Ah, yes…photo walks. I’ve actually seen some photographers shudder at the mention of them. I guess some photogs have either perfected their craft, or just don’t have the need or desire to spontaneously capture random things. Either way, I see it as a missed opportunity. A missed opportunity in terms of keeping your skills sharp by being out there shooting.
Photo walks actually keep me motivated to shoot pictures. It forces me to get out there and stumble upon something unplanned.

Sure, when I DO plan a photo walk, I have a sense of what I want to shoot, but often times, I’ll come across something that I could never have planned.

Last month, I planned a photo walk in Santa Monica. I had an idea of what I wanted to shoot: the pier, a sunset, and maybe some cool architecture. What I didn’t plan, was capturing a shot that to this day is one of my favorite shots. It’s UNDERNEATH the Santa Monica Pier:

Under the Santa Monica Pier at Sunset

Look at the colors, the light, and textures…I love this shot. What happened was, I got there quite a bit early from the sunset. I was walking around scouting the area for the next cool shot. I was up on the pier…down the street…near the mall…then I decided to head down to the sand. At first, I wasn’t seeing anything good to shoot. Oh wait, there was a lifeguard stand there, so I went and setup a few shots. The sun was blaring, not really any cool clouds above, and the shot was boring. I then looked under the pier and saw darkness.

Darkness = opportunity for me with the style I like to shoot.

I walked under the pier, and saw these crazy wooden pillars in many different angles. Waves crashing against them. Then I saw it. BINGO! The sun beginning to go down the horizon, creating really cool spilling light. Set up my tripod and snapped off 9 shots of bracketed exposures since I was shooting into the sun. I knew I got it!

Later during that photo walk, still on a high from getting a great shot, I went up on the pier and was greeted with one of the most incredible sunsets that I’ve seen. The sky was purple, pink, yellow, orange and was just gorgeous. BINGO, another one!!! Here’s that shot:

OK, now I’ve outdone myself. This photo walk has proved to be incredible. I can’t stop now, but I was running out of ideas of things to shoot. It was late and dark, but decided to keep trekking. I walked away from the beach into downtown Santa Monica. Bam, I saw another opportunity. In fact, I saw a shot that I’ve never done before, but always wanted to. A long exposure of traffic. I was perched above the 10 Freeway on 4th Street, setup my tripod, and snapped off 5 exposures of traffic. Yes, traffic. Beautiful, wouldn’t you say?

Why stop now, right? I didn’t even make it 2 blocks and BINGO, my next shot! This time, it was this BEAUTIFULLY colorful building. Upon further investigation, found out it was the Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Structure. Walked around a bit to find a good composition. Set up and snapped off 5 exposures here, too.

This is one of my favorite shots, still. I love it. Also, this is one of the first photos that I ever sold. In fact, it was sold to a Santa Monica city employee. I’m hoping it’s framed and hanging in an office there 🙂

As you can see by my story and photos, that photo walks are necessary for photographers. It keeps you on your toes. Forces you to constantly look for beauty in things we may see every day, and take that chance to shoot it. Also, I think that I have perfected my formula for a photo walk, and I’ll share that.

To me, a successful photo walk is half planned and half unplanned. What I mean by that is, I’ll look on Google Maps and first pick a geographic location. I then brainstorm and write a list of every interesting thing I know of that area and look it up on the map and make note of it – research them on Wikipedia, Google Images, see if other photogs have shot it, etc. I then go out and shoot. What I do when I’m out there, is I’ll wander between shots looking for those gems that I may stumble upon. That’s it. Pretty simple, right?

My goal is to do a photo walk per week to keep things fresh. If anyone out there is interested in going with, I’d love the company. I don’t care what skill level you are or what equipment you have. If you want to go, hit me up HERE and we’ll schedule it.

If you really want to learn HDR, and do some cool night shots, here’s what you’ll need:
– A camera capable of doing different exposures
– A tripod
– The desire to learn something new

If you don’t have that gear, no problem. You can bring your iPhone and shoot with that 🙂