Last Monday evening SYPC held it’s Annual President’s evening. This year our President, Ray Grace (ARPS DPAGB), chose to invite one of his friends and favourite photographers to share his love of photography with us. Colin Westgate (FRPS, MPAGB, FIAP) was our guest speaker with his talk “Wild Britain”. This was the second visit that Colin has made to SYPC over the last year and based on his previous visit expectations were high. If the evening was half as good as the presentation we saw last July then we were in for a real treat, and to quote Colin’s website – “We will see landscapes from the south coast of England to the far north of Scotland. Colin likes to photograph very early in the morning, particularly in autumn and winter, when the light is often at its best – some of his best images have been taken in extreme conditions and he will often say “bad weather makes powerful pictures”
We were not disappointed.
And so it was that we were thoroughly entertained by a succession of dramatic and engaging images from Colin, a landscape photographer of note. Photography by definition is about capturing the light and this proved to be Colin’s signature. We were taken on a tour of Britain, all the while being reminded of the diversity of landscapes within our islands. Patience and determination were demonstrated by Colin as he set about getting the right shot. Locations varied from his own front window in Seaford and many more including –
A tour of stunning, moody and inspiring images from –
Sussex – with S/Westerly prevailing winds offering opportunities for stormy coastal scenes Essex – and Colin’s home on Mersea Island, with misty estuaries, sunsets Oyster Smacks and lots more. Northumberland – beautiful beaches and castles Scotland – so much here, Rannoch Moor, Fort William, Ben Nevis and the classic location of Black Rock Cottage with a touch of individualism from Colin’s composition.
The Scottish Islands including – • Isle of Skye • Isle of Harris • Isle of Lewis • Isle Eigg • Isle of Mull The Lake District – including Lake Buttermere and frosty mornings. Wales – Snowdonia – with many dramatic scenes and Pembrokeshire with craggy rocks. East Anglia – with gentle sunsets, Constable country with green quintessential English scenes.
Despite being known primarily as a landscape photographer, Colin also demonstrated that he is always looking for the smaller picture and this resulted in a raft of gorgeous sand pattern images, rock formations and colours of rocks after the tide had receded. Stunning, enchanting and mesmerising are words that readily spring to mind on seeing the detail that exists but which we all have to train ourselves to see.
The drama in Colin’s images is sometimes presented in monochrome, thus enhancing the quality and intensity to be found there. However, we were treated to the full colour palette during this talk and it will not come as a surprise if I state that the evening as a whole was a great encouragement to every club member to re-examine their own approach to landscape work as they head out on the next photoshoot. Colin must surely return for a further talk in the coming months
Our speaker tonight makes a welcome return to SYPC with the intriguing title shown above. When you become totally engaged in the Art/Science of photography there is an overwhelming urge to look back in history to the foundations of this hobby and the superb output of one photographer will almost automatically lead you to another and, almost without noticing, your own style will develop. In the case of Vincent his formal Higher Education at the University of South Florida, and specialising in fine art, has led him to a well-known exponent, Ansel Adams, who was an American landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his black-and-white images of the American West. He helped found Group f/64, an association of photographers advocating “pure” photography which favoured sharp focus and the use of the full tonal range of a photograph. He passed away in 1984 and left a body of work which still continues to influence widely today. We were shown portions of his work and a description of how important he found it that each photograph should tell a story and, interestingly, how Adams found it difficult to create documentary essays, particularly working with other people – he was described as master in the darkroom. He never made a straight print. Growing his own family tree our speaker moved to a photographer who he had actually met, Jerry Uelsmann, also an American photographer who was an early exponent of photomontage in the 20th century in America. His work in darkroom effects foreshadowed the use of Adobe Photoshop to make surrealistic images in the late 20th century. He was a Member of the American Society of Magazine Photographers and in response to a question “what would you do if you were starting now?” “Replied work in colour!” Uelsmann became a free spirit in the darkroom sometimes having up to 6 enlargers which could be utilised to combine a single print – he always used and paid professional models in carrying out his assignments. Many of his prints were supernatural in their appearance – he never worked in colour. The next influence, who Vincent never met, was Pete Turner a veritable pioneer in colour photography, Turner’s many adventures in Africa, beginning with his trek in 1959 from Cape Town to Cairo with Wally Byam’s famous Airstream caravan were shown. The results being unique and spectacular with vivid images on Safari using both animals and indigenous people. His clever use of manipulating film and the photocopier earned him a fabulous reputation. The final focus of this talk was Jay Maisel who earned awards including the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Media Photographers, and the Infinity Award from the International Centre of Photography. His book Light, Gesture and Colour covers a long period and demonstrates his absolute determination to get the very best out of a topic once he had been captured by it. Amazingly he lived in a 6-storey bank building in NY City which he final sold to realise a huge real estate profit. He never threw any of his thousands of pieces of work away, his range included cleverly seen simple views, street photography and certainly believed that everything has its own gesture – his book is a revelation, his understanding of the vibrations between colours on diametrically opposite sides of the colour wheel are a lesson in optics.
Vincent concluded his evening’s presentation with some of his own work during shutdown, the images were pin sharp, cleverly lit bowls of pears, apricots, a glass of wine showing surprising colour arrangements, a bacon, sausage, egg, brown sauce sandwich with mouth watering yolk teasing the viewer, carrots with sprouting green tops, an orange pepper. Colour mixtures of spiral pasta and a multi coloured smoke haze providing atmosphere.
Like so many experts in photography he was more than willing to share his expertise. A wonderful evening providing many references for further investigation, we thank him for coming to visit us and, surely leading us towards our own photographic family.
On Monday night we held the 6th. and final Bi-Monthly Competition of the calendar year. All our members are encouraged to submit entries to our Bi-Monthly Competitions as we gain valuable constructive critique from the experienced judges we invite to judge these competitions. Normally our Bi-Monthly competitions have 2 categories, Prints and Projected Digital Images and our members can submit 2 pictures in each category. Unfortunately during this time of continued Video Conferencing and the difficulty of safely handling Prints, when we aren’t meeting Face to Face, our Bi-Monthly Competitions are only Projected Digital Images.
For the 6th. Bi-Monthly competition there was no theme as it was an “Open Competition”. Peter Weaver (APAGB, CPAGB and LRPS) was our judge. Peter has been to SYPC on numerous occasions (at least 13) as a speaker and a judge so he he is well known and respected by us all. He always gives a fair, honest and deep critique of each image and Monday night was no exception.
Peter commented and constructively critiqued 42 digital images from 21 SYPC members.
Thank You Peter we look forward to seeing you in person at SYPC next year with your talk “Event Photography”.
Below is a table of the Top 8 Images and their Authors
At the moment SYPC hasn’t returned to Face to Face meetings. We continue to use Zoom for all our club meetings. However we monitor the situation regularly and hope to return to Face to Face meetings in the near future.
Our guest speaker last night took us on a trip down memory lane through a number of his photographic trips, holiday and journeys of a great variety. His memory of the places and times is quite extraordinary and he was able to provide an informed and judged critique of each image including his reasons for the post processing method that he had employed in order to achieve his objective.
The opening image showed an old upper room at 26 Westgate Street which had been a house occupied by a judge, a bookshop an antiques centre and many others and this image showed a man exiting towards a set of stairs and appeared rather ghostly. This was followed by a typical image from the Banksie “Dismal Land” Exhibition held at the Tropicana, Weston Super Mare which many of us enjoyed. The images, almost exclusively mono, were presented to us, often with their title e.g. Do I look Bovvered, Tuf Guy, Tube Blues, and so on. A collection taken in Pembrokeshire, the Isle of Skye and Cornwall showing the sea front, were well appreciated, many incorporating the figures at the shore line, as silhouettes, often their positions telling a story. These morphed into the sea and wind turbines, and a possible Antony Gormley statue. A subsequent Isle of Skye photo made the foreshore look like molten lead, very pleasing. The variation of subjects was interesting, though the speaker is clearly a landscape photographer, we saw a Shetland pony emerging from its stable, the texture and markings of its hide readily fell in line with the mono theme. This was followed by a heavily horned ram, crouching down by a craggy building wall and perfectly balanced with a small unglazed wooden framed window, at top left – the range and precision of textures gave great interest to the image.
We were soon returned to his much-favoured Scotland, followed by a cave system in France containing a modern abstract statue, with splashing water and an array of textures. Amazingly this gave way to the skyline of London at close quarters with the Gherkin, shoe horned between two glass fronted towering buildings, “fighting for space” and “bursting at the seams” followed by the Imperial War Museum North, so different from the London version and the apparent appearance of the much-favoured building was armour plated. Away to Derbyshire showing wind turbines covered by one spectacular cloud, so well seen. A wonderful view of a huge North Eastern timber mill was presented in B & W and then colour (this showing the juxtaposition of yellow and blue) – the audience were clearly undecided which to prefer. The textural theme was well explored by the study of a broken rural gate at Cwm Awthin and another on the Isle of Lewis followed by a dazzling sight of the Old Man of Storr on a miserable dreek day, but still managing to evoke passion from the viewer. Martin had invested in a 17 stop filter and showed us images where a long exposure smoothed the estuary view at Weston Super Mare towards Steep Holm further shots along that waterfront delighted us, as we know the area so well. Bridges, lighthouses, piers and out of the way places like Arbroath and Montrose, although apparently dull still show something, a unique set of retractable washing lines. Foggy/misty woods close to the author’s home provide inspiration for the depth of woods and adjacent walls and much texture. A set of snowy scenes, so often difficult to photograph, forewarned us that winter is approaching.
The second half of the set took us once more to Scotland with views of Glen Torredon, which Martin prefers to Glen Coe. Here we saw the peaks of distant hills, vast open spaces, fabulous lighting. Just as quickly back to Arnos Vale Cemetery and the curved central display commemorating the glorious dead in a setting of inherent decay. Who would have predicted our next topic would be Bodmin Jail? High walls showing the structures that would have supported at least three wooden floors and a set of steps going where? Now over to France, Limousin. Back to Gloucester prison and the restrictive feel of so much steel! Cells, toilets connecting walkways and the vertical and horizontal feel of such a place. Onward to Shepton Mallet Gaol, grim and stony with a wide recreation yard, involving a chessboard painted into the flooring, walls bars and coldness.
The author’s restlessness over the years now moves us on to the sea front of Dungeness and two boats tethered to stout cables, who would know they would be decimated in that position by wind, rain and tide over the coming years? And, of course, a nuclear power station. A wonderful picture of a lime kiln by Holy Island, such textures. A desolate coking plant from the recent Wild Wales series completely surrounded by an 8-foot-high fence and lethal razor wire set us the task of finding the way in to see what mysterious engineering ephemera lay here – a dangerous place, perhaps a venue for the future. Dunnet Head, the most Northerly point on the UK mainland, proved an interesting place to photograph a cottage showing simultaneous signs of both care and decay.
Isolated cottages on Lewis and Arran take us to Sutherland and the shameful Highland clearances where evidence of the forced evictions is still apparent to the careful, knowing eye of the astute photographer – the former homes of many who sought a better life in the colonies. The slate mines of Wales have an intriguing history and the vast size of Dinorwig Slate Mine clearly left an impression on Martin and he is drawn to return, having puzzled how to reveal its mysteries, at their best. A visit to the apparently banal town of Lancaster found the decaying Williamson linoleum works. Interior shots revealed the Secretary’s office, workshops, and a factory which gave employment to many in years gone by. In South Wales South of Cowbridge lies a former holiday village, St Athan, created as a holiday venue for the sons of miners by a local benefactor, after 4 visits our speaker reported the overwhelming decay following fires, vandalism and crude graffiti. Our varied and well observed memorial journey finished with three venues popularly visited by the age group of our members and many of us will have recognised the WW1 Battlefields of France and Belgium, the tragedy of the village of Oradour Sur Glane frozen in time and Auschwitz concentration camp, a complex of concentration and extermination camps operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. For those who might want to view more of Martin Cooper, check out his website at – https://www.martincooperphotography.com/
Martin an outstanding evening – we look forward to seeing you later this year when you are judging our End of Year Competition.
This evening’s speaker was reflective in talking about having taken photographs for over 60 years and then, achieving considerable success in his own right. This is a study of exponents of our art over a period in excess of 100 years and revealing his findings. A most interesting evening the preparation for achieving it must have taken hours. Naturally his background in the aircraft industry permeated through in rather unexpected ways. Yannis Behrakis – An interesting photographer having worked for the news agency, Reuters, reporting visually on wars which, of its very nature, must reveal some harrowing images, of death and destruction, displaced people and the detritus of war. Martin Parr – A very tongue in cheek professional (SYPC keynote speaker some years ago). Very ordinary, yet extraordinary shots by the seaside, unusual angles involving street photography and no small dash of humour. Charles Dodgson – specialised in photographing young children and some family groups, falling foul of dodgy accusations. A polymath and exceptional writer as Lewis Carroll. Chris Jackson – a young up and coming specialist with access to the Royal family and hence has become enormously popular, particularly with Prince William and his young family. A distinctive style in bringing out the very best in his important subjects. Michael Orton – achieved great fame for the “Orton Effect” as he was an early exponent of overlapping images involving railways, trees, car wrecks and the modern trend for long exposures with moving water. Sally Mann – A controversial photographer taking very informal images of her own children, some landscapes and occasional scenes of misery. A publisher of several books on photography. Mainly using large format camera giving striking prints. George Crewdson – Large format (10 X 8) photographer who often went to enormous lengths to set up a single scene to photograph it. Images often of dull, mundane ordinary life, might lead us to wonder what was really going on in his head. Tom Heaton – A meteoric rise to fame, Blackpool born professional with an eye for landscapes, areas like Hadrian’s wall, mountainous regions with striking foregrounds. Images involving water, volcanoes and, occasionally isolated trees. William Eggleston – Similar to Martin Parr for taking mundane images, partial segments hinting at bigger pictures – went to three universities but never gained a degree, made colour photography popular in the 1960’s, became friendly with Andy Warhol but did not seek to emulate his style. Carolyn Cole – engaged with images of conflict and encouraged disharmony in order to photograph it, hence occasionally in trouble with the law! Shot illegal immigrants on Mexican border, African faces etched with anguish seeking food handouts, American soldiers in Afghanistan, frightened children, gun action in Sierra Leone, atmospheric pictures in Mosques of the faithful at prayer, generally controversial. John Rankin Waddell – popularly known as RANKIN, much seen on television, access to celebrities. Some extreme images e.g., nude in supermarket trolley – his photos are never ordinary. Andre Kertesz – well known for images containing geometric elements often triangular, roof tops, stairways, shadows silhouettes, wavy mirror distorted images a clever observer of architecture. Terry O’Neil – stumbled into photography but has built up an enormous reputation. Wonderful pictures of Jean Shrimpton, a rare jolly picture of HM, The Queen and the D Of E with corgi dog, The Rolling Stones, Elton when young, Cindy Crawford, Roger Moore and Bond girls. Regrettably now suffering from macular degeneration. Howard Hollem – A medium format photographer (7 X 5), contracted to create a series of images to encourage women to work, during the war, in factories. The result showed this kind of work as clean and clinical, rather different that the real world. Ernst Hass – images of tension and movement to inspire action, well known work was the bullfight, anything involving galloping horses, often rich in intense colour Ernst spent some time in in a labour camp but grew in stature to work for TIME magazine and became a Magnum photographer. Often viewed things from very different points, particularly engineering items. David Bailey – probably the most famous name in photography and a personality who represented the Swingin’ Sixties. A distinctive style often chopping off the top of his subjects’ heads. Associated with all of the celebrities of that era, including the less reputable like the Krays. Albert Khan – a wealthy individual who, in 1909, decided to take colour pictures of the entire world (a catalogue comprising some 72000 shots) all film (Autochrome). An amazing outcome which includes WW1. Bernice Abbott – Most renowned as a street photographer creating large format images. Enjoyed high buildings and often captured people during travel. Bence Mate – A fabulous wildlife photographer with all of the equipment and the skills to capture the extraordinary in its native habitat – often took from unusual angles to see creatures in another way, still very much in demand – known as the invisible photographer. Helene Binet – a Swiss-French architectural photographer based in London, who is also one of the leading architectural photographers in the world. She is most known for her work with architects Daniel Libeskind, Peter Zumthor and Zaha Hadid, and has published books on works of several architects. Darren Heath – motorsport photographer specialising in Formula One motor racing known for his creative and artistic coverage of the sport. Covering every Grand Prix, Heath, works with both editorial and commercial clients worldwide. Joel Hermeyerwitz – American street, portrait and landscape photographer. He began photographing in colour in 1962 and was an early advocate of the use of colour during a time when there was significant resistance to the idea of colour photography as serious art. Eugene Smith – American photojournalist. He has been described as “perhaps the single most important American photographer in the development of the editorial photo essay.” As a war photographer he went Island hopping in the Pacific became wounded and was removed from war zones. He had a lifetime love of jazz and his work involved this musical genre, he too became a Magnum photographer and hence was much in demand. The “family of Man” exhibition retained one of his images as its last piece, overwork caused him to die young.
Chris Bigg is always a welcome and entertaining presenter at SYPC, thank you for another excellent evening Chris. We are already looking forward to arranging your next visit.
This was the 5th. of our 6 Bi-Monthly Competitions for 2021. All our members are encouraged to submit entries to our Bi-Monthly Competitions as we gain valuable constructive critique from the experienced judges we invite to judge these competitions. Normally our Bi-Monthly competitions have 2 categories, Prints and Projected Digital Images and our members can submit 2 pictures in each category. Unfortunately during this time of continued Video Conferencing and the difficulty of safely handling Prints, when we aren’t meeting Face to Face, our Bi-Monthly Competitions are only Projected Digital Images.
For this months Bi-Monthly competition the theme of “Close Up” was selected and Victoria Hillman our Judge. Victoria is no stranger to our club having visited us twice as a guest speaker (on Macro type photography) and as a judge at the beginning of the first lockdown in 2020. Victoria was carefully chosen to judge our Themed Round 5 Competition – “Close up”, as “Macro” and “Close Up” photography is Victoria’s passion.
Victoria is a wildlife researcher and photographer, she has been on the judging panels for both Bird Photographer Of The Year (BPOTY) and the British Wildlife Photography Awards (BWPA) and has contributed stills, video and articles to magazines, books and TV series including National Geographic and the BBC.
Victoria commented and constructively critiqued 50 digital images from 25 members.
Thank You Victoria we look forward to seeing you in person as soon as is practicable.
Below is a table of the Top 8 Images and their Authors
At the moment SYPC hasn’t returned to Face to Face meetings. We continue to use Zoom for all our club meetings. However we monitor the situation regularly and hope to return to Face to Face meetings in the near future.
On Monday August 9th. SYPC were pleased to host John Illingworth (LRPS) with his talk “A Scandinavian AdVANture”. With a title clearly a play on words we were intrigued as to how the talk would evolve and we were not disappointed. John is an accomplished professional photographer with a passion and interest in landscape, seascape and woodland. John retired around 20 years ago and since then has been indulging himself in his passion of photography. Ever since John’s retirement, and before that, he had dreamt of one day driving and photographing the furthest point North on the European mainland and it was this dream that inspired him to plan his trip to Knivskjelodden, Lying about 3km west of Nordkapp.
Not only did John want to visit Nordkapp but also to include Sweden, Denmark Finland and the rest of Norway as he had always enjoyed the Scandinavian landscape. This interest started after business short trips and family holidays to Scandinavia. As John was approaching his late 60’s he realised that if he was ever to achieve his dream then now was the time to “do it”. In 2018 he started to plan his dream 4 month trip to explore Scandinavia. John had number of objectives but his main driver was to Photograph the Autumn colours of the Artic.
To John’s credit he also wanted to raise some monies in memory of his mother who had sadly suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for over 10 years. Another piece of research and he found that on the Russian Finland border there was an organisation that specialised in photographing Brown Bears, an opportunity not to be missed.
John’s trip was planned to begin in July 2019 but first he needed a vehicle and somewhere to live. He chose to purchase a panel van and have it professionally converted it into a Camper Van. The Camper Van would be more economical than relying on more formal accommodation and at the same time offer the freedom to explore and even wild camp. Once the van was finished John had a successful “shake down” trip to Scotland to try out the viability of both driving and living in the Camper Van. John planned his initial route and in order to visit all his locations planned to drive over 7,000 miles. • In fact, John actually drove 14,222 miles • With over 503 hours of driving • £1, 195 was raised for the Alzheimer’s Society • And he visited Holland, Germany, Denmark Sweden Finland and Norway. John had spent months planning his “TRIP OF A LIFETIME” and commended us to consider taking on such a project. John stressed that you can wait your entire lifetime “wishing” for such a trip but if the will is there and you have the finances you can plan your project don’t wait …do it.
John is now planning a return to Scandinavia but this time his intention is to photograph the Spring of 2022. We wish John every success and look forward to seeing a further presentation of his Scandinavian Spring trip. Thank you John For more information please see John’s website – https://www.johnillingworth.com/
And finally if any Photographic Club or organisation is keen to see the stunning photography and listen to John’s talk please contact him via. the contact page on his website
The style of both our guest speakers and their content gives us a rich variety. Our speaker this week has made over 150 Zoom presentations and his confident incisive and wonderfully articulated talk was well received by our members. Chris Upton is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and is proud to be a brand ambassador for Fujifilm. Here is a synopsis of our meeting. Like most photographers the willingness, at every opportunity, to share their knowledge with tips and hints is very welcome and Chris has crystallised all of his skills into seven general headings, as described below:
1. Know the fundamentals of photography – these can be either creative or technical, having a knowledge of depth of field, the ability to compose an image in order to direct the observer, realise the use of interesting foregrounds, capture different effects by modifying exposure times and the intelligent use of filters. Naturally the variation on ISO settings needs to be understood for some conditions to catch a shot under challenging odds. 2. Know your equipment – purchasing a new camera, for example, can cause our excitement to press it into service without properly and seriously knowing the functionality that is available and being able to draw on it when the conditions demand it. Can we all enter bracketing mode instantly? Likewise, switch from auto focus to manual, access stacking mode and to use the many and varied art modes now an integral part of many cameras. Remember to consider portrait or landscape aspect, walk around and think about the image you want to present to the onlooker, observe changing conditions and know how to react to them. 3. Get out there – Workshops can advance your skills apace, chat to fellow club members in order to draw on their experiences, there are many and varied available and you must ensure you get value for money when under the guidance of an expert. Clearly the best pictures are taken at the start or end of a day so be prepared to join in with any chance. The most inclement of weather can often bring about great opportunities when many others are sitting, at home, in front of the fire!
4. Plan your shots – Good pictures are achieved by luck, great ones by planning. To help this process we now learn of many available web sites and apps (Photo pills, Photographer’s ephemeris, Google earth, Street view and also, interestingly, we learnt of Weather pro, Dark Sky, Clear outside). Using some of these sophisticated programmes might well give us a clear advantage in achieving a photograph that only existed in our mind 5. Hone your composition – There can be nothing more important, including and excluding content will make a huge difference. There are, of course endless rules (thirds, odd numbers of subjects or position of horizon) these are only guidelines – before you press the shutter button ask yourself WHY? And WHAT? Am I trying to achieve here? Build it up, have a stroll round, use your smart phone to assess some early ideas. Think about Light, Subject, Composition, Emotion. Consider the square crop, notice the action of people with the background, can you make a connection? Consider symmetry, would this rooftop scene be better taken in the blue hour? Do I need to see the canopy and sky in this woodland shot? 6. Learn to process – The wide debate regarding the extent of post camera processing will continue. Those of us immersed in this fascinating hobby will need to work on our technical skill to a greater or lesser extent and to be left too far behind in this aspect will put us at a disadvantage. Photoshop, Affinity or Lightroom cannot be learnt in five minutes but why not undertake to master say 5 or 6 techniques and build up your armoury slowly – you will become fascinated. 7. Review, Refine, Re-shoot – Remember this, trial and improvement. Shoot in live mode and criticise your pictures, don’t forget one man’s meat etc. Look back at some of your earlier efforts note your progress and enter competitions and listen to the Judge’s comments, take them on board. At the end of the day shoot for yourself and enjoy your time with your camera in your hand.
The notes shown above were the substance of Chris Upton’s talk. He was able to develop these basic ideas and to show us examples of how and why they have worked for him, as a successful professional photographer. Why not visit his web site, receive his newsletter and feel his enthusiasm? You might be tempted to attend one of his workshops – you will not be disappointed! – http://WWW.Chrisuptonphotography.com
It is a quite remarkable fact that Ashley FRANKLIN (ARPS, ABPPA, APAGB) took his family to Tuscany in 2003 to a venue that was neither familiar or known to them, with little grasp of the Italian language, and yet through his extraordinary photographic talents, and willingness to rise early, he was able to capture and describe to us the Val D’orcia region of Tuscany. Without doubt his love of this area has led to many more visits, including workshops to bring to us the fascination of Italy, through the Zoom platform, at the end of a very testing time in our lives.
Having absorbed Charlie Waite’s book on Italian Landscapes, clearly the scene was set for an exciting presentation – we were not to be disappointed – coupling his talk with selected poetic segments this “lumpy bumpy” landscape with its Cypress trees, Poppy fields, isolated churches all available from roadside vantage points, was brought to life with a genuine artistic passion, with considered composition and thorough understanding of light. As many of us know our photo trips can occasionally bring us face to face with a local event, a festival or a parade and on this occasion the famous Mille Miglia (thousand miles) passed through affording the opportunity to record many wonderful cars who were taking part in this unique rally. It was originally a race on public roads and was won, in 1955, by Stirling Moss driving, a Mercedes 300SLR, at an average speed of 99mph.
Nearby is the Palio de Sienna, the various Sienese “contrade”, or areas in which the city is divided, where they challenge each other in a passionate horse race in the heart of the city in the Piazza del Campo. We were introduced to the work of Sandra Santioli, landscapes of green giving way to browns to be seen from the Belvedere Hotel every morning showing the carved contours of the land making an artistic statement. These views were regularly photographed from 4:40am before sunrise, so as not to miss their captivating splendour. The villages and hill top towns of this entire area have provided our author with a host of awards and exhibitions. And indeed, will continue to as he has planned to lead photographic tours through until 2023. Another fabulous series of images were taken in the Bagno Vignoni, it is one of those places in Tuscany that is quite popular despite its very small size. Because it is enchanting and charming… and has hot springs! Add a stop here to also enjoy the wonderful views of the Val d’Orcia all around the small town, including the Rocca di Tentennano in Castiglione d’Orcia in the distance, whose enchanting waters with the Sun’s rays dancing on them provided great joy for us all. Naturally a visit to a local market could not be missed with vividly coloured stalls selling clothing, the colours and textures of the fruit and vegetables and naturally the opportunity to taste the ice cream and wonderful food that we associate with Italy.
The verdant countryside in May is described, by Ashley, as the gift that keeps on giving and olive trees, bright Tuscan skies, more poppies, all were pictured amongst the green rolling hills as a soft baby’s blanket with paths of light amongst dark. Cloud formations fill the expansive skies and, of course, bright blue was a regular upward delight. The valley also provides a montage of flowers, butterflies, mustard plants encouraging the drone photographer to capture the hugeness of the panorama. Finally, we see the Gladiator, Russell Crowe, as his journey brings him along a cypress tree lined avenue, so typical of Tuscany. It is only then, however, that Maximus realises that his little slice of paradise has been corrupted by the outside world and that he has arrived too late to save his family. In the second scene filmed in the valley, Maximus stands alone in a field of wheat, allowing the wind to brush it against his palms. Eerie light filters around him as he stands in what is, in this case in the film, quite literally paradise. This scene was filmed just at the walls of Pienza in the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Val d’Orcia. For more information we commend Ashley’s website at – https://www.ashleyfranklin.co.uk/
We look, with intrigue, at the speaker’s subject title and many of us, no doubt, wondered what it might mean. Colin had anticipated our concerns and immediately described it as the “stamp” of the photographer on the way his image is displayed and how the observer feels on viewing its interpretation and processing. Colin Westgate (FRPS, MPAGB, FIAP) was our guest speaker Monday evening. On retiring from banking in 1993, Colin established a successful photographic holiday, tuition and guidance company (Quest). Many of the vast array of images presented during his talk came through his excursions with Quest.
The author’s journey into the world of photography had begun many years before and his work over more that 60 years was presented to us in sequential order and described in fine detail, often including the time of year (Winter is his favourite) the venue, the time of day (often early morning beginning in the blue hour before sunrise) and capturing, with close observation, the subtle changes in landscapes as the Sun rises in the sky. His parents had given him an Agfa manual camera, with few adjustable controls, and his 1959 image was taken on a road leading to his work place, it had very little detail, was underexposed with little contrast and yet it expressed a mood that inspired his creative skills for a lifetime.
The evening continued with the display of over 130 images and Colin’s enthusiasm, perceptive detail, compositional skills and memory for every shot was magnificent. He had experimented with techniques in his own darkroom, enjoyed the challenge of using filters, all of this following his visualisation of the photograph at the time it was taken. How interesting that the instruction that he was given to “keep the Sun behind you” was disobeyed to such good effect over the years. We particularly enjoyed a number of images, taken from the Sussex coast, of the Seven Sisters and the calm sky and smooth sea but the Sun falling on the white cliffs was magical and the secondary focal object being the groynes supported the image so well. The area around Seaford and Eastbourne in the early morning provided rich pickings for Colin for many years, and during many seasons.
From a technical standpoint the use of Jpg and Raw simultaneously has allowed the exploration and development of areas using Photoshop as well as extensively working, post camera, on the mood of monochrome work, of which we saw many superb examples. Clearly Colin’s appetite has found him travelling widely. We went to the North of England, to Northumberland and Dunstanburgh castle observing it so well at sunrise in November and local moorland. The Farne Islands and guillemots being used as a composite part of a landscape. Berwick on Tweed showing rock pools where the light meets the wind activated water, a view of Pollarded willows with 4 distinct layers which needed a skilled experienced artistic mind to create such a memorable image. How generous to admit that luck can occasionally be involved in achieving a special effect – particularly a reddish pink cloud on Hedgehope hill in the Cheviots.
Scotland also proved to be a happy hunting ground – Rannoch Moor Glencoe where a photographer’s favourite tree is now blown down. Mountains, snow, storms and rain all proved to be props for Colin in his search for another expression. Onward to the Commando Monument North of Spean Bridge, Fort William. North West Scotland, Wester Ross a remarkable view taken 10 minutes after a rain storm as an emerging sun hit the roof top of a small building and who could forget the setting Moon in Glencoe (which a judge implied was imported!) Over the sea to Skye, frequently a wet area but we saw Marscow just catching the light, an image that needed taking at a critical angle to catch 2 trees on an outcrop, a study in light. Few of us would photograph a wrecked refreshment van with a boat trailer and beaten campervan but the statement of such ugliness proved a winner. In contrast we moved on to Egg, Muk, Rum, Harris and Lewes to see the patterns inscribed in the water as the tide receded. Concluding our tour of Great Britain, we were taken to Wales, Pembrokeshire and the exciting landscapes to be found there, particularly using hand held 1/8 second exposure to just keep the water moving, as well as some soft tones with up to 10 second exposure. Through to Northern Ireland and the inevitable Giant’s Causeway with no particular object of focus and much post processing to eliminate the host of tourists. Visits abroad included USA and Yellowstone National Park – a much photographed venue also the frightening Death Valley where the terrain defies you to create something new.
It was apparent that Colin’s instructional tours had extensively visited Iceland and revealed this photographers’ paradise in detail. Europe’s highest waterfall, fabulous Icebergs, black lava beaches, isolated deserted agricultural buildings, churches and cemeteries, mountains, wild skies. We recall one particular mono image prepared using PS with particularly striking and detailed blacks. This was prepared by using Tonal Control through Dodging and Burning. A “non-destructive” process that Colin has perfected. Colin offered a copy of this process to all members of SYPC – that was gratefully received. The wide and stunning variation of this section is best studied on Colin’s web site. Finally, as this hugely successful and inspirational photographer draws his magnificent talk to an end, we enjoyed Mersea Island this an island in Essex, England, in the Blackwater and Colne estuaries to the south-east of Colchester. A black and white image of the restored sailing vessel Pioneer. Oyster dredging, frosty mornings amongst the bulrushes (retain that luminosity), beach huts after a snow storm – who would have thought of this? Frozen slushy sea ice and evidence of the prolific coastal erosion. A most enjoyable evening with inspirational content delivered by a man of boundless energy and an enthusiasm for photography that is highly infectious – We recommend a visit to – http://www.questphoto.co.uk/about-quest