If you find yourself struggling with a case of “photographer’s block”–not knowing what to shoot next, or even how to get started–a great way to get your creative juices pumping is to go on a photo hike!
A photo hike is when you set out with your camera with the simple intention of exploring and taking photos. You walk through the door with no specific ideas in mind, no shot list, just letting the wind–and your camera–take you on a journey.
There are many ways to do this. You can set out with the goal of taking a specific number of photos, or just plan to travel between point A+B, camera in hand, snapping along the way. Personally, I’m a fan of the latter option. I just pick a point on the map, go there, and make my way back.
Last year I spent a few months in Taipei, Taiwan. An awesome city with so much to shoot to be sure, but often what I ended up photographing on my own photo hikes were the mundane, everyday things. A lamppost, building facades, motorbikes, flowers, etc. So really, you can do this anywhere.
In Taipei, I had an easy way to gamify things. You see, each Taipei Metro (MRT) station has a unique stamp, which they have set up by the info booth with a pad of ink colored to correspond with the line (black for transfer stations). And I made it my mission to catch ‘em all! So during my time there, I did indeed visit every one of the city's 111 stations (the yellow line wasn’t running yet) and get my stamp. An unnecessary completionist task to be sure, but it was more about the journey than the destination.
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” - Bruce Lee
My strategy was this: ride the MRT to the terminus of a given line, pick up a ubike, then cycle my way along the line. I’d pop into stations to collect the stamp as I passed them, and photograph the city all along the way. Setting out just before sunrise each morning with a mission in mind was pretty magical. It was so much fun and such a great format for exploring the city. And the result was THOUSANDS of photos, about 60 of which I ended up turning into a solo exhibition featuring photos from my time there.
Want to plan your own photo hike? Here’s how to do it! Grab your camera, pick a place, and go! I recommend doing so on bike or by foot versus by car. It’s fun to choose far-off destinations, just make sure you have a return plan. Keeping your route along public transit lines is good for this. Once you’re tired out you can just hop on the train/bus home! Otherwise if you do set out on a bike just be sure not to exhaust yourself going one way. Because remember, you still have to get back!
Here in NYC, I’ve just picked places that looked cool on google maps. Just find your spot, drop a pin, and set your navigation to go.
Make sure you keep your camera handy, either in your hand or slung around your neck/shoulder. If you’re using your phone, keep it in a readily accessible pocket. You don’t want to give yourself any reason to say “nah” when deciding to take a shot. If your camera is zipped away, that hestation could mean the difference between spontaneously snapping away, and deciding that the shot isn’t with it and you’ll wait for the next one. That’s what we want to avoid! Make it easy for yourself to shoot any and every shot that piques your interest. If you decide you don’t like it when you’re reviewing your shots at home, you don’t have to post/publish/share it anywhere. It’s that simple! For every shot I share there are dozens I left alone.
It’s also fun to give yourself a reward/incentive at your destination. In Taipei it was the stamps and an iced latte once I got to my starting spot. It can be anything. But whatever it is, make it fun!