each other technically and artistically.

Some photowalks have a leader to organize and lead the walk as well as share their expertise. Sometimes a group self-organizes their own walk, such as a photography club, for a shared photowalk experience.

I've participated in photowalks both as a leader and participant. I've found they can be highly rewarding both photographically and personally. Over time, I've gathered some tips for participants I hope will be helpful for those who go on photowalks with me, other leaders, on if it's a self-guided walk.
  1. Dress for the weather — Check the forecast for the walk and dress appropriately. If the weather is expected to be changeable, cold, or if the walk is expected to be strenuous, dress in layers. In spring through fall, be sure to protect yourself from the sun. Painful sunburns are unhealthy and more than unpleasant to endure during the final hours of a long walk.

    On wildlife photowalks, wear a hat and dress in muted colors to minimize animal awareness of your presence.

    Be prepared for any chance of precipitation, not just for yourself, but for your gear too. I always have a Storm Jacket in my gear bag to protect my camera/lens in case of an unpredicted downpour.
  2. Wear a great, comfortable pair of boots or shoes — Sore feet on a photowalk will stop you in your tracks. Your shoes should be comfortable, sturdy and give adequate support. If you're walking in parks or wildlife areas they should be able to handle rocks, roots and uneven terrain beneath your feet. My walking shoes and hiking boots are both waterproofed, in case of rain or wet ground. Wet shoes and socks are blister making machines.
  3. Don't forget the water — Everyone remembers to bring drinking water for a long walk on hot summer days, but it's important for cold weather walks too, as the physical effort extended can dehydrate you.
  4. Be prepared and willing to follow the rules — Photowalk leaders are responsible for the group's safety and will likely articulate rules to ensure that. The locale in which you're walking, such as national parks, may have specific rules, including a requirement to stay on-trail. Make the walk better for everyone by following the rules.
  5. Don't have unreasonable expectations — This is especially true for participants who expect their photowalk leader to be their private tour, tech, and artistic guide. Photowalks need to accommodate all participants equally. In addition, understand that sometimes everything doesn't go exactly as planned. A good walk leader will work things out. Give them a chance to do so.
  6. Choose the right camera gear bag — If you're going on an all day photowalk, for example, understand a heavy gear bag will needs to be lugged around for the whole day. My preference is to use a backpack or modular belt system, as they distribute the weight of my gear better than shoulder or sling bags. Don't overload your bag. Choose your gear carefully.
  7. Pack the right lenses — It would be a rare photowalk that anyone would need to bring more than one to three lenses. Carefully consider where you'll be walking and what you'll be seeing. For city photowalks I normally have a wide-angle zoom for cityscapes and a telephoto zoom for details and street scenes. If it's an old city with narrow streets, I probably carry an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens to as it's tough to get far enough away from my subjects with other lenses. If your walk has a leader, ask for suggestions. That's part of their job.
  8. Bring spare battery(s) and memory cards — You don't want your camera to run out of power or have no room left to store your photos before the walk is over.
  9. Bring critical items — Bring a flash light if you'll be shooting predawn, dusk or at night. Have a lens cloth, and don't forget to use your lens hoods. Bring snacks. If you take medication regularly or need it for emergencies, such as insect bites, bring the medication.
  10. Look with your eyes before you look through the lens — Don't walk with your eyes always behind your camera's lens. You'll miss far too much. Don't forget to periodically look behind you or you may miss great photographic opportunities.
Enjoy your next photowalk. Maybe I'll see you on one of mine.


Albert-Chicago said...

Great list. I love to take photowalks and what's on your list really hits the mark.

Trisha said...

I'm glad I read your article. I'm going on a photowalk and I guess boat ride this weekend in the Everglades.

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