Like many people I'm often asked, what did I do on the weekend? Quite often the answer is "I went on a photo walk".
What is a Photo Walk?
For those of you wondering what a photo walk is, it is a person or group of individuals getting together at a set location and time for the purpose of taking photos along a specified route.
I quite often go on solo walks, but I have also organised or participated in organising walks from 1 to approximately 300 photographers. The World Wide Walk run by Scott Kelby a USA based photographer and author runs once a year; in 2014 this walk had over 20,000 participants participating in over 1,000 walks within 24 hours all around the world.
Walks can have a duration anywhere from an hour to 12 hours or more. All walks tend to have:
- a start and an end point
- a set route between start and end point
- a set time frame
- optionally a theme or purpose i.e. street, street art, architecture and or limitations i.e. single lens, use of film etc. to make the walk more challenging
How do I find a walk?
Walks are available in many places usually set up using social media try searching in Google +, Meetup, Facebook. If you are a visitor it’s a good way to mix with locals and see places not mentioned in guide books
Some walk organisers want to claim copyright over all images taken during the walk, I personally would avoid these.
Some walk organisers want payment. This is fine if the walk is combined with being taught a new technique or someone is imparting specialist knowledge, but I would do it only if you will be part of an extremely small group. But bear in mind many walks are free and most photographers I know are happy to assist in improving fellow walker’s knowledge and skills. I’m a moderator in two Google Plus communities (Melbourne Photowalkers and Olympus Friends Australia), these communities runs free walks and new members are always welcome. I’ve also participated in Meetup walks and most of these are free.
What do I need to take?
Check weather forecasts and be prepared for the expected weather (where I live, Melbourne, layers can come in handy), use sunscreen even on an overcast day, a drink bottle in warm weather is useful.
Equipment used can range from a phone to medium format with one or more lenses, tripod and other accessories. Bear in mind the more you carry the less inclined you will be to use it especially after carrying it for a couple of hours. If you want to geocode your images apps like My Tracks for Android or similar apps for iOS devices are useful.
Organising a Walk
I usually like to have way points to allow people to join part way through a walk, foster the social aspect of the walk and allow slow walkers to catch up with the faster walkers. It’s also great to have a spot at the end of the walk where participants can get together over food and drink and compare notes, chat about gear, interests and generally get to know each other.
I usually arrange for the start and end point to be the same location to make transport arrangements easier. Allow approximately 1 hour/kilometre (some will always spend an inordinate amount of time photographing what appears to most a mundane object or location). You should aim for a duration of approximately 2 to 3 hrs. longer than this and it will take a long time to get the group back together at the end. If you are organising a walk sometimes it is useful to have a theme, such as a limit on the number of images taken, monochrome, macro, architecture, street art etc.
Social media platforms allow you to advertise the walk, publish route information and track the number of participants. My preferred platform is Google Plus due to its ability to set up events, ease of incorporating maps, checking expected numbers and the way it handles images posted by participants. The terms and conditions covering image copyright are also better than platforms such as Flickr, Instagram or Facebook.
For a contrarian view on photo walks I suggest you read a post from one of my favourite bloggers, Kirk Tuck. His view is that a photo walk should be a solitary affair:
“If you want to do photography at a level that really satisfies your soul and your ego you’ll need to do it alone. Forget having the spouse or girlfriend or best friend or camera buddy tagging along. Forget the whole sorry concept of the “photo walk” which does nothing but engender homogenization and “group think.” Learn what makes your brain salivate and why. Learn to operate that camera by braille. And make your decisions based on what your inner curator wants you to say”
This was originally on the Visual Science Lab blog, but has since disappeared, luckily it has been reproduced here and there is another post along similar lines here. Don’t let Kirk put you off, but whether you run a walk or take part in one a couple of rules worth taking note of:
- don’t bore someone to death comparing your gear
- respect others on the walk as well as anyone you take photos of
Most of all I hope you enjoy the experience.