Over the last few years I have enjoyed writing this blog and also posting my photos online, it feels good to share my thoughts and work. But all too easily one can get used to this kind of life with everything online and, apart from going out to take photos, not really mixing in the real world.

Even the going out and shooting for me for the most part is a solitary exercise. Of course I go on trips and visits with my Fiancee and I take photos, but even then it’s usually me taking my pictures and other times it is just me doing a photo walk.

So recently I have been actively seeking out opportunities to meet and spend time with other photographers; real in the flesh people – I know, shocking.

The first was a meetup for a photo walk followed with drinks at a local brewery. I have been on meetups in the past and they have been good fun. This one was organised by a larger organisation that host these kind of events worldwide; Beers and Cameras. The LA ‘chapter’ of this group is fairly new and still finding it’s feet so there were a lot of new faces (including my own). The main idea is to meet up at a brewery or drinking establishment that has a good range of craft beers and talk photography; a photo walk beforehand is an optional extra which, it seemed, most were interested in attending.

Beer and Cameras Los Angeles

We started at a trendy coffee shop in the arts district of LA meandering around the streets shooting each other and things we saw.

I really enjoyed it; not only was that area interesting to walk around but walking with a group who were as happy as you to just stop and take photos made it a relaxed and fun couple of hours. I think photography becomes a contagious action in these groups and you are inspired to shoot more and look for things those around you are not seeing/shooting.

It was also good to see the gear the others were using and having taken the decision to go digital for the day I felt in the minority surrounded by a good range of film cameras of all makes and formats. There was perhaps a little more gear talk than I am used to and I did feel a little overwhelmed by that at first (being a reserved Englishman).

Beer and Cameras Los Angeles

I am hoping to make this a fairly regular event for me so I can build on the initial friendships I have begun.

Attack of the giant swan!

The second thing I have recently done was to book myself onto a photography course. We have a small chain of photography shops here called Samy’s and they run a number of seminars and training sessions. I booked myself on ‘Fine Art Travel Photography with Mark Edward Harris’.

Mark Edward Harris  is a well known photographer whose editorial work has appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair, Life, GEO, Conde Nast Traveler, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, and The London Sunday Times Travel Magazine as well as all the major photography and in-flight magazines. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a CLIO, ACE, Aurora Gold, and Photographer of the Year at the Black and White Spider Awards. His photography books include “Faces of the Twentieth Century: Master Photographers and Their Work,” “The Way of the Japanese Bath,” “Wanderlust,” “North Korea,” “South Korea” and “Inside Iran.” “North Korea” was named Photography Book of the Year at the 2013 International Photography Awards. (bio from http://www.travelweekly.com).

It was so interesting and inspiring to meet someone with such a successful history and getting his insight was a valuable experience for me. The session consisted of an initial presentation of his work going into some detail on why and how he captured the images as well as some Q and A. We then went ‘on assignment’ to see what we could capture in and hour or two around The Farmers Market in LA. After the assignment we had time to edit our work and select a best photos for group review and critique.

The assignment morphed slightly as we realized the market was also hosting a classic car event (Gilmore Heritage Auto Show) which we included in our images. This was a challenging exercise for me and pushed my abilities in areas I generally avoid; planning a series of images and getting strangers to pose for me. Both are out of my comfort zone and are not my normal opportunist, stand back and observe style. Having to think about what shots might make a story and engaging with people directly in a situation was an effort. It changed my photography style a little and as such I wasn’t that happy with the actual images I captured but the process was useful.

Meeting other aspiring photographers of mixed skill and experience, this time in a learning environment, was also very interesting and I enjoyed the day spent with other like minded people. It also helped me immensely with understanding myself more and where I am at. I learned a lot from speaking with an experienced and professional photographer about how they approach a subject and think about the execution of the shot.

I certainly intend to do more of this kind of thing where I can meet and chat with other photographers and become part of a community; online communities are great and I love that I can discuss and share thoughts with people across the world. In person is a different thing, more human feeling I guess and an important part of my growth.