July 2021 No. 10
Welcome to the VAG Newsletter. Firstly, we congratulate the following members on their recently gained RPS Distinctions: LRPS Morag Forbes, Chris Goodacre, Martyn Smith, Carol Tritten LRPS Exemption Debbie Isitt ARPS Contemporary Paul Ashley ARPS Landscape Paul Parkinson ARPS Documentary Carol Paes ARPS Exemption Julie Kirran, Natalie Robinson FRPS Contemporary Roger Wooton John Cavana ARPS
Circles It is always encouraging to find that a few new members enquire about a place in an E-mail Circle when the Newsletter goes out. I just need to tell you this time that the Email Circles are full, having taken in a number of new members since the start of the year, and had very few resignations. By all means write to me if you are interested, and I'll send you information about the Circles and answer any queries, but you will need to go onto a Waiting List for a place. (First come, first served!) The good news is that the Print Circles can offer 4 places, so the first four lucky applicants can join a Circle straightaway. Remember: membership of the Circles is a benefit of your VAG membership. The Print Circle members just pay their own postage to circulate the prints, and the Emailers have nothing to pay at all! Gill Dishart ARPS
Exhibition News Good News! I’m pleased to let you know that the Members’ Print Exhibition, that should have been on tour in 2020, but was cancelled due to Covid restrictions, is currently being shown at Patchings Art Centre, Oxton Road, Calverton, Nottingham NG14 6NU, ending on 1st August. Open Wednesdays to Sundays, 10.00am to 4.00pm. All details are on our website. Patchings organiser, Gary Jones, said ‘It’s a super exhibition – it’s been a pleasure to hang ... it will be a good exhibition for painters and photographers alike!’
Then, from 7-28 August, there will be a reduced exhibition, due to space, at Gallery PHOTIQ, 40 Park Street, Leamington Spa CV32 4QN. The Gallery will be open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10.00am to 4.00pm. Easy to get to, with a multi-storey carpark very nearby, as well as places to eat. Again, please look at our website for full details. Plans are underway for the third and last exhibition of last year’s prints at the HeseltineGallery, Chenderit School, Archery Road, Middleton Cheney, Banbury OX17 2QR. This is scheduled for 13 September to 20 October. There is ample parking next to the school, with pubs nearby. All details will be on the website. I’d like to thank all the 2020 exhibitors for their patience and goodwill – there have been kind words all along in support of what the Visual Art Group undertakes, especially during this past year, difficult for some, innovative for others. Because of the uncertainty of how Covid is playing out, we decided that it was best not to have a physical Members’ Print Exhibition this year, but instead to have a VAG Magazine dedicated to square format images to be selected by Jay Charnock FRPS, Carol Palmer ARPS and Nat Coalson ARPS. You will see an entry form attached to this email. So, here’s the challenge: time to be different and think Square, think Digital! Wendy Meagher LRPS
And now… …for the 2021 Members’ Print Exhibition. You are invited to submit up to three pictures. The conditions of entry are explained on the entry form, but to summarise here, we are requiring entries in borderless square format, at least 2600 x 2600 pixels in size, in single layer uncompressed Adobe (1998) TIFF format, observing the following naming convention: SURNAME_FIRST NAME_TITLE OF PICTURE (all in upper case with underscores and spaces) To ensure that no entries are lost in the process, files should not be sent as e-mail attachments but together with the entry form (which can be filled in on-screen) via the free transfer service www.wetransfer.com to the group webmaster at email@example.com Please do not submit prints. We will do the printing for you. Andreas Klatt ARPS
July 2021 No. 10
THE SPACE AROUND THE PHOTOGRAPH By Richard Tucker ARPS The various waves of the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to most group activities. Photographers miss working together, the talks and presentations, the workshops, and expeditions. But we have been able to continue by ourselves. There is no reason to stop taking photographs. As a Chapter of the RPS, we in Switzerland have been no different from other photography groups. Swiss Federal rules about moving around within our borders, may have been less strict than many countries but indoor meetings have been impossible.
The RPS confirmed that we could publish through their ISSUU account, so costs were minimal and the potential audience already large. The proposal to my colleagues was that we should produce something as simple as possible, to let the images speak for themselves. The publication should itself be visual art. There are many different publications in the RPS stable, often acting as a club news to a particular constituency and generally good at doing what they set out to do. To achieve our aim of simplicity we decided not to have “news” or to use it as a platform for articles about aspects of photography. We wanted the pictures to be about themselves.
With only about 30 members, many of whom are working, it is difficult to raise enough support for outdoor gatherings, yet it was important to have something inspiring which kept contact with other people. The Chapter runs a monthly e-circle (submit one picture and then write a crit on all the others, naming a favourite) which attracts anything from seven to 15 members. Not a large numberbut a good percentage.
There are no themes so inevitably each month is a collection of disparate photographs. It seemed appropriate to have something else to give members a more coherent view of an individual’s work. I was busy with the endless task of scanning some seventy years of negatives when I came across some of my favourite 6x6 monochrome negs taken on my trusty Rollieflex. Thinking about these turned into the idea of getting six photographers to submit six photographs for a quarterly publication, with the simple title of “6x6”.
Lightstorm by Rob Kershaw ARPS
Having got an idea, the next trick was to find a good designer. Sometimes the ticket you buy does win the lottery. One of our members, Timo Lehto, a retired Finnish air-traffic controller, volunteered to produce the dummy issue (6x6 Zero) and discovered that not only did he like the challenge of designing a uniform carrier for disparate images, but that he was good at it. The various iterations of each of the three magazines so far produced show the careful and creative development of sometimes subtle changes which make our photographic efforts seem so much better.
July 2021 No. 10 You can also enter vis ISSUU 6x6. This will open all the editions. Have a look not only at the photographs as examples of visual art but also how they have been placed and linked by the background tones. What has this to do with the interests of the Visual Art Group? In the first instance, as Editor I am confident that the works shown are of good quality. ISSUU enables us to make “stories” of each contributor, where you can see the images full screen and compare the effect of their removal from the “6x6” page. It shows to me the importance of the presentation of images. We send our pictures for publication and have little control over how they are placed or the amount of space around them.
Cheops by Urs Albrecht LRPS
Editions Zero and One, both changed the backgrounds to suit the pictures. The switch from white to black in the Zero edition was sometimes abrupt, but in 6x6 One there are areas where part of a page is the colour that backs the following section. These changes work well to show the photos at their best. There are even black background double spreads within a sequence on a white background. By the time we put together 6x6 Two, some grey was used for lead pages such as the contents and the end matter advertising future editions. That grey looks mottled and is achieved by layering all the photos in that edition.
The cover makes more sense once you have seen all the pictures. But even more important is that the images themselves are generally smaller than the previous editions and the white background is not white. A shade towards a warm grey was chosen, reducing the harshness of the larger spaces. The effect on the photos themselves is to make the whites and lighter colours have more presence. The pictures become more alive. They “pop” You can see the magazines through the RPS website; go to International and then Switzerland. At the bottom of the pages are the icons for each edition.
As RPS members we are likely to exhibit our work and even prepare distinction panels. Traditionally we have had to choose a card mount from a narrow range of tones. Since there is usually a tonal unity across a distinction panel, a single choice of card might work well. But there is no rule which says we must frame our pictures using a card passpartout, nor that our images have to be the same size or format. Digital printing now makes it easier to colour the space around the photograph, to the greater good of our visual art. We can experiment at little cost and no risks. The future of “6x6” depends on the submissions from our Swiss members but also on the reactions of you, the readers.
July 2021 No. 10
UNTETHERED SPIRITS - THE ARCTIC TERNS OF ORKNEY By Nicki Gwynn-Jones FRPS
There is a long-held love of birds in my family. My late Auntie Catherine was a highly gifted woman, and although never diagnosed as such during her lifetime, I believe that she was extremely autistic. As a result of this she spent only a couple of years in formal education yet learned to play the oboe to a professional standard, and she could draw and paint most wonderfully. She also had a wide knowledge of nature, but most of all, she loved birds. Her great joy in life was to be amongst them, observing and drawing on their energy, but she was unable to engage with the world at large, so could never communicate this passion and knowledge. Her death in 2003, whilst we were living in America, touched me deeply - far more than I might reasonably have expected - so I was happy to fly back to the UK to attend her funeral. As she was being laid to rest in a tiny rural churchyard a strange thing happened. I felt her presence at my side reminding me that she had never been able to convey her love of birds and was now tasking me with doing just that; it would be up to me to be her channel by finding a way to show the world their beauty and the ethereal nature of their existence, something that she had always understood so well.
Being a keen swimmer, I have always felt a special affinity with sea birds. What strange lives they lead - so many, such as puffins, will live out at sea for nine months of the year, riding out the Atlantic winter storms and giant swells in huge rafts of birds. Imagine that. A young albatross can live at sea for years before coming to land to breed, and I am always thrilled when the fulmars return to our cliffs; endearingly clumsy on land, these birds were built for endless flight! But my favourite is the arctic tern, that master of migration; the average bird will live for 30 years, an extraordinarily long lifespan for a small bird with such an extreme lifestyle. During that time they will travel around 1.5 million miles, the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back, journeying between the Arctic and the Antarctic - the longest migration of any animal on earth. They experience more sunlight than almost any other creature and are so lightweight (weighing only 100 grams) that during migration they are easily able to harness the ocean breezes. They glide for miles with their disproportionately long wings - up to 75 cm on a body of 30 cm - and are capable of flying 1000 miles in a day.
July 2021 No. 10 Orkney has several small populations of terns that return each year to breed, and I have found one such colony that nest on a large flattish rock that is accessible to a photographer with a long lens, but that is separated from land by a narrow strip of sea, ensuring (hopefully) that they are not disturbed. It could not be more beautiful. In May and early June there are sea pinks everywhere, turning the rudimentary nesting sites into flower-strewn bowers, and the lichen glows golden in the strange light of the simmer dim of our long summer nights. By the time the eggs hatch in late June the flowers are going over, so the chicks are completely camouflaged. The fact that within little more than a month these tiny balls of fluff will be embarking on their first migration to the Antarctic is impossible for a landlubbing human to comprehend. I sit with the terns for hours at a time, or for as long as my lower back can tolerate the seeping cold and the discomfort of an unforgiving rocky perch; to be spending time with the greatest nomads on earth seems something of an irony when I have ventured off my very own island for all of two days since the start of the pandemic - a day trip to John o’ Groats and one to the neighbouring island of Sanday - and therein lies part of their appeal: that freedom to roam, to go where the wind takes you and to be driven by instinct. An almost impossible dream.
Seabirds are often thought to be the souls of the dead, but I have always believed that arctic terns are angels It is those disproportionately long wings that fascinate me; I try and try again to capture the essence of their flight, their freedom from gravity, their total mastery of movement and their awesome control in wind of over 40 mph, when I can barely hold the camera still. And all whilst making such beautiful shapes - was there ever a more elegant creature? It is challenging they can fly at speeds of up to 25mph, but I persevere, just like the industrious parent birds who return again and again with food for their chicks. Fun fact - I learned that just before the colony takes flight it falls silent; this is known as a ‘dread’.
With Auntie Catherine at my side, I realise that within those many 1/4000 second efforts I am trying to capture what they ‘be’, rather than what they ‘are’, so I must take a gravity-defying leap of imagination, change my perspective, and learn to dance with the wind. From time to time I am rewarded with an image that moves me and I know that perhaps I have been granted a glimpse into their untethered spirit. One day soon I will arrive at the colony and the terns will be gone. I will be overcome by melancholy and a sense of yearning for what I cannot know - my beloved companions, half real, half from another realm, will be living out their mysterious lives between the edge of our world and theirs, always just out of reach. Auntie Catherine would understand. Nicki Gwynn-Jones FRPS www.nickigwynnjones.com
July 2021 No. 10
REMINISCENCES OF AN INFRARED PHOTOGRAPHER
perb infrared pictures.
By Mike Kitchingman LRPS Infrared photography has gained in popularity recently, and I find it an invaluable tool to use for all genres, particularly Visual Art as, with a bit of creativity, you can add an extra dimension to your images. My interest in infrared (IR) started in the mid 60s with Kodak Infrared Ektachrome Aero film type 8443, a transparency film which I used without a filter and, if my memory serves me correctly, was developed in I think F3 (I was fortunate enough to have a jerry-built darkroom at this time, so I did all sorts of experimental things) resulting in lovely intense magentas and reds and really odd colour balances. If you Google Frank Zappa’s ‘Hot Rats’ album cover you’ll get the idea. Alas, it was ‘retired’ in the early 70s and so my affair ended and, although other infrared emulsions were available, they were purely B&W as far as I can remember;
In the ‘Psychedelic 60s’ it was the unusual colours that caught my attention I never dabbled with infrared again until the ‘90s and by this time I had exhausted psychedelia from my mind and used predominantly B&W emulsions, notably Kodak Tri-X and Panatomic X - the former for its speed and the ability to ‘push’ it to 1600ASA or more, and the latter for its fine grain. Around this time, I attended a book signing event in a London bookshop and met up with (Sir) Simon Marsden www.simonmarsden.co.uk who was signing copies of his latest book The Journal of a Ghosthunter, shot entirely with B&W infrared film and which consisted of Houses, Castles, Graves, Standing Stones, etc., together with small anecdotes about them, which enthralled me and re-awakened my interest in infrared photography. I still have my signed copy which I treasure, not just for its photographic content, but for the gifted way he weaves his (true or folklore?) accounts of meetings with shades and spectres and various people along the way, and the stories which they regaled him with. He subsequently published several other books, most of which I own and cherish; they are all worthy of being included in any collection and contain some su-
Old Linslade Church I would have loved to have delved deeper into producing similar pictures but at that time, unfortunately, I no longer had my darkroom and developing and processing labs were so much more basic then. I daresay I could have found someone, had I tried harder, and my back catalogue possibly would have been all the richer for it but, to my regret, I didn’t and I confined my interest to admiring his books and visiting and photographing the various places around the UK that he visited. I tried to emulate his photography using my favourite fast grainy film emulsions but, unfortunately, Tri-X never came close to the effect he achieved. If you can get hold of a copy of The Journal of a Ghosthunter, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it.
With the advent of digital, however, things changed but I never took up the challenge in earnest until around June 2000. Using various strengths of infrared filters, which was somewhat ungainly for me as it necessitated the use of long exposures, and needing a tripod or some other means of support, I found trudging around with my Benbo (an excellent tripod but very large and heavy) and accessory bag quite arduous, so my infrared outings were relatively rare and, I might add, not too successful. I did, however, continue my interest in infrared and, after a chance meeting with Colin Southgate (a CACC judge/speaker and fellow member of the Visual Arts Group, who I subsequently booked for a talk at our camera club), it all finally took off as he had taken all his pictures with an infrared converted digital camera. This meant normal exposures, no tripod (unless
July 2021 No. 10 needed for specific long exposure techniques) and the ability to post-process in Lightroom and Photoshop. So, after several chats with Colin, and a bit of research online, I resolved to get an infrared conversion. I had an oldish Nikon D80 which filled the bill and I had it converted to infrared 690nm - then the fun started for me. I would recommend (if you can) that you bag an infrared converted camera as this makes the whole process easier and more enjoyable. Regarding filter choice, the most popular one to go for is 720nm (nm being nanometres, a measure of the wavelength of infrared light), which will give you good B&W conversions and also allow for ‘false colour’ images. There are several different filters from around 590nm (nicknamed the ‘Goldie’, because of its ability to produce lovely golden yellow foliage) to ‘full spectrum’, for which you can use several add-on filters to arrive at different variations. I would also advise using a camera with ‘live view’ as this will allow for (more accurate) manual focusing, something I am unable to do with the D80.
Setting up white balance and lens choice Firstly, you will need to set a custom white balance on your camera. It may already have the white balance set but if it doesn’t, or if you prefer to set your own, which is a good habit to get into and is a simple produre, follow the instructions below. Set your camera to aperture priority, f3.5, blur your focus and take a picture of green foliage, grass is ideal (fill your frame). Next, go into your menu (under shooting menu if you have a Nikon or the equivalent in your own camera) and select White Balance > Preset Manual > Use Photo and click on the foliage image you have taken. You have now set up your custom white balance (other cameras will have their own nomenclature but the principle is the same). Some infrared photographers will set a custom white balance whenever they shoot in order to make the best of the existing light, but I have found this to be a bit extreme. I normally set my white balance once every couple of months just to be on the safe side as it’s a simple task and a good habit to follow. For best results, I normally shoot around f8 and use the lowest ISO possible commensurate with the available light, although you will invariably be shooting on a bright day and ISO 100 should be a good starting point. You could also bracket your exposures to check how your camera ‘sees’ infrared light and use a lens hood as lens flare is more common with infrared. You may find that certain lenses produce ‘hot spots’ in the centre of your image. This is because all camera lenses are optimised to perform best with ‘visible’ light and some, certainly not all, will produce this problem. There is a list produced by Kolari Vision on infrared lens performance on the link below but hopefully your lenses will not be susceptible to this. I have used lenses with hotspots and tried to balance up the resulting images in LRC and PS but I’ve never had good results. So, before you choose your camera, check out Kolari’s site and go for the camera that will accommodate an effective lens for the type of pictures you prefer to shoot.
Sezincote House http://www.kolarivision.com/lenshotspot.html
July 2021 No. 10
Basic infrared conversion in Lightroom I use Adobe Lightroom Classic (LRC) and Photoshop (PS) for all my conversions and post-production, as I am familiar with these, and Adobe provide some useful add-ons to use, as we will see. Once you download your shots you will find you have a set of images which you may love or hate, but this is where you start to control the effects that you want. From here, you can immediately convert them to B&W in LRC or PS and, if this is your preference, you should get excellent results, especially if you have opted for 720nm. However, if you want to play with false colour, you need to do a few things first (I would recommend a conversion of 690nm or lower down to 590nm if you prefer false colour images). When you upload your images into Lightroom you will notice the temperature and tint sliders are set way over to the left and can’t be adjusted as normal, but all is not lost. Firstly, you will need to download the Adobe DNG Profile Editor, a free download from Adobe, which will allow you to re-position the colour balance of an image and save it as a profile, so that you’ll be able to adjust it to your liking. Once you have set your profile in Lightroom, it will be stored in ‘profiles’ and you will be able to use it on all your images with just one click. The link below will give you download instructions and all you need to get you going, if you have a mind for experimentation and wish to get the best out of your infrared images.
How to Set Proper Infrared White Balance in Lightroom By now you will be equipped with the knowledge to create basic B&W infrared images and, if you’ve downloaded the DNG Profile converter, go on to create false colour infrared. If you wish to go down the false colour path, I’ve outlined the basic steps below but, if you’re of a mind to pursue it in more detail, you could do no better than to check out Clive Haynes FRPS, who has been of im-
measurable help to me in the past. You will find his infrared information at http://www.crhfoto.co.uk/crh/digital%20infra-red/digital-ir.html
False colour infrared in PS, using channel swapping Bring your image into Photoshop and follow the procedure outlined below. (It’s always best to create a duplicate image to work on as you will then still have your original.) SELECT: Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer Select the RED output channel Set RED source to 0% and BLUE source to 100% Select the BLUE output channel Set BLUE source to 0% and RED source to 100% You have now set your channels to the correct channel swap mode (this can be saved as an ‘action’ for ease of use in the future) and you will see your image has changed colour
July 2021 No. 10 Next select, Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation/Lightness and play around with the different red/green/blue levels, etc., until you get the effect you are happy with (there is no hard and fast rule for this, it’s a question of trial and error) and this is the first step into false colour infrared. Or you can, of course, stick with B&W which many photographers prefer.
- you will find that infrared will enable you to enter a whole new world of photography.
I could further confuse the issue by getting deeper into the process but I would recommend instead that you look at Clive’s website, mentioned previously, where you will also be able to download an excellent PS action for B&W or false colour (if you download this action and wish to use colour, just switch off the B&W layer). There are also numerous YouTube videos which cater for all infrared tastes.
Taking pictures in infrared has opened up a whole new world of photography for me I find that I can create fantasy landscapes in colour and bleak vistas in monochrome. The world through an infrared camera becomes something entirely unique and I find the most mundane of pictures take on a whole new perspective. They can be quite effective straight out of the camera or, by using the channel swap and false colour technique, they can be turned into something straight out of your imagination, but a word of warning - one of the things I discovered early on was to exercise discretion when using false colour. The old adage ‘less is more’ is especially important from my point of view, although others may disagree. I find subtle and slightly desaturated colour changes work particularly well, but the important thing is to do what works for you. There is no such thing as the ‘wrong’ way, just differing ideas on how we approach the subject.
Although it may sound a bit morbid, old graveyards lend themselves particularly well to infrared The old gravestones covered in ivy with the overgrown surroundings can be really effective in B&W or desaturated false colour. Personally, I love taking pictures of old derelict buildings and ‘urban decay’ and also certain types of architecture are especially effective in B&W infrared. But, whatever your choice - whether it be landscape, portraiture, nature, or any of the above
THE FIRST STEP IS YOURS, DO TAKE IT AND ENJOY IT
NORTHERN VISUAL ART GROUP The VA Northern group is still in the process of being formed. We are currently looking for members views on how we may best serve VA member north of the Midlands, which is geographically a very large area. We want to take what works well for the successful Rollright and South West Groups and adapt it for local needs. Its our intention to hold various activities of interest to our members including virtual and physical meet-ups and speakers. We will probably start small and build as we grow. If you would like to join the group or share what you would like the group to do then then please contact: Pete Gleeson firstname.lastname@example.org
Useful Committee Contacts Chairman: Andreas Klatt ARPS email@example.com Secretary and Newsletter Editor: John Cavana ARPS firstname.lastname@example.org Membership Secretary: Mark Deutsch LRPS email@example.com Circles: Gill Dishart ARPS firstname.lastname@example.org