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On Photowalking

by Gevon Servo on 03/04/2011

A nice calm moment as the day ends

Sometimes I don’t want to work. I just want to go out on a photo walk. It’s meditation for me. It’s also a form of exercise. Spring is coming. Photowalking, one of my favorite activities, is on my mind—walking around taking photos in a city or a park. On a nice day, I can walk alone, or with people I know, taking photos and having fun. I use photo walks to test photo gear, socialize, and explore new areas. I have been thinking of how to make them better. Here are some thoughts, feel free to use them.

What lens are you going to use?

shooting from the hip , holding camera at wait-level, and shooting upwards without looking through the viewfinder.

The amount of gear you carry is up to you, but I like to keep it simple. With my Nikon D90, I tend use one lens at a time on photo walks. An extremely versatile lens works in almost any scenario and makes you concentrate on your composition.

My favorite lens to carry is my Nikon 50mm 1.8D. Sometimes I will use my Sigma 70-300mm DG macro. This lets me get images of people candidly, and many strange and interesting things I cannot get close to. I can also get macro shots of interesting objects. Some people I know like to use 18-200 lenses because it gives them lot versatility in focal length and they never have to change their lens. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a variety of lenses though.

Any lens can work for photo walks. Remember to keep your lens hood and a good, clear UV lens filter to keep your lens safe.

What Accessories to Bring

Lets go that way

Because I am walking long distances at times, I use an easy-to-access bag: my Tamrac Evolution 8 filled with extra batteries and memory cards.

My favorite new piece of kit for my photo walking is my Blackrapid RS-7. It’s like a third hand holding the camera, and it’s very comfortable. One of my most important things to carry, especially when I am walking in New York, is a Lens Pen.

Dirt materializes and I find the Lens Pen helps clean the lens and filter quickly. On a photo walk, I like to use the environment as my tripod. To do this, I will carry along a small towel or a camera beanbag. Lately, I started using a Westcott  14collapsible reflector. When folded in its pouch it is the perfect size for a camera to sit on. The pouch is durable and you always have a reflector with you for impromptu portraits.

I carry a pen and a note pad. If a picture of a person is taken, I can get their email address and send it to them. If I want to share my routes, I geotag photos with my EasyTag Hot shoe gps device. It helps me not repeat routes and share them with others.

Turn Left

New Building next to new (unfinished) Highline entrance on 23 Street in NYC

Photowalks give me a reason to explore. If I have walked a path before, I turn left and explore a new route. Living near a big city, this is exceptionally fun. I still run into subjects and places that I have never seen before, even though they were one block over from my usual routes. Humans are creatures of habit, and habits need to be broken sometimes.

Choose Themes

Spring is coming!

It’s easy to just go out and capture what catches your eye. It can be challenging when you box yourself into a particular theme. It will sharpen my eye and help me work on my focus, mentally that is. I can choose to do a photo walk where I only grab images of plant life. Sometimes I want walk through a city like New York, and just shoot water towers for a few hours. Just pick something and try to make every exposure distinctive.

Shoot ultra early in the morning

mmmmm DONUT!

One of my favorite times to start photo walks is just before dawn. In these early morning hours, cities are very quiet. Streets have few cars going through. These are excellent times to get images of empty streets and other images generally unavailable when the masses are typically awake. Another great thing about early morning photography is the light. It can be warm and give great shadows. I find the early morning light helps me to find exquisiteness in familiar objects.

Catalog parks & Nature

All cites have parks and nature reservations. I can choose to walk there and show viewers my interpretation of those environments. Sometimes it’s a great break from the concrete jungle. If you live in a city like New York, you can go to Central Park in Manhattan or Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I live walking distance from the South Mountain Reservation in New Jersey. Places like these are great to lose oneself  in photography. You can capture all the landmarks these places have or make your own path.

NYC Wildlife

Have a good time

You will never know what you’ll see

Smile and have fun. It will reflect in your images, especially if people are your subjects. Look at other people’s street photography, but do not copy them. If you see other photographers, go shoot somewhere else. There are no concrete rules to photowalking however. Be fluid with yourself. Don’t follow trends and create your own style. Get out there and shoot.

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