Last year, I went to my first Instameet and discovered an incredible experience that happens when creative people come together in one place. I drove an hour before sunrise to the #GoldenRiseMeet at Golden Valley Ranch in Santa Clarita, California. It was part of Instagram‘s World Wide Instameet which happens about twice a year. The #WWIM12 theme focused on meeting people and asked Instagram users to post a portrait of the person he/she met at the instameet. This was just one location of many Instameets that were happening in different parts around the world.

When I arrived in the parking lot, there were about 30 people already chatting in almost complete darkness. Once sunlight started to glow over the horizon, we trekked about a half-mile up the hills to take photos. These are some of the folks I met and their thoughts on this remarkable experience known as the instameet.

I met Attila. @popscure

This charismatic man did a phenomenal job of organizing and hosting the event. Just as he served coffee to the group he mixed the perfect blend of photography and community.

“When I joined Instagram I discovered that it wasn’t just about posting my pictures. I was part of this “safe” community. I realized that I could share my experiences with them. The Instameet allowed me to actually share my shooting locations with others and gather them to photograph together at sunrise #GoldenRiseMeet” ~Attila


I met Cheryl.

She was last in line on the hike up, giggling about her age and pace up the hill. I had a foot injury that kept me walking at the same pace. Cheryl didn’t hesitate to engage and share her life’s experiences through the lens as we walked up the hill.

“I don’t have an Instagram. I was invited by a co-worker to come. I got my first 35mm camera in 1978. Many times, I will do road trips alone and will drive as far as Montana. I also know of a not-so-well-known location in this part of California. Can I tell you a story about it?” ~Cheryl

I met Rafael. @2071photo

Rafael and his friends were fun to watch. These millennials made up most of the group, and brought a ton of equipment and creativity with them. The props, smoke bombs, and gear were impressive, but their energy and enthusiasm were more impressive.

“Instagram influenced me to shoot more and share more images with an audience I couldn’t imagine was possible before. When I’m not working as a photographer, I feel that Instagram is a fun way for me to still stay motivated to shoot in my free time. The #goldenrisemeet was actually my first Instameet. I thought I should meet more people who share the same interest of photography.” ~Rafael


I met Jose. @josecardoza


Jose is another creative force wrapped in “California chill” and a beard. It is always inspiring to see someone excelling with the craft he is passionate about. Turns out Jose wasn’t done that morning. He went to another instameet in another part of Los Angeles later in the day. “This is my second time at this Instameet, and I enjoy it. I’ve been shooting for 11 years. I grew up in and around L.A. and now work in the music industry.” ~Jose


I met a number of wonderful and interesting people this day that I didn’t get to interview. It was great to chat with John @jawntorres, Jonathan @mywitsend, Theresa @bluemoodz  and Doris @dodovo who I featured on Instagram as a moderator for @wearegrryo. In fact, I stood next to Doris not knowing she was the actual person behind the Instagram name @dodovo. As an observer, I was amazed to experience what happens when creative people who are enthusiastic about the same craft come together.

You can also view my pictorial essay below via Steller.

About Author

Joe Montoya
Joe Montoya mixes mobile snapshots of daily life with fictional stories and poetry.
Joe is based in the Los Angeles area, where he documents life where urban meets the Pacific.
He currently blogs about family life at joemontoya.net