Mike Bennett ‘The Random Thoughts of a Confused Photographer’
Mike last gave us a talk on Thursday December 3rd 2020. He is an amateur photographer from Cleethorpes, and had entertained us with ‘Street Photography and Other Subjects’. The ‘other subjects’ included Portrait, Documentary, Sport and Creative. Encouraged by his father, Mike started taking photographs from a young age, although it’s only in recent years that he has taken photography more seriously. So seriously that he now has been awarded LRPS and DPAGB honours. In the last few years he has been entering photographs in both national (BPE) and international (FIAP) exhibitions and he has gained both BPE3* and EFIAP awards, gaining his star on BPE in the intervening period.
He had adjusted his talk for Zoom. First he showed us what he had been photographing since January 2020. A band performing at a club, taken on his mobile phone. He had begun a ‘Pheasant Shoot’ project which had been interrupted by the pandemic. Night photos in London – monuments, pavements and bars. The Tate Modern, bookshelves and paintings. Cleethorpes pier. Then came lockdown. With travel restricted, Mike took pictures of his dogs – with a biscuit fastened to the camera’s lens hood to hold their attention. Walks around the Humber Bridge included ponds and birds feeding: he enhanced the colours on his pictures of the bridge. When venues began to open, he went to the Doddington Hall Sculpture Park. In Photoshop he blended a firework display with the stalks of flowers in a glass jar, the firework sparkles replacing the petals. After several experiments he found the best way to do this was to display the fireworks on a computer screen and place the flower vase in front. A beach walk on New Year’s Eve produced images of fences and walkers.
Then came seven months with no photography. At the end of last year, Mike got going again, visiting a cottage in an overgrown garden and getting a friend to dress up in a monk’s habit wearing a mask from which he produced an image with 10 different poses, one of which had the habit coloured red. Members of Mike’s club were invited to a laser shooting gallery which was being upgraded: part of the project included documenting the décor and wallpaper prior to demolition. Another group went out to photograph mushrooms in the wild: in three hours they found one mushroom despite promises of a wide variety. Mike got pictures of a huge explosion on bonfire night: he’s now looking for something to go with it. An expedition to photograph bearded tits resulted in seeing no bearded tits at all until they got back to the car.
Back to photographing the dogs. One is looking directly and the biscuit blu-tacked to the camera’s lens hood; the other has spied the biscuit tin with its lid off. Then Mike suffered a bout of GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome: he bought a new long lens and experimented with birds on water. To get motivated for more photography Mike equipped a friend with a gasmask. This led him onward to Steam Punks in Lincoln – nostalgia for a time which never existed. Mike described a Steam Punk game called Tea Duellers which involved dunking biscuits. Steam Punks are friendly and like their pictures to be taken, though one spoiled the effect by holding his mobile phone. For better pictures, Mike goes into the castle grounds where there is much more space. The most notable accoutrements of Steam Punks are goggles on their hats and having many timepieces on their costumes, all of them working.
At this point, Mike opened the meeting to audience participation. He displayed a menu with three themes – Photo Shoots, Photoshop and Audio Visual. We were encouraged to shout out what we’d like to see.
An AV entitled ‘Hanging on the telephone’. Using the Blondie song the Street Photography sequence included at least one mobile phone in every image.
The next choice was the Engineers Workshop photo shoot, a factory with lots of old technology, for example a clocking-in machine. The company was soon to move to new modern premises, but was still working at the time of the shoot. The lighting was poor, so the ISO had to be racked up. The company makes items like propeller shafts. As well as photographing welders and turners at work, Mike took images of surfaces and textures which can be used later to make abstracts. Unusual viewpoints, such as looking through a propeller shaft. In an office no longer used was a chair which had the appearance of a sad face.
Next up was a Photoshop project entitled Blind Faith. Mike liked the title: he then got to thinking what to photograph. He decided on cloisters, a friend dressed as a monk, and a girl blindfolded. The cloister came from Fountains Abbey: extra masonry was added to block the far end. Next the monk: a shadow was added to ground the figure. He photographed the girl holding her hands to her face, warping the image before adding the blindfold. He worked on the shading to match the rest of the image, and worked hard on the folds and textures of the blindfold to make it look tight-fitting. One of the texture overlays for this was the rough side of a sheet of cardboard. A tidy-up made sure the shadows, colours and textures matched everywhere. Then shafts of light and a vignette were added to complete the picture.
1940s Weekend at Woodhall Spa was the next photoshoot chosen. The event includes re-enactors in military and civilian costumes, with vintage vehicles. The main street in Woodhall makes an excellent backdrop: only the double yellow lines need to be taken out to ensure authenticity. Mike advises always to chat to people before taking close-up pictures. Other pictures were taken in the woods and in the grounds of the PetwoodHotel. There are also display stands – for example pictures of evacuees. There is plenty of variety for a photographer.
Monochrome was picked for the next section. Generally, Mike prefers prints for Mono and PDIs for Colour. We were shown the same images in Mono and in Colour with discussion on which showed the scene to its best advantage. First, a beam engine: colour showed up more detail. A lady wearing a big hat looked better in Mono. The railway station in Budapest looked good in both. Baker Street Underground; Southwell Workhouse – it was felt Mono was better for architecture. Other images included a view of figures on a bridge seen from below, a backlit woman in silhouette her arms raised, and a card player, gun in hand, accusing his opponent of cheating. A character in a top hat definitely looked more menacing in Mono. There followed an AV of Mono images, taken both overground and underground, the soundtrack being Nothing Else Matters.
A Photoshop project was picked next – how to turn a human face into an android. Mike began with the side view of a female model. He used a makeover tool on the lips and eyes to make them more machine-like. To mimic an inspection hatch, he cut out the front part of her face and pulled it away from the rest. He created an edge to the part left behind, then photographed bits of machinery and circuit-boards to create the inner workings, with a tube connected to the eye. Shadows were added and flashing lights. What should he use as a backdrop? He experimented with several arrangements of printed circuit-boards before being satisfied and completed the illusion by adding narrow shafts of light and flare.
To finish, Mike showed us his award-winning AV Northern City. It consists entirely of Mono images. Often the pictures match the lyrics of the accompanying song. The song chosen was Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, but not the original; a cover version by Disturbed (an American heavy metal band). Their version is grittier and darker, building to a crescendo before fading back to silence. Somehow, in this AV, the message of the song is more direct and harrowing. A great way to end the evening.
Barbara Meyer ‘Stories Behind Photos’
Barbara started her professional photography career more than 12 years ago and is dedicating a large part of her work to raise awareness and funds for endangered big cat species and also for British wildlife.
She sells her images as mounted prints at zoos and wildlife parks to raise funds for tiger and leopard conservation. She has produced and published photo/text articles in regional magazines to share information about the situations for big cats, conservation work and in particular for the wildlife around us.
The Photography Experiences that she runs used to focus mainly on Big Cats, but now her customers have now the choice between wild cats, birds of prey and many other wildlife species, including native wildlife in its natural habitat.
She says taking photos of wildlife is not like taking photos of buildings, landscapes or even of people. Whether in their natural habit or in captivity it takes skill and patience.
She told us her main aim is to raise awareness of different species. The first example was seals: a picture of a seal with a fishing-net round its throat, followed by those of its recovery. Another example was wading birds at Gibraltar Point recovering from a long and difficult migration being disturbed by photographers getting too close.
Barbara showed us photos from when she was a girl growing up in Hamburg: birds on the river Elbe. When older she went on journeys abroad, using her photos to share her experiences with her parents who hadn’t been able to travel. In Australia she photographed kangaroos and possums, tempting them with food to come closer to the camera, but she soon noticed that some foods caused the animals distress. In Brazil she struggled to take pictures of twisted waves crashing on the beach. It’s a phenomenon caused by a combination of tide, wave and wind. Sometimes the waves reach over 4 metres in height: they are far too dangerous for swimmers and surfers. Barbara recalled someone breaking her back trying. To get the pictures she wanted took a lot of patience.
In Canada she took pictures of Beluga Whales, still using an unsophisticated camera. Taking pictures of white-tailed deer taught her that the photographer must stay as still as possible to avoid spooking the animal. There followed images of elk and black bears, taken from a boat in the middle of a river; her prize shots were of a mother bear with three cubs. When it came to taking pictures of orca breaching the waves she decided she needed something better than a bridge camera with its delayed shutter response. She chose a Sony SLR but continued to use Auto. Pictures of a sunrise in Argentina and a Patagonian fox in a car-park. Then she began to use some of the controls – for example changing the aperture to blur the background. She stressed that the camera should always be ready; that’s how she got good closeup pictures of penguins, and caught a rainbow on a glacier. Gradually she built up her technical expertise. She earned £10 putting stock images on an Argentine tourist board site. A group of people walking on the glacier was one: she learned that for images to be accepted persons in the photo should not be recognisable and that there should be room on the images for text.
At the Kruger Park in South Africa taking pictures of rutting impalas and giraffes she found it hard to make money out of her pictures, since amateur photographers were happy to let theirs go for a few quid. She upped her game by hiring a private car and a guide; this being better than travelling with a guided tour. She was able to visit areas off the tourist routes, in particular a place where the Drakensberg mountains provided the backdrop. Elephants fighting and groups of baboons: it is important to take the images at the animals’ eye level. In one game reserve a compliant lion slept and roared repeatedly in turn. But her favourite was the leopard. She has returned many times to photograph leopards. She’s got to know their habits. Usually they are solitary creatures, but once she came upon a mother with cubs. It looked the ideal opportunity until a load of tourists arrived on the scene. A dead buffalo was providing a feast the leopards. When tourists turned up, Barbara left them to it, but returned later on her own to continue the shoot. By keeping totally still, Barbara and her driver were ignored by the leopards who continued their meal. As a bonus, the father arrived and the cubs engaged in play-fighting.
In 2010 Barbara visited Colchester Zoo and photographed Amur leopards in the snow. She was determined to raise funds for their preservation. The Amur live further north-east in Asia than any other leopards. To endure temperatures down to -25oC they have more fat beneath their skin and thicker hair. They are very hard to find and photograph in the wild. The patterns in their fur are as individual as fingerprints are in humans.
The Persian leopards at the Rutland Wildlife Sanctuary react well to Barbara. She showed us several images of them. It is essential that the animal doesn’t feel intimidated. All the leopards have names. Barbara often takes groups of photographers round. The cubs are more active during the day. Once at Colchester Zoo there was a four and a half hour wait for leopards to appear! During the pandemic there was a fear of transmitting the virus to the animals.
Photographers have to keep alert when photographing animals, in case the moment is missed. Some spend so much time looking at their results and histograms that the shot is lost.
At puberty, leopards are separated according to sex to keep the strain strong. A leopard called Lena at Colchester did not produce cubs, even when in season and sending out ‘signals’ to the males, but her antics made good pictures
Aardvarks are nocturnal. They sleep under red lights. Barbara was commissioned to take pictures of them for people who wish to adopt an aardvark. Also at Colchester, Barbara photographed a great grey owl both on the ground and, strangely, in a pool. She came across it while she was setting up her fund-raising st
On to Amur tigers. A mother with a cub was most photogenic. To emphasise her point about keeping your eyes on the animals she caught the moment when the mother, annoyed by the cub wanting to play, gave it a slap. Photos like this sell well. As do fridge magnets. She has raised £10,000 for the tigers. 45% of the money she charges for guiding photographers goes to the animals.
At Twycross Zoo Barbara came across a snow leopard. They aren’t technically leopards, more like a tiger. They are most active early in the morning. Their cubs are cute. She encourages photographers not to hog the best spots.
South African painted dogs in the wild. It is essential to anticipate the right moment: a squirrel running up a tree – it stopped and turned to face Barbara. She got the image. Fallen birdseed in Sherwood Forest attracted a bank vole, which shuttled back and forth collecting and storing the seed. By choosing the right moments she got something cute. Taking note of their behaviour, she managed to get images of red fox cubs. She noticed the mechanical shutter noise startled the animals.
Next pictures of badgers using 7 trail cameras in a forest (IR). Badgers are at risk from dogs; badger baiting still goes on despite being illegal. Badger settsare close the surface and can collapse in wet weather. Group picture of parent and young. Barbara speaks to people about how badgers behave and how to protect them. In Clumber Park three badger setts were dug out during lockdown. Barbara was accosted by the police during lockdown for checking her trail cameras. Instead of warning her off travel to the park, they asked to be informed where the setts were: it would help them trap the badger baiters. Barbara doesn’t publicise her pictures of badgers in case they may give the baiters clues where to find them.
Holwell Nature Reserves, Leicestershire. An easy place for photos because there’s food everywhere. More badgers. Barbara told us images such as a polar bear giving birth, for which the BBC was once criticised, can only be taken at reserves, and not in the wild.
Bradgate Park, Leicestershire: red deer. A herd on a river bank, with reflections. Fallow deer reaching for a drink and crossing a river. Deer rutting; fighting for supremacy. Often there’s another buck in the picture: either one who has been eliminated or one waiting to take on the winner. The picture of a buck looking out of bracken was a rare shot. If an animal looks threatening, the photographer should move slowly – never run.
Holkham Estate, Norfolk. More deer rutting. If photographers are out in the open they should try to stay still. The Peak District. Deer in what seemed to be long orange grass.
Donna Nook: seals. Pups can drown or get hypothermia if they are forced into the sea too soon. This why the public is asked not to go too close and to keep dogs under control. There is now a fence to keep visitors back. One determined photographer, told not to go onto the mud flats, retorted “You have no authority!”. The RAF police arrived and escorted him out of the area.
The photographers’ approach must be non-intrusive. It’s acceptable if the animals just look at you and then carry on with what they’re doing. Barbara had a photo of a mother seal protecting a pup from another femal
Harbour seals and grey seals at Blakeney Point. A photoshoot when Barbara was asked by the RSPCA to attend seals being put back into the sea after treatment. Seals in a pool approaching the photographer hoping to be thrown fish.
At the end of the talk, Barbara summed up her attitude to wildlife, and repeated such photography tips as aperture priority, spot metering, a black background, and darkening a white sky to blue. Her mission in life is to protect wildlife, now including flamingos. The most unpredictable wild cat is the jaguar.
“MY FAVOURITE BLACK & WHITES” Gerald Chamberlin DPAGB EFIAP
Gerald lives in Cumbria in the North of England, and is now past chairman of Morton Photographic Society in Carlisle.
Because of Covid he finds that he is doing more and more Zoom talks and judging. He finds himself now doing a lot of black and white, IR and creative work.
He uses a Fuji camera which he’s had converted to infrared and a 720nm filter fitted to the sensor. nm = nanometre. A nanometer is one billionth of a metre.
All his images are edited in Photoshop, Tonality Pro (B/W software) and Nik FX. He has been using Fuji cameras for some time now and finds them less bulky to carry, and they’re more comfortable to use.
Gerald’s first statement was that finally digital monochrome has equalled and maybe surpassed the quality of darkroom prints. He opened his talk with an AV entitled A Grand Day Out. It consisted of black & white prints from the 40s and 50s fastened in a photo album by corner mounts. The soundtrack was In The Mood. Domestic and street scenes; steam railways; war imminent; ladies wearing headscarves; fireworks to celebrate the end of the war; repatriation of troops; Civvy Street; and a concert. None of the images had been post-processed.
Some modern DSLRs have a monochrome setting in ‘Styles’ which can produce a mono RAW file. The advantage is that you can see how the images look in mono in the camera. Gerald continued with his favourite monochrome images. His photography had been limited during lockdown and most of his images came from socially distanced walks.
1 Coastal Scene. Experiments with levels. For the best results printed on matte paper.
2 Figure in a forest. A model dressed in a ballet outfit from Swan Lake. Intentional camera movement to give swirls and zig-zags. A dove Photoshopped in to produce Dancing with the Birds.
3 Lone figure with a tree and a bird. Added contrast. Sometimes criticised for having too many blank spaces.
4 Dungeness lighthouse, with buildings and birds in the background. A glowering sky. He contrived to visit on the only day of the week the lighthouse is closed!
5 Huts and a boat decaying. To improve the image power cables had to be taken out.
6 Boat rotting with a power station in the background. Titled Past and Future. The sky had been strengthened. Black and white are better than colour for rendering texture.
7 Edinburgh Fringe. A composite of two performance artists, one pale and one dark. It was easier to add the dark figure than get rid of a stray hand in the image of the pale figure.
8 The Traveller. A bearded man with a broad-brimmed hat leaning out of the window of a railway carriage looking back along the platform. Added texture.
9 Otto the steam punk. Taken in a coal hole without the use of flash.
10 Otto in the coal hole, now with a woman in costume
11 Wanted. The Severn Valley Railway. A man in period costume is reading a newspaper. The paper acted as a reflector to illuminate the man’s face. Behind him is a Wanted poster: Gerald Photoshopped the man’s face into the poster.
12 2 men being hustled along the platform by a policeman, all authentically dressed.
13 The Woodturner. Taken at Blists Hill. The re-enactor removed his protective Perspex shield for the photo. A camera club judge criticised the image saying the woodturner should be looking at the photographer. Gerald gently pointed out the hazards this could cause.
14 People in a café in Keswick taken from outside. The café, we were told, is now completely different.
15 Sealed Knot at Nantwich. In full Civil War gear the troops are eating their lunch outside a fish & chip shop. Gerald was walking round with his small camera to get candids.
16 Edinburgh Royal Mile. A dog is looking expectantly at a girl perched on a bollard eating her lunch.
17 A man with mobile phone outside a boutique. Titled What size do you want? Sometimes, said Gerald, the picture comes to you.
18 A man coming out of a shop looking for all the world as if he’d been told to leave. Half of a girl onlooker on the right-hand side.
19 Seymour Stiffs the undertaker. His costume is hideous. The non-descript back ground had been replaced by stone steps.
20 The same, this time with a memorial and mist as a backdrop.
21 The same, close up and leering, with a churchyard and mist behind.
22 Classic Cars in an abandoned scrap yard overgrown with plants and ivy. Gerald felt a particular affinity with the Saab.
23 24 cars in a pile.
24 A head-on Austin takes prominence.
25 Re-enactors at Aberdeen where poor advertising meant hardly anyone turned up to watch. Because of the inherent problems of taking photos of children, Gerald included mum and granddad in the shoot with their permission.
26 A child looking miserable sitting on a gunpowder barrel.
27 A girl who was up for all sorts of poses with grandma in the background.
28 A Victorian gent with a tall hat and a pipe. B&W brings out the texture and character.
29 In a street, a man is happy to pose in front of machinery.
30 Same man in front of chains, reminiscent of Brunel.
31 Street performers. A female street-seller with a young one-legged man, acting as if they’re arguing over a price. Gerald had set up the shot and other people rushed in to take the same shot without so much as a ‘Thank you’.
32 A cottage
33 A lady of ill repute under a street lamp. Taken at midday but darkened to night-time. The model had blackened her teeth to look even less reputable.
34 Two girls in period costume with lollipops. It was necessary to talk to the family first: for people to be comfortable, it is essential to speak with them first.
35 North-east Scotland. A fantastic coastline with skimming clouds. Gerald just got back to his camper-van before the heavens opened. Then it turned out nice again.
36 Another pandemic walk. Three pairs of posts in the sand pointing to the distance.
37 Huge excavator at a quarry near Keswick. A good place for textures.
38 The same taken with an 8mm lens; ridiculously wide angle.
39 The excavator’s bucket taken with the lens almost touching the teeth. Four of Gerald’s club use IR; different techniques and different results.
40 Statue of a man sitting on a bench with his dog. Huge – comparable with the Angel of the North.
41 A very contrasty view of the same, taken from behind.
42 A view along a bridge; out of nowhere a unicyclist comes towards the camera.
43 A castle with an interesting cloud formation behind; ‘a different aspect of the familiar’.
44 A path to a tower; summer shots in IR look like winter shots.
45 Near Carlisle. A collapsed tree and a good sky. Gerald was forced to leave the scene by a cow.
46 The evening sun on a tree about 40 minutes after sunset. At first glance the image was completely black. Warning: don’t delete in camera. Something can still be made of such images. An interesting picture may be recoverable.
47 Langdale slate quarry; road, house and sky. Gerald once saw a similar shot with the foreground green tones brought out on sale for £500!
48 Carlisle. An arch, with a lamp and a path. A vicar was Photoshopped in for reality.
49 A sculpture park near Edinburgh. A huge carved rifle leans up against a tree. Gerald persuaded a man and a woman unknown to each other to hold hands and face each other near the rifle. A judge assumed the rifle had been Photoshopped in.
50 The head of a wild steam punk with ridiculous headgear.
51 An Edinburgh street performer, white face in profile. A heavily textured background has been added.
52 A model in swan-like garb in a ruined house. A beam of light had been added as an escape route. The judge didn’t understand.
53 A witch with a church and four crows.
54 A steam punk at a castle with a dark sky backdrop. The Night Watchman.
55 Two figures in front of a castle. A print that would have been put in the bin in the old days can today with digital turn into something worthwhile.
END OF PART ONE: PART TWO PHOTOSHOP
Gerald gave us a step-by-step view of how photos we’d already seen were created.
1 Girls with lollipops.
The images were made monochrome using an adjustment layer and gradient map. The latter allows control over how different colours are turned into mono: every occurrence of that colour will be changed in one manoeuvre. No need to deal with each occurrence separately. If this image were to be turned into a print the brightness and contrast would have to be carefully increased.
2 Bush and tree dark to the point of invisibility.
The use of sliders to vary highlights, exposure and brightness starts the process. The dodge & burn tool can be destructive. Gerald created a blank layer and used a brush with 0% hardness and 8% opacity to click and drag adding brightness where it was needed. He suggested experimenting with different blending modes. He recommends adding a thin stroke (border) to make it clear where the image starts and ends.
3 The re-enactor with the tall Victorian hat.
After changing the image from colour to monochrome, the waistcoat was too bright. The gradient map was used to make the face dominant. An empty layer was added to paint light into the face; this is the number one method for lightening dark areas, but care has to be taken to keep the direction of the light constant. Gerald would have shown us how to use NikFX but, the last time he tried to demonstrate it, it crashed Photoshop!
4 The £500 picture of a cottage with green foliage in the foreground.
He began by individually adjusting the colours to mono. Gradient map was employed, and this time Dodge & Burn too. Then to reintroduce colour he copied the image and brought the copy to the top. Next a layer mask with an 80% brush, set so the brush reveals the colours underneath.
The talk ended with AV entitled Start to Finish. It showed a series of images from the talk and how they were amended from the original to the final image.
NB The writer of this piece hasn’t used Photoshop since version 5. For the final sections ‘errors and omissions excepted’ is invoked.
Geoff Trinder ‘Out of the darkness’
For 31 years Geoff was Head of Art in a Comprehensive school, then took early retirement in order to spend more time doing photography and working in conservation. He joined the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and managed one of their reserves, Epworth Turbary in North Lincolnshire, for 42 years. He is President of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, having previously served as Chairman. For the Trust’s 60th anniversary he wrote and designed a book on their reserves “Wild Lincolnshire”, which sold out in three months and produced an income for the Trust of £8,000.
He is a member of the Royal Photographic Society and served on the committee of the Nature Group for 13 years during which time was Chairman for 2. He has visited many countries round the world to capture images including numerous trips to N and S America, Africa, Europe and other locations such as India, the Falklands and Galapagos. He concentrates on photographing species from insects, plants, reptiles, birds and mammals but now also tackles landscapes and even a few images of people
Geoff uses Olympus cameras, with lenses from fisheye to 300mm and macro. He began with studio photos, a lady half natural and half blue in various poses. He employs a fashion model who knows all the poses without his help. He uses flash reflected from the back wall. He likes to crop tightly, and takes photographs for his own pleasure, not to please judges. He said ‘ignore the rules if you like the picture’. Then a session with his half-brother who is an accomplished guitarist; Geoff bought him his first guitar for £8. He now plays very expensive guitars and was seen in various poses in a garden, one with the musician’s face reflected on the back of the guitar
Next, landscapes taken in Yellowstone, using his fisheye for very wide angles. Pattern pictures of coloured pools, geysers, and steam over lakes. There are farms at Yellowstone: a wooden hut. Rivers with the reflections of mountains and clouds. An ox-bow bend at sunrise. Close cropping again, trees and leaves. A lone tree ‘less is more’ with a snowy background; this image appeals to a lot of people. A twisted tree (mono) and the General Sherman tree – the world’s largest tree and also amongst the longest-living organisms, believed to be 4,000 years old.
To North Wales for a rocky skyline with heavy rain and flooded fields. A lone tree in a lake: mono helps to conceal the bright red anoraks. A flock of geese flying, both in mono and colour. Other images to contrast colour and mono. Llanberis Pass, both at the ‘golden hour’ [just after sunrise, or right before sunset] and when overcast: they work equally wel
Next to Iceland. A waterfall with walkers in the distance to give scale. Dramatic skies. A figure on the summit of a rocky crag in the distance; this has impact. Geoff doesn’t do a lot of post-processing.
Lake District. Trees on a small island with beautiful blurred reflections. A shaft of light on a waterfall. He doesn’t take a great number of pictures in the same place, as some photographers do.
Arizona. Navajo native American area. Abstract shapes from worn rocks. At midday shafts of light make patterns. A tripod is necessary: the dust means as few changes of lens as possible. Intriguing red-orange-yellow abstracts. Rocky outcrops in the desert: Geoff had a chat with a photographer who makes a lot of money selling pictures of this area, known as ‘the painted valley’
Namibia. Sand dunes. The moving dunes are more static due to climate change. Extra rainfall means foliage is growing up the dunes and binding the sand.
Madagascar. Trees in the rain: it’s a rain-forest area.
Austria. Flowers on the Alps in the foreground of wide-angle shots using a fisheye.
Calanais Standing Stones on the Hebrides. Patience is needed when photographing sites that attract visitors. The area has a mystic feel.
The area at the back of Geoff’s house: a field with stripes and swirls.
Wild flowers, taken with a small depth of field, the lens wide open. He likes this approach: a judge wouldn’t. Images with one flower in focus and the rest of the picture blurred are good for book covers. Geoff lies flat on the ground to take flower close-ups. We saw marsh gentians and many other flowers.
Fungi. Good because they don’t sway in the wind. Various species. A tiny fungus growing out of a pine cone.
Studio work. A water-spider in a shallow tray of water taken with flash. A cricket sitting on sand-covered sand paper. These are his ‘Gerald Durrell’ moments. A mantis on a branch. Plonking insects on a Perspex sheet provides reflections. Trouble is every speck of dust is visible so post-processing is needed. More weird and wonderful pictures of mantises, some put on a lightbox to get a plain white background.
Frogs, toads and geckos, including an Amazonian Milk Frog on a plant. Toads have sharp teeth so have to be handled with care. They look good on Perspex with a black background. A tree frog taken from various angles using flash. Frogs with spawn. A very rare Natterjack Toad, which has to be photographed under supervision. Another amphibious reptile which puffs out its cheeks and makes a sound which can be heard ¾ of a mile away.
The grass snake. They can swim in ponds. A python on a branch taken in a studio in Costa Rica.
How to photograph a butterfly on a flower. Catch the butterfly and put it in a box. Take a knitting needle, push it into the soil at the base of the flower and peg it so it won’t move. Put the butterfly on the flower and photograph it immediately. Grab shots can work – example of a Red Admiral on a yellow flower. Keep changing the aspect. Mating Common Blues taken with hand-held macro lens. Butterflies taken with fisheye lens, one with wings extended.
Chasers photographed from above hand-held; a damsel-fly hanging on a plant; dragonflies mating (with a graphic description of their conjugal act). An insect in flight with blurred wings.
Taken in Geoff’s garden, roe deer from a bedroom window. Two together, reflected in a flooded part of the lawn. Geoff went down to the garden to continue taking photos and one roe deer looked at him directly and actually walked towards him before veering off.
To the Canadian Rockies. Rodents who collect greenery and store it away until it dries out. Prairie dogs. Mountain goats. A weasel bigger than a domestic cat walks past the lodges.
Zambia. A cropped lion’s head. A lemur in long grass. Three giraffes. Close-up of a herd of zebras, making a pattern picture. An elephant on a path, ears akimbo
Japan. A monkey in a pond. Best way to photograph was to lean on a wall with the pond at waist level. There was a danger of the monkeys attacking if they felt threatened. Early morning photography – white and orange landscape with cranes.
Greece. Pelicans on a lake at sunrise with a stream of light on the water. Pelicans flying with mountains in the background. Geoff was unhappy with the guide who threw fish in the air for the pelicans to catch, or threw them in the water which resulted in a free-for-all brawl. He does not like this approach to wildlife photography. Pelicans taking off and landing with good reflections are better images.
Yorkshire. A water-treatment area with hides. Kingfishers – photographers complain they splash the lenses! Whooper swans. A grebe with reflection. A redshank amid ripples. Geoff noted the requirement of depth of focus to achieve FRPS is too restricting. A grouse in heather. A heron bathing, creating plenty of droplets. A letter-box image of a vast number of birds.
Hungary. A kestrel taken from a hide on legs. Hoopoes nesting. A distressed bird pecking at its own reflection in a game park.
The garden. A blackbird on a berry bush. A wagtail bathing. A sparrowhawk demolishing a pigeon taken through a double-glazed window.
Bulgaria. A nutcracker in the snow. A jackal, taken from a hide. Photographers and birders have to be inside the hide before dawn and must stay inside till dusk. Many pictures of birds of prey. This trip was cut short because of the threat of heavy snow.
Sea eagles – Geoff has hundreds of pictures of them taken all over the world on 50 trips. But he has decided no longer to travel to photograph exotic wildlife. He will henceforth find more variety on home soil.
The talk ended with a sunrise, and the words ‘The world is not ours. We hand it on to our children or we destroy ourselves’.
This was a very varied talk with many creatures and many locations. The author warns that not every animal may be linked to its actual location, and that more than a few may have been missed altogether!
—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–Andrea Hargreaves ‘Metamorphosis’
After an introduction which included an advert for a print paper she’s sponsored by and the tale of equipment lost in a flash flood, Andrea took us through the time-line of how she came to produce multiple-layer images, creating every element (for example brushes, textures and overlays) from photographs.
- Andrea bought her first DSLR camera, and learned techniques from her husband. She joined a camera club in 2010, by which time she was already producing composite images. She took a beginners’ course in Photoshop, also using Picasa, and began turning photos into works of art – using the basic elements of foreground, middle ground and background.
In 2012, as her creations became more subtle, she was awarded her CPAGB. In 2013 she added DPAGB and EFIAP. In 2014, having images accepted for exhibitions, she added BPE2, with a project entitled Angels & Demons. 2015 brought Goths and mermaids in pools. 2016 a series of characters using female models. Raven Queens and Valkyries in 2017. In 2018 she achieved her MPAGB and EFIAP/b, still using models. 2019 saw animals, mostly birds and horses, added to the mix. Projects for 2020 included Dragon Watchers and Wind Singers, by the medium of print panels. This year the theme is The Oracles.
Then Andrea took us through some of these projects. The process of each is threefold – get the pictures, produce the composition, and then create a work of art. The example Fallen Angel portrayed a naked woman in brief feathery garb. She photographs the models nude, and then adds any whisps of clothing and enhances the hair with multiple layers. This led to Norse sagas. Background rocks and water, foreground the figure, then add wings and a horse. For effect she uses a multitude of sliders till she gets the best blend. Accoutrements are added, such as feathers from a Goth’s costume and a reenactor’s shield turned into jewellery, plus such items as shields and halberds. It is important to add shadows for reality. Andrea will experiment with colours and tones, and vary the opacity of layers to achieve the best result. She writes down each setting she uses so that if the images are grouped into panels they with match in every respect. The ‘rule of thirds’ and triangles are good guides to a pleasing composition. Odd numbers better than even.
The next project was The Ride to Valhalla. A horse was introduced. An arm and a leg were removed from the model so she could be sat on the horse. The horse, by similar removing and replacing of limbs, was made to rear up. This idea was made into an 11-print panel. Bamburgh Castle and Whitby Abbey were added to the background. These images have done well for Andrea. No time on these projects is wasted; they help to hone techniques. A rider was created standing on the backs of two stallions. A few changes turned these elements into another project the Swan Maiden riding three horses. The background was changed to a torrential storm. The model’s hair was even plaited using Photoshop. The Swan Maiden morphed into Epona, the goddess protector of horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules. Then the Shield Maiden with three horses, crashing waves and shield & halberd. A generously proportioned warrior lady with Stonehenge as the backdrop: costumes (many from Goths) need to be top-notch – even Photoshop can’t make tat realistic!
The next model was a sword-wielding male, to whom Andrea had added tattoos and birds, one of which was in flames. This effort has been judged as ‘too orange’.
The following project would have involved Valkyries and the Northern Lights, but after the first three images Andrea tired of it. This was replaced by The Raven Queen, draped in feathery material, with bird, halberd and a bird-beak hat on a multi-coloured background. Another version of this, the model with bare breasts and two birds, did very well. A further twist produced the Morrigan Warrior with a bird and halberd, on a horse with a woodland park as backdrop. A judge said the horse was too dominant in the image, so a close crop was required. Next came the goddess Morgana; for this the model’s limbs had to be rearranged, a coat of feathers added plus a helmet and two birds. The eye of one of the birds was removed to reveal one of Morgana’s eyes. To get this image into a local exhibition a warmer background was needed.
More projects followed. Sun Goddesses – with golden skin tones – used a similar approach, with fiery torches in place of halberds. One image used a sphinx as the backdrop. There were some dramatic poses; one with a goddess twirling four torches. Swan Maidens – kin to the Valkyries, but with horses: shields and halberds reappeared.
Andrea decided on a new ‘ethereal’ challenge with Pinnacle papers, experimenting with sharpness and blur. This changed the atmosphere of the image (a more pastel effect), so halberds and shields were ditched and the models became divine messengers. A semi-clothed Valkyrie was titled The price of immortality.
Andrea calibrates her monitor to PDI, and so needs to brighten the images by 25% for printing.
Her latest series include Dragon Watchers. The challenge is to use a high viewpoint. The model is now a dragon hunter with dark hair, sitting on a rock high up with huge rock-like jackdaws. The model seems to be wearing scarves. A skull has been melded into the rocks. The backdrop dominated, so the image had to be cropped. The main character holds a halberd, and is looking away from us. A dragon skull has been morphed into a hat. The dragon stone is a skull melded with a monolith. Another image features a larger model with shield and halberd.
Wind Singers are set against breaking waves. They represent the points of the compass. Sunrises and sunsets alternate as the background. A scantily-clad figure with a bird on her hand, dancing. As an enhancement, mountains were added to the far coastline. A figure with two flaming halberds.
Prophecy of Dragons is being designed as a 20-print panel, but may well end up as PDI. Another panel – this time five prints – will experiment with tones and saturation, and is based upon close-up portraits. A panel of 4 for the Welsh Federation. The position of images in a panel takes some thinking about. Sign of the Dragons underwent several changes before the final assessment.
The final image was a dragon head.
TREVOR RUDKIN LRPS ‘Trevor’s People’
Trevor, a retired teacher, is a member of Desborough & Rothwell Photographic Society, the East Midlands Monochrome Group and Leicester Forest Photographic Society. His talk was presented in five sections.
1 STREET / PUBLIC EVENTS
Trevor began with some of his earliest photos, taken on film and scanned from the negatives, at Stamford Market in 1981. His images all included people, even though ‘Street Photography’ wasn’t a ‘thing’ then. Images of Coventry Cathedral from 1983 also included people. People provide the viewer with the scale and a focal point. Images taken on an Iceland trip in 2017 included a group of 4 with a selfie-stick and a couple by a beached iceberg. Rothwell Carnival is good for people photography: one image, taken from a church tower, showed a lady with a case. A photoshoot in London (2014) included the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, a policeman being helpful, a group of teachers protesting against government cuts marching in unison with a dog wanting to go in a different direction, and a couple taking a selfie with the Tower of London as a backdrop. In the busy London streets a fisheye lens is useful: people may not realise they’re in the photo. Photos taken in Edinburgh showed a statue, a woman standing precariously on a wall with a sheer drop to take a photo, and a townscape with a woman in the bottom left corner looking at the scene. On to Bath in 2017 – visitors to the Roman Baths, and a busker with a craggy face.
A tip for shy would-be people photographers is to take an open-top bus tour with a medium telephoto lens.
Events like the Market Harborough Festival provide subjects both from the performers and the spectators’ reactions. An advantage is that the performers like to be photographed. At classic car meets, Trevor likes the proud owners of the vehicles to be in his pictures. Despite the problems with excluding out-of-time distractions, reenactors such as the Sealed Knot provide good opportunities for the people photographer. Either find a place with trees as a backdrop or go in close with a telephoto. The best shots are those where the participants look as if they’re part of a battle, or are crashed out on the ground with exhaustion.
The Tall Ships Festival at Gloucester Docks provided a shot of people ignoring a ukulele band. Monochrome was best for a town crier to avoid colour-clash. A tip for getting images where photography is frowned on (for example, shopping malls) is to ‘shoot from the hip’ pressing the shutter at random intervals. This can also provide blur as people rush by which enhances the image.
The Leicester County Show of 2016 provided the chance of photographing ‘horsey’ people, and owners with their prize animals. Reenactors at the Black Country Museum are usually willing to pose: a doorway is a good spot, providing a dark background. The same goes for the Southwell Workhouse (a guide asked to stare out of a window, and another figure added as a ghost), and the Patchings Arts Festival where artists are prepared to pose by their art. At the National Arboretum those who are paying their respects make poignant images.
Sports events are also a good source of people photography. Motor racing, but not just for the vehicles: a couple sitting on chairs in the pouring rain also make a good image. Trevor regularly takes pictures of Stamford AFC at their Vic Couzens Stadium: not just action shots but the reactions of the crowd – whether elated, miserable or bored. Happy fans make the best pictures, as witnessed when a club won their final match of the season at Stamford and were promoted. At lower-key venues, for example at Rothwell Corinthians ground, the best image might well be a girl with a cone of chips!
- EVENTS FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS
These cost money. The first one Trevor attended was the Lily La Mer underwater photo shoot at Bourne (2015). In a large tank with blue lining models swam. Groups of 8 photographers were admitted at a time at the cost of £95 each. Both men and women were employed as models; the favourite attire for the women being mermaid. Various styles of post—production could be employed to enhance the images obtained. Another venue was the PICO Photofest at Thorpe Hall, Peterborough (2016). The much-used image of a couple saying farewell on a railway platform could be obtained at the Steam Museum in Swindon (2017); this shot has become so familiar it is very difficult to get one accepted for an exhibition now. This is what happens when 20 to 30 people stand in a line to take the same picture. At Studio 2 in Nottingham Dancers Workshops are held: Trevor attended in 2017. The dancers will leap about; interesting poses can be gained when they are warming up or warming down. Sometimes groups of dancers will perform together. The stage lighting is difficult to cope with here. The Natural Light Studios at Weedon (2019) allow for different styles of lighting, and the models turn up in a variety of costumes such as ‘Hollywood’ ‘60s’ and ‘80s’.
- STUDIO (NON-NUDE)
Trevor joined the Leicester Forest Photographic Society in 2016 because they have a Studio Group. They employ professional models who give themselves a ‘modelling name’ such as Ivory Flame and Misty la Malice. Dancers can be hired for those who want to photograph models leaping about: sometimes blur helps with this sort of image. Male models are also hired, for example a bearded old man with tattoos and a bowler hat, a boxer or a body-builder. Photos from these sessions do well at exhibitions. Models develop and change their persona over the years. One in particular suited a ‘bride with attitude’ shot with a wide-angle image of a cathedral as the background. When the lighting is playing up, some of the models will go outdoors for natural light photography.
The next step in quality and, of course, in cost is to hire a studio and model for your own exclusive session. This followed on the club studio sessions being ‘samey’ and Trevor wanted to ‘do his own thing’. He embarked on this in 2019 and was able to customise the scenery, furniture and backdrops.
At the start of his talk, Trevor advised that those who were uncomfortable with nude photography might like to leave the meeting at the interval.
4 NUDE STUDIES
For this type of photography Trevor took a course on studio lighting. His first attempt – at Studio 58 in Northampton (2017) – was a tribute to Diana Rigg of the Avengers, with umbrella and bowler hat. Studios can be rented by the hour. He employed a model called Lulu and using natural light from the windows as well as the studio lighting asked her to run through a series of poses while he kept taking photos. A professional model can be asked for any number of poses and moods. Another studio – the Natural Light Studio in Weedon (2018) – boasts the biggest White Infinity Curve in Britain. The building was once an Ordnance Barracks, built for the Napoleonic Wars, and is home to several enterprises as well as the studio. Rachel has studs, tattoos and piercings and under studio lights can have an appropriate harsh character. She can also be taken down to the cellar to be photographed against the decayed brickwork.
The Scorpion Studios in Kettering (2018) are set in an end-of-terrace house, with the lower part of the windows blocked to protect the models’ modesty. The Open Space Studios in Market Harborough are set up as a bathroom, and rely on window-light with reflectors. Other shots included strange ornaments, views from overhead of the model on a carpet, a pair of models – one painted gold and the other silver, and more leaping around. One model is ballet trained and can be used for extreme poses.
5 URBEX (URBAN EXPLORATION PHOTOGRAPHY)
This involved a trip organised by the Weedon Studio to a derelict and graffitied World War 1 army fort just outside Liege in Belgium. It’s a venue also used for wedding photography. It’s good for nude photography by the virtue of contrast between ‘sophisticated ladies’ and the ruined building. The models are prepared to strip off providing ‘a smooth female form’ to set against the grubby background. Contrasts such as old/new and dark/light work well, Trevor said. The models will also go outside to places where foliage is growing over the building. Intricate poses included the model crouching in a foetal position to represent terror, forcing herself into a crack in the brickwork, sitting to look contemplative and abandoned, or in front of the graffiti – for example, in the pose of Rodin’s statue against the word THINK.
Thus ended the lecture.
Darren Juggins – Life as a Pro
Darren delivered this talk from a hotel in Brighton.
He is Lincolnshire based and worked for the NHS. He began to earn money from photography in 2007, and in 2010 left his job to earn his living exclusively from photography.
He was interested in photography from the age of 6, using such cameras as 6h4 Kodak Instamatic 100 and the Kodak Extra 200 (with flash) before moving on to a Minolta 500 twin lens set, having his films processed at Boots. A bit like ‘Snappy Snaps’. His first DSLR was a Nikon D70s, again with twin lenses.
When he began work as a professional he built up to 10 camera – 9 Nikons and 1 Fuji – with 6 lenses (including two fish-eyes for virtual tours.
He reason for going professional was simple – to earn money! He had been beguiled by family and friends into taking photographs at events such as weddings and found he was missing all the enjoyment of those events with little reward. His attitude is ‘You want my skill? Pay for it!’. He found it much easier being a stranger than being involved with the event. Being paid meant he needed liability insurance. The events he attended were joyful affairs which meant it was easier to get good images. He put a website together. In three years he built up the business from no weddings to 300. In 2010 he built a studio and within two days attracted his first paying customer!
Darren identified the ‘pillars’ of his work, showed a short video on each one and then explained the set-up.
He uses only white backgrounds to simplify the post-processing, In a 30-minute sessions he will arrange as many poses as possible. He processes the images in another 30 minutes and then presents them to the clients. The next task is to take their money. He photographs couples, families (large family groups are a pain, as are those with unruly children), and pets. He dislikes people who think he can control their pet better than they can. He takes control of the sessions by constantly talking to the clients and moving them from pose to pose. He was asked it anyone complained about the plain backgrounds: his answer was simply that those who were dissatisfied and wouldn’t buy enough pictures would not return. He presents his clients with 40 – 60 images and hopes they’ll buy a good number. He earns £500 – £1,000 per session. He has to manage his workflow carefully in order to achieve his target income.
Sometimes a client will specify a location, sometimes Darren has to pick one for them. Locations can be indoors or outside. Models will be employed and taken to locations like Clumber Park.
When he first tried this, he bought an expensive video camera, but found it too cumbersome. He’s now more likely to use the DSLR or his iPhone. As an example he showed us a promotion video he made for a car dealer. He interviewed satisfied customers and interspersed those clips with pans and sweeps of the vehicles. The success of a video shoot is gauged by how much the client will pay for it.
This is the major part of Darren’s work. We saw examples from a dental practice, an optician, a hotel and a seller of drum kits. Examples of these can be seen on his website. Asked about the people seen in the videos, he said nearly all were those who happened to be around at the time, not specially hired for the job.
In 2017 Darren set up photography training programmes, concentrating on skills such as night photography, landscape, wildlife and people. In this enterprise he works with a colleague (Gavin) whose expertise is in aviation, bikes, sport and landscape and is good at tasks which require patience.
Such places as hotels, coffee shops, and casinos. Darren had put together 400 panoramas for a virtual tour of Bishop Grosseteste College. He also arranged to photograph a virtual tour of a submarine, but had to use a slimmer colleague because of the restricted space inside! Most clients aren’t sure what they want the final product to look like, so it’s up to the photographer to make the most of the locations. There are examples of the tours on his website.
Usually something like birthday parties, where people are enjoying themselves and it’s easier to get candid fun shots. On the spot printing is a money spinner. To bump up the mood, Darren arranges crazy groups and uses picture frames and mock prisoner numbers as props.
Darren was asked how much of the week his photography takes up. He has no ‘average’ week. Projects are the most time-consuming. A wedding takes up a whole day taking the images and another half day to do the processing. To get the images he needs, he’s paid out $1,500 to an American photographer to take images for him. The studio work has a timetable – he can manage 4 one-hour sessions in a day. A 24 hour turnaround is possible, but taking longer makes it look as if more work has been done. It is uneconomical to do a lot of processing. He calculates a reasonable cost per hour to make a living – enough to pay the bills and live his life.
AERIAL VIDEO AND PHOTO
The best time to fly a drone is early morning when there are few people about. We were shown a promotion video for a car dealer in Tunbridge Wells. Modern drones are much more stable and can take 4K video. As with all his genres, he chooses what to do on how much money it will make: he doesn’t take pictures for pleasure.
BOUDOIR & DUDEOIR
Intimate images. Some of these images are used for fund-raising calendars, some for strictly personal use. Examples shown were of Army and RAF ladies. Body-builders come into this category – mostly males. It is tricky to get this type of photography right: the photographer has to really understand what the client is expecting. He meets the clients for the first time on the day of the shoot To get the best out of the models it’s essential to put them at their ease.. And it’s all done ‘in the best possible taste’.
Over the last 10 – 13 years Darren has amassed a huge amount of material. And he’s been successful: his mortgage has been paid off. Now he can be more picky about the work he does. He does his best to keep up with new technology. He always says ‘Yes’ to new ideas. Through his business he helps others with their photography, including the members of Lincoln Camera Club. He hardly ever enters club competitions because he doesn’t take ‘that sort of picture’ and he doesn’t want to be told ‘put this in’ or ‘take this out’. He doesn’t need his work to be judged at a club: it’s judged by the money that comes in.
Higher and higher ISO has made his work easier, especially at weddings. He’ll spend money on his work if there will be a financial return. For example, if it is desirable to buy a new piece of equipment for a particular project, the cost of that equipment will be added to the usual cost for that type of work. When clients ask for extras, Darren will always say ‘It’ll cost you’.
Darren hoped he’d given us an honest review of what being a professional photographer is like. He hoped he’d given us some new ideas.
The way we were’ Peter Bartlett
Originally from Greater Manchester, Peter Bartlett ARPS, EFIAP/b, CPAGB, BPE3* is an award winning photographer now living in West Yorkshire. He has been taking photographs since the early 1970s. In 2010 Peter was awarded his LRPS. From 2010 to 2015, he exhibited photographs in exhibitions across the United Kingdom and throughout the world, gaining several hundred acceptances and numerous awards.
A long term interest in street photography has evolved into a portfolio that documents both everyday life, the banal, mundane and the ordinary urban landscapes of Northern England and beyond. In 2018 a project photographing Manchester’s Northern Quarter included a body of work that gained Peter his ARPS.
Covid-19 interrupted two projects Peter was working on: his title refers to projects he completed pre-pandemic. His talk would not primarily tell us how to do street photography, but to illustrate his work.
Peter talked us through a series of pictures. A man and a woman with phones outside a shop, passers-by reflected in the shop-front; the woman looking at the photographer, the man looking at the woman. Two figures on an escalator, seen from above; one going up, one going down, one looking at the other making pleasing geometry. A man in front of a stark blank and white lined wall, also looking at the photographer. Two ladies with shopping bags sitting in front of a poster of a huge cowl with captions.
Peter shoots in bursts of 2 to 5 images as he walks past. Shop fronts: the Arndale Book and Magazine Exchange; a man coming out with a plain paper parcel; sign ‘Men’s mags from 40p’. A couple walking away across a bridge between the shops and a car-park. A man and woman asleep on a train; luckily Peter had his wide-angle lens on for this one. He avoids telephoto lenses, preferring the range 28mm – 50mm. A man picking his nose while walking past Starbucks.
A man looking out of the picture, his girl-friend looking at him. Most of these images were monochrome, though colour was better for an image of beautiful people in Milan. Two ladies, one with a bag, one with a trolley, outside a shop. Oxford Street London: two girls with phones looking excited as they walk past, in the background a serious man with scarf and briefcase. Two ladies outside Betfred with conspiratorial expressions. An older couple hand-in-hand looking at each other; a man behind them looking at the camera. Peter likes quirky interest. A man with a phone, a girl hurrying past (motion blur) with background arrows pointing in her direction of travel. An old man walking past a poster of a lady in lingerie with the slogan ‘Fall in love’; he carries a bag marked ‘I love chocolate’. Peter will search for a poster that interests him and wait for people to walk into the picture. A cyclist dwarfed by a geometric building; there’s a contrast between the building’s design and the bicycle’s wheels. A Wilko sign with large hammer picture; waiting for a passer-by’s head to be in the right place. Two-way sign in Singapore; a bike leaning on a post faces one way, a man with a cigarette in his mouth walks in the opposite direction. A large poster of a lady in underwear, a woman in a pink top walks past: there are pink dots on the wall. A paved area seen from above: a skate-boarder and two cyclists cross in a line, strong shadows from all three. This involved a very long wait. A poster of a girl with piercing eyes; in front a man in a wheelchair looking at the photographer, but the man pushing the chair is looking at the girl – a bonus is the hands of the model and of the man in the chair are in similar positions. Three old men on a bench not communicating but are all looking at the photographer. A man wearing a leather jacket strides by with a bag on his shoulder and pursed lips. The hand of a man in an alleyway flicking cigarette-ash round the corner of a building. A group sitting on steps in Bridlington; a couple fully aware of the photographer, below a woman looking away, a fourth picking sand out of her toes. York Minster; a line of chairs with two men, a man and a woman, and a woman on her own, spare chairs keep them apart. A man dragging a Henry vacuum-cleaner along the street, with three girls coming the other way – this, said Peter, was a surreal bonus.
The British Museum: A classical statue, framed by a passage-way, with a woman looking in from the left and a man from the right. 5 chairs in a photo gallery facing away from us; a man sitting in the centre is watching a video presentation. Pictures on a bright wall: a kneeling mother is pointing out the pictures to her small son who’s standing beside her. A doorway with two attendants: the one on the right has a pained expression. A sculpture of a gorilla; behind it, a woman on a stool is watching a film on a small screen. A woman photographing a Gormley statue. A person sitting on a bench, seen from behind; in the background, between large paintings on either side, a man seems to be looking at a blank wall (he’s actually reading a notice). A bright room with small artworks on the wall: a young lad does a ‘silly walk’, his father follows. Posters on a wall: a man is doing a stretching exercise while a woman looks the other way.
MANCHESTER’S NORTHERN QUARTER (ARPS PANEL)
Peter was refused his ARPS at the first attempt. He decided to submit a ‘travel panel’ centred on Manchester, but this would be too diverse. He had to write a ‘statement of intent’ and he themed it around ‘bohemian culture’ and ‘offbeat atmosphere’, including residents, workers and visitors. He restricted the area to the northern quarter and initially decided on one person per image, 4:3 format and colour. He soon found monochrome was better.
Two men walking past a cartoon figure of Frank Sidebottom; one of two men walking past was wearing dark glasses, as was Frank Sidebottom. Two ladies at a florists enjoying a cigarette; signs proclaimed ‘Northern Flower’ and ‘The North’. A woman with pushchair passing a line of posters, another woman walking away. A street corner: a group of three by a door, mosaic designs in most of the windows, a biblical text in another. Two men smoking in a run-down street (often used for film and television eg Peaky Blinders). A woman in animal-skin trousers looking at her phone in front of iron gates. In front of a tattoo parlour a lady, crouching by a pram, looks at the photographer. At a street café sit two overlapping couples; one person is staring at the photographer. The adult book-shop again; this time a man is reading the titles as he walks past. A woman sitting on a kerb smoking, behind her metal gates and a bin; her cigarette packet and matches are on the pavement beside her. In front of a brick wall covered with graffiti a man and woman are sitting; she is smiling. A crossroads: a man and woman are walking across, right to left – 18 months later the building behind them was demolished. The ‘Pen and Pencil’ bar: 4 men have come outside for a smoke. A huge poster of David Bowie, a brick wall and a bus: in front, a traffic warden crosses the street.
A family holiday in Milan; an organised group trip so no control over what and when to photograph. Peter decided to photograph tourists with their cameras or mobiles as his project in colour.
Venice: a man with a selfie-stick; a girl holding his hand looks fed up with it. Two people, back to back, taking pictures of the Dolomites. A Japanese man crouching in an odd manner to take a picture: is seems this is a national trait. Three women bending forwards to take a selfie with a mobile phone on a stick. People ‘holding up’ the Leaning Tower of Pisa (a favourite theme for Martin Parr – but Peter included the photographer). A trio posing for a portrait in front of the Bridge of Sighs, taken from behind the photographer. A group of Oriental lads dressed in black (a sports team) all taking photos in different directions. Four lasses lining up for a selfie with the one on the right holding her phone at arm’s length.
SHARDS OF WEST YORKSHIRE
This was one of the projects stalled by the pandemic. ‘Shards’ are broken pieces of pottery which can be reassembled to tell a story. Peter’s aim is to publish books – not expecting to profit from it but for his own satisfaction. If you visit his website, discounts are available: see end.
Dewsbury. Herbalist shop-front of some antiquity but a lady in Asian clothing is coming out. An alley with bins: a bearded man with envelopes walks past; there is eye-contact. Batley. Street clutter, a sign ‘Women’s Wrestling Show’; a woman is pulling a trolley, a muscular man on steps is checking his phone. A chicken costume in a shop window, passing a ‘we need your donations’ sign a woman comes out of the charity shop. Wakefield. Two large ladies in conversation and looking cheerful. The Corner Café: a man crossing the road comes towards us. For this Peter was standing on a central reservation: he stood there for quite some time and ‘hid in plain sight’. Dewsbury. A café in the market with ladies taking a cigarette break; around them are posters aiming to attract tourists. Halifax. A man sitting on a step with a cigarette; next to him a man with a drinks can in a motorised chair. Pudsey. A butchers shop; a man with red braces passes a mannequin of a butcher as he comes out. Saltaire Heritage site. Cat on a window-sill: the woman at the window makes it a street shot. Ladies choosing cards at an indoor market: a sign proclaims ‘Hen Nights start here’. Featherstone. Three green bins, one with a message ‘No one else’s rubbish. 110 only’. A shop window with a Who dunnit? Game and ‘Bingo dabbers on sale here’: Peter likes to collect images of hand-written signs. Huddersfield. ‘Diets don’t work. Alterations do’ and ‘Drop your pants here for immediate attention’. Halifax Railway Hotel. A man sweeping cigarette-ends from the doorway. Bingley. Three women chatting: a pillar box, a jacket and a shop front are all bright red. Brighouse. Boarded up windows and a torn poster – two men stride past. Castleford. A tiger (mascot of a rugby league team) in front of a butcher’s shop. Huddersfield. Honest Freddies (challenged by apostrophes) – 5 figures in the shot, browsing, leaving and passing. A cleaner’s shop with the sign ‘Equestrian Laundry specialists’ – do they clean horses as well as their paraphernalia? A man with a bag of laundry reaches for the door handle. A pawn shop. Ladies crossing the road, a man with a stick sitting in the foreground with an ‘Uptown Boutiques’ bag. A woman emerges from a shop with ‘Polish Shop’ the only words out of many written in English. A fish & chip restaurant featuring a man wearing a hat with ear-flaps carrying a bag. Featherstone. An abandoned shop: a couple walk past, one of them looking over his shoulder at the photographer. Shop proclaiming ‘Osset Spice’ and ‘Osset Cars’: a man with a flat hat and a stick walks past. A ‘Hebden Wings’ poster with a butterfly: a woman going past, her head in just the right place to merge with the butterfly’s wings. Peter is concerned that scenes like these will be more difficult to come by following Brexit and the pandemic.
A DAY AT THE RACES
This is another project interrupted by the lockdowns. Peter is concentrating on people watching the races with the aim of producing 50 images for a book. 4 men with drinks. The backs of two men looking at the crowd. A man reading the Racing Post. A dour-looking Yorkshireman. A man with binoculars, behind him a man with a rueful expression. Two ladies looking fashionable with fascinators. A man counting his winnings, but looking disappointed. A man with a posh hat and ‘Portillo’ trousers on a bench, with complementary colours behind. A horse and jockey being led round the ring. A man in a bright blue suit on the phone. A reaction shot of winners and losers – three have matching ties. Umbrellas over a trio of punters. A crowd on the grandstand steps – will we see this sort of thing this summer? Two ladies in posh frocks. Three elderly Yorkshire gentlemen. A group of four with drinks and betting slips. Another group with a variety of expressions. A couple kissing.
To learn more and to buy this book (£7 or signed £14) and others featured (discounts often appear) Peter’s website is
India’s Wildlife and Culture – Peter Jones ARPS DPAGB and Sue Wilson DPAGB
This talk followed a photographic tour Peter and Sue ran to India before travel restrictions were imposed. Although poverty is rife in India, they said, it is a great place to visit; the Indians are lovely friendly people, now caught up in a horrendous situation.
The tour began in Delhi after a 9-hour flight and an overnight stay. The streets were crowded, but they always felt safe, even with cameras round their necks. They first visited the Lahore Gate and the Red Fort, with its stunning brickwork. We saw the gigantic fortifications and immaculately dressed school-children. Views of the Ministerial Buildings through the hazy ‘Delhi Smog’.
Cannas grow like weeds in India, but Sue’s never grown them successfully at home. A line of white Austin cars in which ministers are driven round, net curtains in their windows to keep out the mosquitos. Wrought iron gates copied from gates in Chiswick, monumental arches, a huge field where several games of cricket were going on at once, the players all dressed in whites.
The impressive stonework of Humayun’s Tomb: he was a Mughal Emperor. Intricate filigree panels inside, and a huge bees’ nest in one of the arches. No tripods are allowed, so Peter lay on his back to get pictures of the ceiling. Images of a huge ancient wooden door and a gardener with a moustache.
They next stayed in a ‘heritage’ hotel where the bathroom looked ornate though poorly designed – a long reach for the toilet paper! Outside a Blacksmith Barbet taking food to its chicks.
The Pink Palace in Jaipur, an impressive façade though the top levels are just for show. Working camels pulling carts, a bus with passengers on the roof, overloaded carts pulled by bicycles and tricycles. A market where the fresh fruit is much tastier than the fruit freighted to the UK. Sacred but under-nourished cows roam the streets and mustn’t be moved if they sit down. Brightly coloured parasols – the guide got one for Sue, involving the hazardous crossing of a busy road twice.
Scenes from the Holi Spring Festival (Festival of Colour) when participants smother each other in poster paint. Some of the tour group joined in and one gentleman was doused in so much paint he couldn’t get clean before they moved on! Snake charmers with their snakes, pipes and baskets; a picture of Peter holding one of the snakes. A stick-thin man. Elephants painted all over with tattoo-style designs, a practice Sue wasn’t comfortable with.
The Jantar Mantar Observatory: a giant sun-dial intended to measure the time of day and the declination of the Sun and the other heavenly bodies. It was a blisteringly hot day which made the visit almost unbearable. Girls with baskets of water-bottles on their heads: they pick them up and pass them on for re-filling. Tourists are always warned to check bottles of water have an unbroken seal. A man reading a book, oblivious of what was going on around him.
The White Palace – one of the top-ten hotels in the world. It’s in the middle of a lake, accessible by boat and helicopter. 007’s boat from the film ‘Octopussy’, now a posh restaurant. Char – tea sweetened with condensed milk – was on offer.
Laundry being done in the river – a wonder they get it so clean considering the colour of the water. A man at his morning ablutions in the river. Children washing at a well: Sue observed that they looked so happy despite the poverty, yet British children who have everything are ‘bored’.
An Indian cormorant. Little egret, open-billed storks (the gap allows them to collect more and larger nesting materials).
Murals on the road-side – a King and his retinue on a tiger-hunt.
The onward journey was by train. They had to look out for porters dressed in red – if anyone else offered to help they were probably a thief. People live at the railway stations. A scruffy shoeless urchin. The tracks are used as a toilet by these people. The trains are rarely on time.
At the next centre, canna flowers, a three-striped tree squirrel which amused them by poking its head out from hole in a tree. Schoolgirls smartly dressed in an arboretum. When Peter and Sue lead these tours they take items such as pencils, crayons, rulers etc and make a presentation to a village school.
Kumbhalgarh Fort where they photographed a gap-toothed plasterer and a lizard on a wall.
Grey Langur monkeys with their silver fur and black faces are difficult to photograph. A group of them grooming each other. A euphorbia thistle. A little green bee-eater. A herdsman with his cattle. A man carrying many water containers on his head. Overloaded lorries, gaily painted, always tooting their horns. A camel dragging a huge bag of grain on a cart. 5 family members on a bicycle – the mother holding a baby. In the smaller villages an ox-cart is the principal mode of transport. Water-buffaloes basking in mud.
Next the lodge at a national park where cooking lessons were given, astronomy could be studied, and there was a cockroach in the wash-bowl. Beautiful butterflies, a spotted deer (a tiger’s favourite meal) and swarming bees nesting in a tree. In order not to attract the swarm guests were instructed to avoid using perfume, after-shave and deodorant.
A park ranger filling buckets with water from a well, maybe after a long walk to get there. An elephant ride to see the tigers. Peter said they do not like this method as it’s only possible to photograph the tigers from above: he likes to see them at the same level, preferably with an indication of their habitat. Close-up of an elephant’s eye, emphasising its delicate eye-lashes. Muntjac, coyote, wild dog: sequence of young wild dogs playing. Fierce looking wild boar, and another cooling off in the river. Sambar deer, which eat a lot of weed in the river. Pond heron, great white egret, saker falcon, crested eagle, crested serpent eagle, and a large cow suckling a calf.
Qutub Mina, the tallest brick-built building in India, now closed because of the number who leapt to their death. Intricate carving in the red sandstone. A smartly dressed family group. More Langur monkeys.
A roadside ‘service station’ where a vehicle tyre was changed; basically a tent with a few bits of equipment.
Tigers in undergrowth, stalking deer; a wild cat, a brown fish owl. Excursions into the game park were offered at 6 am or 3 pm, and the duration was strictly limited. The vehicles cannot stray from the designated route. Shots of tigers hunting their prey, for example swamp deer (with huge antlers) and black buck antelopes (twisted antlers). Wild peacock, stork, Indian roller, plover and nightjar. Jungle fowl (looks like a cockerel). A large group of Langur monkeys, one sitting on a termite mound looking out for predators. Rhesus monkeys playing hide and seek.
The vehicles are open – no roof and no windows. Roadside verges were being torched to make a fire-break. They arrived at a bridge to see a 2 year-old cub sitting on it. It was joined by another. They crossed the bridge and entered a pond the other side. Peter and Sue’s vehicle stayed where it was: another arrived from the opposite side of the bridge. Both had an excellent view as the two tiger-cubs started fighting. Immediately up to 40 other vehicles gathered, but only the first two had a grandstand view. The tigers’ ears were flat, which means this was a serious fight. Peter joyfully snapped away; the grappling tigers and the water droplets they kicked up made remarkable pictures, but in his excitement Peter didn’t adjust his camera for first-class images.
The Indian sloth bear has been cruelly treated. These are the ones trained as dancing bears. They are taken as cubs, have their teeth and claws removed and a ring put in their nose, and are trained to dance. This practice has now been banned. Rescued bears are taken to a sanctuary, but without teeth and claws they cannot be released into the wild. Their trainers have been given grants to set up in a different trade.
Another day tracking tigers. They are so used to the vehicles and tourists that they are not afraid to approach. This meant excellent photography.
The Little Taj, with its fantastic workmanship, its marble inlaid with precious stones, is seen on the approach to the Taj Mahal. It is only in September that the Taj Mahal is free from smog, owing to the prevailing winds. There was a security X-ray and baggage check for fear of a bomber. Tripods are not allowed. The visit was timed for the opening time at 6 am, but they were beaten there by a Travelsphere coach-load! But their guide hurried them along and they were able to get shots with few people. As the sun rose the lighting got better, but the crowd of visitors got larger. There were two black kites (avian variety) in one picture of the Taj. Close-ups of filigree panels – flowers and butterflies carved in the marble. Having got ahead of the crowds they were able to take a picture (which is not allowed) of the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal “Chosen One of the Palace” wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahān (reigned 1628–58) unobserved. They tipped their guide heavily.
Peter and Sue run photographic trips for small groups. For India March is the best time; failing that September.
The Three Coasts (Suffolk, Norfolk & Essex) by Harry Wheeler-Brand
Since the early age of 13, Harry has had a passion for photography and all things landscape. This led him to focus all his time into photography, and has meant him gaining various milestones and awards in his career, including working with many of the industries leading companies both testing and reviewing products.
He is now a full-time landscape photographer, and photography workshop leader with hundreds of hours of experienced tuition to others, leading clients on workshops throughout East Anglia.
‘Harrybehindthelens’ was started nearly 6 years ago, and now has a sole focus on helping others improve their photography whilst leading photographic workshops on location and now on Zoom, to individuals, companies, and societies across the world.
First, Harry let us know he has published a guide-book to the East Anglian coast, and that 2,000 copies have been sold.
He uses a Canon camera and takes just two lenses on his photo-shoots; 16 – 35mm and 70 – 200 mm, plus an IR camera and various filters. He plans his location shoots carefully to avoid unnecessary post-processing. He takes note of cloud cover, and seasonal changes (eg for sea lavender): right time, right place.
Harry specialises is long exposures. He began at Shingle Street, with its coast-guard cottages and 60 years of secrecy. The scene is ever-changing with tides, times and wind-speed. He likes to work on the thirds and makes much use of the ND filter. He also makes ‘short long exposures’ for just a little blur.
At Warbleswick he photographed sun and mist. He carefully adjusts the saturation of his images, saying RAW won’t show the scene as he saw it. He does not use a colour card.
A picture of a fence with barbed wire against a background of fog was taken at the river Orwell. At Southwold where were beach huts – very popular with photographers. Also a winter shot with snow. He waited for blue sky with clouds and left in his own and his dog’s footprints because he doesn’t like to resort to Photoshop.
The ruinous groynes of Bawdsey pictured with the sun on the horizon at dawn. A shore with snow-covered dunes, grass poking through. Clouds and shadows: clouds make or break a landscape picture.
Waldringfield. A concrete ramp in the foreground, mud and wispy cloud, with reflections, the sun and vapour trails.
MONOCHROME AND INFRA-RED
Lavenham church with white topiary and blurred clouds: an ‘out of this world’ feeling. The ND filter gives streaks of clouds behind the trees – four and a half minute exposure. To get the right picture needs a lot of experimental shots.
Felixstowe Cobbolds Point. A line of stone groynes amid silky characterless water: Walton on the Naze in the far distance. Several times Harry pointed out that a tiny detail in an image was the main point of his picture.
Sudbury water meadows. Reeds, trees and wispy sky. Harry had to wait a long time for the light to be right. The main item was a tiny figure with a dog.
Harry paused to advertise his book A Photo Guidebook to East Anglia’s Coast. We can obtain a 10% discount using the code ‘HARRY’ at the checkout. Visit www.harrybehindthelens.com.
Norfolk’s coastlines are incredibly different. The weather is all-important.
Norfolk Broads. Windmills in the early morning: the sun was clipped by the mill and the horizon produced sun-rays. Also a fog-bow (much fainter than a rainbow) with a wind-pump beneath the arch: fog-bows are incredibly rare.
Hunstanton. Seascape above sands and rocks – stepping-stones and rain on the horizon. Flooded water-meadows with a windmill and a misty backdrop. Frames for balance and feeling.
Overstrand. Sea defences. Six and a half minutes exposure captures the sea defences but the water is absolutely flat. A sharp horizon 50% cloud 50% sea. A pair of tiny white sandals perched on the groyne was the main feature.
DETAIL AND TEXTURE
Snettisham. Cracked mud and blurred sky. Harry likes as much detail as possible, hence f16 on his wide-angle lens. He keeps between ISO 50 and 400, and tries not to go above 100 if he can avoid it. This avoids noise. An angular abandoned wooden structure, again with cracked mud. 62-second exposure to blur the sky.
Hunstanton. Often chance encounters. Rough sea, dark sky and swirls of water – much better in monochrome.
Caister on Sea. Windfarm on the horizon, silky water and the tips of groynes.
Snettisham again. Looking along a line of timbers forming a corridor to the sea: “a mesmerising and difficult image”.
Hunstanton again. Brooding sky, coloured cliffs and waves brightly lit. “Typifies East Anglia”.
Try to find something new. A shoreline with seaweed, sunburst on the horizon and a variety of clouds. Use Google Maps or Earth to see what other people have taken.
Dovercourt. A good picnic site. A lighthouse at the end of a jetty, with the sun’s rays beside the lighthouse. Beautiful reflections. A second version with mud flats and a patch of water with reflections.
Tollesbury. A harbour with a snake-like stream running into the sea, with something of interest in every third. It makes a muddy scene scenic.
PATTERNS AND TONES
Clouds, rain, the horizon, a lone rock in the sea, crashing waves. Keep an eye out for the tides, not just for safety.
Dovercourt. Getting the right light again, taken at high tide with the jetty just hinted at.
Walton on the Naze. 2 seconds for just a touch of blur. Clouds, groynes, the sea, with lines leading to the horizon.
Mersea. Mud flats with watery sun just above the horizon. It took Harry four months of effort to get the picture he wanted. Just enough light to illuminate one feature clearly and give the others some character. Harry’s in no hurry to go back there!
A boat grave-yard – abandoned vessels, pinky sky, ropes and subtle reflections made this image.
Harry ended with the first picture he took as a professional photographer. Cloud, sea, waves and a long exposure. This typifies his work.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
LPA Individual PDI competition Nettleham Sunday 26th January 2020.
Three members of the PPG entered images.
In the Open section, two members had an image held back.
35 images were held back of the 129 entered.
John Kinchin ‘Watching the Aurora’
John Roberts ‘Anzac Medic’
The judge gradually eliminated images to end up with ten before awarding Commendeds and selecting 1st , 2nd and 3rd.
He got that number down to 4. and agonised.
He took some time looking at ‘Fairy Pools Sgurr an Fheadain’ from NELPS and ‘Anzac Medic’ before making his decision.
‘Anzac Medic’ was the final image to be awarded Commended, which means John’s image came 4th out of 129.
The winners were:
First Sherlock Mike Bennett – Grimsby
Second Buffalo Drinking Party Steve Kilpin – Grantham
Third Fairy Pools Sgurr an Fheadain Dave Turner – NELPS
Our third entrant didn’t come away empty-handed. Ron won a pack of pot-pourri in the raffle. Like the New York woolly hat at the Awards Buffet, it was the last item left on the table!
Congratulations to our Secretary Ron Abbott who gained 2 awards at the LPA AV competition in the Narrative section held at Nettleham
Salamanca was Commended
Leeds Castle was Highly Commended
Results for the Handbook Selection for 2021
1st Splash – Renzo Gherardi
2nd Catching the Night Train – John Roberts
3rd Mia – Mike Gray
4th Swing Bridge Drive – John Rowbottom