Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communication, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution. Ansel Adams
The mist hung silently and mysteriously in the trees alongside the busy roads as Harry, Diane and I drove down to Bournemouth on the way to our annual pilgrimage, the Arena Conference. It is always frustrating for photographers to see several wonderful shots and yet be unable to stop the car. Eventually, as we approached the New Forest, I pulled off the main road so we could catch any last remnants of the mist, from a viewpoint I knew well near Burley. It was full of cars but we edged in and set off to walk a little way into the view. Absorbed in his multiple exposures Harry stood at the top of the hill and waved occasionally. As usual Diane shot off like a hare, down to the left side of the steep hill and I slid in the mud, down the middle. The mist had gone by now but making the most of an opportunity to stretch our legs and flex our camera shutters we set about taking the odd lone tree. I could see and hear dogs in the distance, they were clearly being trained to fetch and I stood and watched, too far away to get a good picture. The young man and his mother finally saw me and beckoned me to approach. He asked me if I knew why there was oil everywhere in the forest. The Labradors were covered in it. I had no idea but asked if I could take some shots of them. They were keen for me to do so and the dogs, seeing the camera, seemed to sense how to pose to best effect. Their eyes say it all.
We finally arrived at the usual hotel and leaving our bags and Harry, who had been given various chores to complete as an Arena member, Diane and I went down to the beach. I didn’t want to take the same pictures as last year and decided to continue with my exploration of multiple exposures with the aim of capturing the essence rather than the reality. We walked towards Branksome Chime, stopping off to eat cream cakes and drink coffee. Our peace was disturbed by a very hungry gull who decided to cram as much food in his beak as he could, stealing it from an empty table outside the window. It was mild and the sun shone and we hoped for a good sunset, but we were unlucky. A gentlemen approached me and asked if I would take a picture of his dog, just as I was about to take the picture the dog decided his tongue had to be in it too! Some of my non dog photographs looked very odd on my screen and for some strange reason the camera stopped saving each individual shot and just presented me with the composite of the four pictures I had taken. I couldn’t change the setting.
The seminars began on Saturday morning with a wonderful presentation from Cathy Roberts, an Arena member, who like me enjoys taking pictures of the ‘essence’ of life rather than it’s reality. Her ephemeral photographs of dancers and flowers are stunning and it was interesting to see how the shapes of the flowers echoed that of the dancers. http://www.themiragegroup.co.uk/gallery_560330.html
Peter Dazeley’s photographs were in stark contrast to the wispy sensuous nature of Cathy’s work. Using a Hasselblad he has captured the interiors of many’unseen’ buildings in London. We were treated to some stunning pictures of Battersea Power Station, the Old Midland Bank, Big Ben and a variety of other beautiful buildings mainly closed to the public. Peter used long exposures to ensure the authenticity of the architecture and internal structure without the false glare of a flash. An explanation of how he gained access to some of these familiar buildings and some of the beautiful photographs can be found http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-30041983
Roger Tiley ended the day with huge amounts of humour and pathos. His irreverent stories about his encounters with the police during the welsh miner strikes made us laugh and his wonderfully evocative and emotive photographs documenting the closure of the last deep coal mine in this country, brought a tear to many eyes. His photographs, taken way below ground were beautifully lit, using painted light and captured not only the workings of the mine but the emotion of the men who had worked there all their lives.
After a wonderful day looking at some stunning photographs Diane and I rushed down to the beach again to practice more multiple exposures. This time there was a pale pink sunset which gradually became a purple, then finally, a golden glow.
Having missed an amazing sunrise on the Saturday morning for the second year running, Diane and I dragged ourselves out of bed on Sunday morning at 5.45. Thinking we had found a great spot on the top of the cliff we began setting up out tripods when we heard some very disturbing male laughter behind us. With a beer can in his hand and swaying in the breeze a young eastern European gentlemen found us both highly amusing. Spooked by his rather strange behaviour and continued hollow laughter we decided to brave the hill once again and go down to the beach. It was very cold. I managed to lose the foot of my tripod and was disappointed to discover I had brought the wrong adapter for my Big Stopper. Abandoning the idea of long exposures I reverted to multiple exposures yet again. Diane struggled to get the settings right but eventually a purple sun appeared within a wonderfully purple hue.
After enjoying a huge breakfast we were entertained by Paul Mitchell, another Arena member. He explained how a pinhole camera works and the difficulties of taking images without a viewfinder. His photographs have a stunning ethereal quality and it was so engaging to see some familiar scenes such as Southwold Pier and Snape captured in such a timeless and unique way. http://arenaphotographers.com/portfolio-items/paul-mitchell/
I don’t think any of us were quite prepared for Lottie Davies. Bursting with enthusiasm and creativity she entertained us with a series of photographs entitled ‘Memories and Nightmares’ which she had put together using the details of friends’ and strangers’ very first memories. Lottie has just embarked on a year long, self-funded project entitled ‘Quinn’. Combining film, photographs and objects collected or bought, the story of the enigmatic Quinn, set in 1946 evolves slowly as he walks from one end of the country to the other. Lottie’s photography combined with vivid story telling provides a hugely creative experience for the viewer and it’s not to be missed. http://www.lottiedavies.com
The final speaker Asher Svidensky, who flew in from Israel to attend the conference, totally stunned us with his photography. A photographer in the Israeli army, Asher began to search for stories. Believing that the best photographs are taken when the photographer engages with people rather than ‘steals’ pictures from strangers, he began his travels in Mongolia where he embarked on a photographic journey that would change not only his life but the lives of those he photographed. His image of the young Mongolian eagle huntress adorned the front cover of National Geographic and was featured in a BBC News article. http://www.svidensky.com/
It was another exciting conference this year that had us all engaged from beginning to end. Photography is a universal language, it provides stories without words and captures the essence of a moment that we can never relive in exactly the same way. These moments only become real and unique again as each viewer interprets them using their own experiences and emotional context.
Many of the pictures I have taken this year require an open mind and a creative interpretation as I have tried to capture the ‘essence’ of the beach at different times of the day using multiple exposures. The vast majority of the photographs are a combination of four photographs which have been processed in the camera. I have done very little processing in Lightroom or Photoshop.