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Janey Devine FRPS Exhibition

October 6, 2017 in Information

We called in at the exhibition at the Middleport Pottery in Burslem yesterday to have a look at Janey Devine’s exhibition “Our Heritage, Your Future”.

Janey comes from Southampton and is a member of the Focus Group. There are a small number of beautifully presented photos capturing the remnants of the Potteries’ past and a short video also features her pictures and has an optimistic tone about the City of Culture bid. There are a few of Janey’s more abstract works for sale.

It finishes on 22 October and, whilst admission to the Museum is £3 or £4 the exhibition is in a separate building and is free.

Janey is running an excursion on 14 October – see front page.

There was a book on display showing the work of the Focus Group – one member told of his work with old printing processes in the darkroom and how he had worked hard to reproduce them now digitally. He had a number of interesting projects too including travels though Italy.

 

Exploring the Forum

September 11, 2017 in Information

The above photograph is by Martin Munkácsi. It was taken in 1929 or 1930, and has long been known as “Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika”. Cartier-Bresson said it was the only photograph that influenced him: “In 1932, I saw a photograph by Martin Munkácsi of three black children running into the sea… [it] made me suddenly realise that photography could reach eternity through the moment. I couldn’t believe such a thing could be caught with the camera… I said damn it! I took my camera and went out into the street.”

Cartier-Bresson had spent years studying painting, including two years (1928/29) with André Lhote, who taught, in particular, figure painting – how to represent the human figure’s physical presence, movements, and expressions. Hence Cartier-Bresson’s astonishment that a photograph could do something that he’d thought only the plastic arts (drawing, painting and sculpture) could achieve.

Munkácsi learnt his trade as a newspaper photographer after the First World War. He specialised in sports photography, which at the time could only be shot outdoors in bright light. But he managed to do this with remarkable attention to composition, which required technical as well as artistic skill. And it was the meticulous handling of the plastic forms, expressing such spontaneity and joy in life, that had so impressed Cartier-Bresson.

Munkácsi summed up his approach to photography in an article called “Think While You Shoot”: never pose your subjects; let them move about naturally; all great photographs today are snapshots; take back views, take running views; pick unexpected angles, but never without reason.

In the early 1930s, Martin Munkácsi took a series of photographs along the west side of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on glass plate negatives. These pictures, combining architecture and people in the street, show the same meticulous attention to composition, to the flow and gesture of line through a picture, that had made such an impression on Cartier-Bresson a couple of years before.

(This post appeared on the Forum recently and is copied here to tempt you to view our Forums – and sign up if you are a member. In addition to illuminating posts like this one you will find posts about events, technical discussion and, of course, our popular Monthly Theme)

 

An evening with Mike Lane

September 9, 2017 in Information

DUNNOCK or HEDGE SPARROW, Prunella modularis, UK

A dedicated wildlife photographer for forty years, Mike Lane FRPS is someone most of you will know. He was telling SECOS (South-East Cheshire Ornithological Society, founded by two Crewe PS members) last night that he now has access to the largest private woodland in England.

Felix Dennis was the country’s richest man and was dedicated to leaving a natural legacy – by turning as much of Warwickshire back to woodland as he possibly could. Mike, and a fellow photographer had made a small woodland their “patch” and had carte blanche to do as they pleased to advance their wildlife photography there. They were disappointed to learn a few years back that the woodland was to be sold. Fortunately Mr Dennis was the buyer and was happy not only to let them continue but offered them the entire estate for photography!

There were plenty of tips from Mike on photographing Kingfishers, Herons, etc and pictures of the many (wooden) hides and other devices he and his associate had constructed. Some subjects he regarded as easy; Kingfishers for example, readily perched on a stick introduced into their flight path. He also found that removing the stick caused them to hover for 30 seconds at the spot where it used to be, offering another opportunity for photography.

These tricks and tips make it all sound easy but they are in fact very very hard won and the underlying message was the supreme dedication which Mike has to his work. All more the pity that he can no longer make a living from wildlife photography – there are just too many wildlife photographers now! This was echoed by our friend Patrick, who was also at the meeting – he has a huge back catalogue of images with agencies which used to do well for him – they now earn a pittance.

 

Oliver Wright

August 20, 2017 in Information

We had the pleasure of listening to Oliver Wright speak at the Birdfair in Rutland this week. It would be hard to imagine anyone more helpful than Oliver and he was quite happy to extend his talk into a demonstration afterwards.

I think we were all most interested in focus-stacking, and Oliver has become a foremost exponent of this technique, achieving some astonishing results which can be seen on his website.

He used the 65mm Canon 5:1 macro lens in some of his shots. This remarkable lens, unique in the macro field, changes length alarmingly as you change the magnification. There is no focussing, you set the magnification and then move the camera to focus. The depth of field wide open and at full magnification is a tiny fraction of a millimetre, but, thanks to stacking and his practised technique, Oliver can get a high success rate. Eschewing a tripod or any mechanical support, which are too inflexible with moving quarry, Oliver supports the lens with his finger at the end of the barrel. When he is near enough to the closest focus point he fires off frames in continuous mode whilst gently pushing the lens against his resting finger. That tiny movement, as the flesh resists movement, is enough to cover the field required. He then processes the shots in Lightroom (do just one in the series then copy the adjustments to all shots) then he processes the stack, usually in Ps. With the 5DS – the camera with no anti-aliasing filter and 50MB images, you can imagine the time this takes the computer and how big the finished assembly can be – 120GB was mentioned – obviously all this can be compressed into a normal sized jpeg in the end. Oliver does a lot of deleting!

There is now a blog on his website in which Oliver is going to discuss focus stacking specifically.

ARK

August 4, 2017 in Information

ARK is a collection of sculptures installed in Chester Cathedral until 15 October. There are some 90 works from 50 different artists including some of the leading figures; Barbara Hepworth, Elisabeth Frink, Eduardo Paolozzi, Antony Gormley,

Did you know David Bailey was a sculptor?

This is a very enjoyable collection, dotted around the entire cathedral, which itself, of course, is also a work of art.

It is free to see, though you need a guide list (£2) and it is only fitting to respond to the request for a donation and a modest further £2 is all that is suggested.

Featured is my shot of the very striking Stubbs (Absorbed) by Michael Joo; a life size Zebra based on a Stubb’s painting.

 

Two Exhibitions: Fay Godwin & RPS Members Biennial

March 18, 2017 in Information

Seaside groynes look like people or intertwine, new with old. The sinuous branches of glenside trees shine and mingle with the many mountainside torrents. A piece of plastic flaps, trapped in barbed wire, echoing the shape of a white horse which gazes out (one imagines forlornly) on a new motorway construction. Misty flowers and leaves make abstract shapes under discarded sheets of glass. Fay Godwin is perhaps most remembered for her monochrome images of the land and her work with many committed writers, poets, conservationists who loved her immersive, telling photographs. She was a soulmate in their campaigns and interpreter/reflector of their words.

All Fay’s books are presently out of print but the man who owns the bookshop in Machynlleth  has a few. He curated the exhibition at the MOMA Wales Gallery just up the street where you can have the inestimable pleasure of viewing a few new prints from Fay’s negatives and rather more out of the National Library Archive, though the latter are in a darkened room (for conservation reasons). The bookshop has the best photography section I have ever seen, together (while the show is on) with a few prints by people like Paul Hill and John Blakemore who worked with Fay Godwin from time to time.

Altogether a wonderful experience. You have only until 1 April to enjoy it.

MOMA Machynlleth  Gallery Bookshop Fay Godwin website

 The RPS Members Biennial Exhibition in Stafford is a treat too. Naturally, as a collection of work from many individuals you don’t have the background to the works ,but every one repays some careful attention. These are not “six-second wonders” but thoughtful, well-crafted works which reward that attention.

You have even less time to get over to Shire Hall in Stafford City centre – the exhibition closes on 26 March.

 

1600 and all that!

January 4, 2017 in Crewe PS news, Information

I earlier reported that the L&CPU are following the PAGB lead in requiring 1600 x 1200 PDIs from July. I now find that the L&CPU will require 1600 x 1200 PDIs for the Club Annual in MARCH.

The problem the L&CPU will have is that the 2017 PAGB Inter-Federation Competitions will presumably ask for 1600s (although the entry is in June) and if the L&CPU do not change their rules they will only have 1400s to submit.

The problem is being passed down the line and now we will not have 1600s to submit. It would have been better for us if the change had been made at the L&CPU Individuals Comp in May, especially since individual members are responsible for entries in that competition.

We now have the choice of not entering PDIs at all, or chasing members for 1600 versions of PDIs we want to use, or putting in images which are 25% smaller than their 1600 rivals..

Longer term, please note that the 1600s will display satisfactorily on our projector and there is no need for a new machine. Whilst we would see more detail with 1600s displayed AT 1600 we will not see any difference on our 1400 projector but we can continue to enjoy the very good standards we presently have for as long as members wish – (a new projector is £2,500). We must change to 1600 next season, otherwise submissions to external competitions will not be competitive; 1400s can be entered but will be 25% smaller when viewed by the judges through a 1600 projector – an obvious disadvantage and probably completely spoiling any chance of an image being selected to represent the L&CPU in the PAGB competitions.

Remember that you can reduce an image size with no problems but enlargement degrades the image. This degradation is lessened by using specialist software but the fact that new pixels are being added to the image inevitably means lost detail compared to a 1600 made in the normal way.

All other PDI standards remain the same.

NOTE added 8 January – At the Exec Meeting yesterday the L&CPU decided that, for the Club Annuals, all projections will be at 1400, so the 1400 entries will not be at a disadvantage.

A Local History Project

November 28, 2016 in Information

_dsf1183Even with digital photography you can reproduce that magical moment when a negative image on a film, with a scene depicted which you can barely construe, bursts into real life in the developing dish. At last you can see your picture! The same thing happens when you scan or photograph some negatives and then change them into positives, but now at the press of a button. That is what I have just been doing for a small Crewe & District Local History Association project. There were 80 small glass plates; some were relatively well known photographs of the Crewe Cottage Hospital Fete (1907) which were recently featured in a book “Change at Crewe”. The others, well nobody at present knows the photographer or his subjects. They are mainly people posing stiffly in their Sunday best outside the windows of their terraced houses, in the “yard”. There is no attempt to disguise this urbane backdrop, though sometimes the Aspidistra has been brought outside from its gloomy world to decorate the scene, perched on its fancy stand. Of course we all know the strictures the slow process of photography placed on the art in those days; you had to keep still, you needed lots of light. It was also very much an occasion, even if the photographer was a friend or family member.

Among these rigid  compositions were two or three really charming shots and you wish the photographer (I assume they are all one person’s work) had done more like those. The rigidly posed shots communicate a lot of information but these few show life and soul. It is so much easier to be involved with these  images and feel you are sharing in the lives of the subjects. You empathise and you are involved; something to remember with our own photography.

As the club comes up to its 70th year we will be assembling photos from the club’s past and present). We record things for history all the time without knowing it. Every time you press the shutter you capture a bit of history – perhaps we can think about how our pictures help future historians to piece together our times.

Photographic distinctions – the PAGB scheme

October 25, 2016 in Information

The PAGB distinctions of CPAGB, DPAGB and MPAGB are gained by presenting a selection of your best work to a panel of judges who mark it much as a set of competition entries is marked. If you gain the required number of marks you are granted the award. CPAGB is “good club photography” standard, DPAGB is about the standard needed to gain acceptances in national competitions and MPAGB is the highest standard in club photography.

You can also gain distinctions by accumulating points for acceptances in accredited competitions, the FIAP and BPE schemes are like that, but they can be a long journey and many like to prove their competence in one test, such as the PAGB scheme. Since requirements overlap somewhat, many do both.

For some years now the L&CPU have been running a mentoring scheme to help you prepare for the PAGB distinctions. They are NOT tuition schemes, they are not intended to teach the skills needed but to help you appreciate what standard is required to achieve success.

The scheme has been very successful and similar approaches have now been adopted by other Federations. Though we can help members in trying for these distinctions we highly recommend  joining the L&CPU Mentoring Scheme because the people running it have, in many cases, direct experience of the assessment and certainly direct experience of the process.

We have just had details of the next mentoring scheme meeting, as follows…

Please bring the following information to the attention of your members.
The L&CPU mentoring team is running an Awards for Photographic Merit Seminar (advisory day) and mock adjudication at Oldham PS on 4th December 2016 at 10 for 10:30 until about 4 pm. It is suitable for:
  • Candidates who are already being mentored and wish to try out their images in front of six LCPU/PAGB judges before committing to the “real thing”.
  • Candidates who are sitting their real assessment with the PAGB this autumn and want to try out images, at the next level up, in a mock adjudication.
  • Club members who are thinking about sitting the PAGB Awards soon but have not yet begun the process. 
Note: You must have completed at least two years of entering your own club events before you can enter the PAGB Awards at the C level.
You may enter prints or PDIs for the mock adjudication, but not both; 10 for CPAGB; 15 for DPAGB; 20 for MPAGB. Your images can be assessed on the day even if you cannot attend in person. Registered candidates will be sent full information at the end of this month and images will have to be uploaded (for PDI and for print entry) via a link given in the email

You can find out all about the awards at http://www.thepagb.org.uk/awards/apm-awards/

22 September : Martin Berry LRPS – The Warrington PS Lantern Slide Archive

September 23, 2016 in Crewe PS news, Information

screenshot-2016-09-23-09-48-17Martin gave us a light-hearted presentation made all the more engaging by his genuine enthusiasm for preserving and enhancing this valuable collection, dating back to 1886.

It was interesting to see how subjects for club photography had not changed a lot given the restrictions of the old technology, though the sheer quality of these large format pictures was very impressive.

Martin has made great efforts to discover the exact location of the street scenes and get them re-photographed so that we could see the changes.

For me, though, it was the people depicted who were the most interesting. Turn of the 20th century club groups looked like country house shooting parties, with tweeds and spats, chauffeurs hovering in the background, whilst the most moving (and surely of great significance and value) were the photos taken in the slums with a “transportable camera”. How fiercely the conditions those poor wretches lived in contrasted with those of our privileged photographers!

Thank you Martin for a very thought provoking evening.

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