This year I have challenged myself to doing 52 Photowalks. I’m leaving the house once a week with my camera and taking photos of my city, my Metro Parks, or whatever else I happen to find around me. With 45 photowalks under my belt in less than year, I’ve learned about a few things that are helpful to have with you when you do these things.
1. A good pair of shoes
I use the same pair of shoes for every single one of my photowalks. They’re an old pair of hiking boots from Lands End. They’re ugly as all get-out, but they have amazing traction, support my feet in all kinds of crazy angles, and yet still remain incredibly comfortable after all these years. All three of those are so important when photowalking. I’ve had to make my way across rivers on wet walks (thank you traction!), and I’ve taken photos crouched down on the ground while looking up at a tree on a very steep hill (thank you support for crazy angles!) and over the course of just under a year, I’ve put so many miles on those shoes and while I’ve come home with tired feet, I’ve never had a blister (thank you comfy shoes!)
2. An extra memory card
I have two memory cards. One large one that typically holds all of the photos I’ll take on a walk (with room to spare). But I always carry a second, smaller card with me. For one thing, if I ever DID fill up that one memory card, well, that wouldn’t be fun, now would it? In addition, maybe I’m paranoid, but I like having the second card just in case something happens to the first while I’m using it. I’ve never had that happen, but maybe one day it will, and that second memory card takes up so little space in my bag, it doesn’t hurt to bring it along just in case.
3. An extra battery
Do you know how frustrating it is to run out of battery power in the middle of a walk? I do, because it happened to me once. So frustrating, in fact, that I bought a second battery just so that could never happen again. And it has come in handy on more than one occasion!
4. A good bag
I’m not going to tell you which camera bag you should use, because I think a camera bag is a personal decision, and everyone is going to look for the things that are important to them. For me, I wanted a slingbag so that I could easy pull my camera out, take a few photos, and then swish the camera back around to my back. I do a lot of my photowalking along hiking trails, so when I’m not taking photos, I need something that’s going to stay secure on my back. You also want to make sure that your bag is big enough to hold the gear you’re going to bring with you. This may or may not be all your gear – chances are, you’re not doing portrait photography on your photowalks, so you might not bring everything with you that you would to a photo shoot. You’re going to do a lot of walking, so you want to travel as light as possible, and that includes not having a large bag that you’re only using 1/4 of.
If you’re curious, I use (and love) the Lowepro Slingshot 200. And while I’ve (luckily) never had a reason to use it, one of my favorite features was the fact that i came with an all-weather cover, just in case I get stuck out in the rain halfway through a 5 mile hike!
5. A notebook/pen
I don’t use this on every walk, but I’ve found that I’m grateful for it whenever I do use it. Sometimes when I’m out, I’ll see someplace else that I’d like to explore some other time – this happens a lot when I’m doing more urban photowalks. I don’t have the time to explore every part of downtown on any given day, but I’ll often see something that I’ll want to come back to, so I’ll write that down. Other times I just want to make a note of the name of the trail I’m on or whatever body of water I’m walking by if such a thing exists. Sometimes I’m lucky and find signs for these things and I can just take a photo of the sign, but I’m not always that lucky.
6. A flashlight
My favorite time to take photos – and a favorite time of many of you, I’m sure – is right before/during sunset. Needless to say, I’ve found myself stuck a few miles away from my car when it starts getting dark. This is another one that’s probably a bit more important when doing nature hikes, because there’s no streetlights around to guide me home – and it gets darker in the woods sooner than it does out in the open.
7. Other people!
And I don’t just mean other photographers. I’ve done photowalks by myself, I’ve done photowalks with other photographers, and I’ve done photowalks with friends and family who don’t even own a point & shoot. Honestly, I find it most refreshing to go with the non-photographers. I often feel pressure when with other photographers, wondering if they’re watching what I’m doing and judging me, or wondering if they’re getting a better shot than I am. Once I start relaxing, there are some definite benefits of knowledge sharing when walking with other photographers, but it’s there’s something to be said for the company of a non-photographer. I’ve found they’re much more likely to get excited about helping you find the perfect shot. Non-photographers are there to help you get the shot, not to try and find the shot themselves. Plus, they’re really good at holding your lens cap/bag/extra lenses for you!
8. Your business cards
I’m not a professional photographer, but I’ve still had some business cards printed up that have the address of my photoblog and flickr account on the back. When you have a professional looking camera and you look like you know what you’re doing, you just might be approached by other people. This has happened to me a number of times, and this is when I’ll pull out the cards. It’s nice because I can tell the person where my photos will eventually be posted so that they can see the results of that day’s outing, but also nice because it can help politely end the conversation if they’re distracting me too much from what I’m trying to do.