RCPS Press Report 16th November 2017

This evening we were lucky enough to have a speaker who was offering a journey through his photography;  so while the announcement that we had finally raised enough money to purchase a new projector was exciting it was the anticipation of seeing Dave Semmen’s photos beautifully shown off on the screen that was the real highlight of the evening.

Dave explained that he was fairly new to photography having been an avid field target marksman and fisherman in previous hobbies. Three and half years ago he discovered that his desire to spend more time with his wife led to a new hobby for taking photographs, he would say it was his passion (or was it obsession – as his wife would say) that was definitely the recipe for successful shots.

This was his first camera club talk and he didn’t hesitate once, with a flow and natural ability to enthuse others he was entertaining and definitely passionate about his subjects and images.

I think we all enjoyed it so much because it struck a chord at the heart of a lot of amateur photographers – what do we really want to excel in taking?

Dave started with a few flowers, a joke about what’s brown and stickya chocolate Labrador carrying every stick in the forest it could find – not the perfect image but a great memory of his day, a portrait of his daughter – although he didn’t do portraits. However after several new cameras and eventually landing in the Nikon camp he turned his focus to wildlife shots.

Taking us through chapters of his favourite places to visit, it was clear that his vision for capturing the perfect photograph was what made him get up in morning even when he thought there was ‘nothing to see here’.  Skegness proved a surprising holiday place to get him hooked with fantastic images of hares bounding around on the grass runway, a stunning photo of a hare in full flight, a rabbit picture – seemingly such a humble subject but this captured the rabbit collecting a massive amount of nesting material having unexpectedly pulled up a huge root of long grass – this picture won Yorkshire wildlife competition and is the RSPB June photo for the 2018 calendar; an amazing achievement after such a short time.

‘Look Local’ – Dave’s home town of Barnsley provided parakeets, a vixen and cubs in a neighbours garden, a local scrap yard where a family of Little Owls were successfully breeding amongst the rusting metal pipes, wonderful endearing shots of these owls  making the best of urban invasion and proving great subjects for those willing to sit quietly and let the wildlife come to them.

Spending time in a hide just waiting for that amazing long tailed picture with great light and bokeh; listening out for the birds to fall silent as a sparrow hawk arrived ….only to discover it was a black cat! Never one to waste an opportunity to record his day in pictures the cat proved a good subject and sharply focused eyes gave the viewer a piercing look. Snippets of advice was easily incorporated into the whole evening and the reminder to ‘always look behind you’ proved sound when the kingfishers started flying behind the hide and a weasel plucked up courage to cross the bridge where Dave set up.

Dave put energy as well as passion into his planning and execution of taking wildlife photos but also tried his hand at landscape…. ‘how hard can it be’?  he questioned ‘ it doesn’t move – turn up take the picture!’. At last a technique I could relate to I thought – but no – he realised that to get the light, composition and image he wanted he needed meticulous planning and was willing to get up at 2am set up and wait for the light and clouds to exactly right. Resulting images of hot air balloons reflections over Chatsworth fair were stunningly sharp (excellent projector!) and beautifully framed.

See it before it happens’-  ‘don’t forget the people’ – ‘get out of your comfort zone’

Wedding photography proved a whole new challenge – people enjoying a glass of wine being more unpredictable that wildlife and a bride that didn’t like to look at the camera. Listen to your subject, catch their personality and give them the picture they want was the advice as well as – be quick!

Dave happily took us though a view of images with perspective, water, texture, the Lake District, misty shots from early morning and one that had a wonderful length of light trails along a winding road that took the eye from the foreground to the distant horizon, to get this shot he had asked his wife to drive up and down the empty road…I’m not sure this was exactly what she had in mind when he suggested a nice trip out together but the image was worth it!

A beautiful Egret preening itself with the wind just ruffling the back feathers and the light perfectly balanced will be on the RSPB calendar; bearded tits, Chinese water deer, marsh harrier, barn owls and many more birds pinged off the screen often in full flight, perfectly detailed and telling a story.

The East coast provided misty cloudy mornings and the advice to keep a longer shutter speed to get a more interesting cloud images of places like Bambugh Castle or Whitby Abbey.

After an evening on processing last week, this week was in contrast all about waiting for the image, repeatedly returning to the area for the light, maybe blending 2 images to get the ideal representation of the day, lying flat out near the duck pond just waiting for that amazing picture of the mandarin duck reflected preening itself in the pond. Taking your camera with you everywhere, looking for interesting shapes and light, capturing the image in the city that raises questions or shows direct contrasts, selective colour and movement. With his go-to settings of F4, shutter speed 800th of second, auto ISO , exposure compensation and some trial and error depending on light, using a long lens, Nikon DSLR and a tripod he made it look easier than it is to get great pictures. He also always carries, and uses, his tiny Olympus CSC camera which gave us all something to consider wit thoughts about compact v. DSLR.

It was a full evening and heartfelt thanks to Dave Semmens for the constant flow of entertaining chat, the beautiful images and the advice, showing that patience, staying local and knowing your camera are key elements of photography.

Next week we look forward to Emma Littlefair sharing her knowledge about ‘Pushing Photography to the Limit.’ Using photoshop to push boundaries  Emma creates true art pieces, layering textures and abstract pieces. Luckily there will be hot drinks and cake so we can put our feet up and enjoy this unique approach to taking photos.