Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Saltpans and the camera club

I'm a keen and prolific photographer (as regular readers will have noticed...), but I've only been working on it seriously for the last couple of years.

I've read numerous books and magazines on the subject and watched even more online tutorials. I've taught myself to use Lightroom effectively. I've found a great printer, and by trial and error I've been producing prints I'm proud of, with the only the odd disaster. I also learn a lot from the many fantastic photographers I follow on Instagram (you can see my own account here).

But the thing that's made most difference in terms of encouragement, learning new skills, and motivating me to print and display my work has been joining a local camera club this year.

My natural inclination on a Friday night is to crash on the sofa with a novel and a takeaway from the Good Fortune and then go to bed early. But making an effort instead to beat the sloth, leave the comfort of my fake-fur blanket and drive across the hill to Bangor and the clubhouse has been rewarding every time. 

I've seen the work of inspirational photographers, from our own club and from the wider photographic community. Sometimes it's been work that I'd aspire to do myself. Sometimes the style and subject matter have been very different, but I've still learned a huge amount from hearing them talk about their approaches and techniques. 

I've seen experienced photographers judging the work of the club members and have learned a huge amount from both positive comments and constructive criticism. That includes my own work. It's a terrifying thing to see your little print alone and anonymous on an easel and wait for a verdict. Sometimes I can anticipate what will be said; sometimes it's a surprise, but it's always something to ponder and take account of.

I like the thought that my grandfather (you can see some of his work here) was a camera club competition judge back in the 60s and 70s. Many of the things that he would have talked about in that role are the things that judges address today.

I've made new friends, supportive and encouraging and funny. It's nice to have photo-geek companions who, unlike other friends, don't think you're weird when you fall in love with a lens, and who have strong opinions on what colour a mount should be. Watching and sharing in their achievements and triumphs is cool too. It's all a lot more fun than just doing it all alone.

The probably random-seeming images I've used in this post - The Saltpans, Lily in a Headwrap, and John Dory with Buttons - were chosen because they all did well in our recent exhibition and competition, and that's been another very enjoyable thing. While "winning" isn't the point of photography, it's always a thrill to have some recognition of a print that has worked well. It's another element of the encouragement that comes from being part of a group like this.

Thank you, club members, for your very warm welcome this year - it has been fantastic. And for other readers who may be working away at their photography alone, I highly recommend joining a similar group. It will keep you on your toes, broaden your horizons and ultimately make you a happier photographer.

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