With the increased availability of digital cameras of all shapes and sizes, photowalking has become a regular activity for most photo-enthusiasts. So much so, that beyond personal sojourns, there are camera/photography clubs for the sole activity of photowalking. The popularity of this rather social activity is on the rise. For the uninitiated, the most pertinent question would be “What is photowalking?”
What is Photowalking?
Now photographers have been going for this activity solo or as a group, for years. It is the increased popularity in recent years, which may have necessitated the use of such a term, if it did not exist earlier. Thus the history of photography could be arguably be traced back to a time much before the internet.
Guide for the Photowalker
1. Travel Light: It’s good to be prepared but not to be over-burdened. You will be walking around for a while. Is it necessary to pack in your entire kit for the walk? Last thing you want is your back to hurt while you are supposed to have a good time.
2. Get there on time: Please get to the meeting point on time. If running late, let your leader know. It would be rather rude to hold people up. Photographers are essentially light chasers, and it doesn’t do well if they are made lose out on good light simple because someone failed to turn up on time.
3. Pick any Camera: Photowalking is very much a social activity and the common thread is a love of photography. Any camera is fine, as long as you know how to use it. I have seen Sony Nex, Nikon D300, Canon 1000D and an iPhone being used on the same photowalk. The camera doesn’t affect the bonhomie, you do. Just ensure your device is charged.
4. Stay comfortable: Dress for the activity and the weather. Ensure you have comfortable shoes and wear appropriate clothing considering the weather and location.
5. Stay with the Group: This isn’t a must. However, photowalking being a social activity it does make sense to stay closer to the group. It also ensures safety from unwanted attention. It’s alright to drift away to get the frame you want, but do drift back.
Guide for the Leader
1. Set the Date, Time and Location: This goes out first and well in advance. This will allow people to plan their day/week accordingly. Plus it allows sufficient interest to be generated.
2. The Route is the key: Plan the route meticulously. Map it out and share it. Websites like http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ and http://www.mappedometer.com/ are a great help.
3. Keep it short and simple: The longer the route, the less is the participation. Keep the time and distance manageable. Ideally, anything between 2-3 hours and a couple of miles work fine. This is not to say that you cannot have longer photowalks, but then they require additional logistics. I will come to that in a bit.
4. Meeting Point: Set this in consideration with transport links and the start of the walk. It shouldn’t be too remote (unless the location is such) and certainly not too far from location. The MP should preferably be accessible by public transport.
5. Wrap Up: You must set a plan for wrap up. Once people are done with the photowalk, they would want to relax, sit down, have a pint/tea and have a nice chat about the walk. The social aspect of a photowalk shouldn’t be neglected and as the leader/organizer it is your task to plan for it. However, there are times when it is not possible e.g. outstation activities, in which case one may skip this point.
6. Transport Options: Please be aware of transport options that can be availed at the said hour back and forth from the location.
7. Break it up for Long Walks: As I mentioned earlier, some walks could be long, e.g. an all night photowalk on the longest day of the year. In such cases, it is important to introduce various checkpoints allowing for those drifting away to rejoin the group. Hand out a copy of the map, hard copy on the day or soft copy a couple of days before the walk. Mark out rest points on the map. Do schedule the group to get together near the halfway mark. Ideally it should be somewhere where people could grab a bit, freshen up a little and rest for a moment e.g. a café, pub or restaurant.
8. For large groups and long walks, get co-leaders: The problem with large groups is that they tend to drift apart. And they attract attention. It is wise to get some fellow photowalkers to act as co-leaders. That way, you can break up the group as and when required to attract less attention. Co-leaders will also be act as rallying points in long walks for people who tend to drift apart from the group or those who end up falling back.
The Walk is Over
This being a purely non-paid activity (in general), one can leave as and when they desire. On the other hand, some do carry on longer than the rest. However, many people like to sit down together and relax after a photowalk. It is at this point that one might witness the activity known as chimping. Chimping refers to practice of photowalkers going through the shots of others on the LCD screens and proceeding to make appreciative noises punctuated with questions or comments.
The most popular way to share these days is of course over the web. Generally, it is either Flickr or Facebook. I personally Flickr, simply because it allows better management of the pictures including tagging and upload limits, allowing for equal viewing opportunity for everyone. Differentiating between Facebook and Flickr is probably a point that has been pounded on before, so I’ll skip it.
Now, I personally recommend selective sharing of shots instead of the bulk sharing that some tend to go for. This allows for greater viewing pleasure, and has the potential of leading towards more constructive discussion on various points ranging from technical to aesthetic.
Ultimately, a photowalk is an act of leisure that fosters an easy atmosphere for networking and learning. Have fun!