Finding the Photographer Community in San Diego

The Journey Begins...

Early on when I started pursuing photography more seriously, I photographed mostly by myself.  I photographed by myself not because I wanted too but because I didn't know other photographers when I started out.  My photographic journey started while I was studying Structural Engineering and Urban Studies & Planning at University of California, San Diego (UCSD).  Going to UCSD meant that we had to keep on top of our school work because midterms could just be around the corner and of course our professors would give us assignments expecting them to be done by week's end, so heading out to photograph wasn't on my friend's priority list.  So when I had the opportunity to photograph I would take it and wander campus or take the long way home.  I find places like UCSD's secret Garden (picture below).

UCSD Secret Garden

It was during this time of photographing by myself that I got to experiment, make mistakes, learn, and review what I did wrong.  Not knowing any photographers at the time, had its advantages.  One of the advantages was that I was able to "just shoot".  I shot what I like and did it on my terms.  However some of the disadvantages of not knowing photographers was 1) I made mistakes without knowing them at the time and 2) I didn't have a mentor to learn from and ask questions too.  Without first hand resources to learn from I had to turn to the internet for help.

Three Brains are better than one

The internet, books, magazines, and blogs, became my mentors and resources for my education in photography.  It was my classroom and my library.  I would spend hours on my free time and weekends on the internet or go to local book stores to learn everything I could about photography.   However after months of learning and researching and going out on my own, I wondered if there was a real community resource out there to help in my growth in photography.

SmugMug - Day 75 of 365
Taking notes at one of the SmugMug meetings.

The Discovery

And using my resources of the internet, I found it in SmugMug.  SmugMug, a awesome photo hosting company had started making local chapters called Smugs.  It was at the Smugs that I saw that I was not the only photographer in town ( I never did think I was the only one doing photography ) but seeing it was eye opening and a realization that there was a community out here in San Diego.
The first San Diego SmugMug Meeting was with photographer Dane Sanders.  What a great guy to introduce San Diego to SmugMug.  It was after that I decided to attend the planned monthly meetings and learn, network, and meet others doing my same pursuit.
So I signed up and attended the meetings month after month without any hesitation.  After going to a couple of meetings, I met a few regulars ( who are now good friends) Laree and Candy.  Soon after I also met my other good friends, Michelle and Scott.
Attending the Smugs gave me another resource where I can learn about the business, craft, gain a different perspective, and get inspired.  It was with the Smugs that I eventually found a good community of people that I could at least start asking the questions that I've been wanting to ask but didn't really have anyone to ask.
Now with a community to help, I soon learned about other community opportunities that San Diego had to offer.  Another good community resource that I soon found was the San Diego Pictage and Fasttrack Photographers User Group aka PUG meetings.  Similar to the San Diego SmugMug Group, the PUG is a monthly meeting, geared more towards wedding and portrait photographers.  Addition to the SmugMug & PUG group meeting, I also found other photography assoications such as the APA (American Photographic Artist), PPA ( Professional Photographers of America ), and ASMP ( American Society of Media Photographers).  Each of these groups / associations all serve and offer a great deal to those that are interested in photography.  I suggest researching and looking into each of these group and then determine for yourself what works best for you.

San Diego SmugMug

As I mention previous, I originally found my niche community in the San Diego SmugMug group.  It was here I felt most at home because I was there when the group first formed and I've never missed a meeting (even the ones that were cancelled, I still called up other members and met up to talk photos).  For me it was that kind of community where you can call on each to help, learn, and support another.
Attending meetings and learning more and more about photography, I started coming up with idea with how to improve and provide more for our community of photographers.  The San Diego SmugMug group is unique in that it host a variety of photographers from all skill levels and professions.  With such a unique group, I taught that we could use this to help build a closer community.
One of the first ideas that I came up with was hosting "photowalks."  These photowalks are social gatherings where photographers can come together, photograph together, learn, and explore places in San Diego.  The first photowalk we had was held on Coronado. Only a few people showed up however it was still great because I got to meet some awesome photographers that formed part of our group.  Over the last few months we have hosted more photowalks and refined base on things we learned from our monthly meetings and from what our members would like to learn.

Torrey Pines Photowalk
The newest idea that I came up with for the San Diego SmugMug group was the creation of our SmugMug Eats.  The "Eats" are casual meetings designed to be like our monthly meetings but instead of having a speaker, the members that attend are the speakers.  This is their time to learn and ask the questions that they wanted to know from other members that they either couldn't find the time to ask at the monthly meetings or wanted to get more feedback on a topic.  In addition to learning, these meetings provide another social atmosphere to enjoy other people's company and some excellent food.
My care and love for our San Diego SmugMug group has been there since the beginning.  Now as I volunteer my time and dedication as part of the leadership of the group, I am more motivated to help our members to get the best photographers that they can be.  I've come a long way so far and I still see a long exciting road ahead of me as I learn and refine my craft.  I only see that the future is limitless.  And I do have more ideas in the works to help better the community of photographers as well as help the community at large with our craft.  Photography as always been there for me so now I give back to the craft.

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Thanks for reading more exciting post and improvements coming soon.


LaRee Brownell said...

Good article Oliver. I enjoyed the read.

canvas prints said...

you got yourself some really nice photography images here. nice work.