Friday, 22 March 2013

Attending Photowalks


Introduction

So you've been invited to a photowalk on social media. If this is your first walk you probably have some questions about what to expect and what is expected of you. Perhaps first we might chat about what exactly is  photowalk? 

A photowalk is as simple as a group of individuals with an interest in photography getting together at a particular place and time for the purpose of meandering around taking photos - creating images if you like. They generally have a start point, an end point, a route between those points and a time frame.

They often revolve around street photography, architecture or events. Sometimes they might have a theme or a celebrity head.

Participating

Check out the proposed walk from the invitation and check out if it will interest you. You can do this with tools like Google Maps Street View to show you the general area. It will help you set expectations.

A critical point to remember is the walk is organised by volunteers. There is no group, association or corporate body that is responsible for you and your safety. That's entirely up to you. Use common sense.

Finding a Walk

Walks are generally organised and advertised through Social Media such as Google+ and Evil Blue (Facebook). I lead the Photograph Melbourne  community over on g+. Our community is  very vibrant and diverse collection of people with just about every type of human represented.

Other people announce walks via Facebook. There is someone in every city and town organising photowalks - use search if you cannot find them.

Our walks are promoted through various channels including EventBrite.


On The Day

The walk day has come - how do you prepare? What should you take with you?

Things to Take

Well lets start with the obvious. How about a camera? Do you need a fancy DSLR with interchangeable lenses? Of course not. A phone will do. Lots of people on our walks shoot with just about every device imaginable from home made pin hole film cameras through to the top of the range DSLR and everything in between. What you take is entirely up to you. Don't carry more than you can comfortably handle over the expected distance. Are your batteries charged? It might sound silly but I hear about it on walks all the time.

Usually the walk announcement will include a map, print one out - don't assume the walk leader will do it. Remember we're not paid. Printing costs money.

I'm often amazed at how many people turn up inappropriately dressed. Check the weather and dress accordingly. Remember this is Melbourne - four seasons in a day. When you're going on a walk about town, especially if you're carrying something you really need decent footwear. At least some comfortable runners.

When You Get There

Arrive a bit before the start time, find the walk leader (probably the person who invited you) and introduce yourself. Remember that the walk leader may be a bit harassed and may not be all that responsive at that time. I know when I lead walks from time to time I'm a bit short with people at the beginning. Don't take it to heart - please! The walk leader won't remember 50 people's names so please don't expect it. Especially me, I'm lucky I can remember my own name sometimes.

Before the walk starts usually the walk leader will introduce their helpers and talk about the day and the route. A group photo is generally done at the beginning before people seperate and go their own ways.

Running Late?

Don't sweat it, take a look at the walk leader's stream to find them.

During The Walk

There is no hard and fast time table or route. If someone or something takes your fancy then spend whatever time you like on it. If you're not interested in the area then move on down the route. Not every area will have something that captures the eye of every person.

It's ok to deviate and to split up. It really doesn't matter. Generally the walk leader will post updates to the event or check in on g+ to show where they are and this will help you to know if you're ahead of, with or behind the leader.

If you duck down alleyways consider your safety - in numbers generally you're fine but on your own or with two or three the dynamics can change. The best street art is often in dark alleys but so are undesirable elements of our community.

It is a natural human trait to collect together with people you know. This can have  negative effect on a walk as other people are not included and can feel left out. Your leader will likely try and get people into groups where they can. You don't need to walk in groups but it can help with safety.

Can you take anyone's photo? Well, that depends. If they're in public and they have a reasonable expectation of being seen then yes you can take their photo. They might object and ask you not to. This is up to you - generally I stop if asked not to because its polite. If they're in private, e.g. you find a couple having a smooch behind some bins (it happens!) then I'd suggest leaving them to it and moving on. You can find out more information on photographer's rights in Australia from www.artslaw.com.au.

Copyright is an interesting question when it comes to street photography. It is permissible to photograph public artworks and architecture. It is permissible to photograph street art and street artists. However, don't try to claim it as your own. You've got whats called a derivative work - your photograph largely documents someone elses's work. You can find out lots more from the Australian Copyright Council.

You may need to consider property rights, many places such as shopping centres restrict photography and they are within their rights to do that. Respect their rights as much as you need to.

Afterwards

Generally photowalks end up with a social occasion, don't be concerned if you leave earlier. Our walks usually finish at a food venue of some kind.

Once you get home, follow your usual workflow for your image creations. It is generally accepted that each walk participant will either add images to the event or create an album and share it public or just to the people on the event.