Los Alamos is a sleepy little town, nestled a few yards off the 101 between Buellton and Santa Maria.


Still, it’s not unusual to see tourists draped in photographic equipment, pacing the main street, snapping away at the town’s rustic charm.

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What is unusual is 50 such people turning the town into their personal studio and that’s exactly what happened Saturday.

Members of the Santa Ynez Valley Camera Club joined by fellow photographers from Santa Maria and the South Coast descended on Los Alamos for the third Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk.

Last year, the camera club met in Solvang for the walk. They took photographs along with more than 30,000 people in 236 different locations around the world.

This year, that number was expected to rise. Prizes were also on the line. Scott Kelby, the photowalk’s organizer, awards a grand prize of a $1,000 gift card to one lucky photographer after the walk. Once the photographers finished their sojourn around the town, they headed home to sort through their plethora of images.

The photographers were then tasked with picking their best photo and submitting it to Santa Ynez Valley Camera Club founder Frank Swanson. Swanson then faces the challenge of narrowing down the dozens of entries to just one that he will submit to the photo contest.

The walk wasn’t all about winning prizes. Mostly the photographers were there to have a good time and hone their skills – that’s what the club is all about.

“There’s something for everyone,” said Shawn Miner, a camera club regular who is listed as the club’s “Chief Technical Guru.” Miner said the club attempts to strike a balance between teaching the art of photography and educating students in the technical aspects of the craft.

He said the talks at the club often start off covering the very basics and then move into more advanced topics as the night goes on. Miner even encouraged people considering a move into photography to come by the club. “If you don’t have a camera it’s a nice place to come in and talk to people about what you may need.”

That’s how Jack Scherrer found the club. Scherrer had never pursued photography beyond basic cameras. When he heard someone was coming to the camera club to speak on travels to Antarctica, he decided to go.

“It kind of got me hooked on photography,” he said. “The club has been a good place to learn, people are forthcoming with their opinions, and one of the nice things is it’s not so large that you get lost in the crowd.”

“I think the equipment has little to do with it. You just have got to get out there and do it,” he said. Although Scherrer downplayed the importance of gear, he did say the digital revolution helped ease him into the photography world.

The club places a good deal of emphasis on the digital side of photography. In 1999, Frank Swanson bought his first digital camera. He was the only member of the Channel Cities Camera Club with a digital camera and admitted he “didn’t know much.” A few years later, Swanson spoke to an audience and asked who would be interested in forming a digital photography club in the Santa Ynez Valley. Several hands went up, and in 2004 the club was founded.

The club now has a core group of more than a dozen who meet on the second Wednesday of every month and add an additional meeting on the fourth Wednesday during the winter. The group’s focus is not only on capturing great photographs but learning what to do with them after they have been downloaded to a computer.

“I like digital because it gives you the opportunity to do something with your image instantly, instead of waiting for it to get developed,” said Swanson. Presentations often are geared to refining the images in Photoshop.

“We didn’t set out to be a teaching meeting,” said Swanson. “There’s a lot to pass on, and it’s fun for me to put these presentations together, but it’s really just a good way of sharing pictures and more for the enjoyment of the members,” he said. That doesn’t mean there isn’t learning going on. Jack Scherrer said the lessons he has learned behind the lens branch out into the way he experiences life: “It’s taught me to see things in an entirely different way,”

For more information on the Santa Ynez Valley Camera Club, visit www.syvcameraclub.org. The works of the camera club can be found in both the Solvang City Council Chambers and in the Buellton Community Recreation Center.

brookshire@syvjournal.com