Like many of you, every weekend, and most days, I’m out with my camera exploring. Today’s post is about how those shoots are always more fun with fellow photographers by your side. That’s what a Photowalk is all about, right folks?
Photowalking And Friends
Photowalks are such a great way to get out of the car and see what the world really looks like. You just notice things when your camera eye is open that you don’t at other times. Things like big and little details, crazy signs, unusual buildings and people (hello street photographers) that seem way more interesting than when you’re soaring past them at 20 or 30 mph.
For instance, I have visited the city of Orange, California (5 miles from Disneyland) many times, and love the nostalgic feel, antique stores, vintage cars and old-time Grand Circle in the heart of the town. But it wasn’t until I met up with another photographer, Jan Schrieber, for our Photowalk and we started exploring together, with our cameras by our sides, that we began to realize a trend. “Everything’s orange,” Jan said, at lunch. The street signs. The fire hydrants. The chairs at local restaurants.
This neither of us had noticed in our drive-bys, and it gave us a theme to have fun with.
And as I note in the above video, when you get other photographers with you, instead of just your two eyes, you’ve got several of them to work from. The enthusiasm is infectious and it just makes for a great day.
Plus, having that new or old friend by your side produces a way more lively lunch break.
For the past two years, I’ve been producing a series of travel videos for YouTube called Photowalks (inspired by my friend Scott Kelby and his amazing October event!) where I aim to bring the viewer to great places and show them around, through my eyes and others.
I’ve taken folks to some pretty great spots–everywhere from Southern California locales like the Hollywood Sign and Pasadena, beach cities like Manhattan and Newport, the Las Vegas Strip and the more exotic international travels: Tokyo and Kobe, Japan, Lisbon and Porto, Portugal.
Of the foreign trips, Porto stands out because I was lucky enough to meet up there with a fellow photographer, Jose Manuel Santos, who showed us around town through his perspective. He took us to places we never would have known about. (Check out Jose’s PicturyTours. He’d love to hear from you.)
As with Porto, before helicoptering into Newport, Oregon, Morro Bay, Pasadena and Riverside, California, I reached out to local photographers to join me on Photowalks, and we explored together.
The Riverside episode (debuting 1/16,) featured last week’s guest blogger, Steve Brazill, who brought me to his favorite alley in downtown to shoot rock portraits (with my trusty Fender Telecaster by my side) and I dragged him to the craziest Mexican restaurant ever, Tios Tacos, a fountain of exotic street art and kitsch that it is just mega eye candy to us with cameras. Steve thought we’d be there an hour. We couldn’t stop shooting. The advantage of doubling up.
I love the shot of me and Steve Brazill, seen in the video thumbnail at the beginning of this post, taken by our friend and fellow Photowalker Scott Heath, walking down Mt. Rubidoux at the end of our Photowalking day. It pretty much sums up how cool being on a Photowalk is.
For the Photowalk of Toluca Lake, a little strip of Los Angeles near Burbank, I was joined by the actress/comedian Tanjareen, and my pitch was simple: “Join me on the show from wherever you live.” Toluca was the place, so I was there. She showed us around, as a model, and we got to use her own, well-known locale as our backdrop. Somehow it just felt more personal than a standard photographer/model shoot, because these were her spots. Especially since we got to celebrate the lunch break at the local institution, one of the oldest and still-standing Bob’s Big Boy restaurants.
There’s another type of Photowalk without friends that goes like this. You pop into a town knowing little. You stop by the visitor’s bureau and ask the big questions: “What are the top photo spots in town?” “Where’s the best location to shoot the sunrise?” “Where’s the best sunset?”
And from there, some nice person might just say to you, “What are you doing at 5 p.m.? I’ll take you to the other side of island and show you.”
Because the sun doesn’t set on the front of Catalina Island which is off the Los Angeles coast, but on the back side.
And that’s what happened on Catalina, when Kristin Leigh Metcalfe made the offer and brought me up to Two Harbors for the killer shot. Along the way, I got this nice image of her, photographing the scene, during the most magic of magic hours.
Do your research before you get to town. Check out Instagram, Flickr and other sites to look at other photos of the spots you hope to photograph. Use what’s existing as inspiration and a guide to see what your timing should be.
Using Google to location scout won’t substitute the real thing, but it will give you a leg up.
Once you figure out the spots, open Google Maps and type in your dream walk, using the feature that lets you work with multiple locations. This will give you a good idea for just what’s in store. A 2-mile walk through town? A ten mile grand adventure that will also include some driving?
Here’s another tip that came from a recent solo Photowalk in Seattle. Before I left, I Googled where to best shoot the glorious skyline. Found the answer, Kerry Park, thank you, and headed up there at magic hour. There was a lineup of photographers all getting the shot, and naturally, we started talking to one another. (When you’re shooting a timelapse, that’s going to happen.) One of the photogs and I decided to go off together to photograph the Pike Place Market at night, and then reunited the next morning for a sunrise. That’s an unorganized photowalk, but definitely better than doing it on my own.
And best of all–he had the car. I was on foot, so thanks for the ride Joe Hargrave!
How To Organize A Photowalk
Do a simple Google search for YOUR AREA Photowalk and Google will show you several scheduled local events, through the Meetup website. Or just simply call some photo friends and ask them to join you, or throw the suggestion out on social media.
Speaking of Photowalks, I led one for Scott for the first time on the Worldwide Photowalk Day in October. Everybody had such a great time–no one wanted the day to end. Let’s use this forum to convince Scott of the obvious–why wait for once a year, let’s keep it going, year-round. Who’’s ready for monthly meetups?
Jefferson Graham is a longtime journalist, photographer, videomaker, podcaster and jazz guitarist.
You can also contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.