Giving Thanks, Giving Back


It's Thanksgiving Day here in the US. Which means that in addition to trotting out the traditional Strobist before-and-after turkey shot (courtesy the tryptophan-laced Paul Morton) we pause to think about giving thanks and helping others.

This year, a quick look at how some local photographers in Howard County, MD are using their cameras to give back to their community. And not to put the idea in your head, but it was a really fun day -- and something anyone reading this blog could do, too.
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A few weeks ago, I posted a cryptic note looking for photographers to help out with a community project on November 2nd. Within an hour or two there were more than fifty photogs who were willing to sign up for a day-long volunteer shoot without even knowing what they would be doing.

As it happens, we could only use about 15 photographers for this shoot. So I chose them solely on the basis of proximity and availability for the day. Which is to say, (a) I did not cherry pick the group for pros or other hotshots, and (b) any group of enthusiasts in any city in the world could do the same type of project for any of a number of subjects.

Here's what we did.


Instant Archive


The Howard County Conservancy is a 230+ acre plot of preserved land around a 300+ year-old farm house in Woodstock, MD. They educate over 6,000 school kids a year (via field trips) and provide events for the general public in addition to making accessible a wonder series of hiking paths through agricultural and wooded areas.

It is an amazing place with lots of nature and history, but without a ton of money. In fact, the nonprofit organization is trying to raise enough of the latter to create an endowment that will keep them going. And if you are going to be doing that sort of thing, it helps to have a photo library.

So that's what the 15 volunteer photographers gave them. We arrived well before sunrise (gorgeous, with frost on the ground) and stayed throughout the day.

We were working off a subject list provided by Allison, our on-site contact, so the photos would be very useful to them. We approached team-coverage style, like back in the day at The Sun. List in hand, the photographers were also instructed to just go out walking with their cameras and seeing. And that brought back some of the best photos.

By the end of the day we had shot over 10,000 photos, which were then edited and toned down to a tight 250. Total cost, other than our time: About $100 for pizza, drinks and some chocolate. And we had a lot of fun. You can see some of the results of the shoot on HoCo360, my local photo blog.


Instant Results

As it happens, Howard County was also getting another gift this month. R.E.I., a kickass outdoor equipment and clothing store, was opening in nearby Columbia. Even if not in the US, you may know of them because of Chase Jarvis' BTS vids -- he shoots their lifestyle photos for catalogs, etc.

Among R.E.I.'s many admirable qualities is that a local store tends to push about $100,000.00 per year back into the immediate community. And the HoCo Conservancy is right up R.E.I.'s alley as a benefactor. R.E.I. not only wrote a check for $10,000.00 to kick things off, but has pledged a buck for the conservancy each time someone checks into the store on Facebook.

And because the conservancy had a brand new picture archive, they were able to create a cool poster on very little notice to showcase themselves in the new store:



The photos in the poster are courtesy Jeff Snyder, Dave Kile and Erik Couse, all from the day's shoot. You can see it bigger, here. The goal was to introduce any shopper in R.E.I. to the conservancy should they not already know about it.
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Anyone -- ANYONE -- reading this site right now has the ability to do the same thing for a deserving organization in their own community. And I think I speak for everyone involved on this project when I tell you that we had a lot of fun. It was work, but it was both creative and gratifying.

As the picture editor for the project (highly recommend a dedicated PicEd) I was very impressed with the stuff that came back from the shooters. Most were amateurs, but they worked hard and pressed themselves all day long.

If you are already meeting up socially with local photographers, I would like to invite you to consider moving past the typical Model Mayhem Meetup and into something with a little more of a purpose.

It is a chance to have fun, be creative, make a difference and give thanks with your camera. You won't regret it.

If you find yourself in the R.E.I. store in Columbia, MD, check out the community involvement display in the back and our photos therein. And there are lots more where those came from.

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Related:

:: HoCo360: Barnstorm ::
:: The Howard County Conservancy ::
:: R.E.I., Columbia, MD ::


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