RCPS Press Report 7th April 2016

News has recently come in about RCPS member, Michael Bell’s repeated success in having images that he has taken published in a local Visitors Guide, “Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It all started a couple of years ago when RCPS members were invited to submit images of the area for consideration for publication in the guide. One of Michael’s pictures, ‘Walkers Descending to Scar House Reservoir’ was chosen for publication in the ‘Walking’ section of the 2015 guide and now he has heard that another image, ‘Walkers approaching the Scar House Reservoir Dam’ has also made it into the same section of the 2016 Visitors Guide.

Anxious to learn more, I asked Michael about why he came to be in Nidderdale taking those pictures. This is what he said: “I first began walking seriously in the Nidderdale AONB in 2001, and have continued ever since, almost exclusively with rambling clubs.  Whilst I have enjoyed many walks around the Washburn Valley, including all its reservoirs, on Denton and Blubberhouses Moor, and the beautiful lowland scenery on the east side, my preference has always been for the Upper Nidd Valley from Summerbridge upstream to the huge reservoirs below Great Whernside and the vast moors above on each side. Virtually all my photography is whilst on holiday, out with my rambling club, or on days out, all with my dear wife Jane… though I am occasionally allowed out by myself to loiter the platforms of heritage railways, camera at the ready. I really like my camera, a Sony Nex 6, which I’ve had for about two years and which meets my main criteria, i.e., DSLR size sensor, not bulky, and with an excellent electronic viewfinder.  The camera has a superb grip, is reassuringly quite heavy for its size, has a slim, powered zoom (24-75mm) interchangeable lens, and has an astonishing range of features, including High Dynamic Range (HDR) which I find I use more than I expected.  Not being ‘in to’ wildlife or sport photography, I’ve hardly ever felt the lack of a longer zoom lens.  The Nex 6 is highly recommended if you don’t want the bulk of a DSLR but still want versatility and quality – and an electronic viewfinder.

Ever since my mother bought me a Kodak Instamatic 50 as a child I’ve been a landscape photographer, fuelled particularly by love of the coast and countryside and hillwalking. However, from quite early on, I’ve also really enjoyed taking interiors, which actually have seen my best results – I do find that interiors can ‘speak’ and have unexpected atmospheres.  However, I‘ve surprised myself in recent years by becoming really interested in detail, the texture, pattern, ‘muscularity’ (in the case of wood), and ‘character’ of detail, whether it be a rusty fitting and flaking paint on a dilapidated railway carriage, three bell pushes sprouting wires on a Scarborough terrace, a close-up of stone or weathered wood, farmyard junk, ruined flyposting on a roadside junction box, anything really, large or small, which ‘speaks’ of something else by giving it a second glance.

My wife gave me a good tripod a little while ago but I’ve yet to use it.  One day I’ll take it into Hackfall Woods and get some really sharp images of wood texture etc, but in the meantime I rely on a reasonably steady hand, shutter and film speed, to give reasonable results.  Editing?- yes, I edit about 95% of my images but only using the basic editing software that comes with Windows 10- in fact it’s fast and simple to use and surprisingly effective; I’m happy with it really but realise that I should perhaps be moving on to say Photoshop, particularly bearing in mind the way it’s becoming so widely used by other Society Members.  I’ve no special techniques, except for always making a point of being deliberately receptive and alert for images, obvious and not so obvious, when out and about with my camera”.

So, well done, Michael because his story is a timely inspirational push to members, as we leave our formal meeting season behind, and look to the summer months for more areas, subjects and themes to photograph. We will no doubt have in mind our competition themes for next season – more about those later, but more importantly the sense of enjoyment and fun we can have with photography so do get out and about and get snappy!