27 July 2020 – Victoria Hillman – “Macro and Garden Photography

Our club was extremely fortunate last night to welcome Victoria Hillman, speaking to us from Switzerland, once again demonstrating the flexible innovation we have been able to contrive to keep SYPC alive and enthusiastic as we emerge from the grip of this ghastly virus.
Victoria is a scientist by training with a BSc in zoology with marine zoology from the University of Wales, Bangor and an MSc in Wildlife Biology and Conservation from Edinburgh Napier University.
As many of us recall Victoria is both a Scientist and Photographer and she retains her passion for the flora and fauna of the country and takes practical steps to encourage wildlife in the garden.

Our introduction soon showed us some clever images, taken at ground level, of snowdrops after a brief snow flurry, using a Canon 5D MK 3 and a 100mm macro lens. Her creative skills were apparent in how she utilised the rising sun, vacant space within the frame and a hint of grass stems, the subtlety came together to bring the feeling of early Spring with a chill in the air. This was soon followed with a daffodil, with light enhancement from an LED panel, hinting at small specks of grass, faded bluebells in the distance all adding to the composition, drawing us to an almost transparent flower head – wonderful. The “secrets” of these works of art were shared with us and in this case a smaller aperture of f13 and exposure of 1/200s were used but not after careful and considered angles and thoughts were brought to bear to achieve the successful shot. By this stage our audience was thirsting for more. The previously mentioned English bluebells, with the drooping heads and characteristic colour, now took the author’s attention followed by a beautifully observed blossom, even taken to perfection on a drizzly day with dark receding clouds and a faded tree. Next came leaves viewed in silhouette shielding the distant Sun almost close enough to reach out and touch.

Naturally we knew wildlife wouldn’t be far away and the garden revealed, after studied observation, both peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies, one of these hiding in St John’s wort where a photograph was only possible through the most painstaking care to use the adjacent foliage without frightening the creature away, the early morning sun and controlled settings created a peachy feel – such clever use of background.

Next we saw incy wincy spider – a large abdomen revealing it to be the female, we were stunned at Victoria’s precision manoeuvring to use the supporting gossamer fine strands of the web to follow converging lines covering perhaps 2/3 of the image as they caused us to focus at the waiting creature, the focus was pin sharp the colour almost a magical monotone. All of this was only possible by her skilful observance of the fact that the arachnid consumed and re-spun her web each day at a slightly different orientation – spontaneity in photography takes time! Who will forget the tiny zebra jumping spider consuming a fly, the small male ant being stalked by the queen ant? Frogs, hover flies and the wasp soon followed, all portrayed in masterful style.
Our gifted speaker’s forensic approach was described in her lockdown project find: –
o What can I learn?
o How can it develop skills and ideas?
o Will this push creativity?
The answers to all of these questions were revealed in a study of the development and flowering progression of a Bee Orchid.

Each stage was observed described and revealed to us through the formation of 10 flowers over a 4-week period. Even the surrounding plant growth formed a challenge as it developed which, as we can imagine, was considered and overcome.
As if we needed evidence of Victoria’s talents her presentation concluded with thoughts and observations on additional light use, post processing (though it was evident that her target was always “to get it right in the camera”). The after work always moved towards delicate pastel shades modest sharpening and noise reduction, mainly in Lightroom.
Clearly this author’s imagery was shot from the heart and the final segment of the evening took account of cropping a maximum of 30%, looking at fungi on the forest floor and the care and attention of taking down highlights and enhancing the white balance.

Some fundamentals were addressed as to why images haven’t worked and why – this is an area that all of us might want to give some attention to but, for the most part, we shy away from it. The time is right to look back at our earlier efforts and ask: –
o What can you learn?
o Why it’s important to constructively go through old work
o Think about timing on when to go through them
Everyone will have learnt something last night and her persistence and intellectual application was a lesson to us all. The descriptions, comments and sincerity which were brought to us have made us realise that photography is an art/science/pastime/hobby of multiple levels.
For more about Victoria Hillman visit her website at: http://Vikspics.com

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