Roaming Night Photography in Detroit

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If you ask what the best way to get better at your craft is, no matter what the craft, you’ll hear ‘practice’. A photowalk is one of the best ways to do this as it often can take you out of your normal shooting area, introduce you to photographers with a variety of shooting skill levels and styles, and force you to think differently and quickly about what you’re capturing. There are a number of ways that a photowalk stands out above just walking around on your own and can make you a better photographer:

You don’t want to get left behind so you can’t just sit around waiting for the “right picture”.

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Though you should never feel pressured to abandon a shot just because the group is starting to move away, as a good photowalk should have posted a rough map of the route so no one gets lost; you do have to find the shot where you are while you’re there, and there is a bit of a time limit to it.

Inspiration might actually come from watching the group.

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Looking at your fellow photographers, you see where they are aiming and suddenly you’re shown an angle or perspective you wouldn’t have caught otherwise. While most of us don’t want to be a copycat, maybe you go hunt down a similar look a few feet down the block, or just tuck it away for the next time you’re out. Even better, you can ask what made them take that shot. Which leads me to…

Make sure you remember to talk to people.

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Be social – these are the people you can go on and on about photography with and not get the eye glaze look that your friends and family normally do. Ask what someone is thinking/doing to get the shot they’re working on / just took. Obviously be considerate to not interrupt them in the moment, but you get a unique chance to speak live with someone about camera settings that you can actually use right then and there.

This particular photowalk happens once a year (hence the “annual”) and is done on a global scale. A website is set up where someone can set themselves up as a walk leader in a city and then you get to sign up to join their walk. For purposes of keeping a group manageable each walk listing is limited to 50, but there are often multiple groups in one larger city.

Since I work in Detroit, but rarely muster up the energy to do photography after a full day in the office, I decided to go with challenging myself to the familiar. We started near the Opera house and made our way in a figure 8 fashion around the Grand Circus and Campus Martius areas of downtown.

Photowalk route

On to the final images I made:

Looking up at the Opera House parking garage.

The Metropolitan building has some amazing exterior detail holding up for a building that has been abandoned for 30+ years. It is getting some much needed love this summer however as a restoration company works to clean up the facade and prevent any further erosion and damage to the brick and stone. Repairs are being done to an extent to keep it intact until a full refurbishment can be done, and evaluations have shown that is still a viable option.

Some of the scaffolding for all the work being done in the area.

Still undergoing work on the ground floor – the Wright-Kay building has its first occupant on the second floor. A small plates restaurant, open for dinner hours, called Wright & Co. The windows on the first floor were these tiny rectangles with slabs of marble and giant awnings, so I’m hoping by the amount of plywood showing that they are opening them back up to their original size. The upper stories are all floor to ceiling so I can’t imagine what was there was original. I love the rust color the bricks took on in the fading light.

So many signs. My husband commented as I was uploading this that it looked like someone collaged a bunch of photos together.

One of my favorites of the night. As we’re mingling around Capitol Park, I hear ambulance sirens and pan and grab this. The cobblestone foreground blurs into a crosshatch and the red lights bounce off the close building across the street to create a firey haze. I love the “hard to look directly at it” energy. This will probably get printed and hung in my living room somewhere.

I think I like my day time version of this better. Still fun having kind of a series going of this now from different cities.

A quick triptych. Not sure how true it is – I know the better murals do attract a lot of good attention.

We’ve made our way into Campus Martius, and I switch to my 10-22 and lean in close to the fountain for a detail shot. Wide angle lenses aren’t just for buildings and landscapes, folks.

Then I back up a bit and let the fountain fire up and fall back down full power. I love the spikey sparkler effect of the water spray. The building behind it is First National building. The windows aren’t painted green – it’s the walls inside from the notoriously vibrant Quicken Loans which has office space on several floors.

Not entirely sure what the intention is with the string of lights going up here, but I liked all the textures.

Sometimes you just want a moody building upshot.

Some of the full wall murals throughout the new parking garage here. The Z Lot is 10 floors of graffiti art, a gallery you can drive through.

More fun with lines.

Sad traffic cone.

Heading out of the garage.

I then jogged over to Comerica Park and after the crowd of sports fans from the recently ended hockey game had dispersed (because the tiger is a standard photo op around here if you’re anywhere nearby) I got an angle I liked, even with the bit of right side cut off.

As always I had a great time, and none of the images above would exist if I hadn’t signed up. Now, it’ll be another year before Kelby’s event will be back around, but I encourage you to find a local photography group to get out with (or start one!). One of my favorite sites is Meetup.com which is completely free to join. Some of the groups charge a small to middling fee if they are providing studio space or a model or some kind of professional instruction, but a large majority is just a group of passionate enthusiasts to pros who want to get together and learn from each other.



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