Bangor and North Down Camera Club (BNDCC)

Bangor and North Down Camera Club, (BNDCC), Northern Ireland, UK.
"Promoting and developing all aspects of the art of photography through example, discussion and competition."

Bangor and North Down Camera Club

Meetings blog 2008-2009 ...

This page is a log of the activities taking place on our Friday and Wednesday evening meetings in the main September to May season.

We give credit to John Bennett, our Information Officer, for preparing these notes each week. Details of the proceedings and photographs are also submitted to the Bangor Spectator Newspaper for inclusion in their Club Section

Details of last seasons blog.

In the final competition of the season two photographers dominated the awards. The trophy at stake was the Audrey Argue Cup which is awarded annually to the cream of wildlife photographs and the guest judge, Daniel McCaughan, the Vice President of the Northern Ireland Photographic Association was impressed by the overall standard of the entries.

In the Advanced Section Mark Allen scored a hat-trick of victories; his majestic portrait of a lion won the Colour Prize while a study of wild moose at Yellowstone National Park earned the plaudits in the Monochrome competition. Mark made it three in a row with a more docile genre – three sheep took the judge’s eye sufficiently to pick up the winning marks in the Projected Digital Image contest.

In the Foundation Section Nigel Snell’s ornithological prowess winged its way out in front of all comers in all three categories. A charming depiction of a bluetit took the Colour accolade and an exciting print of a heron in flight led the field in Monochrome. However Nigel’s piece de resistance was a stunning portrayal of a magnificent eagle; his observation and interpretation earned him first place in the Projected Digital Image section and he was also rewarded with the overall trophy.

Mark Allen hadn't yet finished with his winning ways and rounded off a memorable evening with a remarkable double to add to his early treble . He was named Club 'Photographer of The Year' in both print and 'Projected Digital imaging' for 2008/09.

The members are now engaged in putting the final touches to their entries for the Annual Exhibition.

John Bennett

There was an opportunity for the midweek faithful to hear the thoughts and photographic philosophies of one of the truly greats of the captured image when they were treated to a recording of a television interview with Bill Brandt. Liberally illustrated with examples of his work from all eras of his career it was an insight into the mindset of a man who has helped turn photography from a craft and a hobby into an art form.

There was also a chance to savour again the Audio-visual presentations which were so successful at the recent festival at Ballyearl. Jack Thompson showed his all-conquering 'Crawford’s Burn' and 'All That Glisters'; Mark Allen revisited 'Yellowstone National Park' and mused upon the primary delights of monochrome in 'Black and White are Colours Too'.

John Bennett

Photography takes time. Good photography can take even more time but the members were given an object lesson in time management on Friday evening. Ruth Kelly from the Drogheda Camera Club was the guest speaker and at the end of a sparkling evening’s entertainment she left many wondering just how she managed to produce such fine work while fulfilling her roles as a physiotherapist, wife and mother to a young family (including twins!).

She gained her Licentiate of the Irish Photographic Federation with a panel of portraits of family and neighbours and illustrated her love of natural light photography with endearing, yet intriguing pictures of an itinerant wedding and a friend’s new born baby.

The wedding of a work colleague took her to India and the images of local children she gleaned on the trip earned her Associateship and provided the impetus to carry on to a Fellowship. This she achieved with a set of images depicting family life among very poor villagers. The obvious rapport she engendered with the people shone through all of the pictures and even though the surroundings were harsh and depressing Ruth’s lens filtered through the squalor to establish the inherent warmth and sincerity of the families.

“Never steal a photograph!” she advised the audience. “Take time with the people and they will accept you as a friend as well as a photographer.”

Having achieved all this she could be forgiven for relaxing and simply clicking the shutter for fun but Ruth still had goals to fulfil. This year she has already gained her Associateship with the Royal Photographic Society and at present is working hard for her Fellowship.

She certainly provided the Bangor members with some thoughts on what can be achieved when  inspiration is coupled with appropriate dedication.

John Bennett

Bangor and North Down Camera Club enjoyed a remarkable weekend of success at the Northern  Ireland Photographic Society’s Audio Visual Festival at Ballyearl in Newtownabbey last weekend. Jack Thompson won the Novice section, thus retaining the title which was won by Bangor member Mark Allen last year. Jack swept the boards in fact because his winning entry so pleased the judges that they created a minor sensation by awarding  it first place in the Open Section as well – the first time this has ever happened in the history of the competition!

He also picked up the trophy for the Special Category of “Northern Ireland “ with his atmospheric study of Crawford’s Burn in the morning sunlight and completed a triumphant outing with another award for “Music,Poetry and Song” which he collected for his entry “All That Glisters”.

Mark Allen’s study of Yellowstone National Park was Highly Commended by the judges in the Open Section.

Bob McDonald , the judge for the Open Competition at the Club’s Ballyholme headquarters last Friday  commented that the entries for the Foundation section were mainly of a higher standard than those of the Advanced – a finding which surely augurs well for the future of the club.

This was the final round of the club competitions for 2008-2009 and after the points were tallied Gavin McKee was awarded the annual Colour Trophy with Peter Nixon winning the Mono section.

The winners on the night were;

Foundation Mono;  Gavin McKee,  Foundation Colour; Nigel Snell,

Advanced Mono;  Peter Nixon,  Advanced Colour; Mark Allen.

John Bennett

 

Good advice is not always acted upon but it would appear that the competitors in the Panels Competition heard and inwardly digested the pearls of wisdom dispensed fully a year ago.  On that occasion Terry McCreesh, Past President of the Northern Ireland Photographic Association was the judge and the guidelines he offered then clearly struck a respondent chord as many of this year's entries bore witness to his insight and practical advice.

 

Although the overall entry was smaller than usual the winning entries attracted praise from the judge for the inherent quality of the images and the cohesion with which they were assembled – an integral part of the Panels genre is the overarching unity of the pictures.  Some told a story while others displayed a pervasive theme of subject, texture or colour.

 

The audience agreed with the judge's decision that the outstanding ensemble was Hugh Rooney's masterful mono rendition of the magnificent Alhambra Palace in Granada – the detail of the filigree screens and graceful arches superbly captured in half a dozen black and white prints.  Not surprisingly this won the Advanced Mono section and the overall Panel Trophy for Hugh.

 

Mark Allen enjoyed a very successful night with two firsts (Advanced Colour and Digital Image) and a second (Advanced Monochrome). Other winners were Glorija Perry (Foundation Mono): Laurence Henderson (Foundation Colour) and John Bennett (Foundation Digital).

John Bennett

 

The midweek session this week bore evidence to the fact that the "hands-on" approach to passing on photographic skills is really helping members in a practical way. David Roberts introduced a straightforward, practical session on Print Mounting, using the club's equipment and some of the newer members took advantage of the opportunity to try their hands with the cutters and the double sided sticky tape. The ultimate aim is to encourage a "cascading" approach where this week's pupils can be the tutors of the future.

 

Some fun was had viewing downloads of audio-visual presentations from French photographers  - including a kinetic Christmas Card complete with moving lights, bells and snowballs!  Another continental offering proffered a split multi- screen mode which was interesting and entertaining but left those present ruminating on the fact that it would probably require  two more eyes to watch it properly.

John Bennett

 

Photography is regarded by many as one of the more gentle, non-aggressive forms of art. When, however, a speaker begins his presentation by offering a disclaimer to all those who might be offended then a lively evening might be expected. The members were treated to exactly that when Harry Pettis A.R.P.S. entertained them with an insight into his approach to taking pictures.

Part historical : part hysterical : part autobiographical and part cabaret ,Harry’s take on “Shadows and Light” led the big audience through the entire gamut of his experiences with the magical image. Beginning with his very first camera and schoolboy attempts at family portraits he developed his growing love of the medium through to his panel of whirling, maelstrom-like images of dancers which gained him Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society.

Over the years he has drawn inspiration from many photographers and he paid generous tribute to some of them with displays of their work ranging from the celebrity- led style of Annie Leibovitch (Whoopi Goldberg in a bath of milk! ) to the stark reality of Dorothy Lange’s American Depression .  However he introduced a large emotional question mark when he admitted that he personally anguished over images of workers, poor people or children being portrayed in an exploitative manner. In fact it seems clear that while Mr Pettis enjoys an offbeat, humorous persona (as do his audiences) his approach to the medium is founded on respect and integrity.

After the interval the members were left wondering how image makers like Julie Margaret Cameron managed to conjure up magical portraits a century and a half ago –without electric light, shutters or Photoshop! The evening ended with an audio –visual presentation of Pettis pictures ranging from landscapes and buildings to nature and portraits

John Bennett

Amid anticipation and muted excitement the new digital projector beamed out its introductory rays for the approval of the Midweek Club. Mark Allen had spent long hours investigating the relative merits of the available technology before purchasing this one and Davy Cooper had ensured that it was properly calibrated before its ( albeit unofficial) launch.

Davy and Noel Maitland are now working on a suitable gantry and bracket  (should that be Hinge and Bracket ?) system before the instrument is unleashed in all its glory in the near future.

Harry Watson provided an insight into the  Adobe Elements programme – brightly illuminated and projected -and  has sourced a good purchase price on-line if anyone is interested in buying. He also demonstrated the mechanism of adding audio tracks to Pinnacle Studio based Audio Visuals.

Davy Cooper then ensured that no-one present would sleep a wink that night when he showed his A/V entitled “When the Man Comes to Call.”  Not for the faint hearted – (or the weak bladdered! )

John Bennett

Over the years many disappointed people have discovered that the streets of London are not actually paved with gold but for one amateur photographer at least they recently provided an El Dorado.

Gavin McKee took the top places in both Foundation Colour and Monochrome competitions in the Club's competition  on Friday last. The subject was "Street Life " and Gavin's stylised colour print of Piccadilly Circus at night won acclaim from all three judges (Peter Wilkin, Past Chairman of Ballynahinch C.C.and Ray Magill and Daniel Hughes of Bangor C.C.)

Similarly Gavin's  dramatic rendition of a Thames Embankment scene captured the imagination and the prize in the Monochrome category.

In the Advanced section Alan McMorris reflected life on the street in the lenses of a pair of sunglasses  to win the black and white accolade while Mark Allen recognised the latent possibilities of children queuing at an ice-cream van and translated the scene into a winning print in the Colour section.

David Cooper (Foundation) and Bill Cardwell (Advanced) took the honours in the Digital Image competition while  Eddie Wright received a word of praise for achieving a third place and two short-listings in the print section.

The full listings appear in the competition section of the website

John Bennett

 

“ TO SEE THE WORLD IN A GRAIN OF SAND, AND A HEAVEN IN A WILD FLOWER.”

The poet William Blake died long before the advent of the digital camera but his thoughts were perfectly in tune with modern macro photography  -the ability to portray objects lifesize or even larger.

The concept was admirably demonstrated by John Miskelly to the members of Bangor Camera Club and such was the interest in the subject the clubhouse was packed to the doors.

John, himself a member and Past Chairman of the club , captured the attention of the audience with a stunning display of flora and fauna which ranged from spectacular visions of the  intricate innards of a flower  (in a magnification normally reserved for bees!) to a close up of a very large and rather grumpy gorilla’eyes. The huge primate clearly was not in  modelling mode – a reluctance reinforced by the hurling of a large lump of earth at the photographer!

Perhaps detecting a note of reluctance amongst the audience to try a foray into the esoteric world of the close-up, John maintained that it didn’t necessarily involve masses of expensive equipment .He illustrated his claim with a practical demonstration of getting near enough to examine the minute fibrous hairs on a strawberry using only the available light from a window. Whilst there is a bewildering array of gadgetry available to the macro enthusiast – dedicated lenses; bellows; extension tubes etc.- it is possible to get up close and intimate using only a standard lens and any available light source, natural or electrical.

Just how close is close? Even the experts can’t agree on what degree of magnification merits the description “macro” but it doesn’t end there! The next stage is the world of”micro” images which usually entails the use of a camera in conjunction with a microscope but that, perhaps is just a little too close for comfort for the average club photographer.

John Bennett

 

Another large gathering  at the midweek get-together enjoyed a follow-up to last week's Macro demonstration by John Miskelly.  David Roberts employed some of his technical nous to "knit" together his macro-lensed Canon, his laptop and the digital projector so that the audience were able to follow minutely, on the large screen, as he successfully reversed the Credit Crunch and made Big Money out of a two pence coin. ( A trick which could be useful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer!)

Nigel Snell shared his photographic record of a visit to to California with an expertly constructed and very watchable Audio-visual presentation on Yosemite National Park while new member KenSymington offered a selection of his images for discussion and criticism. These attracted  a very favourable response.

John Bennett

 

Another big gathering for the mid-week session was entertained to a demonstration of the use of Flickr – the online photo community.  Mark Allen, who instigated the setting up of a Bangor group, led the interested members through the machinations of joining, organising and displaying their images.   The service is free and it also offers the opportunity to have your pictures evaluated and possibly improved by suggestions from other members.

While the group is limited to the Bangor and North Down Club, and images may be restricted to viewing by club members, Flickr is part of a world-wide organisation, with many groups of differing interests, so there is the possibility to spread ones photographic wings or fly ones digital kite in front of a much wider audience.

Thanks to Kathleen McCreesh for the use of her mobile internet dongle which allowed us to dsplay Flickr live.

If you are interested in joining you will find details  in http://www.flickr.com

In the Image Assessment ( or Lambs to the Slaughter!) part of the evening Henry Doggert; Kathleen McCreesh and Mark Allen supplied pictures for critical appraisal and much discussion ensued.

This has very quickly established itself as a worthwhile and enjoyable segment of Wednesday evenings

John Bennett

Pictures of a terrible beauty were displayed to Club when Alan Cranston shared images of some of the amazing creatures he has encountered in the the warm, clear depths of the Red Sea . Which is more deadly-the venom of the Scorpion Fish which can bring death in twenty minutes or the bite of a White Tip Shark whose bite can be even swifter and just as fatal?

Alan Cranston with Underwater camera and strobesAlan began diving five years ago and now, combining his love of photography with his underwater odysseys, he makes at least two trips a year to Florida,Tenerife or the Red Sea. The Middle East venue is his favourite because of the number of wrecks which provide a constant source of exploration for the rubber suited amphibians . Unfortunately such is the popularity of the sport nowadays it can become rather crowded around the rusting remains of old hulks like the Thistlegorm, a ship supplying troops to North Africa which was sunk in 1941. Jacques Cousteau discovered the wreck ten years later and Alan has photographed it many times –sometimes having to compete with as many as thirty other boatloads of divers .

The marine growth around the decaying gunwhales of the vessel is truly spectacular ; the arrangements of soft coral in particular displaying  colours and textures of exquisite variety- all  against the paradoxical background of the ship’s cargo – Bedford trucks and  BSA Motor cycles- sad sculpturesin their two tone coats of khaki and rust.

The shapes and colours of the fish are similarly eye-catching .Blue spotted Coral Trout share the warm  waters with Moray Eels,(two meters long and razor toothed) while Bat Fish, Pigmy Lions, Spanish Dancers and Angel Sharks perform their aquatic ballets, seemingly without any fear of the divers’ lights and cameras.

Underwater photography is not without its problems. Alan explained how the colours gradually fade until at thirty meters the only shade of the spectrum remaining is cyan. Careful use of exposure meter and filters is essential . Naturally safety is of prime importance for any diver and complete and meticulous preparation is required. Every item of equipment must be checked and checked again and all the rules of decompression must be strictly observed. The underwater gear is intricate and expensive – (the housing for the camera alone can cost £2000 or more) but the rewards are inspiring as Mr Cranston’s digital images and prints demonstrated.

John Bennett

 

Stanley MatchettThe guest speaker at the Bangor and North Down Camera Club this week was Stanley Matchett M.B.E., one of the most respected photo-journalists in the country and a man whose images have been published in many international magazines and newspapers.

Drawing on forty years of professional  picture making Stanley exhibited a breathtaking collection of prints which, by themselves, could be published as a social history of Northern Ireland. His coverage of the Troubles, always taken from a front line vantage point, was stunning in its integrity and mind-numbing by the sheer portrayal of brutality and carnage the photographs captured. His pictures of Father Daly (now Bishop Daly) waving a white flag as dead and injured were carried out on Bloody Sunday has become almost an icon in various museums and galleries around the world.

Similarly Stanley’s grim images of the Oxford Street massacre and various other atrocities are established as an integral part of our troubled history.

Dividing his talk into four decades he began in the sixties with exclusive pictures of The Beatles’ visit to Belfast followed swiftly by glimpses of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh; the captain of The Canberra; Robert Mitchum and President Eisenhower. ( his camera lens has focused on no fewer than four Presidents of the United States, including Nixon,Regan and Bush.)

Nostalgic reminders of the old Smithfield Market served as a reminder that a Press Photographer is required to cover all types of subjects – from the mundane and trivial to the serious and dangerous. In fact one of his personal favourites features a chimpanzee at Bellevue Zoo. A publicity still was required and Stanley had the Stanlet Matchettbright idea of hanging a camera round the monkey’s neck and taking a picture of it. The primate, however, upstaged him big time when it  (inadvertently he thinks!) pressed the shutter and took a picture of him. His colleagues were of the opinion that the monkey’s was the better snap!

In the seventies a lot of his work entailed bombs, bullets  and their aftermath but there was time as well to celebrate the personalities of the era – many of them still fondly remembered. George best, Gerry Fitt and James Young were just a few who happily posed for his 35mm Nikon and trusty Rolleiflex.

In the eighties he met up with many more celebrities as he provided the big cover pictures for the Daily Mirror ( he spent 17 years as senior photographer with The Mirror having previously held a similar position with the Belfast Telegraph).

A young Princess Diana was happy to oblige with a picture as was Trevor Howard the film star but David Soul ( of Starsky and Hutch fame) was rather less accommodating. Later Luciano Pavarotti lived up to his “maestro” reputation proving elusive in front of the camera but conversely the other Big Man, Ian Paisley “couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful. “

After a lifetime in the business and with enough awards to furnish a small aircraft hangar, Stanley is still busy as a freelance photographer and enjoys nothing more than packing up his lenses and heading up to Donegal for his annual Residential Photography Courses. For almost 20 years he’s been coaching aspiring amateurs and passing on some of the tips he’s learnt over the years . He clearly enjoys what he does and considers himself lucky to do it for a living . His motto is “Photography is a mirror with a memory.”

John Bennett

David Best introduced what could well become a popular strain in the midweek sessions at Ballyholme.

He suggested that members could be encouraged to bring along a few of their images for critical approval from those present. The aims of this would be twofold:  clearly it would afford honest appraisal and suggestions for improvement and at the same time offer some basic opportunity for the “critics” to try their hands (and eyes) at being judges.

To this end he put a few of his own digital images on display and sat back (rather bravely it was felt)  while they were poked, prodded and thoroughly examined by those present. Happily on the whole they were given a clean bill of health and , with a few minor surgical amendments, were returned to the author.

So who’s next for the operating table? 

John Bennett

There was a little friendly rivalry in the midweek meeting of the club –Nikon versus  Adobe and a chance for the uncommitted to assess the relative merits of both approaches to image enhancement.

David Roberts demonstrated the method of transferring subjects to other backgrounds using Photoshop Layer Masks and then went on to offer advice on how to dodge and burn sections of pictures for added effect.

Mark Allen advanced the claims of Capture NX as an alternative to similar manipulation .

No vote was taken so the jury is still out !

The members also watched an exposition of the Zone Method of exposure and it is likely that this will continue next week.

Don’t forget if you have a problem or an aspect of photography you’d like explained please don’t be shy! Ask David or Mark, or any of the Wednesday Club gang and someone will be able to help

John Bennett

When the scheduled speaker was unable to appear due to illness it looked like the BNDCC snappers were going to be faced with a lost evening but in the event a hastily convened replacement programme proved to be both entertaining and informative.

The highlights were two video presentations which contrasted very different approaches to photography; old versus new- classic versus modern.

The first was an archive BBC recording of an interview with Ansel Adams, the American photographer who is universally regarded as one of the masters of landscape photography  while the second was a tutorial on the very latest, up to the minute and state of the art developments in computer manipulation of images.

Using some of his most famous pictures as visual aids Adams demonstrated that there is much more to a good image than simply pressing the shutter button. Preparation: patience: perseverance and a modicum of psychology were all  ingredients in this painstaking  mix for capturing a fleeting moment (on film in his case). Most of the spadework had been done long before the actual moment of capture  and he rarely took more than one  shot of a scene with his huge, cumbersome 8”x10” camera.

 “Bracketing,” he remarked drily,” is a sign of insecurity!”

Going back, as he did , to the thirties and forties there was no recourse to the myriad computer generated aids the modern photographer enjoys, the latest of which were demonstrated in a tutorial on Photoshop CS4, Adobe’s latest software package for image enhancement and manipulation. Most serious photographers today use some sort of “photo aftercare” and this “new kid on the block” clearly will add even more possibilities. The only real problem is the fact that many club members are still trying to come to terms with the intricacies of the previous  model – or even the one before that.

In photography, as in most aspects of modern life, it seems that “standing still and smelling the roses” is no longer an option.

John Bennett

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words – a phrase probably coined by some impecunious freelance photographer. But if it is true for just one picture then an Audio-Visual presentation must indeed be worth a dictionary all to itself.

This week’s meeting of the Bangor and North Down Camera Club was given over to members’ A/V presentations on a theme of their own choice and, as might have been expected, the subject matter was wide ranging .

Gavin McKee opted for a contemporary approach utilising Dido’ latest single “Don’t Believe in Love” to illustrate a tale of love which may or may not have been unrequited but which admirably captured the “morning after” mood by subtle use of monochrome images to mirror the plaintive lyrics of the song.

Most, however, chose more traditional outlets for their compositions; Davy Cooper favoured a tour of Cambridge while Peter Gibson went European with a Dutch treat around the canals of Amsterdam. Jack Thompson needed to look no further than Mountstewart for his inspiration while David Roberts divided the attention of his lens between Switzerland and Crawfordsburn .

Alan McMorris took the audience on a City Tour of Belfast and Kathleen McCreesh favoured the Scottish capital when she displayed her shots of Edinburgh.

Declaring that “Black and white are colours too” Mark Allen demonstrated that monochrome images can display a potency all their own; Bill Cardwell zoomed in on front doors and door-knockers for his presentation and Sean Barton offered a thought-provoking ,stylised progression entitled “Song for the Siren”.

The displays were enhanced by music – generally of a sympathetic nature!

John Bennett

The midweek session was dedicated to exploring the intricacies of Audio-Visual preparation and David Roberts concentrated on the importance of the sound track in a good presentation.

Utilising the program Audacity (which is a free download!) he demonstrated how to lay a sound track and how to manipulate the transitions and slide durations to accommodate the rhythms of the music. Some A/V practitioners like to add a spoken commentary to their production and David gave a practical lesson on how to effect this  by the use of “envelopes”.

The rapt audience agreed that it all looked quite logical and within their grasp – and then went home to spend a few days finding out that it might take a wee bit of practice as well!

John Bennett

Paul SeawrightAn eight year old boy stands beside his father who is watching his place of employment burn to the ground at the height of The Troubles in Belfast.

His father hands him a camera and asks him to take some photographs . The boy captures images, not of the burning building but of his father and his colleagues and the emotions etched on their faces as they watch their jobs and  livelihoods disappear in the flames.

The boy is now Professor Paul Seawright whose photographs are mounted in places as far apart as 10 Downing Street and the Imperial War Museum as well as in galleries in New York, Berlin; Paris and many other important international centres. He is the author of half a dozen major books and numerous papers on photography but still maintains that same facility of seeing a scene with an “extra eye” – on a different level.

He provided an enthralling and challenging evening for The Bangor and North Down Camera Club on Friday evening when he showed a selection of his work and explained the painstaking research and often dangerous environments involved in the capture of the images.

 

 

Paul SeawrightStarting with his first major international success, “Sectarian Murder” he demonstrated that the often gruesome story could be presented even more graphically, sometimes, by depicting the usually ordinary location of a murder and adding a paragraph from a contemporary newspaper report of the deed.

With his status now secured he was able to shadow Police in Johannesburg to witness daily shootings and murders and was commissioned to travel to Afghanistan in the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York . His photographic record, (and subsequent book “Hidden”), of the fight against The Taliban and the  dangers of minefields won international recognition.

Similar work in Africa (“Invisible Cities”) followed and commissions from Italy, Japan and many other countries began to flow in and continue to do so.

But his work doesn’t only depict the darker side of  the human condition. Among his earlier collections is a series of photographs illustrating excerpts from his  teenage diary – even revisiting the barbers where he had his hair cut as a fifteen year old!

Paul’s next exhibition is nearer home than usual – just round the corner from the Photographic Department of the New University of Ulster which he set up two years ago. It’s called “Anxious Landscape: Paul Seawright Selected Works” and it will be on display in the Golden Thread Gallery in Great Patrick Street in Belfast from November 27th until January 20th.

John Bennett

With the forthcoming Audio-Visual Evening coming up (Friday November  28th ) the midweek session was reserved for preparation of the A/V programmes. Some members are hoping to display a presentation for the first time at this meeting so a certain amount of apprehension (panic would be too strong a description!) was noted.

Mark  Allen galloped to the rescue with a tutorial on the practical aspects of Pro-Show – one of the most popular pieces of software for A/V presentation. (The other is Pictures-to Exe which David Roberts will explore next week.) Thanks to David for providing his new Digital projector which was much admired by many – and probably coveted by some!

Judging by the (mostly) intelligent nature of the questions and comments it appears that a useful  amount of knowledge was disseminated and internalized by the members present – and another good turnout it was!

John Bennett

What has print making got to do with photography?  A great deal as it turns out. 

Our guest speaker, Janet Preston, provided a detailed and fascinating insight on various steps involved.  Many of her impressive prints started off as ideas, which after research and careful consideration became projects or themes.  Janet explained how she often started by simply walking about and taking things in.  Armed with a disposable 35mm she would often just point and shoot, without bothering to look through the lens.  Sometimes she would revisit with her SLR camera and retake images.

Janet stressed that the next stage often involved some ‘serendipity’.  She would have a huge range of source material; ranging from her photographs, old postcards, images from Sunday supplements, and even images that she had previously cut up.  It was at this stage that we realised that when she talked about ‘cut and paste’ she really meant it!  She would cut out bits of this and that and literally paste them together in a collage approach.  Janet has a natural and artistic gift for making discoveries, perhaps even by accident.  Suddenly she sees something that works and then builds on that; delighting in the imperfections, the shadows cast by the layers, the rough edges, and the fact that some portions are clearly not perfect.

This collage approach, Janet explained, helps to provide a narrative for the print.  Many of her images were supported with colourful stories and background information.  She will sometimes use the same or similar sky to build bridge heads across a number of images.  Janet also admitted that she has been influenced by the cartoon collage/animation from the early Monty Python sketches by Terry Gilliam, and also by the Hitchcock movies.
After a break for tea and coffee, members were able to see some examples of her prints.  Indeed, two members were so impressed that they bought some!

Brief Bio:
Belfast based artist, Janet Preston trained in Fine Art and the University of Ulster Belfast and has a BA First Class Honours. She also completed a postgraduate diploma in Applied Arts at the college. According to Preston “My work is multi-disciplinary and can be described as being on the cusp between printmaking and photography. I have established my professional career on painstaking visual investigation of what we take for granted.” She has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally and has taken part in many major print biennales and triennials. She is recipient of numerous awards from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Oppenheim Downes Memorial Trust Award, British Council Award, UTV Award and was prize-winner at Lessedra International Mini Print and Limerick Small Print Exhibition.

Mark Allen

On 12.11.08 we selected our images for the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) Great British Cup'. May I thank all members who took the time to participate in this important PDI competition.
A pre-selection had reduced the numbers from 186 to 50 'possibles' and 40 'definites'.  I want to thank our judges - Trevor Craig, Peter Gibson and Peter Nixon.  They selected ten images from the 50
'possibles' and promoted them to 'definites'. That left the judges the task of selecting 20 images out of the final 50 'definites'.  It all went very smoothly and a consensus was very quickly achieved. Well done judges!

Congratulations to the following 13 members who had their images selected for the final 20:

Alan McMorris (3) Guitar man, Kat and Gilly, Paris Subway
Daniel Hughes, Sand and Sea
David Best, Walking on Water
David Roberts, Heavenly Light
Gerry Coe, Storm Clouds
Hugh Rooney (4) Hong Kong at Night, Minnesota Dawn, Spider, Venice
John Bennett, Covent Garden
John Miskelly (2) India, Venice Lady's
Kathleen McCreesh, Misty Morning
Mark Allen (2) Mirror Lake, Glass Flowers
Nigel Snell, Owl Attack
Peter Gibson, Dance
Sean Barton, Taking out the hounds

AV here exe or zip here these are both around 8MB and will only run under Windows. A mac version is coming.

 

Mark Allen

As the digital revolution marches triumphantly onwards and traditional methods of photography are overtaken by technology it seems that some folk are reluctant to surrender one aspect of the old ways.

The photo album is making a comeback!

While it is possible and relatively simple to display those family snaps on the computer or even the wide-screen television it seems an increasing number of people want to see their pictures printed and published in a photo book. The photographic magazines bear witness to the popularity of this development with a plethora of companies offering very competitive rates to a growing market.

On Friday we were treated to  a comprehensive description of what is on offer and how it works by Peter Wilkin, a Past President of the Northern Ireland Photographic  Association and a member of the Ballynahinch Camera Club . When he first investigated the possibility of having digital images incorporated in book form he had to send his photographs to California to have the job done. Apparently no-one in the UK or Ireland had seen the commercial possibilities of such a venture seven or eight years ago.

Peter wryly remarked that had he employed some entrepreneurial skills at the time he might now be a millionaire!

He demonstrated the procedure involved in the on-line process (most of the firms employ similar software and operating methods). Having downloaded the free software it is simply a matter of choosing ones images, arranging them on the pages, in groups or singly, choosing a background and cover and uploading the file to the company to let the experts produce a very attractive book.

Most companies offer a choice of size: number of pages : matt or glossy finish and pictorial or plain cover and with prices starting from around £20 a personalised volume like this might just make  someone very happy this Christmas!

Meanwhile the Wednesday Club continues to thrive and grow; no fewer than twenty members turned up this week  and it is clear that this weekly gathering is now firmly established as a fixture.

The agenda for the mid-week get –together is very open; this week David Roberts continued his demonstration of the wonders of Photoshop, concentrating on Levels and Curves. David’s “hands on” approach is easy to follow and if there is a particular area you would like explained in future weeks – don’t hesitate. Ask!

David also showed an audio-visual record of an eventful evening photographing some friends and their lovely (and lively) little daughter who wanted to run , jump, spin – in fact anything except sit still to have her photograph taken !

Kathleen McCreesh and Gavin McKee shared their images of a wedding they covered together and demonstrated that what can be a rather sombre, staid affair can also produce a memorable record with some very thoughtful arrangements and presentations . The resulting A/V made very pleasant viewing.

Finally a quiz question!

What have an iceberg and the floor of the clubhouse kitchen in common?

Answer;  They’re both very dangerous below the surface. The kitchen floor, in fact , was almost completely rotten necessitating an entire rebuild from the ground up. Having stripped the plumbing and the electrics Davy Cooper,assisted by Noel Maitland and Jack Thompson, relaid the joists, floor and floor cladding before refitting the kitchen in its entirety . A first class job executed professionally with the minimum of fuss.

The only problem now is deciding who should do the official opening . The short list reads Gordon,Delia ,Jamie and Nigella. Any preference?

John Bennett

The painting of murals on gable walls is as much a part of Northern Ireland’s culture as Lambeg Drums, Irish Dancing or a big bowl of champ!

How many King Williams, astride snow white chargers have led their armies to victory across the entrances to terraced streets?  How many avowals of allegiance to many and varied causes have been portrayed graphically ( and with varying degrees of artistic merit) on the red brick canvasses of walls in Belfast and other Ulster towns?

In recent years there appears to have been a resurgence of the folk art of mural painting and the subject matter has undergone a remarkable change. Less is now seen of the political and paramilitary scenes which traditionally dominated the city  while an increasing number of the works  tend to celebrate more positive aspects of the new peaceful era in the province.

We had an opportunity to evaluate this artistic and sociological evolution on Friday last when Stanley McIlreavy displayed some of his photographs of recent murals from the streets of Belfast. On the Falls and Shankill Road, and in East Belfast the trend appeared to be similar – a movement away from the entrenched perceptions of the past replaced by a celebration of local culture and personalities. The Northern Ireland International Football side: the Tyrone Gaelic Football team:  George Best and  traditional fiddler Sean Maguire were just a few of the featured subjects while youth clubs and warnings of the dangers of drug taking also got their messages across to passers- by and peripatetic photographers alike.

Stanley also made mention of the fact that, while in the past,  it might have been ill-advised to be seen taking pictures of murals in sensitive areas  his experience was that the communities nowadays were proud of the artwork and generally welcomed visitors to view them. 

Mr. McIlreavy, a former member of the club and always a welcome guest, also entertained the members with his action shots of some lesser known sports and who knows how many in the enthusiastic audience have subsequently been moved to have a go at softball, ladies football or even coracle racing on the River Boyne. Alas perhaps not so many!

The general consensus seemed to be that just taking pictures of them might be preferable presenting, as it did, a slightly less chance of being either kicked to death or drowned!

John Bennett

 

Water , water, everywhere!

The burning question is – when is water not water. If it is heated to boiling point can the resultant steam be classified as water?

Likewise if it is frozen  can solid ice still be described as water?

Kathleen McCreesh - WaterThese were the questions which led to animated and, at times, quite forceful debate among the members last Friday. The theme for the monthly competition was water – a topic which offered plenty of scope for the amateur photographers.

A little bit too much according to some !

The visiting judge, Brian McKenna (President of the Northern Ireland Photographic Association ) introduced a hint of “is it or isn’t it” and the members took up good natured cudgels on both sides of the argument. Some were of the opinion that the element should exist only in its true, basic form while others plumped for a more liberal interpretation of the rules.

Other  (highly entertaining!)  avenues of discussion were then investigated. For instance if a picture has a river running through a forest does that constitute a “water” picture or is it, in fact, a landscape.

And what about clouds and snow!  ( One image of a gin and tonic was appreciated by all but sadly did not win a prize!)

 Without  the wisdom of Solomon to hand it was obvious that a definitive answer was not forthcoming , however notwithstanding the flurry of excitement engendered by the subject it did produce some excellent images particularly from some of the newer members of the club.

In the Foundation section Gavin McKee swept the boards with a first in the Colour section and first and second in Monochrome.

Alan McMorris returned a similar clean sweep in the Advanced section with wins in both Colour and Monochrome.

In the recently instituted Digital Image category Kathleen McCreesh claimed first and second in the Foundation  competition with Bill Cardwell winning the Advanced section.

John Bennett

 

During The day she wears a “Bob the Builder” hat and boots with steel  toecaps as she negotiates the steel girders and reinforced concrete of bridges and buildings. When evening falls ,however, she can often be seen modelling exquisite gowns on the catwalk or modelling in the photographic studio.

 

Bangor girl Emma Thompson ( famous name but no relation of the  film star!) is a final year Structural Engineering student at Queen’s University but doubles as a part-time fashion and photographic model and one of her latest assignments was at the Bangor and North Down Camera Club where she posed for renowned portrait photographer Gerry Coe.

 

 

Gerry was giving a masterclass in lighting for portraiture for the members of the club and a big audience was treated to an evening of first class lighting tips, put into practice by Emma’s assured manner and professional poise in front of camera.

 

“I don’t mind getting my hands dirty on the building sites,” she chuckled, ”but like all girls I just love dressing up in really glam gear for the catwalk or the studio.! It’s great fun but I have no plans at the moment to turn professional. First I want to finish my degree and then, well, who knows?”

General feeling among the club members was that, although it certainly wasn’t as easy as Gerry made it look, it would be well worth giving portraiture a try.

 

The new roll-up backings ( courtesy of Noel Maitland) , and the very fine array of lights are there to be used, -remember!

 

It wasn’t so long ago that photography was a mainly local pursuit. Club members exhibited their work solely for the benefit of other members or local inter club competitions. How things have changed!

Today amateurs have the chance to display their images on national and even international web sites and photographs taken by members of the Bangor Club are regularly featured in Salons displaying work from all around the world.

Such is the impact of the digital image!

The latest body to “go digital” is the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain – a prestigious organisation which acts as the parent body for clubs throughout the United Kingdom. Recently they held their first digital projection competition attracting 2860 entries from 143 clubs including Bangor and North Down.

Although it was something of a last minute entry with little time to refine the final selection the club was reasonable happy with the outcome . (They scored 168 points against the winning total of 249 and the bottom score of 140.) Congratulations to Harry Pettis:  David Foster: Mark Allen: Glorija Perry and Gerry Coe whose pictures comprised the Bangor entry.

The club members were treated to audio-visual  displays of all the winning images and there was general agreement that the standard was very high . So high in fact that the genial wisecracking banter usually present at such screenings was reduced to sharp intakes of breath and muted whistles of appreciation!

John Bennett

A little bit of history was made at the meeting of the BNDCC when, for the fist time in the Club’s history, digital imagery was introduced to an official competition. Since it was founded back in 1951 the Bangor Club has  based its various competitions on prints and transparencies but with the digital format all but replacing film in recent years it was inevitable that the new technology would be represented  and merit inclusion alongside the traditional displays of mounted prints .

Club members have been learning the new skills required to prepare images for competitions and the mysteries of esoteric names such as Jpegs, tiffs and pixels are now becoming as commonplace as developer, fixer, dodging and burning once were in the days of the darkroom. Ongoing tutorials on Wednesday nights have gradually (and reasonably painlessly) introduced the”painters in light” to the intricacies of resizing digital photographs for competition and publishing requirements.  There have, however,  been the odd cry of anguish when pictures have been either  reduced  out of sight or enlarged to billboard size proportions! Who would have thought that a tiny little creature like a mouse could wield such power! 

It was heartening to see that the printed image is still regarded as the main focal point of the competition with a healthy entry in both Foundation and Advanced sections and in both Monochrome and Colour.

OPEN COMPETITION WINNERS

COLOUR PRINTS                                            ADVANCED                                                         FOUNDATION

                                                                      Peter Gibson                                                        Gavin McKee

MONOCHROME                                             Ray Magill                                                              Sean Barton

DIGITAL IMAGE                                             Mark Allen                                                             John Bennett

TRANSPARENCIES                                        Noel Maitland                                                       ------------------

John Bennett

With the first competition of the season  just a few days away the first task was to arrange the prints for Friday evening’s judging. The additional shelf at the front of the hall (made possible by the advent of the new roll-up screen)  made the life of the Competition Secretary a little easier.


As usual  however there were  a few  teething  problems ; a few prints were slightly over the size limit and while this may not seem a crucial matter at Club level if an oversize print were to be a winner in its class then N.I.P.A. would have no hesitation in disqualifying it. Please check the requisite dimensions for both prints and digital images in “The Rules” section of the website.
Mark Allen provided a tutorial on resizing digital images for competitions and it would probably not go amiss to repeat the exercise for the benefit of the full club meeting on a Friday night.
David Best introduced the interesting concept of “Smart Layers” in Photoshop; a topic which drew appreciative nods and comments and undoubtedly some mental promises to “have a go at it some night when there isn’t too much on the telly!”


Devotees of Audio-Visual presentations had their own little treat with a video lesson on fine audio editing with Audacity. The maestro Barry Beckham – he of the soft vowels and intuitive teaching style made it look so simple. It left the rapt audience wishing that they too could “Bend it like Beckham!”

John Bennett

If you think you take your photography seriously then you really should have been present at this week’s meeting. The guest speaker was Terry McCreesh, a Past President of N.I.P.A.  (Northern Ireland Photographic Association) and a member of the Belfast Photo Imaging Club.


If your holiday project consists of snapping a few local landmarks or a quickly grabbed night shot of lights along the promenade then your levels of dedication and application would pale by comparison.
For Terry the ideal holiday is to spend four or five weeks in a country, select his venues and then snap them to within an inch of their lives. For example on a visit to Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border he wanted images in various  degrees of light and shade so he drove 70 miles from his hotel at dawn, shuttered all day in the blistering heat and drove back at nightfall.


As he remarked,”When I come back from one of my holidays I usually have to take a break for a week to recover!”


In South Africa he patiently pursued the local animal population for hours on end just to capture the fleeting magical moment that beckons like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The elephants, however, gave him the runaround on this particular safari. Having driven through the bush from sunrise until sunset with singular lack of sightings he came back to his lodging place to find about a hundred of the giant tuskers besporting themselves around the water hole at the back!


Terry clearly is blessed with a healthy sense of humour as well as the patience of Job!


His dazzling show of 35mm slides were graphic evidence of his worldwide travels with a lens - Canada: Australia: New Zealand:The Galapagos Islands :China and of course just about everywhere in the British Isles.
His particular interest is Natural History and, as any photographer will tell you , animals make pretty awful models- particularly the wild variety. They just will not pose, so the superb collection of transparencies that Terry displayed are witness not only to his skill with a camera but also to his amazing patience.


His “optical odyssey” has beckoned him to some wonderful locations and he left the Bangor members in no doubt that he has done them full justice.   

John Bennett

It was a disappointment for the club members when the scheduled speaker was unable to be present but at very short notice( and not for the first time) club member Gerry Coe stepped into the breach with an informative and entertaining presentation of work by American photographers as featured in the magazine LENSWORK.


The subject matter was wide ranging but as the Editorial pointed out  ”Seeing, not subject matter is the core of photography.”  This was graphically illustrated by a selection of monochrome images of grain silos – hardly the most aesthetically pleasing of  models!


From an investigation of the possibilities offered by the use of High Dynamic Range in the capture of industrial machinery to the beauties of a micro photographic examination of an acrylic candle holder some new horizons opened up for the Bangor members .However few are likely to emulate the example of one snapper whose portfolio consisted of  pictures taken from inside a log cabin where he was marooned for three  days by heavy snow in the mountains. If it demonstrated anything at all it was that there are just so many images one can squeeze out of three red peppers and a battered aluminium dish!


Other selections featured the work of Rosanne Olsen who investigated the notion of discovering the character and essence of other people (and possibly oneself) by photographic means and an intriguing essay (in traditional film) of stone – both in its natural environment and among the magnificent man-made shapes of the great cathedrals. 
An entertaining evening enhanced considerably by the benefits of the new projection screen and audio system for which gratitude is due to club members David Cooper and Noel Maitland.

John Bennett

A good turnout of intrepid souls braved a stormy evening to meet in the clubhouse on 10 September. For anyone not familiar with the midweek meetings, the agenda is flexible with an informal tutorial on a given theme followed by open discussion lubricated by tea and coffee,

David Roberts gleaned some audio-visual inspiration from a couple of downloads from the Internet; vistas of the mountains of Norway drew appreciative comments and Barry Beckham’s slightly avant-garde approach to wedding photography attracted both for and against votes.

Mark Allen investigated the mysteries of resizing digital images for various purposes – printing; emailing and Internet inclusion mainly.Some ( actually most!) found the concept and the practicalities difficult to grasp at first so he very kindly did it all again. It seems likely that this is an area which could stand revisiting more than once!

Mark also showed the winning entries from The Great British Cup, a new competition for digital images. Two Bangor Club pictures made the final selection- a shot of Parliament Buildings by Moonlight (Mark Allen) and Converging Railway lines by Moonlight (David Foster).

Whilst all this was going on, the mysteries of wireless flash were being demonstrated in the kitchen as the kettles boiled.

If you have an hour or two why not drop in next Wednesday?

John Bennett

The official 2008 –09 season opened on Friday evening although a number of members have been meeting informally on Wednesday and Friday evenings throughout the summer. Also on the first Saturday of each of the summer months a group has gone on a whole-day photographic outing.

In his opening remarks on Friday evening the chairman Trevor Craig welcomed all those present and thanked a number of members who had undertaken work to significantly improve the club’s facilities. A new projection screen and loudspeakers  have been installed and the projection system improved with further improvements in the pipe line. Noel Maitland, David Cooper and David Roberts were the prime movers supported by the comments and mostly helpful suggestions of the onlookers.

David Best had organised the outings and those who had made use of these had enjoyed the company, the banter and the photographic opportunities.

Mark Allen, the competitions secretary, had made changes to the competition rules in the light of comments by the members and decisions made by the club committee. He outlined all of these and made copies available. The rules are also on the club’s website.

The club’s public exhibition, organised by Harry Pettis, is currently on show in the Flagship Centre. There are two sites one as shoppers enter from the car park and another as shoppers leave from the first floor to Main Street.

Trevor then opened the meeting to members to display their summer and holiday photographs. He was surprised to discover that for the first time in the club’s history no prints were available, instead all of the images were presented in digital form. Indeed this meant that there were many more images to view. Most of these were in audio-visual form with the photographs being projected and accompanied by music.

A number of the presenters included photographs taken on the club summer outings and quite a few showed photographers taking photographs indeed one showed a photographer photographing photographers taking photographs!

Glorija Perry’s images were of Croatia; her homeland, while Mark Allen had been to America and Yellowstone park in particular. Alan McMorris had been to Paris while Jack Thompson had got no further than Crawfordsburn Country Park and a story about a drop of rain in his garden.

Gerry Coe showed yet another “tongue-in-cheek” approach to an incident on his holiday in Spain when the locals cooked a huge paella on what must have been a six feet diameter pan in the open air. Under the pretext of sampling the result he got a free meal.

Bill Cardwell showed some lovely images of Province and Langedoc. Kathleen McCreesh’s photos were of the North Antrim coast while Daniel Hughes had images of his family at Disneyland in Paris interspersed with a few abstracts. Alistair Bell had been to Capetown and brought back some disturbing photos of the poorer areas on the outskirts of the city but he also had beautiful close-up images of flowers taken in the Algarve. Finally Mark Allen and Alan McMorris showed how they had approached photographing the wedding of one of the member’s daughters.

Although looking at other people’s holiday photos is supposed to be very boring due to the quality of the photography and the variety of presentations this was an excellent start to the new season.

John Bennett