Stanford & San Francisco Photowalks

Group photo of the photographers present for the Trey Ratcliff photo walk at Stanford University.

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I’d never been on a photowalk before, but when I saw on Google+ that Thomas Hawk and Trey Ratcliff were (respectively) organizing walks,  I knew it was going to be a busy week. Photowalks seemed like an easy way to meet other photographers and learn some new perspectives, so I was eager to give it a go…

How to Shoot 183 Photographers

For Trey’s photowalk at Stanford University, it was rumored that there would be over a hundred photographers, so I pinged Trey and offered to setup a few lights for a quick group portrait. Shooting/lighting large group shots is tricky, and generally, painful… a large group of photographers who are anxious to go on a walk with Trey was slightly masochistic. So a little advance planning was in order.

Trey Ratcliff Photo Walk by Peter Adams.
Group photo of the photographers present for the Trey Ratcliff photo walk at Stanford University.

Earlier in the day, I scouted for a good location on campus and found a spot, half-way up a flight of steps, where I could shoot the group from above. I was assuming there’d be at least a hundred people and that I could arrange them into seven or eight rows (of 10-15 people), enabling me to shoot downward with my 80mm lens to compress the shot.

I also arrived about forty minutes before the group arrived to set up the lights. I needed a wide spray of light, so I chose four Elinchrom Ranger Quadras with bare heads and wide reflectors. The Quadra heads are bare bulbs that, when combined with wide reflectors, give you a nice, wide spill. The trick is getting them high enough to light the back of the crowd, which is why I put two of them on extended C stands and placed them far to camera right and left. The other two lights were placed closer in (one light on either side of the stairs) and used to light the front and middle of the group.

Around this time, a few people began to trickle in… and then some more… and more… Once Trey was finished outlining the evening plan, I asked everyone to press forward into a tight group for the shot. That’s when I got my first clear view of just how big the group really was. After counting more than 13 rows of people, I decided it was time for “plan B” which consisted of switching out the 80mm for the 35mm lens, cranking up the power on the outer two Quadras, and dialing in ISO 400 for more light on the back rows. Six frames later, everyone was on their way.

Below are some of my favorite shots from both walks. I highly recommend joining a photo walk if you ever have the chance!

Door of Knowledge by Peter Adams.
A student works on their compuer outside a lecture hall at Stanford University.
J. Henry Meyer Library by Peter Adams.
Sun sets on the J. Henry Meyer Memorial Library at Stanford University.
Bay Bridge by Peter Adams.
San Francisco Bay bridge and port of Oakland at sunset.

sfphotow.CF000364.web by Peter Adams.

Time Signature by Peter Adams.
Richard Deutsch’s Time Signature sculpture in Foundry Square, San Francisco.


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