Meetings blog 2009-2010 ...
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
Where does photography end and art begin? A weighty problem and possibly a question to which there is no definitive answer yet it gave the members plenty of food for thought at the weekly meeting on Friday.
Gerry Coe, the President of the Club, brought along a selection of images gathered from the work of American photographers and invited the appraisal of the audience to the varied and highly individualistic styles on display. Some of the work in fact wasn’t even created in a camera; Kim Kauffman’s graphic designs were produced mainly by copying paper shapes on a flat-bed scanner. By twisting the paper into many different planes and sizes and building up multiple layers of images she achieved some highly dramatic abstract scenes.
Can it be called Photography? Well the word comes from the Greek language and means literally “painting or writing with light”; there is no mention of using a camera or indeed a lens so there would appear to be a valid case for describing it thus.
Jean Michel Berts’ work consisted mainly of cityscapes of New York,Paris and Venice – all taken at dawn and all notable for the complete absence of people which is a thought-provoking concept rarely seen in these popular venues. Cole Thompson explored the use of double exposures to paint an emotive picture of the Concentration Camp at Auschwitz. By overlaying fleeting glimpses of visitors on the sombre buildings of the death camp he conjured up an ethereal, almost ghostly series of scenes which offered a fresh, if slightly disturbing aspect to a much photographed scene.
Camille Seaman visited the Antarctic and captured some majestic shots of icebergs in all their grandeur while Douglas Benner went no further than his back garden to capture the intricate beauty of dewdrops clinging to flowers and plant stalks . Another innovative approach featured the work of Brigitte Cornochan who recaptured the ethos of the Second World War by combining contemporary photographs with letters and documents of the period. The overall effect managed to portray a feel for the period much more tangible than just pictures by themselves.
An interesting evening and one which reinforced the notion already held by most photographers –that there are still many artistic avenues to be explored and that that, even allowing for all the modern technological advances, creativity like beauty is still in the eye of the beholder.
Entry Prints and Digital Projected Images were submitted by members for judging by a guest Judge.
This evening also became a "networking" evening with the members present getting an opportunity to informally mix and chat and seek advice. As we have had a pleasing recruitment of new members, the opportunity to spend time with them was welcome.
We reflected on the visit to the club last Wednesday evening of Chris Roberts who conducted a practical Workshop on flash photography, dealing with how to get the best results from our flashguns both on and off the camera. The feedback from that workshop was excellent, in fact we had as large a turnout as our scheduled Friday sessions.
Next Wednesday, we plan to continue with some practical on and off camera flash, plus some tuition on Photoshop Elements by Bill Nesbitt. Bring your camera and flashgun for more practie and of course, photos which you have taken, on a flash memory stick.
What does a professional photographer do in his spare time? Go fishing – learn a foreign language – build a battleship from matchsticks? Colin Thompson does none of these; he packs his camera bag and goes off taking photographs. But, as he pointed out to the members his leisure photography is very different from his “day job” variety.
Without the pressure of deadlines and the exacting demands of customers Colin delights in taking pictures that please or excite him and even though he is a Past President of the Northern Ireland Photographic Association nowadays he doesn’t worry too much about what judges may think of his images.
The result is that his prints are personal records of places and people he meets in his extensive travels . His treatment of his images provided the audience with an insight into the artistic thought processes of someone who treats the camera as a third eye and sees beyond the mechanical reproduction of a scene or an object.
Displaying over a hundred prints he demonstrated that the photographer and the painter can find common ground in the presentation of an image. Colin favours a light, pastel-effect finish designed to give a “paintery” effect especially when printed on soft, matt-finish paper.
Some prints were almost completely desaturated to suggest a pencil sketch finish . This approach was particularly effective in his opening series of prints which featured sunflowers in various stages of their life cycle. Colin’s perceptive viewpoints demonstrated that while the flower is beautiful while blooming it also can be attractive when it is past its best and approaching its end. This theme of “beauty in decay” appeared many times in his portfolio.
When he visited Venice he didn’t linger too long at the usual tourist traps. Having taken the almost obligatory snaps of St Mark’s and the gondolas on the Grand Canal he then wandered off to the back streets and to the Jewish Quarter, the original Ghetto, to find the real heart of the ancient city. His images of buildings with crumbling plaster and peeling paint presented a thought provoking alternative view of a much photographed area.
Another panel of pictures from a museum for mechanical diggers featured the same notion of finding visual satisfaction in decay and his prints of rusting engines and broken tracks certainly had an immediate impact on the audience. This coupled with more highly stylised landscapes of the Lake District and Donegal rounded off an evening much enjoyed by the Bangor amateurs.
Electronic technology is developing at such an increasing rate it seems that every week some new gadget or gimmick appears and replaces what was leading edge wizardry not so long ago. However sometimes it’s nice just to savour the way things used to be done. The members of Bangor and North Down Camera Club were treated to just such a nostalgic demonstration when Gordon Gray visited the club with his Audio-Visual projection equipment.
Until five or six years ago A.V. shows were mounted using film transparencies and twin slide projectors coupled with sophisticated mixing gear and an accompanying sound system. Today the computer has made life much easier with user-friendly software, capable of producing professional standard displays with a wide range of transitions and special effects coupled with sound facilities to add music and commentary .
Gordon, who is a Fellow of both the Royal Photographic Society and the Equivalent Irish body, has judged Audio-Visuals at International level and has an extensive library of his own productions, some of which he brought along last Friday evening. Despite a few gremlins in the electronics the ensuing display was enthralling and, at times, thought provoking as Gordon feels that making a social comment with his pictures is an acceptable and valid approach.
He emphasised this viewpoint with a graphic depiction of a modern city with its skyscrapers and huge buildings. Called simply “Mammon” it queried whether humankind had somehow lost its way and was worshipping material wealth instead of seeking spiritual redemption and contentment. The relevance to the recent bankers’ crash was evident even though the work was completed many years ago. Another piece investigated the role of photography as an art form concluding that the camera does not choose or judge but merely mirrors life as it is – or should do.
Appreciating the value of A.V. as a social archive the club then watched with interest a portrayal of the history of James Tedford’s, the ships’ chandlers , whose premises until recently stood at Donegall Quay in Belfast and who provided ropes and myriad other bits and pieces for boats and ships going back to the days of square rigged sailing ships. Gordon cleverly married modern images with historical scenes to evoke a rather sad chronicle of the march of progress and the demise of a Belfast institution. On a lighter vein he introduced the rhythms of salsa and the tango with a travelogue of a cruise to South America and proudly announced that this had been his first venture into computerised editing and production, adding that he’d found the venture challenging but gratifying.
The audience were very complimentary about all aspects of his work but many members remarked particularly on the superb commentaries , expertly crafted and spoken with perfectly modulated tones as befits a gentleman of the cloth used to presenting “Thought for the Day” and “Morning Service” on BBC radio for many years.
The Club had a welcome visitor to their weekly meeting last Friday when Raymond Hughes, the Chairman of the Merville Camera Club entertained a full house with a selection of his work. It was soon clear that Raymond has an eclectic approach to photography as his images ranged far and wide in their subjects and treatment. He explained that his first love was environmental portraiture and many of his pictures showed ordinary people engaged in everyday tasks – most of them unaware that the camera lens was trained upon them. Nowadays, with very strict laws in operation in many countries one must be very careful not to invade a person’s privacy and, if possible, it is usually advisable to ask permission before taking the picture,even if the request may be met with a refusal – a missed shot being preferable to a court appearance, a large fine-or worse!
While he professed no specific interest in architecture Raymond did admit to a penchant for the angular attractions of cemeteries and graveyards when capturing images from unusual angles. Similarly with landscapes where he was probably happiest with a monochrome presentation of a scene which many would consider needed the full spectral treatment. This individual approach added to the personal characteristic of each of his images which ranged from places as far apart as Cork and Cyprus .
After the interval Raymond donned his Audio-Visual hat ( he is a leading light in the Northern Ireland branch of the Royal Photographic Society’s Audio-Visual branch) and showed examples of his work in that genre. The club members were treated to a varied programme of short presentations all of which demonstrated how much more impact can be attained by arranging one’s images in a themed sequence augmented by a music track and an optional commentary. The subjects ranged from Snow on the Landscape to Waterfalls in The Glens of Antrim and from Bunbeg to Barcelona and each one demonstrated the skill of the visitor, accrued from the days when similar presentations had to be made using two projectors and mixing equipment. The advent of digital technology has made the process not only much easier but also now offers a multitude of effects and approaches undreamt of previously.
The value of Audio-Visual as a social archive was demonstrated by a nostalgic black and white look at Rathcoole Estate in 1981. Raymond was one of the photographers who took the original pictures for a local exhibition and they created much interest when they were shown again to a new generation of residents on the estate. At the other end of the scale a story of Felix the Cat being outwitted by a little mouse brought laughter, applause and an end to an enjoyable evening.
Judging a camera club photographic competition is rather similar to refereeing a Premier League football match in some ways. No matter how fairly the arbiter applies his or her judgement it will invariably meet with disapproval by someone – usual a someone whose entry has not been rewarded with a prize!
So the little band who undertake to perform this onerous (and voluntary) task must approach it with an acute awareness of the pitfalls. They must apply their decision with integrity and honesty, without fear or favour and yet must not be so critical that they cause hurt or slight to those they judge – an undertaking which surely requires the compassion of Mother Teresa and the tenacity of Osama bin Laden! So no pressure there!
A group from the Bangor and North Down Camera Club experienced a first hand introduction to the skills required in judging when they embarked on a course run by the Northern Ireland Photographic Association last week and a number of other members have voiced their intention to join a future similar gathering. The eventual outcome is to provide a wider selection of competent judges for the various competitions throughout the year. The Bangor Club then had an opportunity to watch some judging for real in the fifth round of the Annual Competition. This was an Open Round and although the entry was smaller than usual, particularly in the Foundation section, the work on display was generally of high quality.
The guest judge was Leslie Armour from the neighbouring Ards Camera Club –friendly rivals of Bangor over the years -and the ensuing proceedings were liberally laced with good natured banter and humour. His colleagues for the night were Gerry Coe, the President of the club and Harry Watson representing the Foundation members. The prizes were dominated by two photographers –Alan McMorris who took two firsts and two seconds in the Advanced Class and Alan Hartley who bagged a similar tally in the Foundation section.
Alan Hartley’s atmospheric print of Byland Abbey won the Foundation Monochrome prize with Brian Watt’s “Blue Bikes” winning the Colour section. Nigel Snell went to the Isle of Skye to to take the winning print in the Advanced Mono department while Alan McMorris used the Giant’s Causeway as a backdrop for a pair of psychedelic boots in his winning colour print. The two Alans again were to the fore in the Projected Digital Image competition- Mr Hartley indulging in some aquatic sport with a fine action shot of a Flying Surfer and Mr McMorris offering a winning study of three small boats on a misty lake.
The Royal Photographic Society is the oldest and most respected body of its kind in the world. Its origins go back almost as far as the beginnings of photography itself so any award made by the society clearly carries a lot of prestige. It is hardly surprising therefore that the standards set by the examiners is necessarily very high.
The entry level qualification is LRPS- Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and having been successful at this stage some are encouraged to climb another step on the ladder and try for the ARPS – Associateship.
The Bangor and North Down Camera Club heard, at first hand, the concentrated effort required to add these initials after ones name when Stephen McWilliams and Malachy Connolly of the Christian Brothers’ Camera Club visited Ballyholme on Friday 12th February. They brought with them both prints and digitally projected images to illustrate the level of commitment required to gain the award and they further enhanced the display with informative and entertaining comment.
Malachy started by displaying some work of a general nature,underlining his love of landscape and demonstrating his mastery of the interplay of light with mountains, lakes and forests. He strives to show the source of the light in his work resulting usually in a contrasting and striking portrayal of scenes, many of which were shot in County Donegal.
Stephen favoured landscapes as well but seasoned his selection with some seascapes and also showed his love of the Donegal scenery. As they regularly go together on photographic ventures one might have expected a certain duplication in their output but although the same venue cropped up in a few shots the treatment was markedly different and it was obvious that after many years sharing the landscapes they are still the best of friends.
The ARPS judges require a panel of 15 photographs and they can be a mixture of sizes, shapes and themes. One can even mix colour with monochrome so long as the overall effect is well structured and cohesive. Both the visitors started out with about one hundred images and gradually whittled the selection down to the final panel.
A feature of this level is that the mages chosen may not necessarily be the best photographs in ones portfolio – more important is the fact that each should be an integral, enhancing element in an overall scheme.They both also stressed how much they depended on others for advice and direction.
Having a good mentor can sometimes mean the difference between success and failure in this venture and a guiding hand would be even more necessary if they decided to take the next step and try for the FRPS – the Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society.
The world of the professional press photographer is a world away from that of most amateurs. While enthusiasts click the shutter mainly for sheer enjoyment the full time workers must capture and deliver their images every time and on time to earn a living. They work strange hours, often in uncomfortable if not downright dangerous conditions and their subjects are determined by current affairs or the whims of picture editors.
Stephen Davidson brought an added dimension to the photo-experience when he entertained the members of the club with an illustrated insight into a life behind the professional viewfinder. Stephen is a member of the team at Pacemaker International, one of the major agencies in the country and over the years he has covered just about everything from terrorist murders to society weddings.
At the height of the troubles the local photographers serviced not only the Irish newspapers but also the press and television needs of the world. To give some understanding of the obstacles in the way of a good front page picture Stephen gave a minute by minute account of covering a murder case. It started , as many stories do, with a tip–off from an informant – an invaluable part of the job. This was followed by a midnight drive to the scene of the crime and the struggle to find a vantage point close to the scene without breaking the law and incurring the wrath of the police .Often this entails “off-road” adventures across ditches, rivers and other natural barriers – usually carrying equipment worth thousands of pounds and weighing quite a few as well.
Working in total darkness an instinctive knowledge of ones equipment is an essential prerequisite and often the camera and lenses are stretched to the absolute limit to capture a meaningful shot.
“ It’s a very competitive business,” Stephen told the rapt audience,” and being first there can mean the difference between seeing your shot on the nine o’clock news or having a wasted night.”
Then follows the painstaking procedure of following up the initial images with supplementary photos to develop the story as it unfolds. This can mean a couple of days at the scene endeavouring to find an angle or a slant that the opposition , the competitors, do not see.”
At the other end of the scale he derives much personal satisfaction fromcovering his favourite sport –motor cycle racing. He has covered all the major road races for many years now and even travels as far as China in his quest to capture the excitement and the drama. The books he has published catalogue his favourite courses and riders and they all mirror his deep involvement with the sport.
However it is a pursuit that brings not only pleasure but grief as many of the competitors, personal friends of Stephen, have died in their crash helmets and leathers. Indeed a hushed clubhouse was exposed to the raw emotional nature of the racing spectrum when watching pictures of a competitor enjoying his victory ceremony at the Ulster Grand Prix followed a few days later by pictures of the funeral procession of of the same rider.
In all the Bangor Club was treated to a thought-provoking and enlightening evening.
Congratulations to Nigel Snell for winning the NIPA Roy Finlay Trophy
The trophy, a silver salver, was presented to Nigel by Chairman Mark Allen.
To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower.”
The poet William Blake died in 1827 so it is unlikely that he ever took a photograph but he was a painter and a printmaker as well as being a poet, so perhaps he had some foresight of things to come when he penned these lines. The members of Bangor and North Down Camera Club weren’t quite able to reach a magnification to match Blake’s imagination for their monthly competition on Friday 22nd January but the macro prints and images on display certainly probed the mysteries of the close-up image to some effect.
There was a reasonable entry for such a specialised area of photography and the judges remarked upon the overall quality of the pictures - especially those from the Foundation members.The definition of “macro” was again debated as there is more than one set of guidelines among the various bodies. The official designation is that an image must be presented in a 1:1 ratio i.e. the subject matter must be lifesize or greater. For the purpose of this competition a little discretion was applied and “close-up” became the general criterion.
The judges, Stanley McIlreavey L.I.P.S and John Miskelly A.R.P.S. explained that they were looking for both technical expertise and meaningful interpretation in the prints and digital imagery so although some pictures were technically proficient –sharply focused and well exposed, they had little or no added interest or imaginative content so they generally did not score well in the points allocation. Conversely others lost marks because of “soft” edges or flat lighting because working so close to the subject makes these calculations critical. At times the field of focus can be as little as a couple of millimetres so great care and patience, as well as expertise is required.
Brian Watt’s Pink Dahlia won the Foundation Colour competition with Kevin Neupert’s Water Jewels taking the Mono prize. In the Advanced section Droplet by Nigel Snell triumphed while Peter Nixon’s Caterpillar took the judges’ eyes.
Dahlias were popular again in the Digital Projected Image section; Alan Hartley delved deeply into the petals to win the Foundation award and Alan McMorris switched his attention to the minute workings of a clock to take the honours in the Advanced section.
The Bangor and North Down Camera Club awoke from its Christmas hibernation to enjoy the Annual Dinner at The Esplanade, Ballyholme. Having partaken of a fine repast the members were then entertained to a Quiz organised by Harry Pettis. The prizes for this extravaganza left the winners gasping – in disbelief! Calendars dated 2009: watches without works: single gloves – no expense was spared! Mr Pettis then went on to regale the captive audience with his latest C.D. Simon Cowell is believed to be very interested!
Last Friday (15th January) was Audio-Visual evening and a very healthy selection of entries was on display. The themes ranged from straightforward holiday records to mini-dramas complete with music and commentary soundtracks. Alan Hartley opened proceedings with an exotic account of his trip to Borneo and his close-up encounters with orangutans and other primates. His peaceful portrayal of the scenery of the Yorkshire Dales was in marked contrast.
Brian McCallion similarly divided his attention between the autumn leaves of Crawfordsburn and the majestic sights of the Tall Ships in Belfast. David Roberts took the members on a mountain trip to Chamonix in the French Alps before searching for the sun in Barbados and St Kitts. Harry Watson produced a slice of life in Africa with some close- up and personal shots of elephants, lions and other inhabitants of that continent while Hugh Rooney offered an atmospheric sojourn in a remarkable cemetery in Milan which boasts memorials on the grand scale.
Jack Thompson, who was an award winner in the national competition last year, displayed his flair for storytelling with a couple of engaging tales and Mark Allen produced some stunning visuals of his recent trip to New Zealand. Nigel Snell featured autumnal shades in his short presentation.
An enjoyable evening and an indication that Audio-Visual is emerging as a popular means of presenting images in a cohesive and attractive manner.
"The eyes have it"
On 11th December Bangor and North Down Camera Club had their 'portraiture' competition. The judge was John Hill, ex president of both the 'Northern Ireland Photographic Association' and the 'Photographic Alliance of Great Britain'. John has been judging for over 50 years and his breadth and depth of experience was evident in the feedback he generously shared, with much good natured humour, with participants. He went easy on the 'foundation' members and hit a bit harder with the 'advanced' members, who he said should know better. He explained that "I judge the images as I see them. It doesn't matter to me how they got there, whether they were taken on film, digital or whatever."
He offered some general rules of 'good portrait photography' and then, in his self depreciating style, then enjoyed contradicting himself. "Normally portraits show the eyes, and the eyes must really be sharp, they are after all the essence of the portrait. However; here is a man playing a violin, who had his eyes firmly shut - and yet the photograph clearly captures his concentration, devotion and passion - which results in an excellent portrait."
John spent some time offering advice to the 'foundation' members and went through almost every photograph, pointing out what worked and more importantly what didn't. He summarised that the main problem with all the photos that were not short-listed, both 'foundation' and 'advanced' was that the eyes were either not dominating enough or not sharp enough or both!
The judge was impressed with the projected image part of the competition. He explained that traditionally, competition 'portrait' includes one person. However;he was most impressed with a portrait of a monkey by Alan Hartley, and a photo of two young girls by Alan McMorris - both of with achieved first place in 'foundation' and 'advanced' respectively. David Smith achieved a 1st and 2nd in Foundation Colour and a 2nd in Foundation Mono. Deborah Carvill achieved a 1st in Foundation Mono. Alan McMorris continuing in his winning ways with a 1st and 2nd in Advanced Colour and a 3rd in Advanced Mono. Jack Thompson won 1st in Advanced Colour.
Other news: Congratulations to Nigel Snell; who in the Roy Finlay Natural History Competition did the club proud. He achieved a 1st and 2nd in the Colour section and a 3rd in the projected digital image. But more important he also one 1st place overall to obtain Roy Finlay Natural History Trophy.
Nigel's Golden Eagle takes the honours
Can you remember the song 'Video killed the radio star'? It highlighted the fear that modern technology; at that time, video, would result in the demise of radio. Well it didn't, and radio is stronger than ever. However our outside judge, Brian McKenna the President of the Northern Ireland Photographic Association, voiced a similar theme. He asked “will the digital and projected image kill off print photography?” The Internet allows people to enter photography competitions worldwide – by submitting their work as a digital file. While we all hope that this will not be the case, the number of 'prints' for all our recent competitions is down.
It was a theme that Brian built on while commenting on the competition entries. He recalled that one of the things that annoyed him as a beginner to photography was that judges often only commented on what they liked and didn't give enough feedback about why a photograph did not work.
He sought to right this wrong by detailing not only what he thought worked, or didn't work, but also the reasoning behind it. The result was interesting, educational, and also proved to be most entertaining.
Brian has strong views on photographic composition. “The eye naturally falls to the bottom left of the photo and works its way in. Therefore a good lead in line will help, and if you have a good lead in, but it is on the bottom right hand side, then just flip it!”
By 'flipping it' he was referring to the fact that almost all club competition photography is prepared on a computer, and again almost all software packages allow you to flip the image horizontally. This only works if there are no letters or numbers in plain view, as clearly these will become reversed.
This was just one on many tips, ideas and comments, which the club intends to explore further on Wednesday evenings.
Alan McMorris won 1st and 2nd in Colour, 1st in Monochrome and 2nd in Projected Image. Nigel Snell won 2nd and 3rd in Monochrome and 1st in Projected Image. This competition was not spilt between 'Advanced' and 'Foundation' members, it was open. Therefore kudos must be given to 'Foundation' members Laurence Henderson for getting a 3rd in colour and Alan Hartley for a 3rd in Projected Image. Well done!
But there can only be one winner, and Brian McKenna considered Nigel's photo of a Golden Eagle feeding to be the best overall.
Originally it was intended to have a session on wildlife photography before the competition for the Audrey Argue Cup but such are the difficulties of programming that it had to be held on the following week. Nevertheless John Taggart’s talk was both interesting and informative. John is a professional photographer and a member of the Antrim Club.
He began his career as a press photographer but now concentrates on wedding photography. Recently he opened a studio and together with his daughter is building this aspect of his business. Not having been brought up in a rural location and with no great knowledge of the countryside it was with some scepticism that he accepted an invitation from a colleague to spend a week in remote areas of Scotland photographing the wildlife. The experience so appealed to him that now he and his wife try to go to Scotland five or six times each year.
As one would expect his images were excellent. They included grouse, woodcock, owls, otters, stags and even wolves. It was very encouraging to hear John point out that almost all of his photographs could be taken from the window of his car or using a beanbag resting on the car or a nearby wall. Although both himself and his wife like walking he does not go for long treks carrying heavy equipment to find his subjects as he said “You wont find any early sunrises among these photographs”. All of his images were displayed in PDI form and were indeed put together in audio-visual presentation form, although we asked him to display some images separately so that they could be studied more closely. John’s modest almost self-effacing manner belied the time and expertise required to produce such stunning photographs.
One drawback became evident. Although we have an excellent sound system we do need to link it to a microphone so that those sitting at the back of the club can hear the speaker as clearly as they can view the images.
What am I going to do with all the photographs I took on my holidays this year?
Can I find some way of keeping the Christmas snaps I’m undoubtedly going to take with the new digital camera that Santa is sure to bring me?
Questions asked by many photographers no matter what their ability with the camera since the digital revolution has brought cheap pictures into the equation (once you buy the camera they’re free!) and most happy snappers are now merrily clicking away with abandon. Printing the images can be a problem however. If one doesn’t have a home printer it can work out rather expensive to have it done professionally and it is a time consuming and sometimes tricky operation for those who do own the necessary hardware.
One solution is to incorporate the pictures into an Audio-Visual display and view it on a computer or, with a little extra effort, on a television screen . A digital projector gives probably the best presentation of all but the equipment tends to be rather expensive.
The Bangor and North Down Camera Club was given a demonstration of how to go about preparing and showing an A/V at their weekly meeting last Friday when David Roberts used some of his huge collection of holiday pictures as examples. Four years ago David was meeting the Duke of Edinburgh in London to receive his Gold Medal for Photographic Excellence in the City and Guilds course he’d undertaken at Bangor‘s South Eastern Regional College. Since then he has selflessly passed on his expertise to newcomers and beginners to photography at the club meetings on Wednesday nights.
There are numerous software programmes available for the task of changing still images into a living, moving presentation and David chose Pictures to Exe for his demonstration. Not so long ago this would have entailed the use of two slide projectors and an intricate method of synchronisation but the modern method is much simpler. Having chosen the images one then arranges them on a timeline and applies a transition from one picture to the next. This can be a simple fade,a wipe,a starburst or any one of literally hundreds of examples.
Sympathetic music is then added and the project saved either as a file to be shown on a computer or as a DVD for use on television screens. The picture quality is excellent and the real advantage of the process is that the viewer can share and enjoy the images at the same time as everyone else in the room without having to pass prints around.
The basic operation is reasonably simple but clearly it is possible with extra effort and expertise to reach very high levels of artistic sophistication. In fact two members of the Bangor Club, Jack Thompson and Mark Allen have already won top honours in competitions held by the Northern Ireland Audio-Visual branch of the Royal Photographic Society. David’s illustrated workshop may well encourage others to follow suit.
The “XFactor” met “Dragon’s Den” when the club hosted an in-house evening entitled “Photography My Way”. The entertainment was provided by half a dozen carefully chosen “volunteers” who each offered an insight into his particular slant on taking pictures. Each member also gave a brief account of how they had started with a camera and how their expertise had developed. Without exception they paid tribute to the Club for providing an environment conducive to learning new skills and practical applications.
John Bennett opened proceedings with a heart-rending account of how an early dalliance with the hobby ended when he casually drove off with his camera sitting on the roof of the car – coupled with the loss of the family bathroom as a darkroom when it was reclaimed for its original purpose. Now happily digitalised he enjoys aiming his lens at a wide range of subjects and has improved his technique by involvement in the wide range of activities available on Wednesday And Friday evenings at the Club.
Nigel Snell demonstrated his love of wildlife photography by showing digital images of a wide range of birds – ranging in size from a robin in the garden to a golden eagle in the Highlands of Scotland. He also demonstrated the specialised equipment needed for successful image capture. The 600mm long lens was the centrepiece of his display which also included a hi-tec tripod which looked as though it might well double for mounting a rocket launcher. Patience, Nigel explained ,was the cornerstone of successful bird photography.
Alan Hartley gave the Foundation members’ perspective with an intriguing portfolio of images from his extensive travels around the globe. From the mountains and lakes of New Zealand to the fascinating orang-utans of Borneo, Alan carried his camera and captured many dramatic images but he admitted that the most frightening assignment he had ever faced was to photograph a friend’s wedding as a favour. A relative newcomer to the club, Alan demonstrated that he has also learned the skills of Audio-visual presentation with a very watchable display.
Alan McMorris illustrated his short talk with an array of some of his favourite prints and like many of the members of the Club he is rather eclectic in his choice of subject. Whilst admitting that he tended towards monochrome prints – particularly with dark shadows – he also enjoyed framing colour panoramas and macro images of everyday objects. Two of his most graphic pictures featured kaleidoscopes of colour captured by simply introducing a drop of water on to the surface of a CD.
Peter Nixon explained that his love affair with the lens began many years ago and then cooled off for a long period until the advent of digital photography re-ignited the spark. He also enjoys getting up close and personal with his subjects with the help of a macro lens and many of his flowers and plants demonstrated the remarkable beauty that sometimes is almost invisible to the casual observer. Peter also enjoys working in monochrome and showed some very attractive vistas of Tuscany and Provence taken in this medium.
Sean Barton rounded off the evening with a display of some images close to his heart and his heartland. Sean drives all the way from Armagh for Club meetings and a lot of his photography mirrors his involvement with the history and heritage of the Orchard County. Some of his most striking portrayals were taken inside the dark granite walls of Armagh Prison, now disused and in disrepair. Sean’s enquiring lens captured the dark brooding atmosphere behind the rusting locks and the peeling paint of the cells
The insight into the work of the half dozen speakers certainly provided entertainment for established members and gave the newcomers a good general indication of what is happening at the Bangor Club.
The ever-increasing pace of computer technology has engendered a healthy and, at times, heated debate amongst amateur photographers – should an image be enhanced by the use of electronic means –and if so by how much? Most serious devotees now accept that the digital picture can be improved measurably by some very small adjustments to contrast, colour control and sharpness and these are generally acceptable in most competitions. Others decry the use of the technology to alter the image to such an extent that it affects the integrity of the picture. Clearly it is very difficult for judges to demarcate between the two schools of thought.
The guest judge at the Bangor and North Down Camera Club’s open competition left the audience in no doubt that he considered it perfectly acceptable to improve a landscape, a portrait or an abstract presentation by the application of improving software – as long as it did not radically change the original capture of the image.
Stephen McWilliams, from the Christian Brothers’ Past Pupils’ Camera Club, gave a thorough and balanced appraisal of the entries and suggested some methods which might be employed to further enhance the appeal of some prints.
The Bangor Club has had a healthy influx of new members this year so it was slightly disappointing to find that the number of entries in the Foundation section was surprisingly low. This “shyness”, it is to be hoped will disappear as the season progresses and the Wednesday night tuition sessions,hosted by David Best,begin to instil more confidence in the beginners.
Kevin Neupert took the honours in the Foundation Monochrome competition with first and second place (he would have been awarded third as well had not the rules precluded it!). David Smith was first in the Colour section.
There was a much bigger entry from the Advanced photographers; Alan McMorris took the top spot in the colour contest and Hugh Rooney in the Monochrome.
Alan Hartley continued his winning ways with another victory in the Foundation Digital Image section with Antony Crosbie taking the Advanced honours.
Kieran Murray was a radio presenter for many years on various stations. He has also been a lifelong lover of photography and a member of the Banbridge Camera Club. There wasn’t a microphone in sight at the Club’s premises on Friday night but Kieran demonstrated that he is just as comfortable with a live audience as he surely must have been in the radio studio.
His illustrated talk was a highly entertaining blend of travelogue,social study and stand up comedy- laughter intermingling with the appreciative sounds of a packed hall.
Describing his approach to photography as “ devious” he went on to show examples of lateral thinking such as cutting open a Coca-Cola tin and capturing its reflection in a pool of water to simulate the mirrored image of a Coca-Coal bottle. Using various similar devices he demonstrated how, pre-digital, he had manipulated the image in the camera. Textured screens and double exposures were just a couple of the means he employed to achieve some remarkable results.
Unlike many photographers who tend to specialize in one aspect with their work, Kieran is happy to point his lens at just about anything that catches his attention. His portraits however were a notch or two above the ordinary and almost every one carried with it a little story about the subject. One felt that Kieran could have spent the whole evening narrating the story of one man alone – Mick Murphy – now an old man in his eighties who has lived alone for most of his life in a ramshackle cottage with neither electricity nor running water. In his day he was a champion cyclist who trained with concrete barbells and ate raw meat to build up his protein levels. He once walked for a mile – on his hands!
He was a reclusive character who was wont to chase away visitors but Kieran won his confidence and pictured him many times over the years-just one golden nugget from the many in Mr Murray’s jewel box.
He has travelled extensively around Ireland documenting and photographing Holy Wells and has a particular interest in finding and recording the interiors of old derelict houses with all the dusty visual treasures that they can sometimes offer. A moment in time, if interpreted and captured by the camera, can sometimes give a hint of some of the human dramas that must have been played out within the cracked and crumbling walls.
Conversely the most colourful and exotic prints he displayed were those he has brought back from his many journeys across Europe and further afield. From the back streets of Bologna to the canals of Venice and the rustic roof tiles of Romania and from the dusty environs of Cairo to the foothills of the Himalayas Kieran has carried his camera and brought back some very enlightening records of scenes and personalities. However his favourite country is India and he has visited various parts of that country quite a few times. The River Ganges and its holy significance featured strongly in his portfolio and the smiling faces and brightly coloured clothing of the people certainly helped to brighten up a dark November evening for the members of the Bangor Club.
When told that the subject for Friday’s meeting was “Stitching” some of the members might have been forgiven for assuming that they were in for a night of needle-point embroidery or a practical demonstration of how to darn a sock! In the event the club was treated to a fascinating introduction to the world of panoramic photography – the stitching together of images rather than material.
Jim Crone is a well known fashion photographer but when he needs a break from the pressurised world of glamorous photo-shoots with sometimes temperamental models he likes nothing better than to pull on his hiking boots, pack a large rucksack with camera gear and head off into the mountains. The Mournes are his favourite haunt and some of the panoramas he displayed were quite stunning – not only for the quality of the landscapes but also for the size and scope of the area covered. Some of Jim’s images consist of up to 700 different shots –each minutely different from each other – which are then “glued” together by computer wizardry into a seamless entity. You really can’t see the join!
Of course it is a tricky operation which can go wrong quite easily. The light can change in the middle of a sequence rendering the operation futile and the intense nature of the computer programs can put a big strain on the drives of the machine. However the end result usually is worth the anxiety and the effort Jim demonstrated the equipment he uses – a mixture of high- tec , expensive items and bits and pieces designed and built specifically for the job.
The gadget which grabbed the attention of most of the audience was the robotic panoramic head for the tripod which Jim always carries with him. This amazing machine is computer driven and follows the commands installed into it by the operator. It can describe a complete 360 degree circle, operating the shutter at pre-set intervals and then repeat the manoeuvre in a vertical plane. Jim demonstrated its versatility by showing some remarkable spherical scenes which gave access to every angle from the camera position – up, down and round and round. As one member drily remarked ,”With this baby you could get a picture of yourself talking through the back of your neck!”
Gerry Coe conducted one of his great Portraiture Masterclasses using Studio Lights.
Models, Laurie and Gemma assisted as models.
It seems that no-one can quite remember who actually made the declaration but now it’s official – Northern Ireland is at war with Spain!
More precisely Bangor is at war with Marina Alta, an idyllic spot in the Northern Costa Blanca in the Valencia Communitat. Battle will be joined very shortly between the combatants but on this occasion it seems rather unlikely that a mighty armada will be despatched to lay waste to Bangor Bay and its environs. This is a very friendly encounter which will be decided not on the battlefield but on thePC monitor of an independent judge. The intriguing contest is a “Picture Battle” between the Bangor and North Down Camera Club and the Marina Alta Club. The idea sprung from a holiday friendship between the Spanish snappers and Gerry Coe, the President of the Bangor club.
Although the Marina Alta group has only been going some three years it is already a very vibrant and forward looking group, boasting a membership of thirty plus and engaging in monthly meetings and competitions along with regular outings to various local beauty spots and places of interest. The members are from various countries with photography being the international language.
The inter-club contest will be judged on a wide range of categories – wildlife: water: landscape/cityscape: abstract: monochrome: architecture: patterns: weather and transport. The Bangor members have already submitted their entries and the local judges have announced their final line-up. The measure of interest in the venture was displayed when almost 250 images were entered. After a difficult selection session these digital images will now be forwarded to a neutral judge in Liverpool ,as will the Spanish photographs.
The winning pictures will then be displayed on a joint web site and whoever wins it seems clear that when “hostilities” cease the friendship between the two clubs will continue.
The worlds of photography and fine arts converged for a couple of hours when Robert Peters, the Director of Seacourt Print Workshop visited the Club and demonstrated how hand printing and digital imagery can be combined to produce works of art.
Seacourt , based at Balloo Drive in Bangor, provides facilities for working artists as well as courses for A Level students and members of the public. They also operate a vibrant outreach programme offering short “taster” sessions to primary schools and community groups. At the higher levels the group has an international presence, including links with similar studios in Europe and an exciting exchange of work with Arizona State University in U.S.A.
Robert with works by Margaret Arthur Applying the ink to the copper plate
After outlining the various opportunities available at the centre Robert went on to give a practical demonstration of how the medium of photography can be used as a base for a hand crafted print. The Intaglio process involves screening an image through ultra-violet light to produce a textured acetate. This is mounted on a copper sheet and ink is applied. When the result is processed , by hand, through a rolling press, the result is a monochrome print which can then be colourised by subsequent pressings. Unlike photographic prints produced on an inkjet printer, each Intaglio image is managed and produced by hand as a singular work of the artist. Limited edition prints have to be produced, painstakingly, one at a time by the same process.
The artist can then introduce personal emotive effects by adding layers of hand produced textures or images or indeed more photographs. The wide scope of the possibilities was certainly not lost on the club members , several of whom voiced their intentions to “sign up” for a weekend course at the centre.
Information on the various methods of printing - Intaglio: Screenprinting: Etching etc can be had by contacting the Seacourt Print Workshop, Unit 33, Dunlop Industrial Units, 8 Balloo Drive , Bangor BT19 7QY.
Telephone 02891 460595 Email www.seacourt-ni.org.uk
Not so many years ago photographers would spend hours in the darkroom, elbow deep in strange smelling chemicals trying to reproduce lifelike ,natural colours in their prints. Nowadays the wet process has been replaced by the inkjet printer and perfectly acceptable colour prints are within almost everyone’s grasp. But the quest for true colour rendition has been replaced by another goal – that of attaining a true black shade in monochrome photos. This has proved to be a sizeable problem –even for those enthusiasts with expensive, up-market printers.
However the Advanced Photographers of the Club seem to have mastered the art – at least well enough to win the approval of one of the best known and highly respected judges in the province. Peter Wilkin, the immediate Past President of the Northern Ireland Photographic Association , voiced this opinion when he judged the first competition of the new season. (His fellow arbiters were Noel Maitland and John Miskelly from the Club)
Peter was impressed particularly by the rich blacks and tonal range in the Advanced monochrome selection and noted that, since his last visit, the more experienced members appeared to have regained the high ground over the Foundation enthusiasts in terms of quality. Having said that he went on to offer warm congratulations to Alan Hartley, a recent recruit to the Club who had a very successful evening . Alan took first and second place in the colour section and first and third in monochrome- a remarkable achievement .
In the Advanced Colour competition Anthony Crosbie took first and second place with Alan McMorris claiming first and third in the Monochrome department.
The Projected Digital Image section continues to grow in popularity ; Harry Watson came out tops in the Foundation entry with Mark Allen collecting the kudos in the Advanced competition.
When like-minded people get together and form a club to pursue a hobby or an interest they usually have differing degrees of ambition. Some photographers, for instance, are happy to “point and shoot” a compact camera and obtain a holiday snap or a family record.
Others, however, set themselves goals to achieve and strive to improve their understanding of this discipline which is a wonderful mix of art and science. John Miskelly has recently earned his Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society and last week’s meeting of the Club heard just what goes into attaining this level of proficiency with the oldest and most famous photographic body in the world.
In a talk illustrated by the many steps required to prepare for the final submission John suggested that his approach could be divided into four categories;- seeing; taking; making and presenting the photographs. Fifteen images were required on a theme of the photographer’s choice and John chose pictures of his many visits to India, and in particular to the slum areas of Calcutta. Over some years his charitable work has brought him into contact with people of the Untouchables caste – the street dwellers who have little or no possessions and even less hope. His monochrome portrayals , particularly of the children and the old men and women, graphically encapsulated their poverty but also brought out an almost serene acceptance of their lot.
John’s presentation, at the Ward Avenue clubhouse, went on to describe the various steps on the way to the award. From a “short” list of seventy images he whittled it down to twenty and then chose the final submission. Seeking advice from other club members who had previously gained RPS recognition he fine tuned and honed the pictures until his final panel was complete. Past Chairman Hugh Rooney and the Club President Gerry Coe were particularly helpful with tips and suggestions gleaned from practical experience.
Then came the uncertain waiting period before the news came that the judges had liked his submission and he was successful. The next step on the ladder is to aim for a Fellowship of the RPS but John is taking a little breathing period before deciding whether he will commit himself to yet another hard but rewarding road.
The quest for that indefinable quality that is essential to a good photograph leads the shutter -pushers to some really wonderful places and none more so than Ian Lyons who travels, almost literally to the ends of the earth to capture images that the rest of us can only dream about.
This year he returned to the Antarctic with a select band of geologists, seismologists and experts of many other scientific disciplines and the pictures he brought back enthralled a large audience at Bangor and North Down Camera Club . One could be forgiven for assuming that with only ice, sea and sky in evidence any photographs to be had might be very similar and rather uninspiring but in Ian’s grasp the camera recorded many moods and many majestic vistas which changed with each subtle variation in the density of the southern sun- a sun which shone for twenty three and a half hours every day.
As they traversed the storms of the South Shetland Islands and headed towards the Antarctic Peninsula they encountered little life save for colonies of penguins and schools of orca, the killer whales. Temperatures plummeted to minus forty degrees and the abandoned buildings of various Antarctic Exploration Stations only added poignancy to the desolation. But still the pictures came as the clouds formed mesmeric patters in the clear blue sky and were mirrored in the iceberg strewn waters. Some of the larger bergs split asunder to reveal layers of volcanic debris which had languished unseen for thousands of years.
Past MargueriteBay and then a twenty mile run through The Gullet, a very narrow channel between towering cliffs of solid ice and finally the Lemaine Channel. All witnessed at very close range from the tiny little Zodiac craft where the passengers sit almost at wave level in the freezing water.
Ian has been to the Antarctic before. In fact this was a return trip to many of the places he’d previously visited but the photographs this time were completely different.
His other big trip this year was another return visit – to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming – in the depths of winter. His camera this time told a tale of geysers like jet engines; swirling mists from the hot springs meeting the snow and a vast array of wild life. Coyotes and elk mingling hoofprints and pawmarks as they battle the elements in a wild and beautiful part of the world.
A double bill which entertained and opened up some exciting new horizons for the Bangor Club members.
What’s the first thing you pack when you go on holidays? For the members of Bangor and North Down Camera Club the answer quite clearly is their cameras.
On the opening night of the new season a packed meeting enjoyed the visual evidence of holidays enjoyed and places visited. Not that all the venues were in far-flung locations and of exotic natures. New member Brian McCallion introduced a record of a visit to Fermanagh’s Lakeland while Jack Thompson produced an entertaining exhibit of local photographic forays he had undertaken from Downpatrick to Kirkistown.
Further afield Alan Hartley even devoted some time from his honeymoon holiday to Borneo to record an enchanting Audio-visual on the theme of local wildlife – mainly monkeys and chimpanzee in playful mood. Daniel Hughes, similarly, used a family holiday in Javea in Spain as the backdrop to an eye-catching sequence of shots.
Peter Gibson and Raymond McCurry had chosen Lanzarote for their summer sojourn and both returned with colourful and exciting presentations of volcanic rock formations, colourful flowers and chicken barbecued over hot springs – all accompanied by equally hot music! Amazing what happens to amateur photographers when they pull on a pair of shorts and a floral shirt!
Hugh Rooney chaired the meeting in the absence of Gerry Coe ( the President was in Spain, doubtless bedecked in shorts and floral shirt snapping away!), Hugh’s summer break was taken in the beautiful surroundings of Lake Como in Italy and he brought back some evocative images of the wonderful scenery and the equally wonderful dwellings of stars like George Clooney.
The final presentation of the evening was a tour of the Champagne region of France via Alastair Bell’s lens. From vine slopes to cellars the images captured the essence of the bubbly beverage and probably had a few of the members making mental notes to add the area to the list of possibles for next year’s holiday.
Meanwhile the Annual Exhibition of the club is on display in the Flagship Centre in Bangor and anyone interested in joining the club will be made most welcome. Come along on Wednesday or Friday night (8.00pm) to the meetings in the club room headquarters at Ward Avenue, Ballyholme