Photo Walkers Learn From Each Other in the Great Outdoors

Sep 10, 2015

Joan M. Porcaro takes different shots of a fallen tree's roots
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

Joan M. Porcaro started taking photos about 30 years ago, around the same time she started her career as an emergency room trauma nurse.


“You have that very intense side of life that you get to see all the time, so having that creative outlet. Being able to get out there kind create your own little Zen location behind your camera,” says Porcaro.

What photographers might call a classic 'frame within a frame' shot, using the tree root as a frame for the rest of the tree.
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

Now Porcaro works in management at Bronson Healthcare. Almost as soon as she moved to Kalamazoo, she started up a photo walk group to share her love of nature and photography with others.

The group is less than a year old, but it already has more than a hundred members.They meet up at a different spot every month to take pictures and get a little exercise.

Porcaro says she’s taken dozens of photography classes and reads about it almost every day. But she says she never learns as much as when she’s with the photo walkers.

“You know the instructor—the professional photographer—might have presented 50 topics or 50 small pieces of information, and my brain probably captured five of them. So being able to go out with a group and say, ‘Hey, did you get that? Let’s try this thing,’” says Porcaro.

One of Porcaro's favorite photos from a previous walk
Credit Joan M. Porcaro

Porcaro says everyone from amateur to expert comes on the walks—and they all have something to contribute. Since starting it, she says she’s learned about everything from night photography to how to intentionally blur photos.

To see what it was all about, I went on a walk with Porcaro Saturday morning at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. She said it was a good time to be there as some of the light filters through the trees.

“Some photographers will talk about being ‘the golden hour’ and it’s usually at the morning rise of the sun and then later in the evening. When you get those changing images of where the light’s going to fall, as opposed to mid-day when you’re going to get that bright very bleaching kind of mid-day light,”  she says.

The Kalamazoo group is not even a year old, but Porcaro has been leading these walks for ten. She says every time she’s moved, she stared up a new photo walk group. Some of these groups, like the one she started in Boise, even involve the community in their art.

“In the last city that I lived we became—a group of us became—volunteer photographers for a local animal shelter. And by being able to go out there and take the time, and bring some props, and have some fun with the dogs and cats—we’ve been able to help that shelter when they post their pictures on their Facebook page. They’ve said that they feel like when they can get good shots that show the personality, that basically they feel like they have a better chance to find their forever homes.”

Another one of Porcaro's favorite photos
Credit Joan M. Porcaro

Porcaro sets a new challenge for photo walkers every week—like taking a picture of a white object on a white background or shooting only tiny things.

“It might be ‘reflections.’ It’s always usually one word, so it’s up to your imagination to decide how to interpret that,” she says.

Joan M. Porcaro will be leading an info session about the Kalamazoo Photo Walk group September 11th at 5 p.m. at Initial Attraction on Oakland Drive.