SXSW Photowalk with Google and Trey Ratcliff

Earlier this year, during South By Southwest (SXSW), Google sponsored a photowalk with an appearance by Trey Ratcliff of Stuck in Customs.  I decided to attend, making this my first photowalk, the fact of which is a real shame since I live very near a city with a vibrant photography community. 

Being a photowalk noob I wan't sure what I should bring.  The walk was going to start with the sun up but end well after dusk - should I bring a tripod for nighttime photos?  What about lenses?  Filters?

Arriving at the steps of the town hall building with Trey Ratcliff at the top of the stairs.

I decided to walk around with my 5D III, 24-70mm f2.8L II, 70-200 f2.8L IS II, Really Right Stuff TVC-33 tripod and BH-55 ball head.  I slung the camera over my shoulder with a Black Rapid RS-5 strap and the tripod over the other shoulder with a Manfrotto 401N Quick Action strap.  I even brought a few filters - circular polarizer and a variable ND filter (who knows, if the clouds were right I could do some slow shutter architecture work).

As part of Trey's introduction speech he mentioned he was bringing just one camera and just one lens, a fisheye.  Well, dang.  I may have overpacked.

Special Event.

This was a very large photowalk event with several hundred people in attendance.  We were a mob that moved around the city with what seemed like a singular directive - document EVERYTHING.  Since this was during SXSW, people came up to us thinking we were paparazzi and tried to get a glimpse of the celebrity we were stalking.

With Darth.

Trey was very engaging.  He took time with everyone who had a question or who wanted a photo op.  In not very much time he has become a photography institution.  His blog, ebooks, and videos have allowed him to pack up his Austin residence and move to New Zealand and now runs his empire from somewhere in Middle Earth.  He has a very interesting story and I suggest you visit his site and read more about it.

Tone-mapped Highrise in Austin.

What's the point of a visit with Trey Ratcliff if you don't come away with an HDR or HDR-esque image?  Trey made his name in HDR tutorials.  Even today when you google the immensely popular high dynamic range technique, it's his name that nearly tops the results.

Interesting passers-by were welcoming to the multitude of cameras being shoved in their faces.  In Austin, people are probably used to being subjects - especially those people who tell interesting visual stories.

But be ready to be a subject yourself!

Google Glass.

 This was one of the early public appearances of Google Glass.  There were about 3 people sporting the spectacles and all were very popular with the photogs.

Partygoers on 6th Street.

Austin is chock-full of interesting people - it doesn't take SXSW to realize this.  But during SXSW they come out in full force and it's awesome.

After all is said and done I didn't use my tripod once, despite hauling it around all day.  I didn't use any of the filters.  And, surprising to me, I only used one lens - fittingly, it was the 24-70mm "walkaround zoom."  Now that I'm addicted to the photowalking experience I intend to really pare down the kit I lug around for next time.

-JD