Vibrant: Sunrise in Al Aqah by Sherif Menshawy, a member of Photowalk Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: What started as a 25-member group of photography enthusiasts pursuing a mutual passion has resulted in a full-fledged community of over 600 photographers in just a matter of months.

Called Photowalk Dubai, the group is the brainchild of Indian expats Subodh Shetty and Anjum Vahanvati and comprises beginners and amateur photographers from the various emirates.

The group holds regular meetings in which they share their experiences, techniques and even equipment to help each other master the craft of photography.

“When I first came here, I really wanted to learn photography. Thanks to Photowalk Dubai I have learnt many techniques in such a short period that I am myself surprised at the progress I have made,” says Chinese expat Marian Pengyan Han, a Photowalk Dubai member who was also among the top three winners of a recent contest by organised International Institute of Art and Photography.

Recalling how the group was formed, Shetty says it was his disappointment at not being able to find a group that could share their interests in photography, and yet be non-commercial, that led him and his friend Anjum to start Photowalk Dubai.

“We organised the first photography trip – to Liwa on October 26 last year – by inviting people through social media. Twentyfive people turned up. By the time we had our trip to Al Aqah, Fujairah, in February this year, we had almost 500 members. The strong interest and commitment that people have shown surprises me,” says Shetty, a pharmaceutical professional. Every Photowalk meeting is pre-planned, with a member visiting the site in advance to make sure the place would give them enough opportunities to shoot. It is usually held over the weekend in order to include as many people as possible.

“Sometimes our outings are even longer than 12 hours, but the time spent with the Photowalk members is my best time of the week. My family totally supports me in this,” says Zahid Farooq, an IT professional and amateur photographer.

“All these years, it was me shooting alone. I was nearly isolated as socialising usually meant being in groups where I could not discuss my interest. For me it is not only the progress that I have made in photography, but my entire life has undergone a very positive change,” he says.

The Photowalk members range from teenagers to those in their 60s and are of diverse nationalities. Besides Liwa and Al Aqah, the group has organised overnight trips to Hatta dam and Al Rams village in Ras Al Khaimah.

“The outings, apart from being fun and learning at the same time, also brought their share of surprises. One of the most memorable was the Al Rams trip when the residents of the village were scared seeing so many of us together,” recalls Farooq.


Tips for beginners

A majority of people keen on pursuing photography think it is all about an expensive camera. Shetty wants to dispel that myth. “You can start with any camera. I agree it could get expensive, but there is no need to wait until you get the right one. The right kind of techniques can get you excellent results even with not so expensive equipment.”

Another issue, he says, is that many people, instead of focusing on the art of photography, pay more attention to showing off. “If your only objective is to put a few hundred pictures on a social networking site so that people could appreciate you for it, I would say you are not focused on your goal.”

To learn good photography, he says, you do not really need a classroom. “Step out, you cannot sit and learn this art.”