Art isn’t easy. It takes a lot of stubborn determination to overcome self-doubts, obstacles, and adversity. That is equally true in the art of photography.
Walking the Walk
On Monday, May 21, I went on a Photo Walk at the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco with Trey Ratcliff as part of the Google+ Photographer’s Conference. There were many photo walks to choose from for the conference, each led by a different professional photographer. I chose Trey’s walk for several reasons.
For one thing, I knew of Trey from a video of a Google+ photo walk in Yosemite. He seemed bright, articulate, and fun.
For another thing, I knew I could get to the Embarcadero by riding the BART (Bay Area Regional Transport). This meant I could avoid the stress and frustration of driving in San Francisco. Better still, I didn’t have to hunt and pay for the parking.
So even though I’ve photographed around the Embarcadero Center before, I figured that I was sure to learn something new by taking this walk.
I didn’t anticipate that parking at the BART center in Oakland would be impossible – there wasn’t a spot to be found. I almost gave up on the idea of going on the walk. After following the tracks for half an hour, I found the last tiny parking spot at another BART station. I couldn’t even open the door on my side of the car. But at least I was good to go.
Unfortunately, while I had signed up for Trey’s Photo Walk, I had not received confirmation that I was on it. Worse – I had no idea where they were meeting for it. The Embarcadero Center is mostly two stories with four different buildings. That meant I had a lot of ground to search for a few photographers.
I wandered up and down and all around for about an hour, taking pictures of flowers and searching for signs of photographers. I was so exhausted and disheartened, I almost gave up again. I even succumbed to the temptation of a chocolate-covered caramel from See’s Candies to cheer myself up. This revived me enough that I decided to go down to the Ferry Building on the slim chance I could find some photographers still wandering around.
The Tale of the Tripod
Then I saw a glimmer of hope – there, in front of the Embarcadero Center Fountain was a man taking photos. Not only was he using a camera, but he was using a tripod. This wasn’t just any man – This was a photographer!
Sure enough, this was Sly Vegas, the point man for Trey’s Photowalk. He was seeking out all the good spots to take pictures. And there in the park beyond the fountain, I could see around fifty other photographers gathered to share the experience of taking photos with Trey. Victory was mine at last.
They had gathered in that spot to take pictures of the Ferry Building. Now I have taken many more than thirty-six photos of the Ferry Building before, and it’s not anywhere near as picturesque as Mt. Fuji. But it couldn’t hurt to add a few more images of the Ferry Building to my collection.
So we took photos of the exterior of the Ferry Building, of the fountain, and of the Embarcadero Center, all of which I had explored and taken before. So far, the Photo Walk was interesting, but not worth all the stress and fuss it took to get here.
Then we walked into the foyer of the Hyatt Regency. Wow.
This is San Francisco. If I was in charge of a hotel here, I would make one that was elegant, comfortable, and restful to ease the weary tourist and make him feel at home. Clearly, I did not design the Embarcadero Hyatt Regency. It was like walking out onto the Las Vegas Strip – dark, dramatic, and with lights and sparkles everywhere.
It was a photographer’s delight. We invaded the area, snapping photos from every angle. It was a wonder that security didn’t take exception to the forty-nine-some tripods (I was one of the few who left mine in the car back at the BART station).
As we left, I asked Trey if he had made prior arrangements with the Hyatt to let us take pictures there. No, he hadn’t. We just got away with it.
Someone said that the staff thought we were paparazzi stalking a celebrity…
Maybe we were. Most of this group was here to see Trey. Trey is every bit as smart and fun as he seemed to be in the video. He even took the time to give us a lecture on how to do HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos the way he does. So the walk was both entertaining and educational.
We then went to the upper floor of the Ferry Building. The security guard did his best to explain why we could not shoot pictures with tripods there. While he was explaining this to Trey, most of us took the photos we wanted to take before they kicked us out. Chutzpah wins again.
So next, we took photos of the San Francisco Bay. We took photos of the rocket ship sculpture. We took photos of Trey. We took photos of the giant bow and arrow. We even got to take photos of dogs running in the park. We got to take pictures of Sly Vegas and his girlfriend, Charli Blake, who posed for us.
It was a great day of photography. On this Photo Walk, I got better than the ‘trifecta’ of photographs. I got the ‘perfecta’ – People, Puppies, Places, Patterns, and Plants. I had a blast doing it, too.
The moral of this tale is that persistence and problem-solving pay off when it comes to taking great photos. So does a little chutzpah.