Why I love Photowalking
Early in 2011, thanks to the power of social media, I was introduced to a group on Facebook called the “Joburg Photowalkers”. The group was started by a couple of Johannesburg-based photography lovers who wanted to share their passion for photography and Johannesburg with other like-minded people.
The concept is simple – at regular intervals (normally at least weekly), a “Photowalk” venue is suggested and a meeting time and place is set. All that’s left for you to do is arrive at the required meeting point, at the correct time, with your camera (and, if necessary, tripod) in tow. Having been on a number of photowalks in the past year, I’ve enjoyed myself immensely on each one and have learnt a great deal in the process. Here’s why I love photowalking so much:
1. You’re surrounded by willing teachers
Photography is a game in which there is always something to learn. For a hack like myself, who has never taken lessons, the photowalks are an invaluable opportunity to gather hints and tips from photographers more experienced than myself. Whether it’s the advantage of increasing your ISO setting at night, or adjusting the white balance to capture the true colour of a flower, there is always a willing teacher to help you improve your photography.
2. Borrowing and experimenting with other people’s equipment
Very few photographers own all the equipment they’d like to. You’re always yearning for an additional lens or gadget that will enhance your photography. Photowalking allows you to chat to the person who has the lens you crave (in my case a Canon 10-22mm wide angle lens) and on my last photowalk I was thrilled to discover my good friend Karen was willing to lend me hers to shoot a few shots of the Sandton skyline. It gave a completely different perspective to what I could achieve with my own equipment.
3. Discover parts of the city you didn’t know existed
No matter how long you’ve lived in a city for, there will still be parts of it that you have not yet explored or possibly don’t even know existed. We’re still discovering new parts of Johannesburg, and some of that has to be attributed to the photowalks. From 5 star Sandton hotels to the back roads of the townships, you’ll gain a new awareness of the diversity of Johannesburg.
4. Access to places that are usually off-limits
All too often you’ll look at a photograph and wonder how the photographer got permission to access the top of that building or to go beyond that security perimeter. One of the great things about being a photowalker is that on many of the walks, we have organized access to locations that you’d never be able to access as a solo photographer. We’ve accessed buildings ranging from historical, derelict buildings like the Old Johannesburg General Hospital to penthouse suites in the luxury Michelangelo and Radisson Hotels. Each location provides an opportunity to shoot scenes normally out of reach.
5. Safety in numbers
If you’ve ever read up on Johannesburg, you’ll have heard the horror stories. Muggings, rapes, murders, hi-jackings…the list of horrors is endless. Except, it’s not really that bad. We live a pretty normal life in Johannesburg and know that what the media reports and what you read on the internet is nowhere close to a true reflection of life in the city. That said though, there are instances where you need to use common sense. Walking through Hillbrow flashing a DSLR and telephoto lens, or hanging around under the M1 bridge at night might not be your smartest move, but with the Photowalkers, you’re frequently in a group of 20 + photographers and often with a pre-arranged security guard, so safety is never something you need to worry about.
6. A chance to socialize
Human beings are inherently social and you can never overlook the importance of socializing “on the job”, so to speak. Joburg Photowalkers come from all walks of life – you’ll meet dyed-in-the-wool Johannesburgers, visiting out-of-towners, expat wives, professional photographers and on-location volunteers, to name but a few of our kin. With such a diverse, and large array of members, you never know what lifelong friends and business connections you might meet when you choose to walk the streets of Johannesburg with us.
For more information on the Joburg Photowalkers, or to join our merry little group, please visit the Facebook Page. If you’re interested in starting a Photowalking group in your own town or city, I’d recommend contacting one of our founders, via the Facebook Page, and enquiring as to how to best go about it.