One thing in photography is absolutely true – to improve as a photographer, you have to get out and shoot. If you don’t do it for a living, though, finding things to shoot, and getting out regularly, can be a real challenge. I always recommend finding a friend who shares your passion, getting involved in a local photo club or taking a hands-on workshop. Recently I had the chance to experience another way to get out to shoot pictures.
I’d heard about Meetup groups in the past, and a few weeks ago was able to see a photography one in action. I liked what I saw. These groups began years ago thanks to the ease of promoting activities via the web. People who shared a common interest could announce a place and time to get together to do something. Not surprisingly, as they became more popular, photo groups formed. A good friend of mine has been active in one in Dallas that has nearly 1200 members, and they organize weekly photo opportunities of all types. When I was there recently teaching Nikon School, he invited me to join them for a couple of shoots they had planned.
First, it was a lot of fun. I’ve always loved shooting pictures, so for me almost any excuse to do that is a good one. But even better, groups like this leverage knowledge and contacts. On Saturday night I joined Mike and the group on a shoot that had been arranged from the 40th floor of a building in downtown Dallas. One of the members has been able to get access to this, so they do it on a regular basis. Because of the popularity of the spot, they limit attendance to 20 people (depending on the event, there might be a fee, but most are free). The group ranged from beginners with entry-level cameras to pros, including one person with an 8 X 10 view camera. Knowing they’d be shooting through glass, most had also brought a way to minimize reflections, from a piece of black cloth to a black hat with a hole cut in it to put the lens through – ingenious! We watched the sun set as lights came on in the city, and shot pictures. Everyone was friendly, and of course there were plenty of photo oriented conversations.
Sunday, after finishing that day’s Nikon School, I joined Mike for another shoot. This one was open to anyone who wanted to attend, because there weren’t space limitations. We were meeting at the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge, a unique design with the skyline of Dallas behind it. And the “photo walk” had been scheduled for a time when the moon would be rising behind downtown around sunset. There were good shots to be made, and it was fun to see how many people showed up and the many different places and angles they chose to shoot from.
Returning home to Kansas City, I’ve now joined one of the photo Meetup groups in my area, and look forward to taking part in the shoots they schedule. In time I hope to contribute ideas and make suggestions too, because the whole point of these events is to share both passion and knowledge. To see if there’s a photo Meetup group near you, go to www.Meetup.com. You can then do a search for groups near you and read the positive feedback messages they’ve got, to see if the group might be right for you. If there aren’t any groups, start one. We all benefit from chances to get out and take pictures, and this looks like another great opportunity.