I recently participated in the World Photowalk event for our area. Worldwide, nearly 32,000 participants annually take part in over 1,300 walks. After reading these numbers on the Photowalk web-site, I was surprised on the morning of the event to find that only six would be sharing our respective walk. It would be easy to say I was disappointed with the low turnout, however, considering I live in a smaller community and nearly an hour away from the nearest tourist attraction, I suppose this is to be expected.
A week earlier I was searching the event web-site for my preferred walk area, and I began to realize from the choices offered that this is truly a very large event. Seeing Monterrey and Santa Cruz as walk choices, and both being less than two hours from my driveway, I signed up. My sweetheart and I had planned the perfect romantic getaway. We would walk Monterrey’s Cannery Row early in the morning, enjoy lunch with an ocean view, and then drive up the coast to Santa Cruz, where we could watch the sunset that evening atop the boardwalk.
Of course life occasionally steps in, altering plans unexpectedly. And just two days before the walk I had to downsize my ambitions, keeping myself closer to home so that I could take care of some business on the afternoon of the scheduled walk day. Fortunately there was a walk on a new UC campus only ten minutes from my home, and it was scheduled early in the morning. I was able to quickly implement a Plan B.
Event founder and promoter Scott Kelby intends for the walks to be social events, where like-minded photography geeks gather at a scenic or trendy area, snap some photos, compare notes and dork out over equipment, then finish the walk with a group lunch. And true to Scott’s intentions, this was essentially how our morning unveiled itself over the course of a two-hour walk, followed by a leisurely lunch not far from the campus.
Our guide during the walk was a local photography instructor who obviously had a good grasp on the fundamentals of his craft. His easy-going demeanor made for a very pleasant and relaxed morning. If walkers needed suggestions or pointers he offered instruction. If not, he simply enjoyed the walk with the rest of us. On this particular day the campus was buzzing with activity due to it being Preview Day, where prospective students and their families participated in guided tours and informative presentations throughout the campus. Because of the large crowds we were able to walk the campus with relative impunity, cameras slung over shoulders or in our faces, essentially unnoticed. It’s a luxury not typically experienced by a photographer in this contemporary and often suspicious world.
World Photowalk Day is open to anyone interested in photography, not just photographers who have invested far more into their equipment than most can reasonably justify. And in my opinion this is a good thing. Having professional equipment and the technical prowess to use it skillfully is obviously important. I love the creative control my gear provides. And a skilled craftsman with good equipment will certainly produce a better product than one with lesser equipment and skills. Having said that, the fact remains that many of my favorite photographs are those captured using a $200 point-n-shoot, quickly deployed from my pocket at just the right moment. And while I’ve had many occasions where I would have preferred to use my professional equipment, my little point-n-shoot still allowed me to capture the moment for eternity.
Occasionally and out of necessity, equipment preference becomes secondary. The primary focus is putting yourself in a place of your choosing and pointing the camera at something worthy of capture . While climbing ancient city walls, ducking into deep catacombs or hiking a narrow mountain trail, the idea of lugging three pounds of camera gear around my neck has never appealed to me. In fact there have been a few situations where having such gear would have been a liability, and made the adventure much more difficult, if not impossible. At around the eighth hour of an adventure, I’m willing to be limited only by my fitness and perceived level of danger, not the amount of gear I have slung around my shoulders.
I believe this is the spirit of World Photowalk. What’s important is to be involved in the activity of capturing photos. Like so many pursuits based in the arts, great photography is driven by passion and purpose. Without a purpose or idea, and the passion to create, finding a subject to place in front of our camera becomes pointless. World Photowalk provides a venue for taking photos, where sharing the activity with like-minded enthusiasts fuels the passion, and reinforces the underlying need to get out and experience the world around us.