10 August 2020 Chris Palmer – “Talking Pictures”

We were delighted to welcome Chris Palmer (FRPS EFIAP DPAGB APAGB) last night, speaking to us from North London over the Zoom platform. It might be reasonable to summarise the whole evening session by saying that if only common sense were more common. We were taken through a series of images from Iceland to North America, Spain, Turkey, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Isle of Man, many English counties and our own, well photographed, Clevedon to learn the true value of less is more.

Most of us have developed a habit of “seeing” a potential image most of the time but here Chris has taken this to the next level and demonstrated to us that he would never shy away from inclement weather, devoted himself to always seeking out the best opportunity from the circumstances in which he finds himself – his objectives are always to create a picture that tells us something, i.e. that talks to us and consistently seeks to get it right in the camera! The emphasis being to have absolute control of Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO. Use your preview button and don’t hold back in altering your position (the most effective zoom is a pair of legs), change the focal length, modify composition always considering the relationship between background, middle distance and foreground. We saw many photographs taken from a more elevated position, this eliminates the sky which, although it might stimulate interest, might cause us distraction from the actual subject that should form the basis of that particular shot. We were carefully taken through a series of views of a cottage sitting by a Scottish loch which “moved” its position to find us arriving at the composition providing the desired effect.
The importance of modifying the focal length was shown with the vertical tree trunks from the Bentonite Hills in USA which gave subtle blues created when the Sun was partly obscured by cloud. The author was always ready to react to changing light etc. to get the best picture and time, temperature and personal inconvenience was never going to get in the way. How we enjoyed his dissemination of the image showing a small number of reeds emerging from a still body of water creating fascinating shapes, all taken with perseverance, at close quarters. Chris believes that the alarm clock is one of the persistent photographer’s best pieces of equipment – what we can gain when everyone else is in bed! The story of the foggy view of the A40 needing the patience to wait 18 months until that sweep of the Motorway could be captured with interrupted white light streams in the oncoming side and red on the outgoing lanes and the perfection of the amber Motorway lights themselves – a classic shot. This was soon followed by the dreek day on the Isle of Harris and the strange images of the fence posts and the ragged fence remains.

The following section of the evening was devoted to monochrome – once again Chris was supreme in his choice of architectural metalwork by the V & A, the juxtaposition between geometric shapes including the circular bicycle wheel were drawn together in the most precise and considered fashion. Even when rain stopped play on No. 1 court, before it was covered, threw an opportunity for patterns associated with an umbrella to be recorded. Our journey continued to Barcelona where one of Chris’s friends’ style was borrowed to take siesta which included a man napping on a public bench being joined by two similarly posed dogs – the story was available for own interpretation. By way of contrast we then visited Stourbridge in the West Midlands on a snowy day ready, as always, to capture a snow-covered tree where only a single yellow leaf revealed that this wasn’t a black and white image after all. Iceland has become a must-go centre for photographers and although we have seen many examples our speaker was exercising his precision care to reveal a different shot with autofocus turned off. The award-winning horse images enlivened by the setting Sun proved a masterpiece, no wonder Fotospeed used it to promote a new high-quality paper.
It will be clear to the reader by now that this was a lesson in care and attention to the Nth degree. Chris described his detailed approach to a beach taking in the state of the tide, the surf, sea foam, wind, reflective qualities on the sand, all absorbed before taking out the camera – he compared it to preparing a meal and thinking each stage through in readiness for the end result. It is not by chance that he is successful. Distant views of surfers were completed down to fine detail and, of course shooting from an elevated position.

The images on the Dingle Peninsular, Kent coast, Nash Point, Isle of Man, Berwick on Tweed and St Bees on the Cumbria coast all gave us a feast of camera control, care, knowledge and artistic skill in order to conquer the prevailing conditions. Beach shots included rock formations (occasionally with introduced pebbles) Bladder wrack sea weed, smelly but interesting colours and shapes and a deep hole, baled out to reveal a small rock’s surface and photographed to perfection.
Many of us were pleased to hear that our hobby should be pursued to satisfy ourselves and not to comply with the trends and foibles of competition judges (though he had done that too). Finally, we finished up at dear old Clevedon and again a foreground rail and the arches of the distant pier were brought together to provide a composition, that despite all of us having been there, we had never thought to bring these wo elements together in this way. The final piece de resistance brought Beryl Cook’s art to the bathing pool at Clevedon where the all year-round ladies appeared to brave the elements – of course Chris was there and ready to react and create another winner – a thoroughly enjoyable evening where everyone must have learnt something at least to apply common sense.
Please visit us again Chris – perhaps the next time in person.

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