News - 2018/19

Talk by Andy Sands 22nd September 2018

Andy Sands has an uncanny knack of being able to disseminate technical, botanical information to an audience in such a way as to ensure that they go away having learned something new every time. His delivery is so confident and his recall of the names of the species he shows us so accurate that at times it borders on the astonishing. Live, unscripted and word perfect! This night his two part presentation brought us an extended talk on Trees and Woodland and in the second half diverted to his more familiar birds and insects.

We learned much about ancient woodland and how to recognise it. The small leafed Lime tree for instance. If that’s growing then it’s probably ancient woodland you are standing in. He went on to explain how he had been duped by his parents, when, as a child walking in the woods, had been told that the mysterious deep hollows in the ground were craters from German bombs. He wondered why the Germans had been so keen to destroy our woodland eventually discovering that these depressions were actually ancient saw pits where the men tending the trees back in the middle ages would saw up logs longitudinally and needed a pit so that one man could saw from the top and another from the bottom, hanging on the other end of the saw. Furthermore those intriguing banks of earth a yard or so high which we so often see with old trees growing from them were the original boundaries of ancient woodland. I had always thought that they were abandoned Stone Age fortifications!

His explanations of the art of coppicing revealed that such regular human control, sadly much less in evidence now, encouraged all manner of growth both arboreal and animal. The habit of fencing off coppiced areas rendered them safer for certain ground nesting birds like the Woodcock and also deterred animals such as deer and even sheep from eating the new shoots. He managed to show us the camouflage effect that a Woodcock can induce when incubating its eggs and chicks. A classic case of a photograph of leaf litter on the ground until you realised you could see one single tiny eye right in the centre of the picture. Heaven knows how Andy found it. His explanations also ranged across methods of pollination that allowed him to show us some of his legendary insect shots. He explained how some species of woodland arrange their male and female components in such a way such that the lightest of breezes can do the job but also leapt to the defence of the universally hated mosquito explaining that it was the only insect that pollinates the cocoa plant and without it we would have no chocolate.

The second half of his talk concerned his recent exploits. Some sensational images of a Skylark in flight and a hunting bird nesting in a stone wall right adjacent to a tiny road deep in the country. The difficulty he had had getting a comfortable hide position for this latter had been considerable and he had asked the farmer of an adjacent field just the other side of the road if he could set up his gear there. No problem until the cattle in the field became inquisitive and wanted to join in and help. The farmer was once again most accommodating and moved them somewhere else. Many and varied features on the new super light weight Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mk2 camera array he was using had allowed very rapid deployment to capture the Skylark, photo stacking to enhance pictures of butterflies and insects and in this nesting case he remembered there was a video facility. Andy was thus able to show us a short clip of the parent bird feeding its chicks in real close up.

At another time he had been assisted by a grouse moor warden that he knows well to locate a Merlin nest in the North of England. (Andy has permission to photograph these birds on their nest – they are very rare.) The warden explained the nest was easy to find just off a road on the top of the moor. The road turned out to be terrifyingly steep and hardly a track. Even his 4x4 grounded occasionally on the hazardous ascent of some 6 miles to the parking spot! Furthermore by ‘close’ the warden meant a further 2 ½ mile walk over peat bog! Andy had to go a number of times and erect a hide then move it slightly closer day by day. After a week he got some magnificent shots of the chicks and also the adult bird close by. He was about to get the ‘money shot’ of the bird feeding the chicks when on the final day he retuned to find no action. An empty nest and a dead Merlin lying beside it. It and its family having been predated by a stoat. Andy pulled no punches with the shot of the dead bird. Ouch - tough stuff! Then he lightened the atmosphere beautifully as only Andy could, by explaining that as he wished to waste nothing (and after there had been a full enquiry into the bird’s death and everyone was satisfied as to the cause he and the warden set to to trap the guilty party which they did successfully) Andy knowing of an accomplished taxidermist in the area arranged to have this beautiful bird re-built. At the time of writing this Sarah doesn’t know that her house is about to be gifted a stuffed, even though doubtlessly wonderful, Merlin!

Another highly professional performance by Andy. When it ended I presumed he had finished early as I had lost track of time entirely. I looked at my watch and it was exactly 10pm! A new visitor to the club and potential member was heard to mutter something about … “it all being better than David Attenborough” as he left. Thanks again Andy.

Projected Image League, Round 1. Judge Alan Taberer (ImageZ) 13th September 2018

The first competition night of the year but hardly a huge entry - only sixteen authors represented from a club of more than forty. General standard of the images was fine however and they covered a wide diversity of subjects as always. Our judge for the night, Alan Taberer, had stood in quite late in the day when our original booking Allan Thompson became impossible to contact. At the time of writing we are still unclear of what has happened to him but in the advent of any catastrophic circumstances we wish him the very best.

As we are all too well aware judges tastes vary and from the scoring it was clear that Alan has some suspicion with over-worked effects and prefers the cleanly executed original shot and with a preference for wildlife. Judges favourite subjects should not be obvious to the audience but it is very difficult to be completely impartial. During the evening he did mention that he thought everyone should try judging just to appreciate these problems and pitfalls even though I am sure few of us could every measure up to his sensationally clear delivery style. He certainly made a great competition of it by maintaining both a wide scoring range and an informative and often amusing commentary. He was most observant and always accentuated the positive leaving any criticisms as very minor issues.

With scoring down to 13 and nearly half the entry in the 15-16s to score 17 or over was quite an achievement. He held six images back. Of these Miranda Steward’s very close-up crocodile shot ‘A Close Encounter’ and Dave Hipperson’s ‘Two Doors Down’ received 18s. Terry Day’s unusual monochrome street image ‘Three Legs are Better Than One, or Two’ was awarded 19 leaving the remaining three all with 20s. These were 3rd - Rosemary Wenzerul’s ‘My Cold Wet Nose’ a very sharp close-up of a dog’s nose and muzzle that exuded character even without an eye in the picture! Then 2nd Jacqui Taylor’s action image of a squabbling group of ‘Wild Dogs.’ The winning shot being a very tightly cropped and splendidly sharp outdoor monochrome portrait by Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell of an English infantryman from the Waterloo period appropriately entitled ‘Death To The French.’

Continuing the military theme some images that should be mentioned in despatches and that possibly went somewhat un-rewarded included a most creative and thought provoking composite from our Joint Chairman Leo Southern ‘Fight for Freedom’ which I hope we will be seeing again. Barbara Nowell’s ‘Children’s Help Needed’. A line of brightly coloured kids wheelbarrows and watering cans – well seen and needing only a few tiny tweaks to have been a winner and right at the end of the evening Fiona Gurr’s excellent ‘Big Waterfall, Tiny People.’ A towering waterfall rendered all the more impressive by the inclusion of a scattering of brightly dressed but minute tourists to give a scale to the image. Rosemary gave her close-up of a cactus the familiar "Wenzerul Wiggle" treatment often so effective on her landscapes. Particularly clever here as I don't think the judge realised it had been worked on, surely the sign of a gifted technician.

The final score sheet attests to the fact that nearly everyone feels they have to enter three images. Not doing so has of course a bearing on the final league positions at the end of the year but when these are published it is also made clear how many pictures any one author has entered. It should not be thought of as mandatory to always have to enter three. There are many club members – actually over half of you – that have very interesting photographs in their collections and on their phones that we never see. My vision of the perfect club night would be not so much the number of images shown but to see forty authors represented. It’s not just about competition and you all know that no one ever laughs and we don’t use judges that are rude. Give it a go.

Opening Night: Holiday Snaps 6th September 2018

Considering we were still actually in the holiday period for the age demographic of most members, we had a good attendance at our annual Holiday Snaps night. Dave Hipperson frightened everyone by standing up at the start and explaining (for the few that hadn’t been at the AGM a couple of months previous) that the club was now under new management. Thankfully not his! He and Sue had however taken over the job of Programme Sec. and to this end circulated a small survey asking for feedback on judge popularity. Thanks to the enthusiastic take-up on this it has provided invaluable information. In the absence of Miranda Steward, Joint Chairman Leo Southern handled the rest of the evening. For a man that had professed to have little experience of public speaking he made a perfectly adequate job of it including the most difficult bit – the half time break refreshment order. He also reminded us that it would help if a few more people came along a little before time to help with assembling equipment and putting out the chairs as well as staying behind at the end to tidy up. He went on to explain that Miranda was positively looking for people that would like a crack at judging. Feel free to approach either her or Dave H on this.

With Jeremy at the controls of the computer we were then treated to many and various holiday images from numerous club members. Barbara had discovered Peregrine Falcons nesting on the spire of Norwich Cathedral – a tricky subject. Rod Fricker had a huge array of interesting images from his recent visit to Macedonia. The country is itself somewhat of an enigma being currently in territorial conflict with it’s southern neighbour Greece and squeezed between the northern part of that country and Serbia and Bulgaria. Much of Rod & Maggie’s activities centred on Skopje the capital in the north and thanks to his knowledgeable and enthusiastic commentary Rod’s sixty or so images gave us a feel for various aspects of this rather undiscovered country. This included learning that they are using red double-decker buses bought from the UK and in Rods pictures they looked perfectly at home and rather reassuring.

Jacqui presented us with a varied collection of natural history pictures from Africa of which the stand out shots were very definitely of giraffes many of which she had captured performing the most extraordinary antics in the name of play fighting plus some very evocative images of the same animals at rest, often attractively reflected in pools of water. Clearly the Giraffe is an under-rated subject for photography

Terry had submitted a collection of montages made up from pictures taken at motor races he had visited during the Summer. This encouraged mostly the male members of the audience to attempt recognising various antique marques and argue about who was right! With no one present to say one way or the other, as the author was, on this night, still recovering from eye surgery, the dispute remained unresolved.

Jeremy showed us some striking images he had taken from the 'Celebration of St Alban'. Huge-headed colourful puppets commemorating the Roman execution of St Alban in the seventh century, paraded the streets up to the Cathedral where the deed had taken place. Indeed the cathedral was built to commemorate this very execution as soon as the Romans under Emperor Constantine had retreated.

Jeremy filled the rest of the evening successfully with a foretaste of the images from which he was selecting Rose Bowl entries. First comp night is next week Open PDIs and it is entirely possible, for various reasons, that we may have two judges – but I hope not. Oh, I so hope not!

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