We regularly have stories published in The Tetbury Advertiser, we reprint those stories below. Older news copies can be found on our archive page.
AFTER A CENTURY OF INNOVATION HERE’S SOMETHING NEW
There has been more than a century of non-stop development in the 110 years since Tetbury Camera Club came into being, and this edition of the Tetbury Advertiser includes another innovation…
Over the decades we have featured images taken with box cameras, twin lens reflexes, 35mm designs, pocket-sized models. Latterly we have also moved from film cameras to digital ones and now, for the first time, the picture with this article was taken with a mobile phone! If you think about it, thanks to the cameras which are now built into most people’s telephone, photography can even make a very strong claim to be the country’s fastest-growing hobby, with worldwide sales for just one year – 2018 — estimated at more than 1.5billion.
It’s a remarkable achievement, particularly when you realise the first phone to incorporate a camera only went on sale less than 20 years ago. Now, thanks to their convenience and level of sophistication they are even being used to create television news coverage, for broadcast interviews, even to make films produced for cinema screening.
Though the majority of our members might be described as keen and even serious photographers, anxious to explore and master all that modern camera technology can deliver, we also have ones for whom the aim is simply to enjoy their picture-taking and share the company of people with a similar hobby.
For both groups, reaching for a phone when they want to take a picture doesn’t come naturally. It’s difficult to cast aside a habit that has become second nature over many years. But when we do try, we have to agree we are increasingly impressed by what can be achieved using an average smart phone. Also, by how quickly the engineers and designers working for companies like Apple, Samsung and Huawei are able to miniaturize and bring to market ever-more sophisticated versions of the comparatively heavyweight versions of the cameras we grew up being used to.
Convenience has helped make them a modern-day fact of life and as more and more of both groups, serious photographers as well as enthusiastic amateurs, become used to taking pictures as well as conducting conversations on their phones we recently decided that, just like the rest of the population, we should move with the times and encourage our members to demonstrate how effective they are when you use them to capture images.
To be honest, we were not sure what response we’d have when we decided to test our members and their phones with a competition to find out who would fair best when given a brief to switch from talking to snapping. We needn’t have worried. Within a few weeks of floating the idea we had 57 entries. They varied from black and white still life images to Scottish mountain landscapes and portraits of people to pictures of pets. Probably similar in subject matter to what the majority of the population would produce if you asked to see what they had on the phones in their purses and pockets.
If you’d like to see more of our work, taken with phones as well as conventional cameras, consider coming to one of our weekly meetings. We gather every Tuesday evening in the Priory Inn at 7,30 and are happy to welcome new members, no matter what equipment they use and how experienced, or inexperienced they are.
LOOKING AT PICTURES IN A NEW LIGHT
Ever since Wiltshire inventor William Fox Talbot demonstrated that he could capture images of people and places on paper without resorting to pens, pencils and paints, people have been participating in earnest discussions about the best techniques and equipment to use.to create their own photographs.
So much so that many camera clubs have sections, committees or groups devoted to just a single facet of photography, such as landscapes, wildlife or portraits. Happily, that’s not the case at Tetbury Camera Club, where we often hear from new members that they joined us as we are more a social rather than intense collection of enthusiasts. Actually, some of us are quite serious about our hobby, one is even working towards a photography degree at the moment. We are just not so serious that it ceases to be an artistic pleasure and starts to become a mental challenge.
We are all keen to learn though, which is one of the reasons our programme of regular guest speakers is always planned to introduce us to people who are not only interesting to listen to, but also creative and inspirational with their ideas and thinking. Just as important, they are selected because they are happy to share the new ideas and innovative techniques they have developed themselves after wondering; ‘what would happen if I try doing this with my camera?’
That’s one of the great things about photography. More than 160 years after Fox Talbot shone a light on prints that showed images of his house and garden, there is still more to discover.
We had an impressive example of this late last year when our speaker was a photographer called David Jenner, from Kent, He demonstrated a technique he had developed himself that took all of Fox Talbot’s early ideas, such as using a combination of light and time to record images, then he pushed them to new boundaries, His extreme concept often includes scores of shots that have been taken over several hours, then joined up and combined to create a panoramic image that might show how a scene changes from dawn to darkness.
David photographed the image with this article which makes an impact by breaking some of the commonly accepted rules of photography, such as it’s best to shoot with the sun behind you. His shot shows that rules might be good, but they are often there to be broken.
Another person who has questioned the boundaries of photography is David Hockney. Regarded by many as our best and most creative living artist, he is also respected for his enquiring mind, having researched and written about aspects of art such as colour, perspective. and digital technology. More than a century after Fox Talbot even he spent time wondering about the potential of photography and said: I’ve finally figured out what’s wrong with photography – it’s a one-eyed man looking through a little ‘ole. How much reality can there be in that?”
He subsequently answered his own question when he developed an interesting photographic process he called ‘joiners’, when he took a break from painting his California swimming pool and started making montages of scores of Polaroid instant photographs. These combined multiple images of sites as varied as Paris street scenes and American deserts.
These ‘joiner’ images are a great demonstration of just how photography has developed into a hobby, skill, or art, with limitless boundaries. What’s more, even in 2020 we keep coming across new ways of pushing the pictorial boundaries. We have people talking about some of those in the coming months.
Tetbury Camera Club might not be the biggest in the country, or even in the South West, but it does have a reputation as one of the friendliest. Now we can make another rare boast…,our member Liz Cooper can claim to be a photographer who is one in 2000.
For the last year Liz has being quietly developing her skill as a horticultural photographer and her perseverance was recently rewarded when she heard that one of her pictures, of the snowdrops which illustrate this article, was selected for display at an exhibition called SheClicks, held at a London art gallery.
Sponsored by Olympus, which is one of Japan’s most respected manufacturers of cameras and photography equipment, it was held to showcase the breadth, depth and creativity of women working in photography today. There were more than 2000 pictures submitted for entry to it and images ranged from wildlife to portraits, architecture to landscapes.
The organiser, Angela Nicholson, said, “the quality of submissions for the show was so great it was very difficult to exclude any of them, so those producing the selected images can be genuinely proud of their work.” Georgina Pavelin, marketing manager of Olympus said, “We had a panel of 10 judges to select the best pictures, which ensured that no single photographic style or class of subject was favoured and the pictures chosen as the best were selected from a combination of professional, semi-professional and amateur photographers, using a wide range of cameras from any manufacturer.”
Liz’s picture demonstrates that to produce high quality photographs doesn’t require a large studio with expensive sets for a background. It was shot on her kitchen table and its most important constituents were her creativity, skilled use of lighting and the expertise she has developed in handling her camera.
Most weeks of the season we have inspiring speakers visiting us at The Priory, sharing images and techniques which we can all learn from. In the last month alone, we have had presentations from Kent photographer David Jenner, who has developed a unique way to create panoramic images that captured a day in the life of cities and seaside towns and villages. We hadn’t seen his style of work before. Our speaker the following week was Shaun Boycott-Taylor, whose speciality is wildlife. The variety of these speakers shows that no one person has the exclusive franchise on the skill and expertise to create eye catching images today. Having seen the work that these visitors and others have shown has also helped lead to nine of our own club members being awarded with membership of the Royal Photographic Society for the skill they have each demonstrated with their own work.
If you’ve ever thought it would be interesting to come and find out more about one of the most worthwhile and rewarding hobbies you can have then do consider joining us at our regular weekly meetings at The Priory Inn. We gather there at 7.30pm each Tuesday and visitors are always welcome. We are happy to have enthusiasts of all standards and expertise join us at these weekly meetings can guarantee that you will see something that will confirm the saying: ‘If you open your eyes you’ll learn something new every day.
Those still at school might not look forward to the ending of the summer holidays, but for members of Tetbury Camera Club there is the opposite feeling…We can’t wait for our regular Tuesday evening get-togethers to start again.
That doesn’t mean we take a break from our cameras when the club isn’t in session. In fact the opposite is true. Over the summer months we made informal visits to the beautiful gardens at Miserden and the historical naval docks in Portsmouth, went on an evening cruise round the waterways of Bristol harbour and closer to home headed down the road to the charm of Castle Combe and then enjoyed the colour and movement of several of the lakes in Cotswold Water Park.
One of the benefits of having photography as a hobby, is no matter what the weather forecast brings, there is always something to see and having a camera in your hands stimulates you to find an interest in your surroundings, no matter where you are and at what time of year. For some of our members the favourite subjects are landscapes, then there are those who prefer wildlife. At the other ends of the spectrum we have members who like shooting the action of water sports, others whose special interests are architecture, botany or portraits. Knowing this our programme is always planned to try and ensure that there are going to be evenings to suit everyone.
Proving that if you want to, no matter how old you are it is still possible to learn something new every day, we have a stimulating series of guest speakers and creative minds booked to entertain us over the coming months. Looking ahead to our autumn season there are photographers who have developed styles that we have never seen before, such as graphic designer David Jenner, who has perfected a way to produce panoramas which he takes over the space of several hours. We then have another guest speaker called Ruth Davey who uses time in a completely different way. She is going to encourage us to slow down, look at the world around us with a more enquiring mind and produce pictures which will be not just relaxing to look at, but also more pleasurable to take. No wonder we have been keen to be back together at our regular weekly meetings at Tetbury’s Priory Inn.
Our tastes may be diverse, but the cameras we use give us all a common denominator. Even though they are different the pictures they produce give us a topic of conversation we can share when we break for the bar at half time. That’s also a convenient time for us to discuss hints, tips and advice if there are new members keen to broaden their knowledge.
If you are wondering what inspired this month’s picture, it was taken when we met up with members of the Tetbury Amateur Dramatic group, as well as other clubs and associations, at an event organized in the Dolphins Hall to let recent arrivals to the area know what goes on in the town.
If you weren’t able to make that day, but would like to know more about the camera club that’s easy. Just come along to The Priory for 7.30 on a Tuesday. We are always there, happy to talk pictures and to welcome new members.
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.
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