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On Assignment: PhotoWalks of Boston

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  February 12, 2009 02:06 PM

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As part of our ongoing series of "On Assignment" features, RAW regular Kati Seiffer volunteered to go on a photography walking tour with the company PhotoWalks. Here's her report:

Text and photos by Kati Seiffer

Have you been living in the Boston area but never really explored it? Do you want to know how Tremont Street got its name? Are you interested in seeing Boston from a different and more intimate perspective than a trolley? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to check out PhotoWalks.

I have lived in and around the Boston area for more than 12 years, but have never taken the time to explore the history, culture, and architecture that makes Boston so unique. I’m not a fan of large tour groups, so PhotoWalks seemed like the perfect touring experience for me.

The company offers tours of five different areas of central Boston. I took the Beacon Hill tour, and although it was a bit chilly outside, seeing the “Old Neighborhood” of Beacon Hill covered with snow and decorated for the holidays was worth the trip and provided some wonderful photo opportunities.


We were a small group of six people from as nearby as Cambridge and as far away as Melbourne, Australia. Some were amateur photographers with SLRs, while others were just enjoying themselves with point-and-shoots. Although there was a range of photographic skills within the group, our tour guide, PhotoWalks founder Saba Alhadi, a professional photographer, was able to help everyone with their camera and photo questions.

Along with her technical knowledge, Saba was versed in Boston’s past and provided wonderful historical commentary ranging from the story of how the dome of the State House came to be gold to why the window glass of a number of Beacon Hill's 19th-century homes is purple. She also brought the group to different locales to photograph unique perspectives of some of Boston’s iconic landmarks, such as the State House, Louisburg Square, and the “Make Way for Ducklings” statue in the Public Garden.

State House

State House Dome


As an amateur photographer, I’m always looking to advance my photography knowledge and skills; this tour was great for that. As we approached a particular locale, Saba discussed composition, lighting, framing, timing, and how all these elements come together to produce a wonderful photo. She kept reminding us of some key things to consider before clicking the shutter button: horizontal vs. vertical position, high or low viewpoint, paying attention to the background, zooming in to capture detail, looking for patterns, and so on. Saba also shared images she had taken in the neighborhood and explained why she composed her photos the way she did.

I’m sure many of you have been by the State House and walked the streets of Beacon Hill, but have you really taken the time to look at what is around you in this area? I hadn’t, and I was amazed at what I saw when I took the time to look: Brick sidewalks. Cobblestone streets. One-of-a-kind doorknockers. Antique glass lamps. Tiny passageways that lead to homes or gardens. Extraordinary wrought iron fences. Detailed architecture.





The list goes on, but there was one thing that really caught my eye: reflections. Beacon Hill looks just as beautiful reflected in a window or a doorknocker as it does on an afternoon stroll. The next time you are in the area, take a closer look. You may be surprised.



PhotoWalks operates year round and offers five tours: Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Freedom Trail, Public Garden, and the Waterfront. Most tours take about 90 minutes, and cost $25 for adults and $12 for ages 10-17 (kids 9 and under are free); you must buy tickets in advance. Although the tours don't cover a huge distance (about 1 mile), these are walking tours and your path may cross some cobblestone roads, so wear comfy shoes. And remember, you don’t need to be a photographer or even have a camera to enjoy a PhotoWalks tour.

Here are more of Kati's photo from the tour:

Beacon Brownstone

State House and Fence

Wreath on Door

Window Lamp

Wreath Door

To see more of Kati’s photos, visit Kati Mai Photography.

Want to go On Assignment for RAW and earn a $25 Amex gift card for your trouble? Find out more here.

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