2018 01 - A Bit of Everything

23rd January 2018
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
10th January 2018
A Bit of Everything

Retford members enjoyed getting together at the first meeting of 2018 and a chance to catch up on what each other had been doing over the festive break. There was a good turn out to welcome John Gardner with his talk ‘A Bit of Everything’.

This lived up to the title, providing a whistle stop tour through many of the genres of photography. John began with a brief audio visual presentation which featured a lot of the work he had done during 2017. John is a member of Wakefield club and has been a professional photographer for a number of years. Like many before him, he began with weddings, which are mostly at weekends and so compatible with remaining in full time employment while seeing if photography can be made to pay. Unfortunately this is a genre few enjoy because of the pressure created by the level of expectation of all involved and the impossibility of a reshoot if the unthinkable should happen.

John has moved more into commercial work, which includes a lot of people shots for various purposes. He showed examples of work for corporate brochures, model portfolios, magazines, advertising and PR etc. He also shoots interiors, and some natural history, which is mostly for pleasure. He uses both Nikon and a Pentax medium format camera which he clearly loves. John was generous with his technical tips, in particular to the reasoning behind his choice of lenses, f-stops and process with flash.
John began with a selection of nature shots. His most important tip was not to shoot down on the creature unless it really is the best angle, such as with a butterfly or moth on the ground. He strongly advocates getting down to eye level with the creature, which means not being afraid to lie prone on the ground and / or holding his camera barely above the surface when his subject is a water bird.

In these circumstances John likes a 500mm lens which gives a foreshortening effect and tends to allow the sky to be eliminated as the water behind the bird will fill the top of the frame. He is a great fan of diffuse backgrounds, much praised by judges, and also shoots through grass between himself and the subject. This is inevitable when lying down and has the effect of softening the foreground, rendering a sharply focussed subject very dominant in the image.

A relatively recent purchase is a 200 – 500mm lens for his Nikon D500 with a 1.4x converter, which gives him great telephoto potential from a portable and hand holdable lens. He will often go out with just this set up and work using f4 – f6.3 but rarely more than f8 in this situation.

John likes macro work for extreme close ups and always works on a tripod and uses flash. He is a great advocate of managing the light levels by metering for the background effect he wants and using flash to light his subjects. He frequently has them with the sun behind them and uses the flash to ensure there is detail in the sky as well as pleasing light on the foreground, which is often people’s faces.

One suggestion he shared for getting good shots of birds from hides and feeding station set ups is to have perches for the birds and to remove most of the feeders during the shoot, forcing the birds to come to the one you are shooting or to line up on the carefully chosen and positioned waiting perches.

Still with flight, but rather heavier subjects, we saw a series of images of an Avro Lancaster shot both by day and by night. One particularly impressive shot of this plane was assisted by another of his clients, the Yorks Air Ambulance. During a public photo session the Air Ambulance had been nearby and when it left, it used its search light and hovered above the Lancaster to light it from overhead angles. The result with the light at about 60 degrees was very effective and without strong shadows. Shots from shoots for the Air Ambulance showing crew and mascots for publicity purposes were also included in the talk.

John pointed out that if members of the public are identifiable in his shots to be used by clients, he needs to obtain model release forms from them. To minimise the need for this he looks for ways to avoid the people being identifiable. In one case with a food outlet, he shot from behind the plastic shield between customers and servers so that the plastic distorted the faces.

The final section of the talk was largely devoted to studio shots. He has a number of young women he works with and enjoys everything from period shots and ballerinas to art nudes. He is presently enjoying working with heavily tattooed girls and showed a number of shots, including several of one whom he described as his ‘present muse’. While showing these images John explained how he uses flash and reflectors to achieve very effective lighting in the final image, and how on occasions he changes the background to create a different mood. This is helped by shooting against a grey background which can easily be replaced.