Last night marks my first organized group photowalk and it was a blast. I generally work alone and find crowds drive my anxiety through the roof. But I have been curious of jumping in with a bunch of local shutterheads like myself. After getting obsessed with G+ and the weather becoming bearable again, it got hard to pass up the guaranteed chance of an evening of near complete, face-to-face photo talk.

I had the pleasure of joining up with the Chicago Smug group. A bevy of photographers I ran across online, who meet once a month for a two hour walk and workshop. Funny enough, I had the pleasure of meeting JJ Castro on my visit to the Luminous Field art installation downtown last week, who helped spur me into checking out this workshop. A great photographer, whom I recommend you check out. He has some really good work going on and I believe he is thinking of putting out more street photography. And you know I am always wanting to see more life in the urban jungle.
Liquid Bokah
“Liquid Bokah” – The kickoff image to the night.

Anyway, JJ and I had discussed taking a photowalk this week and interestingly enough, he recommended the Chicago Smugs walk. Something I had debated heading to myself for a few days. Good timing and just the push I needed to partake in a group event.By the way, if you are in the Chicago area and would like to know more about these walks… check out the Facebook page at Chicago Smug.

The group planned to meetup at Calumet on Goose Island around 6pm. I got there about a quarter till, this way I could try and get me a cheap bag separator to temporarily convert my old messenger bag. Alas, they sadly didn’t have anything that would work at the time, but I did get an idea for my next lens purchase. I went back out to the car to set up the flimsy old bag. Looking forward to when my new Safrotto – high quality Domke clone – arrives. So I kicked back for a few minutes checking my gear.Around 6:30, I thought I’d pop back in and see if anyone had shown up. I walked in and there I was, the dreaded first time, first to meet anyone confusion set in. Its your first time and you know the feeling… you walk around, a bit unsure as to who to approach. Are they with the group? Am I to early? Did I miss everyone?… Thankfully JJ arrived and rose the flags of those in the group. So the initial barrier was passed… 😉 Now for the fun…

We all gathered up and introduced ourselves in a conference room at Calumet. Who I must say, is awesome. By far one of my favorite camera shops in the area and a place that really, truly cares about photographers. It was really cool of them to open their doors to the gathering.

After the meet and greet, we jumped right into it. It was a bit cold and wet out last night. I was worried that I would be left wanting early on, with my very unweatherized 550D. I was however, pleasantly surprised by the mercy of mother nature toward us all. The rain held off relatively well, no outpours and the cold was bearable. Mind you I did experience the wonderful loss of feeling in the fingers a couple times. But the coffee shop we all stopped at later in the evening helped alleviate the chills for a short time.

Chicago Smuggers
Here’s JJ
I would say we ended up covering about 2 miles of the Goose Island streets. Admiring the historic bridges, stopping occasionally for some portraiture and trading advice with our noble leader for the night, Gokhan Cukurova and the plethera of amazingly talented artists that gathered for the event. Gokhan is yet another photographer I would HIGHLY recommend taking a look at, actually one of many I had the pleasure of speaking with and picking the mind of last night. Many of which I will be linking to over the next few days, as I gather more contact info. 

(Hint: Anyone else who were out there last night, send me your links. I would love to link over your sites in my “artists’ sharing artists'” section.)

Placing an Order

The workshop carried along more socially/casually than I anticipated (that’s a good thing) and to top it of, it was free. You cannot beat that…

Don’t get me wrong, for some things, I would also enjoy a more focused and lesson focused program. But this would be for different intentions. Neither manner is better than the other. As long as I am not sitting and listening to some buggar spitting sounds at me all bloody night. As Gokhan noted this evening, and I am paraphrasing here, we don’t want people lecturing to us all the time. Learn by doing. Which is pretty much what we all did. We hit the pavement, chatting it up in small groups. Randomly stopping to talk and shoot some portraiture. It carried along nicely, as a discussion forum, I would say. Very pleasant and comfortable (minus the cold).

Through the night, I very much enjoyed myself and would certainly go again. Actually, I am already watching the schedule for the next meet up. I only hope that the stars align again, and I am not scheduled locked with work. Thank goodness for Chicago Smugs choice of Thursday this month. 😉

Thursday or Friday guys, wink wink….The best thing to take away from all of this, is that I recommend anyone reading my blog to get involved with a local group. It’s a very satisfying experience.

Now… less talk, more pictures:

Straight from the camera (great sky last night)
Tested out some portraiture 
One of the many talented Chicago Smuggers
Another Smugger – Nima Taradji
(Great street photographer)
“Portrait of a Self-Portrait” 
Another of Nima Taradji
Goose Island
Caution…. Wet Road?
Tail Light – I like water close up, shoot me. 😉
Graffiti – Always fun
Alternate Bridge Approach II
Alternate Bridge Approach III
Alternate Bridge Approach IV & V

I also want to note, the fellow Chicago Smuggers from the walk were so very nice and interesting. I truly had a blast and it was a pleasure to meet all of you. I look forward to meeting up with everyone again for more shooting in the near future. Be sure to send me your information, so I can link to you through the site.