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Meeting Reports 2021-22 Season

1st December 2021

This week Alnwick Camera Club welcomed Alan Porrett back to cast his experienced eye over the projected image set of three competition. Images covered a wide variety of subjects from seascapes to fungus and Alan offered us his judgement on each image as well as on the set. This type of competition can be a challenge because as well as having three strong images that are connected in some way, they should also work together to produce a combined effect. Before beginning Alan outlined several aspects to consider when making a set, I think some of us will be taking that into account next time!

Commended images: Margaret Whittaker; images of a moorland shoot, and Dawn Robertson; rust abstracts on an old tractor.

Highly commended: Chris Goddard; reflections of boats in a harbour with intriguing patterns and shapes, and Jim Kirkpatrick; excellent nature photos taken in the Highland Wildlife Park.

4th George Naysmith; First Light Embleton Bay, beautiful images telling the story of a sunrise over Dunstanburgh Castle.

3rd Sunflower Variations by Gerry Simpson; three very different images of sunflowers with the final image having an almost a Monet effect.

2nd Playing with Light by Jane Coltman; dramatic and technically perfect images of light painting in Alnwick Garden.

1st The Potter by Laine Baker; a superb set that made us feel we could almost touch the clay. In Alan’s words, ‘clearly the winner’.

Report by Dawn Robertson

24th November 2021

Question Time

This week club members shared some of their knowledge of the various ways of processing digital images and the different software they used.

Dawn Robertson started by showing us two ways of adding a border to a photograph in Photoshop. Firstly, how to do this by using ‘stroke’ and then she demonstrated how to add a drop shadow. This process took slightly longer but produced a classy look that will enhance virtually any digital image.

She then demonstrated one of Photoshop’s 'new tricks'. Using the Content Aware tool she showed us how to get rid of an object in an image. No more fiddling around with the cloning tool…select, modify selection, press the button and voila – the object has gone and the space has been filled by Photoshop – and most of the time it does a pretty good job at it too. Magic!

Photoshop is not the only software available as demonstrated by Chris Goddard who, using ON1, converted an image to black and white and explained the many choices available by using presets and sliders. He then demonstrated the Silver Efex filter which can be used as a plug-in or as a stand-alone monochrome convertor. So many choices and variables – but making the decisions about what to do with your pictures is surely part of the fun?

Jane Coltman showed how she placed multiple images into one document – a little bit of maths required but thankfully Photoshop does most of the work. Then she demonstrated more trickery when looking at the new Neural Filters in PS. She had an image with a bit of snow capping the hills – a couple of clicks and it was transformed into a full-on winter scene…who knew!

Subtlety was one of the key skills demonstrated by John Thompson when he showed us his workflow. He starts by masking the sky or the land and then uses levels to alter the exposure as he wanted . At times his handling of the image was so careful it was hard to see the changes being made but when he toggled between the original image and the end result the change was clear to see. Again, a gentle touch was required when he used the dodge and burn tools to enhance various aspects of the photograph. They say less is more and this was ably demonstrated by John during this mini-lesson that will be helpful to us all.

An interesting evening and hopefully educational too, and for any anti-manipulation photographers out there just remember that some of the most iconic photographs of the 21 century were enhanced greatly after the picture had been taken – the only difference was it was using the skill of the darkroom printer and not the computer user. The camera has always lied!

Report by Jane Coltman

17th November 2021

Do you live to eat or eat to live?

Whatever your answer, the important thing if you are a member of Alnwick Camera Club, is to remember to photograph what you eat!

Food, Glorious Food was the theme for their latest event, the digital Set Subject competition.

From tempting images of fruit cake to unusual treats such as caviar on crumpets; from the brutal reality of a pork butcher to a portrait of the humble spud, the entries provided a feast for the eyes – particularly those of judge Bill Broadley from Blyth.

Bill had obviously given great consideration to his judgement and gave positive and constructive feedback to the members.

Commended awards went to ‘The Humble Jacket Potato’ by Gerry Simpson, ‘Unhealthy, Look The Other Way’ by Alastair Cochrane and ‘Juicy Melon’, also by Gerry Simpson.

Bill gave a Highly Commended award to Chris Goddard for ‘Crumpet And Caviar’ – a well photographed but arguably unusual food combination!

‘Oranges Are The Only Fruit’ by Jane Coltman also gained a Highly Commended. The oranges giving a colourful contrast to the blue Moroccan wall behind.

‘What No Chips’ by Ian Atkinson was a graphic image of a fish market taken on his travels and it too gained a Highly Commended.

Fourth place went to Carol McKay for ‘Lunch’, an image of mushrooms on toast that was so well photographed it looked very tasty and tempting!

‘Pork Chops’ by Ian Atkinson left nothing to the imagination as this image contained so much to look at and showed a woman dissecting every part of a pig in a market setting. This photo was awarded third place.

Tony Broom photographed a rapidly shrinking fruit cake to produce ‘Not Much Left’ which gained second place. An expertly lit and photographed picture.

First place went to Jane Coltman for Fish Market. Beautiful light captured the texture and detail of the seafood and the composition of one hand coming in to grab some fish worked well.

A good set of images from a set subject with a difference...

Must dash...I’m feeling hungry now!

Report by Jane Coltman

10th November 2021

'Close encounters of the travel photographer kind' with Steve Newman.

Fancy a job travelling the world for free and taking pictures and writing as you go along?

Well that sounds rather glamorous doesn't it? But the reality is slightly different as members of Alnwick and District Camera Club found out when they listened to a presentation by travel photographer and writer Steve Newman from Belford.

Yes, he gets to travel the world.

Yes, he gets to see some fantastic places and have some amazing experiences.

But underlying all this is the fact that it is his job and to earn a living he needs to continually produce pictures and copy that is wanted by editors of a variety of magazines and publications. The fact that he's made his living by doing this for many years speaks volumes about his ability to do so.

Steve started our global tour with a beautiful photograph of snoozing seals on an ice flow, taken during a Hurtigruten expedition.

His pictures have to show the location but as he explained a small fault such as a person with an unappealing expression or the ship seen from the wrong angle can mean the difference between the image being usable or not.

As we continued, we saw an Asiatic Lion in Gujarat, a frigate bird and a rarity known as a Rattleless Rattlesnake. Initially Steve was pleased to get the photograph of the snake but when he realised it didn’t show the tail, and therefore didn’t demonstrate that it was ‘rattle less’, he was disappointed as this made it unusable.

It was refreshing to have a photographer willing to show us his ‘failures’ as well as his successful images.

Further destinations included Martinique, the Tobago Caves, the Orkneys, Andorra, Iceland and Belize.

Closer to home there was Beadnell where his image of a sand artist illustrated the need to think about dead space in an image where text could be placed.

Steve was a member of Alnwick Camera Club back in the 1990s and it was good to welcome a local lad back to give a presentation.

Thanks Steve for giving us an insight into your professional life.

Next time you leaf through the travel brochures day dreaming about your possible destination, take a closer look at the images and spare a thought for the photographer who has had an amazing opportunity to be there taking the pictures and remember that for some, it’s all in a day’s work.

Report by Jane Coltman

3rd November 2021

Painting with Light

It was only 6pm but the sky was black and the weather cold and wet. In fact on occasion it was very wet and members of Alnwick & District Camera club found themselves testing the quality of waterproof seals on their cameras as well as their winter coats and hats.

About twenty members were on the beach at Alnmouth having been invited by Dawn Robertson and Jane Coltman to a workshop on Painting with Light and photographing the results. Both hosts are good organisers and natural teachers but the general impression given off from some of the main group at the outset was – what on earth are we doing here – black dark, cold and wet.

However, flash lights were produced and boxes full of interesting and colourful objects/apparatus appeared. Dawn and Jane demonstrated some broad principles of ‘painting with light’ and what we might capture. With lots of chatter about the cold as well as how to set the camera, gently cursing stiff tripod grips, covering cameras with plastic hoods, picking up the occasional dropped camera and cleaning off the wet sand, we got stuck in.

Each group was provided with colour wands, coloured torches and other light emitting objects. While one or two people switched these toys on and off and waved their arms and whole bodies around in the darkness those of us behind the tripods and cameras searched for the best aperture/time settings to capture the results. There was lots of trial and error and the giving and taking advice but capture the results we did.

Some of these were totally abstract while others were more deliberately pictorial. Swirls, lines, wiggles and wild waving produced beautiful mixes of shape and dramatic colour. More deliberate ‘drawing’ with a light source produced body shapes, flowers, fish families, houses and gardens in profusion. The wet sand created wide colourful reflections which added hugely to the drawing efforts of the Light Painter.

Despite the earlier protestations two hours or more rushed past and with the tide advancing we retreated to our cars well satisfied with the experience as well as the photographic outcomes. Many thanks to Jane and Dawn and those other members who happily did some Painting with Light.

See the gallery of members images here

Report by John Thompson

27th October 2021

This evening members of Alnwick & District Camera Club were joined by Lynda Golightly of Whickham Photographic Club via Zoom to judge the 2nd competition of our season.

Lynda is an experienced photographer and an insightful and sympathetic judge of the work of others. She recognizes the heavily subjective nature of the broad span of photography but can identify styles and genres which garner rather more agreement amongst photographers as requiring a touch more objectivity.

The 55 monochrome images in this evenings competition included examples of nearly all the standards – landscape, portrait, natural history, documentary, urban environment, travel, abstract, record, minimalism, high-key, low-key, action.

Without the intrusive effects of colour we were able to appreciate the structure of many of the images and see the importance of getting the light right; the power of leading lines, of triangles or other sets of three, the sheer delight of dense velvet-like backgrounds as well as splashes of extreme high-key lighting. There were portraits beautifully rendered, some with a full range of tones others very limited and possible more powerful because of that.

The urban environment was well represented with some images going beyond the document to engage the viewer in mood. Stark, gritty images; carefully captured elements in pools of light; high-key points of view in otherwise dark and shady settings.

Not everyone, including the judge, would like everything but that is where the subjectivity comes in. However I think the majority of watchers this evening would have been impressed with the way the monochrome challenge had been met.

Commended Awards to George Nasmyth for ‘Stay Safe January’ a thoughtful image drawn from lockdown; to Jane Coltman for ‘Dewar’s Lane’ a piece of social documentary from Berwick; and Margaret Whittaker for a delicate study ‘Hellebore’ – a circle in a triangle in a square.

Highly Commended Awards to Laine Baker for a beautifully caught portrait ‘Man in Shades’; Dawn Robertson for ‘Picnic on the Steps’ a pool of light shot; David Burn for ‘Those Rocks’ the rocks being on the beach under Dunstanburgh Castle but looking impressively like a volcanic larva flow.

4th Place: Alastair Cochrane with ‘Spectators’ a beautiful minimalist image. Two small portraits in a large jet-black background. What are they looking at...what are we looking at?

3rd Place: Richard Stent for ‘Blyth Staithes’. Riverside industry caught in lovely light.

2nd Place: Jane Coltman for ‘The Potter’. Wheel, hands, face all caught in a circle of delicate action around the pot in this beautiful close-up portrait.

1st Place: Dawn Robertson for ‘Tree Honister Pass’. This image says everything about Honister on a not-so-good day: stark, moody, cold, wet, desolate, isolated. Beautifully composed with the light in the image used to the very best effect.

Report by John Thompson

20th October 2021

What pleases Jim?

Our guest presenter was Jim Welsh from Blyth.

A familiar face to the majority of our members as most seasons we ask him to judge our images.

This time though the tables were turned as Jim displayed his pictures for us to scrutinize.

But whatever we thought of his images was not of high importance as he showed us images that had a story to tell or had a special connection to him for some reason – hence the title of his talk ‘What Pleases Me’.

He started by showing us a series of portraits. Some were quite formal and taken in a studio where Jim showed that he was very proficient with studio lighting. We also saw more candid images, some of family members and some from street photography.

Jim doesn’t have a photographic speciality though; he happily points his camera at anything that grabs his attention.

This meant we saw a huge range of subject matter. Landscapes in all weathers and geographically it was apparent that the north of England is a favourite location – from the dales to the lakes and many sites in Northumberland. Beamish Museum was obviously another place on Jim’s popular places list as it featured frequently.

The natural world also featured in Jim’s favourite photos – birds, dogs, otters, deer – and some lovely images of the steel horses at The Kelpies.

Thanks, Jim, for showing us such a great variety of images – it was good to find out what makes you tick!

Report by Jane Coltman

13th October 2021

Keeping it local...

Over the last couple of years, we have all had to deal with changes to our travel plans as the pandemic has restricted our movement.

And it is no different for photographers who have had to stay close to home when looking for places to focus on.

Thankfully, here in North Northumberland we are blessed with many fantastic venues to visit with a camera and surely The Alnwick Garden must be one of the most popular!

Club members were able to enjoy the luxury of having the place to themselves for an evening shoot thanks to the generosity of the Garden team.

And as can be seen here a great variety of images were captured as members wandered between the plants as the light faded through dusk until dark.

The Garden is such a visual delight - both man-made and natural shapes combined with the changing light to give the membership lots to focus on.

A very enjoyable photographic trip – thanks Alnwick Garden for being such great hosts and for being such a great place!

See the gallery of members images here

Report by Jane Coltman

6th October 2021

Competition season off to a good start.

Members of Alnwick and District Camera Club were delighted to welcome back a long-standing friend to judge their first competition of the season.

Dave Phillips from Hartlepool had cast his eye on the entries of the 1st DPI Open and members were receptive to his considered and constructive comments.

The first image on the screen was strong and vibrant and that standard was maintained throughout with a good variety of subject matter too.

The commended awards went to Laine Baker for The Potters Wheel: Dave Dixon for Piano And Stairs, Antwerp Mansion and to Carol McKay for Evening Catch At Amble.

Tony Broom was awarded Highly Commended for Smooth Moonlight – a lovely, serene image of the evening light over the Farnes.

Highly Commended also went to George Nasmyth for Early Morning Tranquillity – a photo taken in the pastures in Alnwick with stunning light on the castle and the foliage he had used for foreground interest.

It was back to a night-time shoot for the third Highly Commended which went to Dawn Robertson for The Bathing House – taken at Howick and the beautiful blue tones produced a photograph full of atmosphere.

David Burn’s strolls around Amble paid off as Snow At Signal Cottage gave him 4th place. Lovely light combined with a passing winter storm making a cracking image.

Third place went to Dave Dixon for Fly Agaric. A beautiful study of a colourful fungi – pictures like this usually come about after a lot of time is spent searching for the perfect specimen – well done Dave for having the patience to find one.

Washday by Valerie Atkinson is an example of less is more. The minimalist image of a dwelling and a washing line is full of atmosphere, taken on Skye amazingly it was captured on a mobile phone!

Dave Philips awarded first place to Going For It by Tony Broom. A superb shot full of action and energy. An example of right place, right time and right photographer. Well done Tony!

Report by Jane Coltman

29th September 2021

A special and spooky visit...

Alnwick Camera Club members girded their loins, gritted their teeth and tested their mettle as they headed to Britain’s ‘most haunted castle’ for the latest destination in their extended programme of Wednesday Wanders.

Chillingham Castle is already known to most members but this visit was all the more enjoyable as we had the place to ourselves when we were admitted after normal opening hours.

Amazingly, some of the members appeared to capture a mysterious and spooky figure in the great hall. What a coincidence that the members who produced images of ghostly apparitions are all experienced users of Photoshop...just saying!

Apart from the ‘creative’ images there was plenty to hold the attention of the photographers as they toured the 13th century stronghold.

The building is filled to the brim with objects gathered by the castle’s owner Sir Humphrey Wakefield. What an eclectic mixture of items!

From mannequins and mandolins to stuffed ferrets and life size models of horses, the interior contains some unusual sights but the castle is also a lived in and much loved home and this was apparent with the cosy, yet classy arrangement of soft furnishings, personal objects and art.

Many thanks to the castle for accommodating our visit, it really is a house of hidden treasures, and we look forward to visiting Chillingham again to continue our investigations...paranormal or not!

See the gallery of members images here

Report by Jane Coltman

22nd September 2021

Camera club on the right track...

Members of Alnwick and District Camera Club had a great time exploring Aln Valley Railway as one of their Wednesday Wander outings.

The railway is a great venue for taking pictures – colours, patterns, big structures, tiny details and rust – so much to see that appeals to photographers!

We are very grateful to the Railway for allowing us to visit after normal visiting hours - it was a pleasure having the place to ourselves and meant we didn't obstruct the view of members of the public either.

It is always fascinating to see the variety of images produced when a group of photographers are in the same place – everyone views the locality with their unique vision and produces unique photos – check out the gallery of members images here

Report by Jane Coltman

15th September 2021

The first Member’s Night of the new season was ‘What I Did This Summer’ and these evenings are always a favourite as members show us what they have been up to since we were last together.

Firstly, we were given a presentation by George Naysmith. As a new member this was a good way to be introduced to him and he gave a very informative talk while showing some lovely landscape images taken at the crack of dawn – but the early starts were worth it going by the images from around Ulverston. Among the photos we saw was one taken at 8.14 am and another just 4 minutes later and the change in the light and the sky was pronounced – it just goes to show it’s worth waiting for just the right moment!

The constraints of the pandemic restrictions led to Peter Ayres exploring his relatively new surroundings of Alnwick and he and his daughter took exercise by exploring the town and its surroundings on foot.

His images were taken on three walks and all on his iPhone – and because of Peter’s ability and with the quality of mobile phones these days were just as good as those taken on a traditional camera.

Local landmarks, historical features and viewpoints kept us all attentive and it was very pleasurable to join Peter on these strolls which reminded us how lucky we are to live in such a lovely area.

‘Lovely’ probably isn’t the adjective people would use to describe the images Dave Dixon showed us. Antwerp Mansion is a grimy, grungy and dilapidated old house in Manchester and through Dave’s photos it was also fantastic!

The building is hired out to photographers and filmmakers and with its graffiti-laden walls, spooky cellars and rooms full of discarded mannequins and tatty furniture it is easy to see why it appealed to Dave. It also appealed to many other members who are hoping for a club trip there when circumstances allow!

We were then transported to Lisbon, Orkney and Glasgow through the lens of Chris Goddard. The colourful, ancient and modern architecture of the Portuguese capital produced vibrant images before we moved to Orkney with it’s brooding skies and ancient standing stones. Then it was Glasgow with the famous suspended heads in the Kelvingrove museum. A great variety of images from Chris.

Andrew Mackie surprised us all with his abstract images created with whirls of smoke coming from an aroma air diffuser. Well done Andrew for showing us all something completely different and enjoyable.

The evening finished with an AV presentation compiled by Jane using pictures from the previous week’s enjoyable evening boat trip to the Farne Islands.

It feels like the new season is well underway now – with hopefully lots more evenings as enjoyable as this one to come.

Report by Jane Coltman

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