RPS Northern News

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Issue 10

December 2018

Northern Diary A quick preview of some of the events coming up in 2019 Full details are on the RPS Website 15 February Newcastle behind the Scenes - a guided walk around three historic Newcastle buildings 15 March Celebration of Distinctions at Whickham in conjunction with Whickham Photographic Club 17 March Celebration of Distinctions at Houghton, Carlisle 24 March ICM Workshop at Bamburgh 31 March Distinctions Advisory Day at Newton 12 April Lecture by Paul Mitchell FRPS at Whickham Photographic Club 13 April Coastal Landscape Workshop, Seaham, with Paul Mitchell FRPS 12 May The Forces of Teesdale - guided walk by Geoff Chrisp LRPS 29 September Distinctions Advisory Day at Newton 26 October Street Photography Workshop in Newcastle-upon-Tyne All bookings should be made via the Northern Region Events page on the RPS website 2

Message from


Carol Palmer ARPS

Issue 10 December 2018

Regional Organiser Northern Region

THE NORTHERN TEAM Regional Organiser Carol Palmer ARPS northern@rps.org Deputy Regional Organiser Geoff Chrisp LRPS Treasurer Bob Turner ARPS Secretary Bob Gates ARPS northernweb@rps.org Cover Image Š Jane Morris Abson LRPS NORTHERN NEWS INFORMATION Š 2017 All rights reserved on behalf of the authors. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the written permission of the copyright holder. Requests for such permission must be addressed to the Editor. The Royal Photographic Society, Northern Region and the Editor accept no liability for any misuse or breach of copyright by a contributor. The views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the RPS or the Northern Region.

As a region we have had great success with RPS distinctions recently and this newsletter includes some from recent assessments. Ade and Jane went down the traditional route of a portfolio of 10 prints for their successful Licentiate while Anna did hers via the exemption route and certainly no less valid. The ARPS successes include a stunning Fine Art portfolio from Linda, an extremely powerful contemporary Travel submission from Maggie and an excellent Natural History portfolio from David. My congratulations to everyone and I hope we see more success in 2019. If you are interested in distinctions, then we hold two Advisory Days every year and in March 2019 we have two Celebration of Distinctions events. These are an excellent opportunity to see a selection of successful panels from LRPS through to FRPS. Check out the Northern website for these events and many others we have arranged for 2019. More events will be added so be sure to keep checking as we are finding the events are selling out very quickly. All that is left for me to say is a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our members and I look forward to catching up with many of you next year.

Carol Carol Palmer ARPS

Editor: Bob Gates ARPS northernweb@rps.org


My LRPS Success Jane Morris Abson LRPS I guess like many of us my photographic journey started way back when with a Kodak Brownie camera. I later moved to South Africa where trips to the game reserves triggered a growing interest in wildlife photography. My husband and I joined a camera club at that stage and progressed with mentorship from a few excellent photographers in the club, albeit in the days of film photography. A further move to Canada a few years later resulted in my husband becoming unemployed for a while, so to make ends meet we started submitting slides in to a stock agency, which justified trips to some interesting places but also paid for those trips! Then back to South Africa where we lived in a nature conservancy surrounded by a multiplicity of flora and fauna, and enjoyed wandering with a camera just recording what was around us. I returned to the UK in 2013 and joined the Richmond Camera Club the following year, which provided the motivation to start doing some more competitive photography and to learn some Photoshop techniques that I’d never paid much attention to before. Through the club I became aware of the LRPS qualification and started to aim towards this goal. I went to an Advisory day in October 2017, but didn’t get around to actually submitting my panel for assessment until July this year. I found it quite a nerve wracking experience and was glad to get through the first time! All the photos in my panel were taken in the last three years. I still return to South Africa on a regular basis and the three wildlife shots were all taken on a single visit to the Kruger Park in 2016, with a Nikon D5500 and Nikon 200-500mm lens. I’ve since upgraded to a Nikon D5.


The photograph of the pianist was taken at a live concert (with the artists’ permission). I had to work in silence in mirror lock-up mode and at high ISO. However there was actually a violinist sitting in front of and to the right of the piano, so a lot of cloning and a heavy vignette were required to render the picture useable. A close look at the right of the keyboard will reveal that the order of the black and white keys is not quite correct, but luckily that escaped the judges’ notice.

The bluebell picture came together after a session with Sylvia Slavin ARPS who helped me a lot with layers and textures. I went home and put some of the new knowledge to good use! Many people ask me about the rather abstract picture to the bottom left of the panel. In fact it was just a quick hand-held shot of an icy puddle. The only manipulation I did was to add the starburst in the middle later. I think it will be a while before I’m ready to embark on the next stage and consider submitting for my ARPS, but when I finally do it will probably be wildlife related. For the moment though, I’m happy to rest on my laurels!





ICM WORKSHOP Bamburgh, 24 March 2019 We are very privileged that Andy Grey, a prolific ICM photographer from Northumberland has kindly agreed to hold another workshop for our region. Andy held a workshop for us in October 2019 which was fully booked and there is still considerable interest in our region. You can see examples of Andy’s work via this link: http://www.andrewsgray.com/ In ICM, a camera is moved during the exposure for a creative or artistic effect. This causes the image points to move across the recording medium, producing an apparent streaking in the resulting image. With it you can create some beautiful, ethereal images. Like long exposure photography, the idea behind ICM is to use a slow shutter speed to introduce blur into the image. The difference is that with long exposure images you need to use a tripod so that part of the image remains sharp. With ICM you deliberately move the camera during exposure so that everything is blurred. Tuition outline: Morning : A teaching session in Bamburgh learning ICM techniques. From basic to advanced movements with tips to maximize later usability of data. Afternoon : After lunch demonstrations of the many aspects of Andy’s image creation in post processing including, Lightroom tips, Photoshop layer blending and using the modules in the current version of the Nik Collection. This tuition will take place in South Charlton village hall about 10 minutes’ drive from Bamburgh. Plenty of time for individual questions. What to bring: Packed lunch and drinks A Digital camera (which you know very well, and can fit an ND filter onto)ND filter(s) - Recommend a 6 stop for versatility, bring others if you have them. Plenty of battery power. Plenty of SD/CF cards - Should be coming away with anything from 100-1000 captures from the morning. NO tripod ...and a little imagination Reporting instructions will be emailed to attendees nearer the workshop date.

© Andy Grey


Anna's Distinction Story Anna Chambers LRPS

This is no dreamy tale of how when I was 8 my grandfather gave me his battered old camera and from then on I was hooked..... Oh how I would love that to be the beginning of my photography journey…… but for me at 8 there was no grandfather and certainly no camera. I was born and grew up in Belfast in the 70’s and I’m pretty sure most will know what that would have meant for a young child. I’m delighted to say my mum did a pretty good job of keeping me and my siblings alive. As a family we never owned a camera, in fact there are limited images of me as a child apart from the odd school photo or snapshot from a family holiday donated by an aunty or cousin. There are gaps of information in how I looked at certain stages of my childhood and it is that one simple fact that was later to inspire my journey in photography. My first son came along when I was 30 and up until that point photography had barely crossed my mind. I had worked in the field of law until then but made a decision for a number of reasons to be a ‘stay at home’ mum – and I truly hate that phrase as it undermines the reality of one of the toughest jobs. However I bought a compact camera and was determined to have a record of every stage of my baby’s life. I dreamt of capturing all these beautiful moments and ‘firsts’ and creating lovely albums of memories. The reality was very different. I was wholly frustrated by the outcome of my efforts in comparison to what I had imagined in my head. I had no idea what I was doing and 10

indeed if you imagine the results of what was probably a £50 compact camera it was pretty grim in quality. Of course I continued to take the photos and I have an ongoing and comprehensive record of all three of my boys growing up – I might call it thorough – they might call it obsessive! At some point I started with online courses, trying to gain the knowledge that I needed to improve my photography and take some control. I remember one course was called Proud Photography; I even got a certificate all the way from the USA! It actually was not as corny as it sounds and there was some good advice in there. I purchased my first DSLR, a Nikon D60 which I still own today. I read everything I could get my hands on and explored many avenues of photography in my efforts to improve. But being mostly self-taught I always felt like a bit of a fraud especially when thinking of pursuing photography as a career. I took on some commercial property work for an American based internet company and that was a baptism by fire. I blagged my way through property shoots and learnt as I went making many mistakes along the way but nearly always being able to edit my way out of it.

Around 6 years ago a vacancy came up locally for a studio photographer and I was sure this was my chance. After the interview they told me how they ‘really liked me’ but were going to go with ‘someone more qualified’. I had always felt that I wanted a qualification and that was just the kick I needed. After many weeks of searching I found a course that I felt was just going to be right for me. An Ncfe Diploma in Photography accredited by the RPS. On successful completion of the course not only would I have a Level 3 Diploma in Photography but also would gain an LRPS. The course would fit into my lifestyle as it was distance learning with regular one-to-one contact with a tutor, I could fit it around everything else I was doing. Ironically, the very day I signed up and paid for the course the studio Photography Company rang me and asked if I was still available as it hadn’t worked out with their ‘more qualified’ choice. I started there almost immediately and am now in my 5th year working for them. 11

Of course I continued with my qualification and I am so glad I did. It took me much longer than I had hoped ( 2 ½ years almost) with the extra work commitments and the mum of 3 status but someone with a bit more time on their hands could probably get through it in a year to 18 months

The course consists of 9 modules – 5 of which are compulsory modules and then 4 chosen from a further list of options. Examples of some of the modules I completed include; Image processing, manipulation and storage – Safety in the workplace for photography – Portrait photography – Studio photography. You can however to some degree base the course around your own preferred genre and needs.

They challenged my knowledge at every stage. I often thought I might fly through a certain module only to find it was much more in depth than I thought. It forced me to look at the basics and made me realise I didn’t know as much as I thought. It challenged me to look at areas I really didn’t want to like colour profiling and health and safety legislation, but I’m grateful for this knowledge now as I have a much deeper understanding and confidence in my own ability.

One module was Plan and Complete a Photographic Project. This covered everything from the planning stage of a project all the way through to the printing and presenting a panel of work. I chose to look at pet portraiture which was an area I admired but had very little experience in, hoping to challenge myself. And that I definitely did. Just getting the subjects was a challenge in itself. Then there was the matter of getting the owners to commit the time, planning the shoots, working around the great British climate….an endless list of obstacles. The whole project took quite a few months to complete and I have to admit to being one very relieved person getting those mounted prints off to the tutor and the examiner.

My work was moderated last summer and I finally got my Diploma and LRPS at the end of 2017. I’m very proud of my achievement and worked really hard for the qualification. The course takes a lot of commitment and there is much to complete. You have to be able to demonstrate your learning and ability. I chose to type up most of my learning but it is possible to send video evidence of your work and other formats to prove your knowledge.

Making a living from photography is no easy task and I applaud those who make a good living from it. Many times over the years I have briefly turned away from photography in pure frustration, selfdoubt or simply a desire to earn money in an easier way…..but it always calls me back. I am addicted to that buzz….the one you get when you see that shot on the back of your camera and can’t wait to get it onto a computer to start editing.

My passion is portraiture and now more specifically Fine Art portraiture. And while I still love admiring portraits of pets and dabble occasionally I’m going to stick with little humans for now. You can check me out at www.annafrancesphotography.co.uk or my relatively new Facebook page @annafrancesphotographyLRPS. 12


My Journey to ARPS Maggie Jary ARPS I became immersed in the world of photography through my occupation as a Food Stylist. Up until that point my knowledge of photography was very basic but adequate for holidays, family, etc. As a Food Stylist it was my job to not only prepare and style the food and props but also to work closely with a team of professional photographers and clients. It was a steep learning curve for me to understand more about the technical side of photography and I was also introduced to how creative it could be. Circumstances took me to Uganda for two years so I decided to retire early. Upon my return I relocated, with my husband, to Northumberland. This gave me the opportunity to spend more time on photography as a hobby. I joined the local Camera Club for its social aspect and as a way of progressing my interest.

I learnt about the RPS distinctions through another member of the Camera Club and was reaching the point where I felt I needed to challenge myself beyond entering Club competitions. With an RPS distinction also comes the recognition that your work has reached a certain standard. Before embarking on my LRPS I attended an Advisory Day as a spectator and then again with my panel. I was fortunate that the whole process was quite straight forward.

Unfortunately my journey to an ARPS was not so straight forward. I had been exploring a more creative style of photography and my hope was that I could put together a panel demonstrating this. Again, I attended an Advisory Day but the advice I was given was that my work was not up to standard for this genre. This did not deter me 14

and I took it as an opportunity to try a different approach.

In the intervening years I had been taking a series of photographs of our British seaside towns out of season. After a while it occurred to me that there was potential here for a panel in the Travel category. It was at this point that I thought hard about my statement of intent. With a clearer vision of what I wanted to achieve I realised that, although some of my images would be suitable, I still needed to take many more. I set out to visit more locations over the following two winters until I felt I had enough material.

In preparation for putting my panel together I looked at the advice and successful applications on the RPS website and purchased the Travel Distinction Guide. Discussions with other RPS Associates was also helpful. As with my ‘L’ panel, I attended an Advisory Day as a spectator and then again with my own panel. It was very useful to see both successful and unsuccessful panels to understand the standard required for a distinction. Feedback and advice on presentation, in terms of mounts, paper, etc. was also helpful. At the Advisory Day I was advised to change two of my images with two of my reserves. It was clear that this was the right decision. The support and encouragement from the RPS has been invaluable.

There are many ways to approach working towards a distinction. For me it was important to choose a subject with which I could fully engage. I was brought up by the coast in Lincolnshire and have always enjoyed the quieter months without the tourists, no matter what the weather, so it was this that I wanted to capture. I like to take images that tell a story. Sometimes, a single image can’t do that but, when put together with others in a collection, or panel, the narrative comes through. I didn’t want to put time restraints on myself, or to feel rushed, as I wanted my shots to be considered. From this point of view it was useful to choose an area that I could return to if necessary. It’s essential to have plenty of images to select from. Some might not fit along side others in the panel. I attended the Assessment Day in Bath because I wanted to hear the comments of the judges and also to see the other submissions. Even though I had received positive feedback at the Advisory Day it was still a nerve racking experience as the opinion of the judges might be quite different. The order of the day is unknown so it can be a long wait until your own panel comes up. For unsuccessful applicants there is an opportunity to talk to someone afterwards.


Working towards the distinctions has made me realise how much I like to have a photographic project. I learnt my camera skills by trying to photograph everything that came along but my interest is leaning more towards a documentary style. At the moment I am planning a project for 2019 involving the community where I live and I anticipate this will take most of the year. At the same time, I am still nurturing the creative streak by pushing the boundaries and using my camera to break the rules. I want to see what can be done to produce images that are less representational of reality.




RPS Open University Course leads to LRPS Success Ade Gidney LRPS Last winter I completed an online photographic course through the OU in conjunction with the RPS. The result of that was producing 10 images that could potentially form an LRPS submission. I scored highly in the final submission which gave me confidence to enter my images for an LRPS assessment. I had read that it was sensible to attend an advisory day to get an idea whether your images were of a standard required and if the images ‘hung well together’. I subsequently attended an advisory day in the NE where Leo Palmer and Malcolm Kus were the RPS representative giving advice. They were very encouraging about my images and made a few suggestions about whether to change one or two either for other images I had brought or I one case a colour image to black & white. I went away very happy and after a little extra work booked an assessment day in Bath at RPS headquarters. This was booked to coincide with a campervan holiday to the south coast as I wanted to go in person rather than just submit my images via post.


On the day of the assessment, horror, my images were put up first. Straight in at the deep end! After examination two judges spoke about the images and said very positive things except one judge said one of the images appeared to have some poor cloning along the top of the image producing a dark band across the top. I was astounded as I knew there was no cloning on the image. After further examination Hazel Frost FRPS (panel member) pointed out that this appeared to be as a result of the tape holding the image to the mount which due to the bright lights showed through as a dark band. The chairperson agreed. After some deliberation they said the panel was of the required photgraphic standard but due to poor mounting it was dismissed as this formed part of the assessment, I had failed! Imagine my disappointment. I felt like leaving there and then. I didn’t. At the end of the morning (and assessments) another panel was put up. It was mine again. What was going on I thought. The chairperson stated having consulted the rules they were going to refer the panel, in other words If I corrected the mounting issues and produced evidence I had done so I would receive a pass. The reason for this was having passed an LRPS or other distinction you may be asked to show your images in public or to other RPS members and they wanted to ensure all passes are up to the ‘required standard’ to demonstrate the standard to other people. I left a happy bunny, corrected the mounting issues and a few weeks later was awarded my LRPS. So the lesson to take away from this is that all things in the production of printed, mounted images are important when applying for a distinction and should be checked and double checked so as not to waste your own time, effort (and money). 20

Some of my favourite images from this panel are, ‘evening light’ also recognised as the Buttermere tree, about 1/2hr from where I live I often visit this iconic tree. Two images blended to give the long exposure cloud movement with a short ½ sec for the foreground so the grasses are still visible. This image was lucky enough to get commended in 2017 Landscape photographer of the year. I entered two images from Iceland I visited in April 2017, I thought the crashed DC 3 was in the most amazing location on the black sand beach on the south coast. This long exposure was shot on a grey drizzly evening when you would think there was just no light to do anything with. Twisted Firestarter is a selfie taken with no other assistance in a derelict local building, all done in one shot including delayed timer to allow me to light the wire wool, a 60 sec exposure to spin it & then light some of the walls and graffiti with a torch. Great fun.



Review of Northumberland Coastal Walk held on 9 September 2019 Carol Palmer ARPS

Castle Š John Dilworth

Geoff Chrisp, our Deputy RO again agreed to lead another walk for our members. This time he decided on a coastal walk in another iconic location, Craster and Dunstanburgh Castle. This location gives the opportunity for a very diverse range of photography from natural history, landscape and close up and seeing the kit everyone had with them proved the point. It was a perfect day for photography, dry, somewhat breezy but with ever changing lighting conditions we knew we were in for a good day. First stop was the bizarre concrete structure on the end of Craster pier built, apparently, in 1914 as a support for a wooden silo used to store limestone chippings before loading onto boats caused much interest, John Dilworth suggested it may have had another use of providing a unique photographic device.


Castle Window © John Dilworth

Looking South © Paul Hood LRPS


Walking along the well-trodden path along to the castle provided many opportunities for landscape photography. Next stop was the ruined castle and we all sought out sheltered places for our lunch as it is usually breezy here. Then along towards Embleton to take the popular shots of the castle from the north side. It was also an opportunity to take water movement images with the tide on the turn.Then time to return to Craster and we just arrived to the car park as the heavens opened.

Looking North Š Paul Hood LRPS

Photogon Cliff Š John Dilworth


An Interview with Linda Duncalf ARPS

Why and when did you first get into photography? At primary school I wasprovided with an Instamatic camera by my parents. After one school trip we were even allowed to develop our own photographs in the girls loos by one enlightened Headmaster. Later it was always my husband who was the photographer in the family. I was the one standing around waiting for 'the shot'. I finally decided to look around for my own view. I have always been interested in colour and form in art and design with favourites including Hockney, Klee, Kandinsky and Le Corbusier. I have enjoyed the wonderful hobby of photography for about five years. It makes you look around and find beauty in all sorts of places. I have developed my style and love creating a final image from my shots.

Distant Vista 26

Why did you consider attempting an RPS Distinction? I was encouraged to try for a distinction as it seemed a recognised way to gauge whether I was achieving a useful outcome. My husband encouraged me as he had gained his LRPS years ago but it seemed to me a high standard to reach. Although some people did respond favourably to my images, I was receiving variable feedback from judges and members at camera club. Many did not see the merit in my pictures. I considered the RPS to be a well respected body and more open to creative ideas. How did you approach your ARPS? I had received good advice fro Peter Paterson FRPS at my LRPS advisory day when he recognised my preferred style from a couple of images and suggested I concentrate in this vein for my ARPS. I picked a subject and method of production I love. I also attended an ARPS advisory day and again received useful consideration and salient comments. I found the production of my ARPS panel easier than the LRPS as I could concentrate on a subject I enjoyed. Is there anything you would have done differently? My images were 280mm by 280mm and I would consider printing them slightly smaller to intensify the effect.



What, if any, advice did you take before submitting the portfolio? I attended an Advisory Day and took the advice given to substitute two images that did not fit well in the panel. It is hard to view your work objectively and these days are an invaluable indication of where you are in the process alongside other submissions.

Lilac Tree

What advice would you give to anyone considering a submission? Take only the photos you love and ideas and plans will follow flow naturally from that.


Red Wood

Did you attend the Assessment Day and what were your views of the day? Yes. The day is conducted professionally and taken seriously (although it's only a bit of fun isn't it?!). It's hard not to be nervous with a panel of five assessors as well as a chairman present to forensically dissect your precious offerings. I think that the assessements are at about the correct level to protect the integrity of the distinctions. What does the future hold? I am continuing to experiment with multiple exposure creations. I am looking towards an FRPS submission possibly next year. That is always at the back of my mind when something I've produced excites me and sparks my imagination.


MY WAY TO THE LRPS Richard Dennis LRPS Statement of Intent

I photograph anything that catches my eye, a texture, pattern or shape, a colouful snippet or a beautiful landscape. I seem to be particularly drawn to trees. I find their varying forms and settings endlessly fascinating to capture. I like to create my final image by combining multiple exposures and use basic editing techniques such as cropping and blending to produce a pleasing image to me. I aim to bring elements from other photographs of mine to enhance colour, light, movement or shape. I strive to create an impressionistic view of the qualities of the subject and the original experience or an imagined one. I find the process of achieving a unique outcome exciting and satisfying.

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Carol Palmer ARPS (Regional Organiser) reports on a recent Workshop on Landscape Photography with Tony Worobiec FRPS


Well the weather was truly awful, heavy rain all day but that didn’t bother us, we were inside attending a workshop about challenging weather and I would guess that when we finished many members would have a much greater understanding of weather and find it pleasurable to get out in all conditions. Tony is the ultimate presenter and with a subject in which he is so passionate he delivered an excellent workshop. He explained in great depth the varying weather types, how to guess the conditions after high/low pressure and the types of landscape which suit every eventuality. His images which illustrated the sessions were outstanding and captured the atmospheric weather conditions he described. So, in summary the moral is embrace the weather in all its forms, there is always some type of landscape to photograph, so just get out there. In the days following the workshop, two members ventured out to put theory into practise and submitted these two atmospheric images for the Newsletter.

The Bath House, Craster © David Smith


Boat © Margaret Hogarth LRPS


Club Rookie to ARPS : My Story David Brown ARPS

As a teenager in the 1960s, being small and nonsporting at school, I had become conditioned to avoid competition. Instead, I dreamt of becoming a wildlife photographer. Through hard labour in Scunthorpe steel works over school holidays I acquired a 400mm presetdiaphragm manual focus lens for my Exa SLR. Alas after running off many film rolls on my first outing then getting the best few shots enlarged at Boots with disappointing results, I quickly discovered that this game was way beyond my pocket. I became an academic zoologist. Then in 2011, owning a digital compact camera and approaching retirement, I joined Gosforth Camera Club. I entered one print into each of 2 competitions: ‘Nature’ and ‘Solitude’. The first was Highly Commended, and the second won Second Place! Beginner’s luck, but for me it was a lightbulb moment: here was something I could do! A long-latent competitive monster arose within me. The judge was wonderfully expert and inspirational, and held ARPS – so whatever that entailed, I wanted one of those! I invested in a second-hand 400mm f2.8 lens and complimentary kit, and became a ‘Nikon Man’. Thus my retirement challenge began. I discovered the local hides and reserves in Northumberland and Durham. Having previously thought myself a naturalist, I had my first lessons in humility when I met real experts in those hides and within my club. The more I learned from them the more enthusiastic I became. But arrogance was to stand in my way when it came to handling judges advice: “Of course it’s sharp, I wouldn’t have entered it if it

wasn’t!” I came to realise that hides were valuable for certain types of image and species, but the real challenge and opportunity lay in observing and photographing wildlife out in the field and preferably alone. I became drawn to the beautiful Northumberland coast, fell in love with photographing waders and other seabirds, learned to work favourite locations from South to North with the light behind me, to work with the tides, to follow advance weather forecasts, to avoid the excessive contrast of harsh midday light and also the very first light where there is no reflection off wet sand to reveal feather detail in a bird’s underside; and also to avoid the main dogwalking times! Following a local Federation ‘Celebrating Distinctions’ evening where I met successful LRPS and ARPS photographers and examined closely their panels, I decided to go straight to ARPS in Natural History as I felt I was too narrow and specialised to put together a wide range of portraits, street scenes, landscapes and creatives such as seemed the basis of most LRPS panels; whereas I could envisage an extended panel of waders more easily. I attended as an observer a Nature Group Advisory Day in Foxton (March 2016) where for the first time I began to appreciate what the RPS considered ‘critical sharpness’. I put together a panel plus spares on my waders and participated in an Advisory Day at Amersham (January 2017), where I was told that it would not pass as it failed to meet the required ‘variation’. Fifteen different species was not enough when they were mostly portraits in similar poses. Did I not have flying shots, group shots, more images showing behaviour? I was already entered for an assessment in March 2017 but 33

Avocet chick

hurriedly hunted around and made changes which I hoped would suffice. At Bath my panel failed, yet was a positive turning point. I was not criticised for variety; but I failed to achieve critical sharpness on many images; group images (as in a flying flock) need to have every bird sharp; mostly my birds were too large in the frame: small birds do not need to be larger than life-sized, and look better with more environment shown. My panel was not helped by having been [commercially] printed on matt paper: a lustre or pearl would have lifted them. I returned very dejected, but was pleased when I received the detailed email feedback where I discovered I had been offered a ‘Resubmission’ which had to be within 18 months. The adjudicators noted that I had demonstrated appropriate field skills and had a good eye for a picture, and thought my basic idea was sound and interesting, so they wished to encourage me. It was my wife, who had long told me my images were not sharp enough, who persuaded me that if I followed their advice to the letter then I would make it very difficult for them to fail me a second time. 34

I resolved to get into home printing, and a friend in my club effectively gave me a masterclass in what to buy and how to do it. He also had a far better screen than mine. I realised I was handicapped for post-processing, so firstly I upgraded the screen to a Dell Ultrasharp 27. Wow, what a difference! Now I could far better assess critical sharpness in my raw files and see noise being created as I used sharpening tools. After reprocessing I retained only 4 of my original 15 images, found sharper originals from earlier shoots and spent time on location reshooting many more. During this time I was fortunate to photograph a fight between two redshanks; and I obtained my final image, the isolated golden plover shot, on rocks near Whitley Bay after waiting for the main 1000strong flock to depart, only to find I was cut off by rising tide and had to escape up a seawall via a vertical rusty iron ladder with 7kg of kit slung on my back! The expression ‘Silly Old Fool’ was heard. But did I care….?! My reassessment in Bath on 4th September 2018 was successful.

It commenced with the chairman explaining to the audience what a reassessment involved, and my feedback letter from my first assessment was read out followed by my updated statement of intent. Both adjudicators and chairman were keen to emphasise how the feedback had been exactly followed, and to appeal to others to follow such feedback. If I may offer just one piece of advice from my experience, it is this: if a judge who has gained an RPS distinction tells you that your images fail to reach a critical level of sharpness, then you had better believe them!

Statement of Intent As a wildlife enthusiast my ‘home patch’ is the beautiful Northumberland Coast and hinterland. Its sandy, rocky and muddy shores, brackish pools, meadows and marshes are frequented by a wide range of birdlife. My favourites are the waders: their social habits, foraging adaptations, sometimes frenetic feeding behaviour (as in Sanderling) and superb camouflage (for example Snipe), make them a delight to study and photograph. My panel comprises 13 different species of waders which, except for image 2 (Avocet chick), were photographed outside the summer tourist season. From September to March their numbers and variety increase greatly, as inland nesters move to the coast and combine with birds migrating from Scandinavia and high Arctic breeding grounds. Most species occur in flocks, whereas a few including Grey Phalarope show only as rare single birds on passage. I aim to illustrate their diversity and behaviour across a range of coastal habitats.


Sanderlings + Dunlin

Common Sandpiper





Golden Plover



From The RPS Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London The Society Collection at the V&A has about 350 salt prints, mostly portraits and group studies in Edinburgh and Newhaven, by the photographic duo Hill and Adamson. David Octavius Hill (1802 - 1970) was the artist and Robert Adamson (1821 - 1848) the chemist. Originally a landscape painter, Hill made a name for himself at age 19 by publishing a series of lithographic landscapes. He was a founding member of the Royal Scottish Academy and was Secretary for 40 years. In 1843 he began to paint a large picture of the signing of the Deed of Demission, the act that marked the founding of the Free Church of Scotland. There were several hundred delegates to the convension so, to get an accurate record of their features, Hill decided to make photographic portraits. He enlisted the collaboration of Robert Adamson, a young chemist who had been experimenting with the calotype process. This revolutionary process created the first'negative' from which multiple prints could be made. The duo preferred the calotype because it was less expensive and supressed details, allowed the photographer to control lighting, expression and gesture to emphasise the sitter's personality. Hill tended to be the 'artistic director', composing each picture, placing his sitters as they might appear in the finished image. Adamson operated the camera and carried out the chemical work in the darkroom. Hill was twenty years older than Adamson and had many connections in artistic and social circles in Edinburgh. He was able to attract the Edinburgh glitterati to their studio at Adamson's home, Rock House. They expanded their collaboration and intended publishing a series of volumes of photographs. Most were never issued but photographs still survive. This image of Newhaven Fishermen is from, The Fishermen and Women of the Firth of Forth. Adamson, who was sickly from childhood, fell ill in late 1847 and returned to St Andrews to be cared for by his family. He died in January 1848. Hill died in May 1870 and is buried in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh - one of the finest Victorian cemeteries in Scotland. 39

Bob Gates ARPS

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