Virtual Photo Walks™: Roaring Camp Railroad

This weekend I did a Virtual Photo Walks™ at Roaring Camp Railroad in Felton, California. We had an absolute blast! It was really a photowalk within a photowalk, since it happened during the Central California bi-annual Photowalk that I was a part of as well. With me so far? Good, cause I’m still trying to catch up! hehheh. Virtual Photo Walks™ is one of the most exciting projects I’ve been a part of. Also one of the most technically challenging. It’s exciting because we photo walk for people who can’t. For people who may be recovering from surgery, bedridden, ill, disabled… even those folks who just need a break in their cooped up work days… Virtual Photo Walks™ is like a window to the world. I find it incredibly satisfying and it just makes me so happy to do it.

I’ve been blessed with opportunity to go around the world to photograph. I’m grateful every single day for this incredible gift. My dad raised us to believe that there isn’t much point in gaining knowledge or opportunities in our lives if we don’t share them. Same with my mom. Even in the Great Depression, her family ALWAYS had a door open for those who needed help. So it has always felt natural and right to find a way to give back.  It seems miraculous to me  that photography found the way, through Virtual Photo Walks. I love how much smaller it makes the world, how much more of a level playing field. I love meeting people in other parts of the world and the idea that in some small way, I might be making someone’s burden lighter for a bit. My heart feels bigger every single time.

Technically, it’s right on the edge of what we can do with mobile devices. We are pushing the limits in every way. I foresee a time when this is all simple to and the visual resolution is amazing. But we’re just not there yet. On the other hand, we’re blazing a brand new trail and standing on the cutting edge of all that is just plain exciting!

Here’s what happened behind the scenes on this particular photo walk. At the time of this blog post I have an iPhone. I can join a Virtual Photo Walks™ hangout with it;  but not an OnAir Hangout, which is the kind that broadcasts live.  Only  Android phones can do that. Naturally, we wanted to broadcast live all over the world!

Enter 2 loaner Android phones, with service from Sprint and T Mobile respectively. My iPhone: AT&T. John Butterill, Bruce Garber and I had done a test run with my iPhone on Friday; all went well. (The Androids wouldn’t be ready until the last minute.) But I had confidence and was prepared.  I had a Mophie battery pack lashed to my tripod, which worked great. Phones die quickly in hangouts!

I got to the spot early, pulled out our borrowed Androids. AGH!!  Both had little to no service in this location! My heart started racing; the announcement had already gone out to everyone that it would be broadcast live and if we couldn’t make this work, that would not be happening. I texted quickly to John to let him know what was going on, but wasn’t willing to give up yet. Nevermind that I was a complete blank about what to try and starting to panic a little.  However, my  husband Joe got the brilliant idea to use HIS phone as a wireless hotspot and connect that way. Which is exactly what happened! He attached to the top of the battery pack on my tripod – while a friend who knew Androids made the wireless connection. We literally got that done and into the hangout just in time for the train to take off!

And that’s what is so terrifying/thrilling about doing a Virtual Photo Walk; anything can go wrong – and at some point probably will! But like in life, we don’t give up. We just adapt, readjust – and laugh at how much we feel like cowboys on the frontier of something awesome and wonderful. Something that brings us closer, makes life a little brighter and makes a difference.

I want to thank my awesome husband Joe Dolister for his inestimable help on this one; also Lisa Donchak, Vincent Mo, Laurie Rubin and Mikey Goody (our yo-yo champion) for being a part of a fantastic day with the train in the redwoods!