2017 10 - A Great Start To The Season

15th October 2017
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
5th October 2017
A Great Start to the New Season

The club’s new season could not have got off to a better start. It has been great to welcome soe new members and visitors and to see some younger people joining us. We warmly welcome people of any age or level of experience.

Howard Pratt followed up his visit showing glorious images of the Peak District with an inspiring evening showing members how he would process their own images using Adobe Lightroom. His workflow for this is now available to members so they can try for themselves with the images they sent in for Howard to work on or with any other images they choose.

Howard was followed by a return visit from the wonderful Des Ong. Des is an unassuming person with a charming manner which belies the excellence of his photographic skills. The two year wait for a free date to get him back speaks volumes. We were fortunate that we were able to rebook Des after only one year.

Although he hails from Borneo, Des enjoys very different climates and began by talking about his macro work and the dedicated kit which he took to photograph Arctic foxes in Iceland. He also showed images of the surprisingly diverse flora there. Moving on, he gave some tips about photographing insects and how to compose the image. The club’s many keen nature photographers were interested to hear the details of the kit used by Des to capture these beautiful images. One tip we can all learn from is that the end of the day is a good time to capture winged insects, when they are settling down for the night. It was comforting when Des admitted to not being an early riser and proved that great shots are available as much at the end of the day as before the subjects warm up. The challenge is that the light is fading and you need to work quickly.

Des touched briefly on flash, which he uses solely in the tropics. He also stressed the benefits of using a reflector. Although he works in exotic locations he encouraged members to try looking at the wide variety of local fauna and to think of different aspects and compositions to work with to achieve equally pleasing results.

Autumn is a great time to photograph fungi, which can look stunning with the sun low in the sky. Des suggested getting down low to practice macro work with fungi and taking advantage of the colours of the autumn leaves which will surround them. Some fungi are tiny and make great subjects for macro work.

Most recently we heard from James Davies, more familiar to us as the expert coach for our portrait nights, but this time showing us his own work. James is a lively young man who stressed the importance of interacting with his subjects when taking portraits. He demonstrated his skills in this respect throughout the evening by conducting a lively conversation with the audience as he showed how he works and explained his kit and camera settings.

James began with a quote from the acclaimed photographer Ansell Adams “The most important component of the camera is the twelve inches behind it” saying that no amount of expensive kit can make anyone a better photographer. Even quite basic cameras are powerful and if the photographer doesn’t know how to manage their potential then a better camera will not help.

James took up photography through a love of landscapes but became frustrated by the limited audience for his work amidst the thousands of others doing the same thing. He felt a strong desire to make people react to his work and so ibecame relatively recent newcomer to professional wedding photography. The images he showed proved he has a real talent for this subject matter and his easy rapport with people brings out the best in them.

That is not to deny the skill of knowing what shot to take or when the moment will arise to press the button. Experience has taught him the formula weddings follow but talent has enabled him to work through the standard shots to find the exceptional moments or scenes which he can use to create stunning and memorable images for each couple and their families to enjoy for ever.

Like Des, James is a great advocate of the use of a reflector to light the subject and overcome harsh shadows. He breaks the oft-quoted rule not to shoot into the light and many of his captivating shots had the couple back lit by the sun with the exposure compensation feature of the camera being called upon to ensure faces were correctly exposed. By understanding his craft and having the artistry to know in his mind the effect he wants, James produces unforgettable images. How many of us would have got a wedding couple out of their car to stand by a puddle, but the shot we saw of them reflected in the water with the bright blue sky and white clouds behind them was one most will long remember - and doubtless one that couple treasure.

Most of us know that judges concentrate on whether the eyes in a portrait are sharply in focus. James emphasised that this is critical. He doesn’t focus on the bridge of the nose as many are tempted to do, but in the corner of the eye. The autofocus feature of the camera works on contrast and here there is something for it to work with. James also uses prime lenses, a 50mm being his favourite, with a very shallow depth of field which shows up poor focussing. His use of reflectors also adds a catch light to the eyes which gives them sparkle and shine to add to the drama of the image. Use of shallow depth of field and getting in close to shoot eliminates distractions from the image and with his preferred set up he creates a film like quality.

At the end of the presentation James touched briefly on his use of flash. For most purposes he doesn’t use it, preferring to set the camera so that it captures enough light from the surroundings. When he does use flash there is always a reason and we were shown a few shots which showed exactly how it can be used to good effect. It can ensure the subject is properly lit while allowing enough light from the background to be captured e.g. to place the subject in context by a building, a lit lamp or a firework display or in daylight to get a correct exposure for people and sky.

James concluded by saying that to stand out as a professional, you need to develop your own style. It was clear he has done this to excellent effect. As with all the best speakers, we were left wanting more and on this occasion we will be rewarded as James returns in April for a portrait tutorial.