1st. March 2021 – SANDIE COX (ARPS DPAGB) – “Gorillas, Chimps and More”

Extending our variety of speakers to our Monday evening sessions we were able to welcome the return of Sandie Cox (ARPS DPAGB) with her talk “Gorillas, Chimps and More”. This particular visit took the form of a travelogue. Which took place in 2017 and was, fundamentally a wildlife expedition in Uganda and Rwanda.


Starting in Uganda and wasting no time at all she was busy in the gardens of the hotel, having spotted host of butterflies in the “gardens,” some colourful flowers, a hornbill, shrubs and trees. This set the scene for the two-week trip where a wonderful variety of buildings, local people, flora and fauna were photographed.
The group were taken to the Mabamba swamps, principally to see the shoebill stork. The journey there allowed us to see the hazardous ferry journey across the river, accompanied by throngs of locals, with their produce, and minimalistic boats, preparing to set up a market. Arriving at the swamp the area seemed little more than a grassy mud patch though images of bee-eaters and pied kingfishers were much in evidence finally finding the storks, rather an unattractive large bird (around 90cm tall) with a heavy thick set body which begged the question as to how much energy was expended in becoming airborne.
The expedition continued with interesting photographs showing the local people, children, the enormous variety of goods transported on bicycles and motor cycles, which included potatoes (a huge crop in the area), pineapples, meat hanging in the open air and being sliced by a butcher with little apparent care for health and safety, bananas en-route to strategically placed lorries, woven goods to be sold at market. At last, the chimpanzee research station was reached, regrettably during a rainstorm, though the light was poor and everywhere soaking the chimps didn’t seem to mind. The next port of call was Kibale National Park with a pride of languid lions relaxing in trees! Amongst other species was a Verreaux’s eagle owl, with pink eyelids, a grumpy looking Colobus monkey, a hawk with horizontal breast markings and a group of red-tailed monkeys.
Crossing back across the river was a bloat of hippos with their usual entourage of birds, who simply regarded them as a perching point in the water, a shore hippo feeding on lush grass, a water buffalo, with ox-peckers feeding on its tics and flies, a malachite kingfisher, a jacana (known as the Jesus bird as it appeared to walk on water), squabbling pelicans, and an elephant pushing a tree,
Back at the hotel a fluffy bad hair day bird appeared and clouds of multi coloured butterflies.


The next expedition, was to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, along roads notably in poor condition, much pot holed which forced most traffic to seek a smoother ride on the verges – Gorilla advertising was everywhere. Visitors were divided, at the Centre, into groups according to their fitness. The terrain is almost Himalayan and would have been impossible without a porter/guide. When the Gorillas were finally located there had been an altercation amongst them and they had divided into two parts, their behaviour was erratic and restless with few of the familiar family interactions. The local terrain and house building techniques certainly facilitated a number of fine landscape shots. The now familiar pictures of beautifully dressed ladies, carrying their possessions in pots on their heads were shown along with smiling children and much evidence of the poverty in which they all live.
The next section was the country of Rwanda and the Volcanoes National Park. Suddenly life here seemed a little more organised and Westernised. A group of entertainers sung and danced at the hotel and the children were bemused at the visitors taking photographs of the birds. A field of glamping huts were seen that was used as part of the animal poaching rehabilitation programme and the visitors purchased simple goods to encourage the activities. A graphic 7 metre distance guide was presented to warn the group not to get too close to the Gorillas. The trek to find the animals soon found a more traditional band, they were not at all bothered by the appearance of humans, armed with Canons, Mum and baby were playing, the huge silver back was just chilling out, the 7-metre rule had completely disappeared and interesting images of their feet, hands and features created the impression of a family pic-nic.
A most enjoyable evening with an interesting commentary by Sandie. A trip that very few, if any of us will ever take, well received by our members.
To see more of Sandie Cox’s extensive travels visit: https://sandiecox.zenfolio.com/

22 February 2021 EMMA DRABBLE – “Beyond the Obvious”

As our time in lockdown slowly comes to an end our flexibility, as a club, reveals itself with innovative speakers. This week we were able to welcome the return of Emma Drabble, a professional photographer, with a membership of the NUJ and a commanding skill with documentary communication. Having a press photography background, and enviable know-how to receive, and interpret, commissions from a wide variety of customers and to lead them through to a completed project. The description below will demonstrate her versatility.
The opening images, largely in black and white, took us through hairdressing, Colour L’Oréal, Tesco food to develop eco friendly packaging, all requiring the images to tell a story. In order to use this ability, she was chosen to reveal “stories from the Wye” a commission funded by the Heritage Lottery. This took lateral thinking to tell the complete story through as many facets as possible, farmers, gamekeeper, pigeon fancier, sisters with a family background on the railway, the concept of catching the moment to demonstrate a continuous life is a particular gift. We saw net fishers on the Severn Estuary – a dying art preserved in glorious photographs.


It is, perhaps, unsurprising that our speaker would revert to her early training to bring to us her own experiences during lockdown. Many of us were surprised that not only did she contract Covid-19 but so did three of her teenage children, all living in Monmouth – widely reported to be virus free!
During lockdown a new commission took the form of a photo essay “documenting in the Wye valley AONB (area of outstanding natural beauty) capturing people’s fears and hopes during the pandemic – Emma has been creating audio portraits, sharing stories, showing how people are surviving during these challenging times” This segment of her talk actually showed images, taken with a long lens, of people looking very ill and audio of their own feelings and concerns at that time (this was probably a first for SYPC). Reports ranged from young people, the local grocer, local vicar, a seamstress producing PPE voluntarily, the local GP and images within the surgery, a lady farmer describing her difficulties, the senior professional carer, and her son, in the local care home – this was particularly graphic as the complex instructions that reached this section of the community had to be disseminated before it could be enacted under a practical plan.

Abigail Katsande


Finally, and demonstrating an uplifting pointer to the future, her latest commission is the development of Lord Nelson’s association with Monmouth and the building of an historic site to exhibit a range of his artefacts and extensive treasures – who knew?
For more of this fascinating speaker/photographer/reporter you might like to explore Emma’s website at – https://www.drabbleandco.com/

15th. February 2021 – POLINA PLOTNIKOVA (FRPS, EFIAP) – “Starting From a Blank Canvas”

It is, perhaps, not often that our speaker can be described as sophisticated, intellectual, incisive and magnificent but following our club meeting last night members of SYPC were inspired and motivated to extend their knowledge after seeing the high quality work of the Internationally acclaimed Polina Plotnikova (FRPS EFIAP)
Having read a History of Art degree from Moscow State University it was clear to see the influences that have brought this artist to her pinnacle. She is a regular award winner at the International Garden Photographer of the Year, Pink Lady Photographer of the Year, and Royal Horticultural Society photographic awards. This year will also be the 3rd. year that Polina has been a judge at the RHS – Royal Horticultural Society Photography Competition.


The evenings lecture divided into FLOWER PORTRAITURE and STILL LIFE.
1. Flower portraiture – These images were created in the studio where careful thought, composition, light and lens choice have all been brought to bear on her subjects, having studied the artistry of Joseph Redoute, Lilian Snelling, Georgia Totto O’Keeffe, Robert Mapplethorpe, Karl Blossfeldt, Ron Van Dongen as well as Monet, Van Gogh, Burgers. The brush and paint expertise of these exponents has been studied to withdraw the finer points of their technique and bring it to the photographic studio. Such conditions provide all the time in the world and the time to realise the perfection that is sought, even with plants which are (past their best) and half dead. The advanced techniques, using full manual mode, creative lens distortion, double exposure and slow shutter speeds were skilfully drawn together to form many superb images.


2. Still life – Seeking to understand and develop the work of old masters like Willen Claesz Heda and his perfection of composition bringing together such random objects as mackerel, peeled lemons, silver cups, knives and a vase. We viewed excellence through the centuries from Francesco de Zurbaran, Mary Stevenson Cassatt, Francois Guislain Magritte and Soren Emil Carlsen to see the effectiveness of precise detail, very few props, surreal approaches with floating apples and the juxtaposition of ceramic and real fruit poised to appear as though the real fruit is gossiping about the perfect porcelain. Light and colour simplicity come together to form that appealing blend that becomes more fantastic as it is studied.
The talk finished with an anecdote regarding a prepared still life of a drinks jug, wine glasses, apricots, in various random and partially eaten positions. As Polina said “all of my creations start with a blank canvas.


However Polina’s willingness to share her expertise and knowledge didn’t stop when we said goodnight. We then received a detailed set of follow up notes to supplement her presentation. These included but were not limited to –

  • Links to the studio lights she uses.
  • As a Lensbaby ambassador we had links to this product set including a discount code.
  • Links to numerous other lenses she likes to use.
  • Links to the software that she uses for remote shooting and for focus stacking
  • The Photo paper that is used and where to purchase it
  • The backgrounds used and where to purchase them
  • Where to purchase good quality artificial flowers for practicing techniques
  • The clamps used to support the flowers
  • The names of all the artists and photographers whose work has influenced her
  • Various opportunities for studio work or workshops with Polina
  • Finally links to stay in touch with Polina on Facebook, Instagram and her website

The notes mentioned above were spread over 3 1/2 pages of A4 and is testament to Polina’s professionalism and willingness to spread her knowledge.

By any standards this was an inspiring evening and visitors are recommended to visit Polina’s website athttp://www.polinaplotnikova.com

2021 – Round 1 – Bi Monthly Results – February 8th.

This was the first of our bi-monthly 2021 member competitions. This month was our usual ‘Open Competition’. Normally members are encouraged to submit 2 prints and 2 digital images. However due to the logistical problems of collecting and delivering prints during this ‘Covid’ period, our bi-monthly competitions are digital entries only.

The judge for this 1st. 2021 Bi-Monthly competition was  Rob Auckland. Rob is a Professional Photographer and has been to our club on many occasions. His visits are informative, educational and always interactive. Rob has never judged for us before, but I’m sure he will again. He brought a new and different dimension to the way he presented his findings. The evening was much more interactive than usual, he actively encouraged comments and feedback. On occasions he used Lightroom to demonstrate “LIVE” improvements to images .

Rob reviewed and commented on 50 digital images and 38 members joined the video call to listen to his feedback, constructive comments and critique. When the final Top 8 were announced each of the winning authors was encouraged to give a short description of how they created their winning entry – and again Rob even then suggested areas of improvement. An excellent Competition Results night – Thank you Rob For more information about Rob Auckland please visit his website at https://www.robertaucklandweddingphotography.co.uk/Workshops/Workshops-home

Below is a Table of the Top 8 Digital Images and their authors.

Round 6 Digital Entry Author Place
Light Show Assynt Alan Grynyer 1st.
Angelo d’amore Dave Bruten 2nd.
Hotel at night Mark Seaman 3rd.
Thinkin bout the trail Mike Franks 4th,
Sunset Breaker Combesgate Bay Ray Grace 5th.
Italian Chapel Orkney Jenni Craft 6th.
Wild Flower Terry Cooper 7th.
Bristol Festival of Light Peter Range 8th.

Below are copies of the Top 3 Digital Images

First Place – Bristol Festival of Light by Alan Grynyer
Second Place “Angelo d’amore” by Dave Bruten

3rd. Place “Hotel at Night” by Mark Seaman

Additionally the Top 8 Digital Images can be found at – http://www.sypc.org.uk/gallery/index.php/2016-Competitions/2021-Competition-Results/2021-Bi-Monthly-Round-1-Top-8-Digital-Images

18th. January 2021 OLIVER HERBOLD – “Long Exposure Photography”

Our meeting last night was pleased to welcome Oliver Herbold, A German National, talking on the subject of long exposure photography. This is an area of our hobby that many of us are familiar with but feel unsure of many of the details and settings, that we need to master, in order to achieve the best results.
The presentation provided us with fundamental reasons why a long exposure might be an advantage e.g., very low light levels, accessing sites that are crowded by day but quiet at night, eliminate motion to enable the observer to concentrate on the venue, create special effects using filters and extending sky patterns to enhance dramatic effect.

Oliver_Herbold-Lights-of-Amsterdam


Oliver’s early work was centred around Gloucester Docks but we were delighted to see images taken in Dresden, Bristol, Brussels, Wales, Land’s End, Baltic Sea, Norway, Bosnia Herzegovina, all of which were analysed and discussed. It was clear that the author had taken some trouble to become technical adept and the following aspects explained in detail – Basic settings, Aperture, ISO, Mode, Exposure times and to demonstrate the effect that changes created, using a cliff edge image with moving sea to dramatic effect.

Oliver_Herbold-Against-the-Wind


The improvement that a long exposure can make was shown using images from Aberystwyth, Brecon Beacons, France, Cornwall (St Michael’s Mount is a particular favourite), Dunraven Bay, North Devon, Elan Valley in Wales and Nash Point. His particular use of eliminating the horizon between sea and sky proved most interesting.

Oliver_Herbold-Lighthouse-in-the-Clouds


The second half of our evening started with a discussion of the relative merits and demerits of the tripod through stability, transportability, cost and we soon realised that perfection was never met, eventually concluding that you should choose wisely and carefully.
Continuing the theme of equipment, the topic of filters was described taking account of square or round, manufacturers (Lee, SRB, Case Hi-Tec etc.) The conclusion being a comprehensive filter system which includes a polarising filter, multi stop square types with a suitable cover is best – budget, of course, playing an important role in choice.

Oliver_Herbold-Moonlight-on-Craig-Goch-Dam

Oliver’s recent images gave us a treat covering Germany (Moselle) Eltz Castle, Amsterdam, Elan Valley (a stunning array of this reservoir and associated area from many different angles and shooting at a variety of times). Naturally a favourite topic, with care to eliminate star paths, is the Milky Way, Oliver had taken it in Cornwall (Tintagel) and Marazion. This image was later incorporated with a Dutch windmill.

More images of water in Wales, Betwys y Coed, Angelsey and Llanberis demonstrated his developing expertise. Finally, to contemporise Michelangelo’s contention that every block of marble contains a statue and it is the artist’s job to release it, Oliver presented a dull image of a rocky structure, heading seaward, then, using Photoshop and skilful use of white balance, graduated filters, clarity, highlights, sharpening saturation, layer masks, spot healing, dodging and burning to achieve depth and colour correction the final image was revealed, truly amazing – each stage had been described.

Oliver also features extensively on social media and has his own YouTube channel. Oliver is a photographer who is happy to share his knowledge and is keen to fully answer questions. We commend him to you.

A most informative and captivating evening – to see more of this expert’s work go to:https://www.herboldphotography.com/

11th January 2021 – ANDY MARLAND – “Industrial Tourist”

Our meeting last night came as a surprise topic from a photographer with a real passion for re-visiting, past industrial processes, decaying mines (mainly coal), cotton mills, decommissioned power stations and a host of other unused sites which many of us in our club, can remember in their hey day before the ecological damage that was being caused was really recognised.


Andy is a Lancastrian, now living in Chorley, who has been motivated to capture many of the decaying buildings where men, and indeed women, were able to earn money to raise their families in an era when Great Britain was known for its manufacturing base on a wide front. It was refreshing to note that his studies of the work of a number of 20th century photographers had created such a strong impression on his own style. It was particularly interesting to note that on arriving at a site he viewed his subject and had a firm idea on exactly how the image, he was about to produce, should appear and his practical skills mostly attained that target.
The notion of creating a photo essay, as described in words in LIFE magazine, formed the basis for his progression when approaching a project. We were shown an aluminium sand-casting foundry, a one-man operation, and the tools and processes were photographed in a style that demonstrated the intricacies of the production of the finished casting and, indeed, the final clearing up ready for the next day’s work. From this we toured a number of cotton mills, all closed down in the 20th century and the monochrome images enhanced the sadness of the entire scenario. One particular shot gave us the juxtaposition of the crumbling buildings in the foreground and the sunlight bright modern skyscrapers of the Manchester skyline in the distance. A mill in Burnley was shown in its final throes and an inside image was described as 400,000 cu ft of nothing.
Although we can stumble upon some really photogenic sites, the serious photographer will carry out his research and Andy shared with us many of the sources that he uses e.g., the grapevine, Facebook, Instagram, news, newspapers, www.Geograph.org.uk, Google Earth and Street view. He demonstrated his sharp eye when spotting a chimney in a field near Howarth and set about finding and photographing Griffe Mill in Stanbury, which had been closed in 1922, and was now being returned to the countryside, the images were evocative. The breadth of his subjects was quite amazing, an abandoned linoleum factory in Doncaster, a mill in Saddleworth near Oldham, a small mill in Haslingden. All of these were interpreted thoughtfully to evoke the power of suggestion and to use the filter of the human mind to bring about a changing state, not just a photo record.


The notion of past industries took us to the wreck of the TSS Duke of Lancaster, a former railway steamer passenger and sea Link Ferry that operated in Europe from 1956 to 1979, and is currently beached near Mostyn Docks, on the River Dee, north-east Wales known as the “Mostyn fun ship” though its future is uncertain. Onward to Fleetwood near Blackpool, Andy has captured a number of rotting hulls of fishing vessels from the 60’s and 70’s and their skeletal remains were captured by the drone to demonstrate their diminishing profile.
The cooling towers of Thorpe Marsh Power Station near Doncaster (1963 -1994) captured both inside and outside show us what once generated our electricity but now have been demolished to make way for a more sophisticated gas fired type. Many other now defunct structures, covered in poor graffiti and overgrown with weeds and vandalised were photographed before evidence of their existence disappears. The Scunthorpe steelworks, imaginatively captured with a relatively new housing estate in the foreground was the introduction to a number of sites which bore witness to our manufacturing heritage and these included the Rouge steelworks, associated with the Ford plant in Detroit, where a serious 12-month photo study of those processes and decline was carried out. Scunthorpe steel works showed the high contrast leading lines of the railway tracks which carried the iron ore. Onward to Redcar steel plant illustrated with a family on horseback adjacent to the sea drew a picture requiring our thoughts. This was further enhanced with a caravan park bordering the industrial decline and showing a blast furnace in the background – some holiday home! We may have hit rock bottom with views of Middlesbrough and Teesside in an are described as “the ugliest landscape ever” the drone enhanced the appalling view.


The work of Bernd & Hilla Becher was a recurring theme within Andy’s talk and the compilation of similar photographs, known as typography, on a similar theme e.g., Colliery Head Gear, gas holders, silos, etc. all grouped together provided an interesting style of presentation they are intellectual constructs in which objects with similar relevant attributes are grouped together to meet the ideas and needs of the classifier. These have been publicly exhibited. There seems to be no limit to our author’s incessant compulsion to search out sites for this body of work and the slate mines of North Wales near Llanberis, proved to be a fertile site to demonstrate the huge extent of this activity, most of which went to waste. It is now a barren almost Martian landscape and redundant machinery has been left in-situ as it is too expensive to reclaim the scrap value from such remote locations.
Finally, and to the surprise of many of us, near Middlesbrough on the North Sea coast the oil rig known as Brent Delta was being scrapped by controlled dismantling, a few years later it had completely disappeared to be replaced by the rig Brent Bravo and soon that too will be distant history, just like the high cranes of the Cammell Laird shipyard at Birkenhead. This type of photography is a race against time. How interesting to be shown the huge changes that have taken place in such a relatively short time. To see more of Andy’s work visit:
www.mechanicallandscapes.com
www.Theviewfromthenorth.org

4th January 2021 – TONY GERVIS (FRPS) – “One Man and His Van”

How could we start a new year better, during these times of restricted movement, than to welcome Tony Gervis (FRPS) with his travelogue through the Middle East and into Eastern Europe. The whole adventure started when he was introduced to a rover who woke up one day and decided to walk around the world. Although Tony didn’t plan such an extreme adventure, he forward planned a trip, buying visas in advance, taking a circular route, travelling 190 miles each day, taking 57 photographs per day covering 22,00 miles through 22 countries. He mostly wore shorts, a smile on his face and a natural warm personality, a gregarious outlook, happy to meet and greet people, especially children, and accept any invitations to break bread with them.


The first destination that was described was Slovakia, then Romania followed by Turkey – a country populated by ancient Roman ruins and places of mystery and intrigue all waiting to be discovered, Aphrodisias, Karapinar Crater Lake, Zaglossus, Semele monastery, Ishak Pasa Palace, Cappadocia and Mount Nemrut all photographed with casual ease and often including the locals and frequently, inquisitive children.


Next, we were in Iran, filling up with diesel from a bowser (at no cost) travelling on challenging roads to Persepolis to Achaemenid to an Empire unfinished by 330BC and razed to the ground by Darius11, his tomb an Eagle Griffin in Huma was close by and our host bought a hand printed tablecloth for $20. Onward to the Shah’s Palace and the polo parade ground (1628) in May Dam Imam. Throughout the people were described as friendly and welcoming treating their animals in a very different way from which we are familiar. Visiting the city of Qum, seeing the faithful called to prayer, all viewed with smiles and bright clothing even Tony put trousers on in the locality to observe local custom.


Soon we were crossing the border into Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia bordered by the Caspian Sea and largely covered by the Karakum Desert. It’s known for archaeological ruins including those at Nisa and Merv, major stops along the ancient trade route the Silk Road. Ashgabat, the capital, was rebuilt in Soviet style in the mid-20th century and is filled with grand monuments honouring former president Saparmurat Niyazov, usually brightly illuminated at night. Travel is severely restricted and an accompanying guide is essential as there are no road signs, routes, distances etc. are all recorded. Markets were a feature of this presentation and the variety from car spare parts to fresh fruits and vegetables was truly amazing.


Next came Uzbekistan, a Central Asian nation and former Soviet republic where the Aral Sea was dried to destruction to irrigate the Russian cotton industry, leaving ships lying as forlorn wrecks in the desert. It’s known for its mosques, mausoleums and other sites linked to the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean. Samarkand, a major city on the route, contains a landmark of Islamic architecture: the Registan, a plaza bordered by 3 ornate, mosaic-covered religious schools dating to the 15th and 17th centuries.
Continuing this fascinating tour, we passed into Kazakhstan, another former Soviet republic, extends from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Altai Mountains at its eastern border with China and Russia. Its largest metropolis, Almaty, is a long-standing trading hub whose landmarks include Ascension Cathedral, a tsarist-era Russian Orthodox church, and the Central State Museum of Kazakhstan, displaying thousands of Kazakh artifacts. A revealing look into a café and bakery lead to a policeman pointing out that Tony’s van had lost a rear panel and number plate, on the ghastly road, a good-humoured resolution was found and Tony was given a cigarette lighter.


Travelling East must always lead to Russia and the particular destination was Lenin’s birthplace, in Streletskaya Ulitsa, Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk). A statue of Lenin and many souvenir shops are there. Moving on to Moscow where Tony parked the van by Red Square without any problem, Views of St Basil’s, a huge cast bell that cracked and never rang were seen by the eternal flame. The Peterhof Palace, is a series of palaces and gardens located in Peterhof, Saint Petersburg, commissioned by Peter the Great as a direct response to the Palace of Versailles by Louis XIV of France.


Our evening’s entertainment was finalised with visits to Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Estonia (here Tony was given a place to stand and photograph the Greek Orthodox Church Service by the actual Head of that Religion – how to make friends and influence people!).


A fascinating evening which was a clear demonstration of Tony’s sense of humour, courtesy, personality and his warmth which encourages people towards him – and facilitates the opportunity to take their pictures. This was well received by our members and, undoubtedly, we will see him again as he is very widely travelled and his mention of America particularly attracted our attention.
A visit to his website is recommended at – http://www.tonygervis.com

7th. December 2020 – Annual Competition Results Night

On Monday December 7th. SYPC held their end of year Annual Competition Results Night. Sadly due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the problems safely collecting and managing Prints, this year we only held 1 Competition and that was for Digital entries only and called the Brian Barnett Competition.

The Brian Barnett Trophy is an Open Competition where each entry is 5 Digital Images on a Theme/Panel (each author decides his own theme). This year we had 19 themed entries and hence 95 images for our judge to review. Professor Bob Ryan (FRPS, FRSA, PhD) was our judge for the evening and he didn’t disappoint us. Bob Ryan has been to our club many times both as a Judge and Presenter. Bob reviewed each image in turn offering critique and constructive comments before moving on to the panel itself and again offering suggestions and areas to improve. All of Bob’s comments were well received.

Below is a copy of the Top 3 Winning Panels.

Below are the Judges Favourite Images 

 

30 November 2020 – Cate Barrow – “Underwater Photography”

Last night’s meeting was presented by an old friend of our club, talking to us from the Brecon Beacons, with another aspect of the photographic art which requires both athletic skills as well as technical knowledge – a truly international journey describing the complete fantasy of underwater photography. Cate’s talk wasn’t just 200 glorious images but also a whistle stop tour of many of the great dive locations around the world.

As can be appreciated this requires, diving skills; buoyancy control; clear knowledge of maximum dive depth; accurate time control; specialist equipment; available light and environmental awareness – SAFETY being essential. Cate is a Nikon DSLR user and the critical choice of lens has to be made made before entering the water and can make or break a dive session.

Cate shoots in RAW at ISO levels around 200 – 400, though higher is possible, AWB, 16 Gb cards, auto focus and single point focus. She carefully described her kit from a photograph and clearly it is equivalent to entering deep space in both its complexity and technical appreciation under what might turn out to be very testing conditions, in close proximity to very dangerous aquatic life!

As might be expected the light conditions can be challenging and strobe, flash and natural light might be met depending on the dive venue, including night dives. Composition is very demanding and often opportunities to seize a rare moment are fleeting, backgrounds varied from blue water, dazzling corals and black, when a stunningly bright fish is pictured in close (very close) detail. We were shown exciting examples of fish eating, mating, emerging from caves and under sandy hides and it became very clear that Cate was always ready to suffer many privations in order to secure the image that she sought.

Diving in the UK – It was amazing to many of us that there is a wide range of life close to our shores, even when the maximum sea temperature is only 14 degrees C. and visibility is less than 5 metres. Popular areas are, Farne Islands, Scilly Isles, around Stomer, off the Devon coast and Plymouth Sound – we were shown Tinpot blennies, one huge Lobster (possibly 100 years old), Starfish, Shrimps, Leopard spotted Goby, butter fish, blue sharks, all captured in their own environment. Most of Cate’s trips take her abroad, regrettably she described her susceptibility to sea sickness, always taking extreme care to avoid sunburn, very cramped rooms on board, no camera spares, in other words not a glamorous holiday but the rewards are considered worthwhile.
Diving locations abroad –
We were shown a number of trips beginning with Fiji and the Beqa Lagoon to enjoy ethically fed sharks. Images included sharks, shrimps, sea cucumber, emperor shrimps, red spotted goby, ribbon eel (that changes sex and colour, turning bright blue with a yellow mouth!), lizard fish, grey roof shark, these can be aggressive the shot was head-on and very close.
Next came New Zealand, Poor Knights Island, sacred Maori Land, sea slugs, sponges, Tasman blenny, Captain Cook Scorpion, huge crayfish, mosaic mori eel, often killer whales, though not this time, many sting rays.
Australia was next but on this trip the Great Barrier Reef was not included but we saw Western Australia, South Australia, NSW including Sydney. SA, Merion Bay – great whites, leafy sea dragon, frog fish, blue ringed octopus, poisonous pipe fish. NSW Jervis Bay – nurse sharks, wobbegong shark, Spanish Dancer slug, appearing like a piece of liver. Sydney Harbour – frog fish, scorpion fish, and at Manly Beach amongst an old hessian shark net lots of tiny sea horses live, agility is needed to photograph them amongst the whirling of the ferry.
Away from Australia to Indonesia, Bunaken Island to find turtles, hiding amongst soft coral, jaw fish protruding from the sandy bottom, anemone fish, cleaner shrimps (full of eggs), pipe fish, crocodile fish, gobies. Onwards to Lambert straight in a busy shipping lane to see gurnards, octopus, eels, cuttlefish, and more anemone fish at night, pygmy sea horses, coconut octopus, gobies and shrimps co-habiting in symbiosis, stargazers and frog fish and the nudibranch sea slug.
Onwards to the Maldives and associated atolls. Regrettably some coral damage is reported, due to climate change, stunning images of manta rays, mori eels, leopard mori eels, tawny nurse sharks, an unusual guitar shark, huge shoals of banner fish, batfish, blue cheeked angel fish, long nosed hawk fish, frog fish, green turtles all in fine detail. Further on to the Southern atolls – again coral both dead and dying, plankton surge gave opportunities to catch turtles, whale sharks, eagle rays, gobies and damsel fish.
Further adventures on the Solomon Islands – this is an unspoilt tourist area with significant WW 2 interest from the major US action at Guadalcanal, there is much evidence of the detritus of war and some opportunity to dive on the area of action e.g. a Japanese zero aircraft on the sea bed (a war grave). This is a volcanic area and powerful sound waves abound, sea life includes black tipped reef sharks, crocodile fish, Orang Outan crabs, an Archer fish on nearby mangrove swamps and …worryingly crocodiles and snakes.
Next, heading towards Papua New Guinea and Raja Ampat Islands, an area close to the Equator, rich in brightly coloured species, barracuda, rock cod, scorpion fish, with mouth wide open, frog fish, well camouflaged sharks, pygmy cuttlefish, toad fish flying gournad, wasp fish mori eel, Teddy bear crab – a veritable feast.
A lengthy journey now to Guadeloupe Island, New Mexico where people of all ages are submerged in cages to be close up to great white sharks, a couple of serious incidents had recently occurred and modifications to the viewing experiences had become necessary. The sharks were described by Cate as awesome with dead eyes!
The last part of this journey took us to Socorro Island, Mexico to see the gigantic oceanic Manta Rays, huge crayfish, large shoals of huddling fish amongst the sea coral and appealing inquisitive seals and sea lions.
Finally, our wonderful speaker’s Christmas trip in 2019 we arrived at the enchanting Bahamas. Immediately on leaving the boat, ready for a dive, she was surrounded by lemon sharks, who looked fearsome, but were safe, unlike the great hammerheads which lurked below on the sea bed. The feeding regime took place under controlled conditions and all divers were required to behave as the sharks were very close feeding over the sea grass and they were advancing in a menacing way with eyes half open – this was described by Cate as prime wildlife camera work.
An entirely unique and captivating evening for our members, beautifully photographed and presented factually and with the usual enthusiasm of an expert in every field that she explores – our members responded with grateful thanks.
Have a look at Cate’s website and be enthralled at https://catebarrow.co.uk/

23 November 2020 – Dr KEITH SNELL – “MY RESTLESS LENS”

Our club was privileged to receive Dr Snell (EFIAP EPSA LRPS ), speaking to us directly from his home in Cumbria, under the intriguing banner of his “restless lens”. It soon became evident to us that here was a highly qualified scientist who has developed his love of photography to use this art form and its equipment, along with his love of travel, in the most sensational ways to provide us with a range of images covering: –
Abstract-patterns and shapes, Portraits and Figurative art, Wildlife and Landscapes.
The opening image was that of the molecular structure of a protein revealing the complexities of this subject at an atomic level and described to perfection, which, we were to learn, would be a feature of the evening’s presentation. We were swept to places of worship where Keith’s keen eye had caught the precise and ornate patterns formed in the ceilings of both an Italian church, followed by the almost incomparable York Minster’s lofty internal heights. The logic of the work took us to the shadow formations of San Francisco Modern Art Museum, the Tube Station at Canary Wharf, A San Diego shopping Mall, the unusual view of a line of pollarded trees leading to the Eiffel Tower and hence to a slate quarry at Borrowdale – each image was supported by an explanation and description carefully describing leading lines, the rule of thirds and the geometric shapes, mainly triangles, which encourage our eye to scan, and appreciate, the scene before us.
The well-known Gothic festival in Whitby was next the venue for his attention. Portraits of the Goths, with the slope of the model’s shoulder, their jewellery and hands combined with their features, all carefully described with supporting line drawings to demonstrate what effort had gone into each photograph. We were now into a very technical photographic treat showing both high key and low-key portraits which brought out certain features and usually supported with a single word title which encapsulated it with perfection. We moved forward to Keith’s art nude period where, again, the beautiful models had been studied both in studio and outdoors. The precision of their positioning to create a composition to mirror the surrounding environment, or staircase, or rocky outcrop all coupled with a special effect, rear lighting, precise placement of limbs, torso and hands and fingers which, again, revealed those geometric shapes even to use the branch of a nearby tree to follow the model’s curves and positioning demonstrated the precision with which these photographs had been established, nothing is accidental or left to chance.
Moving to the wildlife section caught us unawares with a portrait of a Chimpanzee in Edinburgh Zoo, the expression that was caught revealed boredom or deep pondering and was set with a huge area of dark negative space leaving the onlooker to peer into the animal’s mind. Next, we saw Puffins in the Farne Islands, Gannets in North Yorkshire, a pair of Grouse chicks popping up their heads in East Cumbria, a Bohemian Waxwing shot in a car park, near Keswick, in the Lake District, at a precise 24 hour window when the rare visitor enjoys a meal of berries from previously established, and known, trees. Upwards to the Solway coast and the Ringed Plovers, the Grey Heron which took patience to capture as the sun moved to reveal the bird with an accompanying reflection as it sought its meal. In Summer the river Derwent hosts the banded demoiselles and such care had been shown to disregard its gossamer fine wings so the looker would bring his full attention to the ornate thorax of orange, turquoise and structured banding further north took us into Dumphries and Galloway to see the red deer in its prime ready for mating in Autumn, the light drew out the fine texture of the beast and its antlers, quite superb.

Keith Snell-Penguins Having Fun


Where would this journey take us now? Naturally to the Poles starting in Antarctica with penguins and the revelation from our speaker that it was here that he had a seminal moment as the penguins queued along a snowy ridge to slide and leap into the water, and to repeat the process, full of enjoyment – this would now be taking Keith’s photo-world to the next level. The penguins are relentlessly pursued by seals and Skewers, who will take both chicks and eggs. In the sky above flew a Snow Petrel, effortlessly gliding around, fishing a lovely high key image. Hump backed whales joined the party and were photographed close enough to touch without causing any alarm to the enthusiasts in the watching party. At the opposite end of the Earth in the Canadian Arctic we were treated to lonely Polar Bear on a small sea ice flow seeking food to carry it through the harsh Winter, Keith described this award winning image adding the frightening warning that as this sea ice recedes then the opportunity for this iconic species to fatten up would become lost and another wonderful creature is, sadly, extinct. Travelling towards warmer regions, in Botswana, South Africa, Pantanal region of Brazil we saw awesome images of Cheetahs, Lions, Leopards, Jaguars, Rhinos (de-horned!), Elephant, Caymans, river Otters, and Painted Wolves all photographed in context, often with a story but with the inevitable forthcoming tragedy of reduced environments making many of these endangered. Birds of these regions included Pied Crow, Vultures, Tawny Eagle, African Skimmer, a host of different Kingfishers, Carmine bee Eater (with bee in beak) and Lilac breasted Rollers each was portrayed to its full advantage, often feeding or taking off to show their wonderful plumage, which is so often dazzling in its brightness and colour variation.
It seems these days that no photographer can avoid Iceland in his search for the perfect Landscape and certainly here we saw amongst the characteristic volcanic black sands, the sea stacks, waterfalls, ice flows of amazing colours and spine-chilling views of this exciting venue. We soon returned to our speaker’s home territory for images of a modest Lake District limestone pavement covered in moss, Bassenthwaite lake, Skiddaw in the late Winter Sun. The cloud formations providing reflections on the lake’s surface and the other landscape detail – but for a forensic photographer of Keith’s standing such images are insufficient and we were given a lesson in the contemporary skill (and art) of ICM (intentional camera motion).

Keith Snell-Trapped In Lockdown


Many of us have seen trees, sometimes in leaf given a vertical camera movement treatment. This can be quite successful but here we see the technique taken to another level. Movement can be down to up, or up to down, either direction horizontally, using circular or arc like motions. All of this coupled with in-camera blending of several pictures and &/or blending of different pictures. We saw a remarkable example of this when two sorts of reeds were blended with heather florets to appear on a lake surface – a unique and quite fabulous series of shots. Probably the most spectacular were those taken on the River Cocker with the water flowing freely, the camera was moved from left to write following a cascading ripple to a flat horizontal, blessed by sunlight to illuminate the ripples and occasional movements to take in some turbulence all of this in 0.6 seconds.

Keith Snell-Luskentyre Beach

The result was awesome! The possibilities of the ICM technique are infinite but, without doubt the method requires a great deal of practice and patience in order to achieve the level of success that we saw tonight.
Finally, to demonstrate his perception and versatility a group of images were taken of rock pools with broad flat boulders on a sunny day in late May on the Solway Coast. The results were bright sunshine patterns on water known as Caustics a setting of f10 and 1/300 second exposure. The Cumbrian Coast showing groynes entering the sea taken on a tripod with 2 second exposure to entirely calm the sea. We finished as we had started in Italy with Autumn in Lagoria, lovely trees with subtle foliage colours in the foreground with a background valley with a bluish hue, always a good recessive colour.
This informative, widespread and thought provoking presentation has, undoubtedly provided multiple possibilities for our members to try in the future and the painstaking precision with which Keith composes his work must be a salutary lesson to us all. An evening that surely will remain long in the memory of those of us who had the pleasure see it.
Many thanks – to see more we recommend you visit https://www.keithsnellphotos.com/