Nobody could deny the beauty of Caumsett State Historic Park in Lloyd Neck, even if Mother Nature was feeling a bit temperamental.
With cameras in hand, 14 shutterbugs brave the blustery weather and gather on the lush grounds of the former estate of Marshall Field III, ready to embark on a 3.5-mile stroll. All are eager to capture the peaceful surroundings -- wide open manicured fields, wildlife, stunning views of the Long Island Sound -- while meeting other folks who share their passion.
"The walks are magical," says Anita Welden, 65, of Deer Park, as she walks with the group toward the Lloyd Harbor Equestrian Center. "It is a way to meet new people and make new friends. People you probably wouldn't normally talk to in any other circumstances."
Welden stops suddenly, quickly attaching her Canon 7300 telephoto lens to her camera to shoot something that caught her eye: a handsome chestnut-colored horse. "A day like today, with the gray overcast, is perfect light," she says.
Tony Vota of Melville, who favors taking photographs of wildlife and landscapes, veers off the path to follow a chipmunk that has popped out of a weathered tree limb.
"There he is," says Vota, 42. Inching closer, he softens his tone and focuses his camera. "Don't be shy."
At the sprawling brick mansion, Lisa Bianco protects herself from windy gusts by moving her camera and tripod between the front and the back of the building, capturing different angles. The brooding skies work in her favor.
"This house is creepy cool because of the weather," the Farmingdale resident muses, her camera snapping incessantly.
THE BACK STORY
Organizers say the local walk is an offshoot of the popular Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk, a stroll-and-shoot event coordinated just once a year at locations around the globe. Their version involves enthusiasts meeting monthly at a park, museum or historic landmark to take photographs. The goal is to not only get great pictures, but to have fun, too. Walks typically end with the group heading to a restaurant for a meal or a drink.
The collaborative vibe is appreciated by Vota, who typically takes pictures on solo trips. The Caumsett walk was his second with the group. "I am definitely going to keep going with it," he says.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Group co-leaders Michael Dorn of Port Jefferson Station, and Ricky Williams, of Bohemia say walks are open to all skill levels, although they may be limited to 50 people. There's no fee to join, but some destinations charge a parking or admission fee.
Newcomer Jackie Giangrasso of Amityville was hesitant about participating, wondering whether the walkers would all be professional photographers or more like hobbyists.
"I didn't want to come and be out of my element," says Giangrasso, 31. She was comfortable at the Caumsett shoot, but appreciated having recruited a friend to join her.
After the shoot, many participants upload their best pictures to a shared stream on Flickr.com, where the group can see and discuss them.
"I am more likely to remember what I saw, smelled, felt," says Dorn, 45, who finds the experience helps him capture a more complete feeling of the day. "I also enjoy getting new photography tips from other photo walk participants."
But posting online isn't mandatory.
Middle Island resident Hemant Khanna says he finds the organized walks relaxing. "Photography is very personal to me," he adds, explaining why he doesn't post his shots to the group's Flickr.com page. "I do it more for the pleasure factor."
Long Island Photo Walk
WHEN | WHERE: Next walk 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. May 15 (rain date May 22) at the Meadow Croft Estate, Middle Road, Sayville. RSVP by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
ADMISSION: $5 for house tour