Thursday, 27 September 2018

26 September | Landscape Photography | Paul Mitchell

I’m still not entirely sure why Paul Mitchell called his presentation ‘Confessions of a Landscape Photographer’. For effect, maybe? But he certainly let us into some of the key secrets behind successful landscape photography. Part of the trick is having a good eye for composition. So, if you’re an artist, an engineer, or, like Paul, a graphic designer, you have an advantage.

Paul introduced us to some of the planning techniques and tools that he uses to maximise his chances of success. He told us that his ideas for photogenic places can come from magazines such as Outdoor Photography and specialist guides such as the Fotovue series. Flickr photos of the location, especially those filtered as ‘interesting’ on the drop down tab, suggest good places to stand to take photos. He said that even if his resulting photo isn’t entirely original, ‘at least I took it’. He then checks the weather forecast and decides the best time of day for the lighting that he wants, with the help of the Photographer’s Ephemeris app. If he’s on the coast, he checks the World Tides app, not least to avoid getting cut off by the tide whilst picture taking! He advocated taking a good map and mentioned a little known fact: that Ordnance Survey maps can be freely accessed via a drop down menu on Bing maps. Paul is clearly a dedicated photographer: he spoke of waking ultra early and travelling, say, two and a half hours to the right spot. But make sure you get there half an hour before sunrise (or sunset), he warned, and allow yourself plenty of time to walk to the location from the car park. Obvious advice, when you think about it, but learned from hard experience, I guess.

Then there was all the equipment you need. It would have been easy to be discouraged by the expense, but, astonishingly, Paul mentioned that he’d gained his FRPS qualification with a portfolio taken on a simple pinhole camera! Paul’s tools generally include: an alarm clock, camera (Nikon full-frame), lenses (24-70mm; 70-200mm, & 50mm prime), decent bag, two spare batteries, spare memory cards, good tripod, cable release, lens wipes, spirit level, polaroid sunglasses, headtorch,  bin bags, umbrella (he recommended ‘Blunt’), chamois leather, all-weather clothing, filters, and a cuddly toy (not really – just checking you’re still reading!). He finds four types of filter useful: a neutral density grad, to control the sky; a polariser, which, by the way, Lightroom can’t replicate; a solid neutral density (he’s an ambassador for Kase); and a diffuser, if you want to achieve that ethereal look.

As well as PDIs, he brought a selection of prints, to illustrate some of the underlying principles of his stunning landscape photography. Try to include some foreground interest, he advised, and use lead-in lines. Wait for the right light – especially the golden hour and the blue hour. Take advantage of different atmosphere – mist, fog, rain, sea fret (and here I learned a new word: ‘claggy’!). Use extended exposure, though not necessarily super-long, to blur clouds and soften water. And here he solved an ancient conundrum – Q: why do extended exposures at the coast end up looking blurred? A: because your tripod sinks into the soft sand (one solution suggested by Paul, is to take three old CDs with you and use them to distribute the weight of the tripod!).

Mark B is off to Iceland soon and vowed to try out the various tips Paul gave us. No pressure, but we will be expecting some great landscape photos, Mark!

Monday, 24 September 2018

19th September 2018 - The Season's First Open PDI Competition

Greetings all and welcome.

This past week saw our first open PDI Competition of the year and gave members the chance to shake off the cobwebs from their editing software and present their images to the rigours of judging!

Our first judge of the season was the most distinguished Rosemary Wilman, HonFRPS, AFIAP, BPES*, APAGB ( Rosemary is a past President of the RPS and as a judge, quickly shared with us that she would be looking at images with her own eye and to judge if what she sees would work and is a successful image. For the evening, she was being "shadowed" by judge-in-training Simon Van-Orden. We look forward to welcoming Simon back in the future as a fully fledged judge.

It was a good turn-out with 26 entries for Level 1 and 33 in Level 2.

As we watched the run-through of the Level 1 images, Rosemary remarked that we had given her an interesting set of images and that our screen has kinks! Either that or we have a lot of members in the club with an odd concept of a straight horizon!

At the close of our Level 1, Rosemary put Darren M's image titled "Fountain of Youth... in first place! Well done Darren.

We had two other 10s awarded to....

Steve H with Sea Dream

Kevin B with Mosaic

Level 2 kicked off with Rosemary finding a few issues similar to those in Level 1, namely cropping and use of space. She also made observations relating to vignetting - don't overdo and be wary of it removing detail - and use of colour. Here, it is always going to best to use complementary colours or, if possible, keep to a limited palette.

Our Level 2 winner was David P with Daredevil... Congratulations!

Rosemary's other 10s were...

Roshan R with Small Tortoiseshell

Jane D with People Watching

All in all, Rosemary gave us many tips and observations that we have heard before from our judges. All go to reinforcing that there is a certain standard and level of expectation to aspire to if we want to see our work getting the top marks.

In closing, it is fair to say we found the evening to be quite interesting.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

12 September 2018 | “Beautiful Bugs: Discovering a Hidden World” by Ann Healey

This week we were visited by Ann Healey, who took us through her collection of macro photography of the last ~10 years, give or take.

It was a great insight into the results that can be achieved with a lens, a flash and more than a little patience. The journey crisscrossed the world of "bugs" taking us through bees, beetles, ladybirds, damselflies, dragonflies, "standard" flies, froghoppers, leafhoppers, grasshoppers, crickets, spiders and weevils. The majority of her subjects were found in her garden, although more than a few were snapped in sunnier climes. The talk ended with a few shots of her discoveries in Costa Rica, where the bugs were altogether far more exotic than the bluebottles we get buzzing around our kitchen!

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

New year, new(ish) constitution!

Welcome back to all our returning members after a scorching summer (doesn’t it already seem like a very, very long time ago?). After a couple of lazy, carefree (ahem) months, we’re already back into the swing of things here in Photocraft Towers.

This week we were gifted with an EGM where:
  • The amended constitution was announced;
  • The tea rota was enforced (unless you’re a generous benefactor, in which case capitalism triumphs);
  • An independent examiner was elected.

The full minutes can be found in the member's section of the Photocraft website. 

The main focus of the night was the Unveiling Of The Programme. It’s clear that this year is going to be packed full of competitions, talks and member-led evenings – and a massive thanks goes out to Mark for pulling this all together for us (as well as drafting the updated constitution with the assistance of Dave, David and Anne).

The programme can be found in the usual place on the website ( but to summarise:
  • 8 external speakers
  • 12 competitions (followed by a “the best of the best” competition at the end)
  • 15 evenings compered by one or more of our own members

Bring your mugs (we’re trying to do our bit for the environment) and we’ll see you at the Macro evening on 12 September, led by Ann Healey!