We regularly have stories published in The Tetbury Advertiser, we reprint those stories below. Older news copies can be found on our archive page.
It’s amazing the things you discover when you least expect it. Setting out to check something for this month’s edition of the Tetbury Advertiser I came across a quote by Louis Pasteur, the French Chemist, and microbiologist whose work led to the development of vaccines: ‘Chance favours the prepared mind’, a thought that virtually sums up the first of a number of hints and tips which are the focus of this article.
Easter is the time of year when many commercial photographers find their diary is approaching its busiest. The reason? Weddings. When those take place most people want to create memories of the occasion and that means pictures. Even if you have no intention of ever becoming a commercial photographer, it’s best if you can take good shots, but how do you do that?
Over the months of each year we have some of the South West’s most creative minds come and talk to Tetbury Camera club to share their expertise, techniques and knowledge. Sometimes this is technical, other weeks it is simply experience but always it is worthwhile knowing about, so here are a few tips we have had which will hopefully help everyone reading this improve their picture-taking this spring.
Getting back to Louis Pasteur, his thought underlined the view of one of our speakers, when asked what he thought is the best camera for landscape work. His answer was ‘the best camera is always the one you know how to use.’ A simple answer, but very true. These days cameras can be everything from an add-on in a mobile phone to a technological marvel of precision engineering which can cost £5,000 or more. It doesn’t matter which you have, you won’t get the best from it unless you know how to use it!
To help you get the best phone images it helps to remember the rule of thirds. This is the concept that the majority of people studying photography at a college or university are taught early in their courses. To help maximise the impact of a picture first divide the scene into 9 segments, then try to avoid having the main focus of attention in the centre. Place people or a face to the right or left third, the horizon in the lower third, etc. To help you do this most phone cameras incorporate a control which will enable you to place a grid on the screen. You will normally find it by tapping settings on your phone, then go to camera and switch on grid. This will superimpose a grid on the screen, which will also help you to take pictures which are level, not at an angle.
Want to avoid taking blurred shots? The tripods used by professionals tend to be bulky and heavy, but an effective alternative can be to use your elbows. Just rest them on a wall, table or other solid surface. Alternatively, hold them firmly against your side. That will avoid camera shake and the peril of blurred images for a great many pictures.
As one of our recent speakers said, pictures are taken, photographs are made That means printing your best shots out onto paper. That way you are much more likely to share them with friends and enjoy them in the future. Try googling for printing them from your camera for instructions if you don’t already have the software.
You don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect to take great shots. This month’s picture, which was taken by Paul Bullivant, who was a recent guest speaker, is arguably more intriguing and interesting showing the two people looking out to sea than it would have been if he had waited for them to turn round and be face-on to the camera.
Another helpful tip from Paul was to encourage people to look upwards when pressing the shutter. A by-product of this is that for portraits people appear to look younger and more interesting. If you are trying to capture a small group of people, ask them to touch each other, by resting a hand on an arm or shoulder. The end result is a group looking less stilted, more interesting and often happier having their picture taken.
Like to read more of these tips and techniques? Have a look at our web site, www.tetburycameraclub.org.uk or come along to our regular meetings on Tuesdays at 7.30 in The Priory Inn. We are happy to see new faces and will do our best to make you welcome. We would also be delighted to see you in person in the Tetbury Market House on May 27, (Woolsack Races Day), from 10am, when we will be staging a free exhibition of some of the recent work taken by members
SMALL IS SMART AS WELL AS BEAUTIFUL THESE DAYS
Back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s there were two popular ways for an ordinary person to make a name for themselves. One was to buy a guitar and then learn three chords. The other was to invest in a camera and work out how to use it. Manage that and both could bring you fame, fun and with a bit of luck, maybe even a small fortune.
While learning to play a musical instrument is still a mystery to many of us, mastering the camera was a much easier task then than it is today…Unless you read the instruction book, or leave it set on ‘A’ for automatic, which has simplified everything!
Even the smallest of today’s cameras, as well as smart phones, are crammed full of technology and computing power. It’s there to make mastering picture-taking as simple, or as creative as you could wish. Today’s camera makers are producing miniature miracles with computing power which will turn you into a master photographer without having to spend hours, months or years studying studio lighting, chemical processing and print production, which was often needed before you could even see what you’d taken. Cameras like the one pictured are a miracle of modern science and technology and to prove it some keen photographers are even making award-winning movie films using smart phones and pocket cameras.
In the 1950’s most cameras had a fixed lens, so you just had to learn how to hold it still, focus it (if it had the sophistication of adjustment) and most likely would have just one button to push. Fancy being a bit more artistic? Then remembering how to work out setting the aperture and shutter speed to expose the right amount of light on the film inside would produce an image that would either please, or disappoint. One of the problems though was you wouldn’t know which until you eventually filled the film with images and took it off to Boots, or other local developer or camera shop.
If you managed to capture pictures that weren’t blurred and out of focus then quite likely you hoped to follow in the footsteps of a few East End Londoners made-good, such as David Bailey and Terence Donovan. While it was Elvis Presley and Bill Haley in the US and Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard who were making a mark shaking up the music business here, this pair, and a few of their chums on the photographic front were pushing open the doors of leading fashion and style magazines.
Both had developed a pictorial technique that was ‘grittier’ and more realistic than the norm and had enough creative confidence to become what nowadays would be called ‘disrupters’ – innovators who had a different and distinctive photographic style. They made enough of a mark to open doors that had previously been reserved for a different type of artist, generally ones who spoke with a more refined accent and dressed in a more traditional way. The equivalent of Savile Row compared to Carnaby Street style.
Sadly, Terence Donovan is no longer with us, but you’ll find some of his much-admired fashion and portrait photography on the internet if you Google his name and David Bailey has even been known to leave his studio with a small pocket camera of the type seen in the illustration with this article.
This shot was taken by our club member Sandie Cox on a recent visit to Uganda and Ruanda and while Sandie was ready with a professional-standard Canon camera plus a 400mm telephoto lens, the perfect kit to capture wild animals at a distance, her friend Hazel Arnold was ready with a tiny pocket camera when a young gorilla suddenly appeared out of some bracken in front of them.
The picture of Hazel taking a picture shows just how good a shot anyone can capture these days if they have followed our previous advice; “If you want to be sure you never miss a good picture, always have a camera with you!”
Next month we’ll try to give you a few tips on how to get the most out of today’s smallest phones and cameras.
Here’s a little something to ponder on…do the best photographers take a picture or make a picture?
It isn’t a trick question, but it is one that isn’t actually all that easy to answer. Even most keen photographers would probably have to think carefully before responding to it, unless they could see the picture being talked about.
Like the majority of black and white photographs, which actually aren’t composed simply of two colours, but also consist of various shades of grey, there isn’t just a simple solution to this conundrum.
Sometimes a stunning shot requires undeniable creative vision and then hours of patience before the light is perfect and the sun is in just the right position to complete a composition that a cameraman, or woman initially visualised. On other occasions there is not a lot, or even no time to dwell on being creative. What’s needed is a sharp eye and instant reflexes to record a memorable shot that seconds earlier wasn’t there and, in an instant, has gone again. Stop and think about the best angle and the picture will be gone forever.
Capturing those sorts of images requires a particular expertise. One that is there to be admired on most days of the week if you look at the sports pages of newspapers. Photographers covering cricket, or football seldom get a second chance if they miss a potentially great shot, or the opportunity to visualise what they are going to take before the potential picture appears before them.
We recently had a photographer called Aleks Gjika visit Tetbury Camera Club to judge the entries submitted for our first competition of the year. Aleks has recently published a book of pictures on The Cotswolds and if you look at his web site you will see a variety of shots he has taken which could definitely me described as ones he made. Without his input they would very likely have looked entirely different. He has an eye that can see things in a very individual way, then an expertise that can translate his vision into something equally distinctive.
It was a picture taken by our member David Jones — which illustrates this column — that stimulated the thought and the focus of this month’s article. While most club members spent last year’s holidays fairly close to home, David set out to visit Australia. His tour included a visit to Uluru, which for most of us is probably best known as Ayres Rock. Most pictures of this landmark are taken from several miles away. That’s because it is so large that being a long way back from it is the only way to capture a shot that shows what it looks like.
Getting there isn’t easy – the nearest township is Alice Springs, which is 250 miles away – it is also an area where it is normally hot and rarely rains. Being a keen walker as well as photographer, David decided he’d make the most of his visit and get up close and personal with one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks by walking round the 10-kilometre trail at its base.
On the day of his visit David didn’t necessarily set out to capture this shot, which shows a waterfall created by a rainstorm which had broken as he arrived there. Not the ideal welcome for most people wanting to take photographs, but if you are going to make, not just take pictures, every cloud has a silver lining! David’s shot shows that even when the odds are against you there is always a picture there, if you have the inclination to find it.
You are probably all familiar with the general appearance of Ayres Rock, so much so you could actually draw a rough outline of it from memory. Just as likely is the chance that you may never see an image of it like this again. It’s a picture that was there to be taken but also one that David made by looking at Uluru in his own individual way!
HOW PLATO’S MUSINGS HELP TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPHY FANS
Reputedly it was the Greek philosopher Plato, born around 428bc, who first suggested that ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’ and at Tetbury camera club we regularly prove how apt his musing was with a small competition we hold throughout the year.
Called ‘One a month’ it lives up to its name by setting us the challenge of depicting a different subject from January to December. To help ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to demonstrate their skill, technique or creativity, all members can nominate suggested subjects for the 12 that will be chosen for the coming year.
The main requirement after that is that each member can only submit one image each month and it must be a new shot. Nothing from their archives is allowed. Also helping to ensure that we are all ‘playing to the same tune’ is the judging. All members taking part have one vote to select a winner for each month—and it can’t be their own picture! Sometimes the subjects invite a still-life image, other months it could be landscape and there are also subjects such as portraits, animals, nature or architecture. The selection is devised so that over the year it won’t favour any particular style or skill and will give everyone participating an equal opportunity to impress.
The challenge set for the final month of last year was to capture ‘something seen in a mirror’. As this column is being written submissions range from reflections of a landscape spotted in a large steel sphere decorating a town street scene. At the other end of the photographic spectrum is the image illustrating this article. It is a picture taken in Top Banana, one of Tetbury’s many antique shops. Spotted by our member Peter Martin, it shows reflections from not just one, but two mirrors. Perhaps not surprisingly, as Tetbury’s many antique and décor shops show off a better than average selection of mirrors, other members had their eyes on some of the alternatives that can be seen on a walk down Long Street.
In a sign of the economic pressures on high street retailing, some shots spotted early in the month were no longer available a couple of weeks later. By then two of the shops which looked as if they were good subjects were in the process of closing down! That’s a factor that reinforces the advice mentioned in one of our recent articles – always take your camera when you are out and about. It’s the only way to ensure you won’t miss a perfect shot.
Getting back to Plato, apart from coming up with the various different subjects to find and record each month, we also have the challenge of having to research different techniques that will suit the shots we want to take. We all have one or two styles of photography that are particular favourites but the variety we face over the 12 months of this competition encourages us to move away from our comfort zone and try something new, or different.
Sometimes this is to do with lighting, other months it might mean we have to re-read our camera’s instruction book to remind ourselves about how to use one of the seldom used features that now come as standard with most modern cameras. There are so many of these hidden in different menus that it is easy to forget how to access them, unless it happens to be something used on a regular basis.
This facet of what is a light-hearted idea makes the concept very appropriate for anyone who would just like to improve their own photography. If that’s you do give it a try for your own entertainment or alternatively why not consider joining us for our regular meetings at 7.30pm each Tuesday at The Priory Hotel? We are happy to welcome new members and it is a great way to polish your photographic skill, whether your favourite type of camera sits on the back of a smartphone, or is something a professional would feel happy using and has been designed to shoot with a wide variety of lenses.
LIKE ROD SAID, EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY
There is little doubt that most of us will have heard the comment that ‘every picture tells a story’ but unlike many idioms or sayings, where it originated, what prompted it or who first conceived it now seems to be lost in time.
One thing for sure though is that Rod Stewart wasn’t its initial author when he used it as the title of one of his earliest hits. Another is that these days it’s a saying that is as relevant as it ever was, and it’s one that sprang to mind a few weeks ago when Tetbury Camera Club had a fine evening of entertainment and inspiration when we enjoyed a visit by Worcestershire based photographer Darren Leeson.
Darren’s forte is street photography, which for anyone who hasn’t come across the term before refers to outdoor picture-taking which is often ‘gritty’ in style and content. One of the best known of its early exponents was the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who would ‘snatch’ pictures of people in the street that he felt were doing simple things that were unusual or interesting. If you haven’t noticed examples of his work in the past the chances are that another exponent of ‘street’ images that you will be familiar with is Bristol-based Martin Parr. Martin was commissioned by BBC television to film the identity sequences which show groups of ordinary people doing everyday things. These include sea swimmers from Clevedon and a Zumba Class from Bristol.
Martin is probably best known these days as a skilled documentary photographer recording everyday life, but his style, particularly in his early days had a definite street feel. Darren’s presentation to us showed he often manages to capture a similar individual, atmospheric style of image.
To use Darren’s words, ‘although my interest in photography is wide-ranging, I have a strong passion for the real and surreal stories and theatre of the street. During his evening with us he entertained with a wide-ranging selection of images, showing shots such as the mobile diner picture which is illustrating this month’s article. It is obviously firmly closed for business, despite its open-all-day signage.
Pictures like these capture enigmatic and often humorous situations. Even though you might prefer landscape, wildlife or horticultural images they will probably make you stop and think about what’s happening in the image. They capture a moment, which at the very least, will often make you chuckle.
Despite the apparent simplicity or naivety of street pictures they are not as simple to take as they might look at first sight. They are out there to be captured at any time of the day or night and in rural as well as urban situations and settings, but not everyone can see them. For most people it isn’t easy to be bold enough to just snap a shot of someone you don’t know, or even to walk up to someone you’ve never seen before and ask them if you can photograph them.
Among the hints and tips Darren offered to our members who asked for advice on the best way to capture street shots there were a couple that are easy for virtually anyone to follow, even using a picture-taking smartphone; always take it with you!
Darren almost never leaves home without one of his cameras. Another comment he made was that using a small unobtrusive camera makes you look more like an amateur and tourist, so people are less likely to be watching what you’re doing. One of the cameras he uses is about 10 years old, rather bashed, looks well-used and sports a simple looking small lens acquired from an auction site. Leave the larger long-length lenses for other photographic projects.
Another was watch what’s going on around you. If you don’t look you won’t see. There are always pictures to be taken, you just have to spot them.
FROM MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON TO SCENIC SHROPSHIRE
After a great summer making a variety of interesting and inspiring trips around the county, Tetbury Camera club has had a stunning start to its new season. It began with a visual tour of some of the least-known and more remote parts of the world, courtesy of a visit to the unique studios of Chalford-based photographer Steve Russell.
Normally we have speakers making visits to our club meetings at The Priory Inn, Tetbury, which is something Steve did for us a few years ago. That evening proved to be so interesting we had no hesitation in accepting his suggestion of a return get-together, this time involving a trip to see him on his home ground.
Steve might not be as widely known to the general public as some of the photographers who have made their names working in high-profile fields like show-business and fashion, but his creativity and the techniques he has mastered are world-class and he is known internationally as a leader in landscape and artistic photography. Many of the specialized techniques being used by Steve were developed by himself and are unique. They have helped to establish his as the go-to studio for many world-famous artists when looking for looking for pictures of their work which will be captured with 100% accuracy. These days much of his output ends up in books, galleries, museums and exhibition catalogues.
He regularly works with Damian Hurst, who has studios nearby and the Pangolin Foundry, which is another near neighbour and one of the country’s foremost producers of bronze and brass sculpture castings.
To handle the scale and scope of the work he is often commissioned to undertake, Steve’s studio has been built to incorporate a double height shooting space. It also has fork lift truck access which is used for large objects. Another specialized feature is a motorized turntable which can carry up to 4 tons. It’s inset in the floor of the main studio and is used to help manoeuvre heavyweight subjects, such as large pieces of bronze works of art. It isn’t just the things he photographs that are big in size though. The prints he produces are often large-scale as well and on the evening of our visit he was exhibiting outsized prints that were up to 8 feet wide and more.
That size was being used to show the detail from pictures taken on one of his long-term projects, which is recording the geology and horticulture of the Rwenizori Mountains which rise more than 5000 metres above the border between The Congo and Uganda. They are known as The Mountains of The Moon due to their scale, unique topology and remoteness. Going there with the right equipment had required long-distance trekking, with a team of porters to transport camping and climbing equipment as well as heavy photographic kit. The journey up the mountains also meant and energy-sapping and a debilitating battle against altitude sickness!
Steve is currently exhibiting a collection of some of his most dramatic shots at his studio They can be seen until November 17, and he is following that with a Christmas exhibition which will be open until the end of December.
From the Congo our next event took us to somewhere which is a lot more accessible; to stunning scenery in Shropshire, courtesy of award-winning wildlife and landscape photographer Andrew Fuseck Peters. Andrew has twice been shortlisted for the annual Wildlife Photographer of The Year Award and the portfolio of prints and digital images be brought to our meeting demonstrated why. It showed that in Britain we are privileged to be surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful landscape settings.
Andrew’s ability to record images of them has recently won him a commission by Natural England and the National Trust and to illustrate a book called Upland. In its own way the work he has been doing in Shropshire, capturing the drama, colour and atmosphere of the county’s beauty is as eye-catching as Steve’s Congo work is dramatic.
As with Steve Russell, it is worthwhile taking an armchair visit to see some of his work by seeking out information about his projects on the internet.
It is always inspiring to see the photography of professional and semi-professional photographers who are ready to shares their tips and knowledge with us. Having said that, we already have some very fine photographers among our own membership. Many have developed their own expertise over the years and now produce images that deserve a wide audience. This month’s picture is an example of that. It was taken by Tony Banks, who was also responsible for some fine pictures of Kingfishers taken during our last season. If you’d like to see more of his work, new members are always welcome at our regular our Tuesday evening meetings. These take place at The Priory Inn at 7.30 pm and anyone interested in our programme and what’s planned for the future months will find more information on our web site: www.tetburycameraclub.org.uk
OLD THOUGHTS GIVING NEW INSPIRATION
Great thoughts don’t need to be new to have modern relevance or give contemporary inspiration. One conceived about 150 years ago by an American philosopher, poet and writer called Henry David Thoreau proves this as effectively as any. It is also a good companion to this month’s photograph from Tetbury Camera Club.
Thoreau, who lived from the early to mid 19th century penned the thought that ‘It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.’
If you think that’s a saying that sounds familiar it probably is, for today it seems to be used in a wide variety of different situations. They range from the inspirational phrases used on motivational posters which are often found in office corridors, canteens, reception areas and rest rooms, to decorative pictures, cushions and mirrors which are sold in lots of design and décor shops.
I don’t think any of the members of Tetbury Camera Club had philosophy on their mind when travelling around the county on our recent summer location shoots, but at the same time most of us do try to avoid being derivative with the work we do. We share ideas, enjoy tips on differing photography techniques and even recommend photogenic locations to each other. When we go out together, as well as the camaraderie of being part of a shared-interest group there is always the challenge of finding a way to be different. That often means looking at the places we are visiting differently and coming up with angles or concepts that the rest of us haven’t seen or thought of.
We might have similar interests, but most of us really do enjoy returning with pictures which are an expression of our individual creative personality and have our own personal hallmark.
Finding something different to shoot is part of the fun and satisfaction to be found in modern photography. The cameras we use have never been more versatile and packed with so many tools to help us express our thoughts creatively and visually. They don’t take pictures on their own though, even when set to work on remote control or using a delayed shutter release they still need an artistic mind to add its own touch to produce a captivating finished result.
The picture shown here is a good example of that. It was taken by our member John Jennings on a recent visit some of us made to Cirencester. That was an evening when virtually all of us found an interesting facet of the town we hadn’t spotted before. Only one though chose to capture the angle, height and shape of the tower which crowns the church of St John the Baptist, which can claim to be one of the country’s largest parish churches.
To most of us, St John’s is a heavyweight example of Gothic religious architecture which is now the focal point of the town centre. Its position and scale mean that these days it isn’t the easiest place to photograph or depict. Our John found a fresh way to demonstrate part of its scale by shooting for the sky and in doing so he has demonstrated just how apt Thoreau’s words can be if you want to photograph a challenging subject in the 21st century.
I’m not sure what inspired Thoreau to come up with his words of wisdom back in the mid 1800’s, but hopefully he would be pleased to find that they are still a very appropriate thought to bear in mind if you are ever out with your own camera and wondering how to produce an interesting souvenir of what you are seeing around you.
A SUMMER VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY
If New York can claim to be The City That Never Sleeps, after this summer Tetbury Camera Club can make an equally strong bid to be the club that seldom snoozes!
Though in June, July and August there is always a seasonal break in our regular weekly meetings which take place at The Priory Inn, we also aim to come up with other ways to fill our time over the holiday months. This year was no exception, with outings organised on a fortnightly basis for any members who fancied an evening’s shooting and chatting with like-minded friends.
Though most of the places we visited were within easy reach there was no shortage of takers for our summer trips. The majority of our members might live locally, but we know from past experience there is lots to be explored within an hour’s drive or less of Tetbury. One of the added benefits of our summer trips is they are almost always planned by members who know the areas we select well, and so the destinations are an eye-opening voyage of discovery for those not so familiar with the places selected.
New stops on our ad hoc schedule this year included Fairford, which for many from Tetbury tends to be a town we drive through without stopping when heading somewhere else. Our evening there proved that’s a scenic mistake. Among other attractions it’s home to St Mary’s, an impressive church, built on the success of a local wool merchant, which boasts one of the country’s most spectacular collections of medieval stained-glass windows. There is lots to see there apart from those, including riverside walks, ancient farm buildings and some fine architecture.
One of our other outings was to Woodchester Mansion, not far from Stroud. For anyone who doesn’t know of it, Woodchester’s claim to fame is a bit like Schubert’s unfinished symphony — it’s an impressive creation, but a work in progress! An imposing Victorian gothic country house designed by a young architect called Benjamin Bucknall, from Rodborough, it was being built for a local land-owning family during the 1850’s and 1860’s, until work suddenly ceased. Today the reason for the builders downing tools is presumed to be because the money needed to complete it ran out, but left behind is a masterpiece which gives a unique insight into how grand the finished mansion was intended to look.
Listed as being of grade1 importance, it looks as if it is frozen in time…another time, when life was lived differently and large houses were still being built with no expense spared. There are partly finished bathrooms, finely carved fireplaces, vaulted stone corridors and a chapel with a fine arched ceiling. Run now by a charitable trust, which opens it to the public on selected dates, we were given evening access with no one else around. This revealed how the building was being constructed and gave a real hint of how it would have looked if the craftsmen working on it had been allowed to finish their work.
Just as eye-opening, though in other ways, were trips we made to Cirencester. Nailsworth, Bath and the gardens of Westonbirt School. From a photographic point of view all had their own specific attractions and features to commend them, but the one thing common to them all was our discovery of just how many pictorial gems there are virtually on our own doorsteps.
By the time this column is in print we will be gearing up for the launch of our new autumn season, with the start of our regular Tuesday evening meetings at the Priory Inn on September 11. If you have ever thought you might like to join us to share some of your own expertise or benefit from that of our existing members and guest speakers it’s a date to put in your diary. We are a small, friendly and sociable club that is always ready to welcome newcomers.
On that first night we will be showing the results of some of the trips mentioned above, so if you’d like see them, do come along.
YOU’RE NEVER TOO YOUNG, OR OLD, TO BE THE NEXT DAVID BAILEY
Are you the sort of person who’s an early starter or a late-comer? The sort who begins the day firing on all cylinders or the kind who prefers to work up gradually to what’s ahead and then peaks later on?
Most of us fall into one of these two categories and it’s a question that came to mind recently while enjoying an early morning walk on one of the footpaths around Tetbury.
What prompted it was hearing the answer given by the school age daughter of a friend when she was asked what present she’d like for a forthcoming birthday. Her reaction was ‘a proper camera’. Not such a common response I suspect in these days of smart phones, smart watches and whatever smart other things are the current flavour of the month with teenagers,
Only that morning, I’d also come across the opposite end of the spectrum; a recently retired lady taking some landscape pictures with what looked like great care and attention and a very new looking digital camera. When I asked if she’s captured any good shots that day her response was just as surprising:
“I’m starting to achieve a lifetime’s ambition! I’ve always been interested in taking pictures but never had the time to devote to it. Now that I’ve just retired I’ve invested in a good camera, I’m on a course learning how to use it properly and it’s becoming a new chapter in my life.”
When you think about it, hers isn’t such an unusual story. Though our camera club season recently finished for the summer and we won’t begin our regular Tuesday evening meetings again until September 11, almost every autumn there will be several new members, who will come along having decided they have always had an interest in photography, but only recently had time to pursue it.
Some join after visiting our annual Woolsack Day exhibition of Members’ work which we stage upstairs in the market hall. Others are prompted by articles they have seen in the Tetbury Advertiser, and recently, we have also had people come along to our meetings after finding out about us on the internet. A couple of common denominators become apparent after a few visits though; those who continue to attend become increasingly enthusiastic and enjoy the social atmosphere of the club as much as the opportunity to learn new skills.
In addition to that, quite a few are inspired to do more than try to simply take better pictures. In the last few years we have had several members who have become so enthusiastic that they have set out to achieve recognition of the skill they have developed by The Royal Photographic Society. This is no easy challenge to take on, but each year we have a couple more members who gain the satisfaction of having the creativity of their work recognised by the country’s leading photography society.
Not everyone wants to go through the formal process of joining the RPS though and this summer we have two members who are taking a different route to demonstrate their photographic expertise. They have decided to stage their own exhibition of wildlife and landscape photography in Malmesbury Town Hall. They will be exhibiting there, from July 14 until August 10th.. Entry is free and their pictures will on display from 9.00 to 4.30 on weekdays and 10.30 to 4pm at weekends.
The picture of a red squirrel which was taken in the Cairngorms by our member Sandie Cox is one of the photographs which will be on display. The rest are just as impressive.
Though we don’t have our regular formal meetings during the summer we will be resuming our regular get-togethers at 7.30pm in The Priory Hotel from September 11th, so if you’d like to find out how to hone your own pictorial skills make a note in your diary. If you’re free that night come along and join us. New members are always welcome and whether you’re an early starter, or a later adopter of an inspiring hobby, you’ll be in good company.
Shine the best light on your pictures
Is it a drawing, is it a painting, or is the picture with this month’s Tetbury Camera Club article a photograph? Actually, it’s the latter, or maybe a combination of all three.
Inspired by our recent article which mentioned painting by numbers, our chairman John Jennings decided to try and work some of his own photo editing magic on a picture taken on a recent holiday. This was the result, the creation of an image showing what a combination of all three visual arts looks like.
There are various different attitudes to photo manipulation; should you use the technology that’s now available to digitally enhance pictures which would have been incredibly difficult to take and develop in the past? Alternatively, just create them in the camera viewfinder, as was most usually the case historically? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. As with all art, the attitude to photographs is completely subjective and it has been that way for a very long time.
One of the country’s best-known portrait photographers, Jane Bown, who worked for the Observer newspaper for more than 50 years, hardly ever used flash and preferred to shoot in natural light. If you Google her name you will find some of the most illuminating and revealing pictures of household names from the 20th century. With her creative eye and a combination of light and shade from a convenient window, she captured her sitters’ personalities with a skill most of us can only dream of.
If you’d like to be impressed, do look at her work and form your own opinion. It’s at the completely opposite end of the creative spectrum to another great female photographer called Annie Liebowitz. An American, Annie has worked for publications as varied as Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair magazines. Her skill is also worth checking on the internet. While Jane Bown travelled light, with just a small hand-held camera and some rolls of film, Annie Liewbovitz is now well known for highly crafted images which are often created in large studios, with the help of a small regiment of assistants, set builders and a battery of lights.
Jane Bown depicted people and their personalities with speed, simplicity and an accuracy that is just as powerful as Annie Liebowitz’s. They are also much more achievable by you and me and her technique and success proves that in photography, as in painting, there is more than one style that’s right.
Having said that, there are tips and tricks that can be useful in helping us all achieve better images if we want to. After painting by numbers, here are a few other tips which could be termed photographing by numbers.
One of the most commonly quoted is ‘the rule of thirds’ which is simply one to help you stop, think and consider the image you will capture before you shoot. To use it you simply mentally dissect the shot you are taking into a grid of 9 boxes; 3 across and 3 vertically, then align the features in the picture to help balance, or enhance interest in them. For example, set the horizon along a bottom, or top line, rather than in the centre. If it’s a person who is the main feature of the picture, try placing them to the right, or the left, rather than centrally again.
Do this and you will most likely find that your shot is better balanced, intriguing and artistic.
Another useful tip, for this time of year in particular, is to make use of the golden hour. This is a term used to for the hour before sunset and the hour after sunrise, when you will often find atmospheric and diffused lighting. This can soften a picture and help make it look a lot more romantic or dramatic. It’s a time when you will likely see those keen on landscapes shooting their favourite scenes.
We have had some fine landscape photographers presenting their images to us this year and many of them had been up early in the morning to catch some dramatic images of the sun breaking through early morning mist.
The picture by our member David Calvert shows the ceiling in one of the castle rooms and demonstrates just how flamboyant he and the Marquise could be when they combined great wealth with Burges’s undoubted imagination.
While much of Cardiff still has an early Victorian character, it would be doing a disservice to the good taste of the Georgians if we had neglected to head north on one of our recent trips for an evening stroll around near-neighbour Cheltenham.
We didn’t come across anything quite as extravagant as some of the sites we had seen on the Cardiff visit, but we still ended the evening there as happy snappers, as anyone who cares to join us for our regular weekly meetings at Tetbury’s Priory Inn will discover.
The following news item appears in the September issue of the Tetbury Advertiser.
WE’RE READY FOR YOUR CLOSE-UP MR PEACOCK
As anyone who has ever tried to take the perfect picture of their family pet will know, there’s a lot of truth in that quote by the American actor and comedian W. C. Fields… ‘Never work with animals and children’.
Many of us must have experienced the exasperation of seeing our cat or dog looking relaxed and angelic, aristocratic and calm, then deciding to become star-struck and take a run towards us as soon as a camera appears in our hand. The aim might be to capture an appealing portrait of our favourite pet, but more often than not the end result is an out of focus blur, because of the speed of movement or the fast-changing distance between the animal and the lens.
As Shakespeare, another creator of interesting observations wrote; ‘Many a true word is spoken in jest’. While W. C. Fields might have been joking, his words did have a lot of truth in them. They are relevant even these days, when modern cameras incorporate impressive technology which can calculate distances in an instant, but also need equally fast reactions from the hand of the owners if their micro chips are to capture an intended moving image.
Which makes this month’s picture by Tetbury Camera Club member, Hugh Fletcher, all the more commendable. Hugh captured it on one of the informal outings we’d arranged during the club’s summer break. It was taken in Corsham, which boasts the unusual claim to fame of a flock, or in this instance, should it be a ‘pod’ of peacocks, which ramble the high street and other areas in the centre of town, at will.
Hugh’s picture shows one of them, which did present a bit of a challenge, for as soon as he pointed his camera in its direction, this bird became rather star-struck and decided to check its image in a nearby car’s paintwork. Maybe it needed to decide its best side? Whatever, it helped Hugh show that animals might not always do exactly what you want, but if you adapt your thinking you can still create a picture from what’s there.
Trying to create interesting pictures from what’s there is what Tetbury’s Camera Club has been doing on other summer evenings as well, with outings that have ranged from Painswick to Burford, Gloucester Docks to Cheltenham. Now we are about to embark on the start of a new season, so from the evening of September the 5th, we will be back in our usual haunt at The Priory Hotel, with a calendar of meetings, presentations, competitions and advice events, planned by the committee to show an entertaining and informative programme presented by some of the best and most talented photographers in the region.
This year’s subjects include wildlife and landscape work, with pictures taken in locations as far apart as Africa and the Arctic and of animals as diverse as polar bears to gorillas. There will be tips on home printing to setting up studio shots, lighting to special effects, and in addition, more formal trips out to sites of special interest, with the guidance of club members who already know them well.
Tetbury Camera Club meets upstairs in The Priory Hotel at 7.30pm on a Tuesday and is always happy to have new members and guests join us. September 5th 2017 will be the first event of the new season and will feature presentations with pictures by members who have been on our summer trips. It will be an excellent opportunity to find out more about what we do and where we have been to. For more information there is a calendar of all confirmed future events on our recently revamped web site.
HAVE A TRY AT SNAPPING UNDER COVER OF DARKNESS
There’s never a dull moment if you’re a member of Tetbury Camera Club…We might have just finished the winter/spring season with our annual photography exhibition in the town Market Hall, but a keen photographer doesn’t pack up his bag because summer is here.
Within 2 weeks we had already embarked on a splendid programme of casual summer evening shoots. This is the time of year when any member can suggest a subject for an evening, or even all-day assignment. The first of these outings took us to Painswick, a spot almost as equally attractive as Tetbury, though the people who live there might well argue that in the scenic town stakes the awards should be in reverse order.
Whatever your view, some of the shots we have been taking will quite probably appear in our exhibition next year, so if you are in the mood, you’ll be able to judge then for yourself.
The Club’s market hall exhibition, which is timed to coincide with the famous Woolsack Races, has become a popular additional event on the bank holiday Monday, with visitors as well as locals attending it. This year we had attenders not just from neighbouring towns and counties, but as far at Newcastle and Nottingham. On average, it draws between 450 and 550 spectators, taking a hopefully relaxing break from the exertions of the various athletic exertions of woolsack racing up and down Gumstool Hill. This year the weather wasn’t very kind to the runners, but the pictures we had on display seemed to be a welcome refuge to those taking a break from the wind and rain.
For some visitors, our work also turned into a personal inspiration and we had several inquiries from fellow enthusiastic amateurs, keen to join us at The Priory Hotel when our new season starts on September 5th 2017.
Until then, we are hoping for some fine summer evenings and look forward to stimulating our creative appetite with at least 6 evening excursions during June, July and August. These are planned as social as well photography outings, with the first part of each visit devoted to picture-taking and the latter hour or so to a get-together in an appropriate convenient pub or bistro.
Already on the agenda for coming weeks are Corsham, Burford, Cheltenham, and nearer to home, Westonbirt, then Sharpness docks.
In between those visits we’ll hold court every alternate week at the Priory, where modern technology means we can review the previous week’s work on a laptop, or iPad.
By the way if you’re the kind of photographer who tends to dust off the camera primarily in time for the holiday season, don’t be put off if you are going to sunnier countries, where dusk often starts earlier than it does here in the UK. If you give it a try you’ll find that with the miracles of digital technology, some of the most dramatic shots can be captured at night. The one with this article was taken by member Jennie Esse on a trip to Japan earlier this year.
You’ll find it’s quite possible to achieve something similar if you decide to be bold and set the camera to manual, then find somewhere to rest it steadily. Raise the ISO level,to 800 or more, or alternatively, lower it to 100 if you have one with an adjustable aperture. In which case try a variety of shutter speeds and aperture openings and see what you capture. You could well end up with a creative surprise. One of the great things about modern digital cameras is it doesn’t cost you anything to experiment. You can simply delete what you don’t like, and start again.
And if you fancy joining our group, put September 5th in your diary and come along to The Priory for our regular Tuesday evening sessions. New faces are always welcome.
ENJOY A FREE EXHIBITION ON WOOLSACK RACE DAY
May is prize giving month at Tetbury Camera Club, when we reach the end of our autumn and winter season, so aim to recognize the creativity and skill of members who have done well in the various competitions we hold throughout the year.
As usual, it began with a social supper held at The Priory Inn, which is home to our regular Tuesday evening meetings during most of the year. Of special interest this time, not only to ourselves but also to anyone interested in joining us in the future, was the list of those who ended the evening by walking out with a trophy or two under their arm.
While, as expected, some of our keenest photographers continued to demonstrate consistent skill, this year almost a third of our prizes were handed out to members who had not been winners before. Some had not even been club members at this time the previous year.
Hopefully this statistic helps underline the fact that our club isn’t a home for a small clique of keen photographic obsessives. More accurately, it’s an interesting meeting place for new arrivals as well as loyal and long-standing attenders; a gathering where people with a common interest can share views and enthusiasms and where people keen to learn a new skill, or develop an old and possibly dormant one, can do so with the help of existing members.
For anyone who’d like to see for themselves just what we’ve been up to there will be an ideal opportunity over Woolsack Race weekend. On Monday, the 29th, 2017 we will be holding our annual exhibition of members’ work in Tetbury market hall. Entry is free and as on our regular Tuesday get-together’s, we will be happy to see anyone who would like to look at or talk about our picture taking.
The picture with this article is an example of one of our recent competition images. If you’ve ever worried about taking shots that aren’t sharp it will hopefully show you that these days anything goes! Taken in Bath by member Carole Mortimer, it is intentionally blurred as she wanted to capture the movement and animation of the man who was blowing bubbles there. Though taken with Carole’s normal camera it proves that these days you don’t need to be carrying a bag of specialist equipment to capture a memorable image or interesting moment. It is the type of shot that anyone with a modern mobile phone could record if they had the artistic ability to see it!
Though our winter season has drawn to a close, another is now on the horizon. In the summer months, from June to September we plan weekly informal events and outings which are organised by any member who thinks a visit to somewhere new could be an interesting excursion. These take place every fortnight and on every alternate Tuesday evening anyone in the mood to meet up with their club friends gathers back at the Priory to talk about, or show, the results of those trips over a beer or soft drink.
So, if the weather’s nice, you are passing the Priory’s front garden and see a group of people sitting there studying what look like holiday photographs or working on maps as if planning a walk or drive you’ll now have a good idea of what they are up to. Very likely it will be members of Tetbury Camera Club planning another outing or discussing the one they have just had!
If you can’t find time to visit our May 29th exhibition do have a look at our web site – tetburycameraclub.org.uk – where you’ll see a growing collection of our recent work.
Another news item from Iain.
LIVING AND LEARNING CONFIRMS AN OLD SAYING
There’s a lot of truth in the old saying that you learn something new every day – at least if you want to, and just how accurate that statement is was underlined to members of Tetbury Camera Club twice in quick succession recently.
Firstly, by Tony Gervis, a guest speaker who had travelled from Stourport in Worcestershire to show us a riveting selection of his pictures. While Tony’s drive to talk to us was a relatively short one for him, his picture-taking has taken him round the world. He has travelled from Azerbaijan to Alaska, Uzbekistan to the USA, using a selection of camper vans and cameras, and sometimes with a Harley Davidson motor bike used as well for his American adventures.
Early in his presentation Tony was asked how difficult it was to find great subjects to photograph. He explained that one of the best pieces of advice he’d been given about photography was; ‘if there’s nothing to photograph, take a picture anyway and you’ll find something’.
It’s a statement that was reinforced when shortly after Tony’s visit we saw a picture taken by one of our members, Fiona McCowan. Fiona is one of the regular participants in an entertaining and fun competition we set ourselves each month. This asks competing members to photograph something from a list of subjects which is created at the start of the year. We are currently working on choosing something to photograph which is ’30 minutes’ walk from home’, and the picture with this article was the submission by Fiona responding to the previous month’s brief, which was ‘abandoned building’.
The barn she found is probably the sort of place that most people would never consider pointing a lens at, but the end result proves not only that if you have to find something interesting you will. It is also proof of the truth in that other old saying, that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
To jump back to Tony Gervis and his serious touring, in a decade or more of coast to coast cruising in his camper vans he has visited every US state – many on several occasions – as well as 117 National Parks there. Who knew the choice is so big? On one of the more recent visits he stopped in the Park Rangers’ headquarters to ask for directions on how locate a difficult to reach canyon. His presentational skills were obviously working specially well that day and his shots were so admired he left not just with the information he needed, but also with a two year contract to photograph various views and features of the Parks for use in the Authority’s brochures!
The dramatic wildness and variety of the US landscape isn’t the only thing to have captured Tony’s interest. He has also turned into a serious fan of the rodeos that are a regular feature of American country life and he often plans his tours to meet up with the rodeo stars as they move from town to town.
As much as Tony admires the skill, strength and expertise of the men competing for prizes by clinging to the backs of bucking broncos and rearing bulls, it seems they are equally admiring of his expertise with a long lens and fast shutter. He’s been commissioned by several of the rodeo organisers to capture the action on camera whenever he’s in town and to take pictures for their publicity flyers and posters. He’s also now an honorary member of the Gold Buckle Club and wears a belt presented to him by Ellensburg Rodeo in Washington State for his services in helping to promote the profile of the sport.
Tetbury Camera Club (tetburycameraclub.org.uk) meets at the Priory Inn at 7.30 on most Tuesday evenings. Visitors and new members are always welcome.
The April issue of the Tetbury Advertiser has the following news item.
ENJOYING THE LEGACY OF WILLIAM FOX TALBOT
It might be a concerning thought for some people, but by the time you read this issue of the Advertiser we will not only have changed the clocks to summer time, Easter isn’t far away either and we will be a quarter of the way through 2017…
Oh, and for students of local history, it’s also 176 years since William Fox Talbot — scientist, archaeologist, astronomer and MP for Chippenham — patented an invention for transferring images onto paper, which was to become the start of modern photography.
You might think that after all these years and more than a century since Tetbury had its first camera club, it would be hard to find much new to see and talk about to do with photography, but far from it.
In the 15 weeks since we started our 2017 season Tetbury Camera Club has made several discoveries of its own and set at least one new benchmark we will have to try to sustain next year.
First of all one of the discoveries; most weeks of our picture-taking seasons we have guest judges to critique pictures from our club competitions. Alternatively we invite expert speakers to help inspire us with the creativity of their own work or tales of travels which have enabled them to bring back stunning shots ranging from big game in Africa to bears in Alaska and temples in Tibet.
It isn’t always necessary to pack up your passport to take great pictures of course, as we discovered at the end of February when we had a first visit by Allen Lloyd, a guest speaker from as far away as Tintern!
Allen has received numerous awards in national and international exhibitions and been featured in leading photography magazines, yet he hadn’t visited us before. Tetbury Camera Club therefore looked forward with anticipation to his visit, but little did we know how stunning it would be.
He had put together three AV modules: landscapes (mainly around Gwent and Monmouthshire); Yellowstone USA, and Birds. Each was given added atmosphere by the accompaniment of some inspiring music. His motivating commentary, explaining how he achieved such wonderful compositions left us all hoping that some of his magic would rub off and helped to justify the comments by several of our longest serving members, that they had just seen some of the best images experienced in over 15 years of coming to our club!
How do we match that? Well one way is by already booking a follow-up visit from him for 2018, though fortunately we did also have an ace card up our sleeve. Two regular items in our calendar are competitions in which we compete against larger ‘rival’ clubs from Stroud and Cirencester to see which can produce the best collection of pictures each year.
This year the first of these was against Stroud and a very closely fought challenge it proved to be, with our judge scoring Stroud best for prints but Tetbury taking most marks for digital images. at the end of the evening the result was Tetbury 527 points and Stroud 522.
Can we sustain this standard? We’ll shortly find out, as we are soon to match our creativity away to Cirencester!
This month’s picture was a competition entry by member David Jones.
WATCHING THE BIRDIE CATCHES A STUNNING SNAP
In the days of the Kodak Box Brownie, if you can remember that, ‘watch the birdie’ was the phrase used by photographers professional as well as amateur when they wanted someone to sit still while they took a portrait.
A subject who was sitting still was a necessity if the picture that was being taken wasn’t to come out blurred. Happily, the development of cameras with adjustable shutter speeds which could work quickly enough to ‘freeze’ movement have made the phrase a thing of the past, though not for Tetbury Camera Club member Tony Banks.
Like several of our members, Tony is a relative latecomer to photography as a hobby, but since joining the club about 4 years ago, he has been making up for lost time, perfecting a recently realised talent with a special interest in landscape and wildlife pictures.
Spurred by successfully ‘shooting’ several birds from his kitchen window, and not afraid of a bigger challenge, Tony ended last year with the aim of trying to capture a picture of a kingfisher in flight…or better still, living up to its name, with a fish in its beak.
As anyone who has ever tried to photograph birds will know, that was no small project. Kingfishers look beautiful, but they are also notoriously timid. On top of that they are small, seldom stay still and are famous for their fast flight. When they dive for their prey a typical speed as they enter the water is 25 miles an hour and darting from cover to spot a fish, they are usually moving even more quickly – 35 miles an hour is not uncommon.
To shoot his shot of the bird with its catch, Tony spent quite some time first of all scouting for a likely kingfisher feeding habitat, and then even longer in a hide, deciding what was the most opportune time to catch it in action, then perfecting the perfect combination of lens length, shutter speed, camera aperture and ISO, which is the modern equivalent of film speed on older film cameras.
Modern digital cameras make practicing your ideal shot much easier and less expensive than shooting on film used to be. These days you can see what you have taken virtually instantly and if it wasn’t what you wanted, you can just as quickly delete that shot and get ready for another opportunity.
For anyone wanting to try capturing a similar shot to the one shown here, this one was taken at 1/1600th of a second, with a fairly wide aperture of f6.3. and ISO of 400. That was the combination of settings that Tony felt suited the light, were fast enough to capture the moving bird and had a low enough ISO to produce a picture with the right degree of detail.
Proving that Tony’s time was well spent, one of the kingfisher pictures was judged highly commended at our first competition of 2017, at the end of January.