RCPS Press Report 10th December 2015

A record attendance witnessed the talents of our recent speaker, Mark Littlejohn who, just over a year ago was awarded the title of Take a View’s Landscape Photographer of the Year, 2014. Mark, who lives in Penrith and takes his photographic inspirations chiefly from the beauty of the English Lake District and Scotland, treated the audience to a series of outstanding images, each accompanied by a brief explanation of why he chose a particular location, the features he was keen to capture, be it light, texture, juxtaposition, composition, colour or contrast and how he achieved his aims. He spoke fluently with a passion and a delight in his subject and without jargon. He made references to choice of kit, emphasizing that having costly lenses does not always bear fruit as evidenced by award winning images taken, he said, ‘On an £87.50 lens’. A self-taught photographer, now professional, Mark said that he had tried to get into photography years ago when he served in the police but career, marriage and children took priority and it was only recently, in (early) retirement that he took up hill walking for exercise, bought a Nikon D100 DSLR camera and started to be more serious about both. He said he has a series of prime lenses, preferring these to zoom ones, and although he has a tripod he mostly shoots hand-held shots or uses whatever is nearby, be it a wall, car roof or a rock to steady the camera. Continuing to explain about his preference for a lens, Mark added that he often uses a prime, longer length lens to pick out detail rather than opt for ultra wide-lenses so often favoured by many landscape photographers. He also said that when in the hills he uses a smaller, compact camera and even a mobile phone to capture shots before deciding if it was worth taking his backpack off to get to his DSLR! He rarely uses filters because he finds that post camera processing of his RAW images in Lightroom offers enough scope. He opined that with long exposures, photographers created a moment, not just captured a moment because long exposures gave a creative style to flowing water. He was equally animated about sunrises and sunsets where, he said, viewers often noticed colour but not composition and other features that the photographer takes note of and which, in images taken during daylight, would normally attract a viewer’s attention. Mark also emphasized the need to go with at least one companion when walking in the hills and especially in snowy or wet environs in case an accident occurred as more often than not our near total reliance on mobile ‘phones was grossly misplaced due to a lack of signal.
Mark’s images were many and varied, in monochrome, colour and in a variety of formats, portrait, landscape, letterbox, square and in between. All were quite stunning. Many had mysterious elements to them, being taken usually at dawn or early morning where mist or frost created special effects, especially where tree lined shores met with glassy water. He also showed images taken on wet, dark nights in Venice where reflections on pavements featured, portraits of sailors on the Ullswater ‘Steamers’, where Mark has worked from time to time, an occasional interior shot and finally, one of his pet dog! Mark concluded by advising that photographers should ‘Take shots that make you happy and when it comes to processing, do it in a way that suits and appeals to you, not with a judge or a competition in mind’. Members and guests were fully appreciative of Mark’s input as evidenced by the warmth of applause and follow up comments in person and those left on the RCPS Facebook page. Many have expressed the opinion that he was one of the best speakers to share with us their skills, knowledge and talents. In the words of member and professional photographer, Iain Cairns, ‘It was a superb evening, (with) a talented man who showed empathy with his surroundings’. In moving a vote of thanks, David Uffindall suggested that photographers need aspiration and inspiration to improve and Mark had provided masses of inspiration that must have raised the bar regarding aspirations of those privileged to have been present.
Mention of talents brings a reminder that the Christmas Social is next on 14th December so if any members have hidden talents as magicians, singers, comedians, (not blue though!), even photographers, etc come and share them. Carol Morrison has done a great job trying to co-ordinate who is bringing what food so there should be plenty of everything for everyone who wants! There may be some surprises, who knows?