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/

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