Worldwide Photo Walk lets residents explore, photograph their community

Saturday, October 1, 2011 | 5:28 p.m. CDT; updated 6:37 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 1, 2011

COLUMBIA — A little voice yelled down from a big tree in Peace Park:

"Look at me, mama.”

Ali Felton, standing below, spotted her daughter sitting on a branch and called back, “I see you, you little monkey. I’ll take your picture.”

Felton, her 10-year-old daughter, Colby Felton-Bettis, and family friend Pat Coppland explored Columbia with their cameras on Saturday as part of the city's Worldwide Photo Walk.

People with many levels of photo experience were invited to participate in the walk to take pictures in their communities. Columbia's walk featured a 2-mile loop around MU and the downtown area. From 9 to 11 a.m., 44 walkers explored, mingled and snapped pictures of whatever caught their eye.

Scott Kelby, a Florida-based photographer and publisher, started Worldwide Photo Walk four years ago to promote his book about learning photography.

He started in 2008 with a little more than 200 walks and about 8,000 walkers across the world. This year had 1,100 walks and 28,000 walkers, said Gene Royer, the leader of Columbia’s walk for the past three years.

After each walk, one picture is chosen as the winner. Royer will choose the Columbia winner based on creativity and how well the photo captured the community. Any of the walk participants can submit photos to be judged by Friday. Royer will pick the winner on Oct. 10.

The local photo winners are entered into a worldwide competition judged by Kelby and a panel of judges. There are 10 finalists and one grand prize. The overall winner receives an iPad, printer, computer photography software and other prizes.

“It changed from a normal promotional event to being the largest social photography event in the world,” Royer said.

Royer has watched the event grow in Missouri. Participants can sign up online. Columbia's walk started with 25 people in 2008, and this year it reached almost 50, which is the maximum number of participants allowed.

Participants could take as much or as little time as they wanted at any point throughout the walk. They started at Flat Branch Pub and Brewing, 115 S. Fifth St., walked south to Elm Street, then through Peace Park, around the MU Columns and through parts of downtown.

They finished back at Flat Branch and ate lunch while sharing pictures.

“We love this park, and we love to take pictures,” Coppland said, standing in Peace Park by the creek.

Felton-Bettis likes to take pictures of her five cats, three dogs and guinea pig. On Saturday she stopped to take a picture of a dog sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked car on Ninth Street.

“They got a picture of me coming out of the port-a-potty,” Felton-Bettis said as she bounced with laughter.

A photography club called Mid-Mo Photographers also participated. This walk was the second for Larry Dorman, the club’s founder. The self-described computer geek and amateur photographer brought his two children along.

“I like that I’m out with other people doing photography, but I’m also doing my own thing," he said. "It’s a defined area, but it’s also flexible.”

Dorman’s 9-year-old son, Stephan, kept an eco-friendly theme for his pictures. He had more than 100 shots of recycling cans, cigarettes in grass, bike racks and his favorite — a woman leaning over to pick up a piece of trash.

He flipped through the pictures, occasionally whacking his old camera to make the screen reappear.

“Here is one of handicapped parking, which I appreciate,” he said. “And here is one of a bike rack jam-packed, which I want,” he said, flipping to the next.

There are several places in Missouri that host photo walks, including Osage Beach, Ste. Genevieve, Joplin, Kansas City, St. Louis, Hannibal and Hermann. Royer added a second walk on Sunday in Boonville, making the walk a two-day event.

“You get a lot of people with diverse experience," Royer said. "Some are professionals, and some have camera fun. It’s unique to see how many photos you get of the same walk.”

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