Some Old Favourites

Although I have been concentrating on Sketching and Painting in the last 3-4 years, Photography remains very dear to my Heart and I look forward this year to upgrading my current equipment etc and going in a different direction, photographically, i.e. away from DSLR’s to Mirrorless, but the first point of call will be a higher end compact. Long-gone are the days when I would carry 2 x SLR/DSLR bodies, 4 lenses and more.

I was thinking about photography today and I thought I would revisit some of my earlier, pre-Digital images. All the images below were taken on photographic Slides, Fujichrome Sensia ISO 100 rated at 125. I hope you enjoy them.

Written by David Johnson

9 January 2022

Not Just For Display

A Remarkable Journey

My Photographic Journey – Part 3a – Camera Clubs/Photographic Societies

Camera Clubs/Photographic Societies were such a huge and integral part of my journey in Photography and those experiences cannot be summed up in just one post as there were several facets that I would like to cover.

When I walked into a Camera Club for the very first time, I was an extremely shy 23 year old (I can hear Perc Carter laughing now…). I’ll never forget my early visits to Campbelltown Camera Club in 1986. I joined in June of that year.

Logo from a T-Shirt members proudly wore around advertising our Club.
I still have the T-Shirt, though I doubt it would fit me these days!

Apart from ‘not being comfortable in a roomful of strangers’, as the prints started to go up on the print stands, I felt both inspired and inadequate at the same time.

I had been shooting for about 3 1/2 years and was starting to feel a bit more happy with what and how I was shooting. I knew there was room for improvement though. There always is…much more improvement when I saw what was in front of me!

The images in front of me were awe-striking. I had no knowledge at that time of how long some of my fellow members had been involved in photography. I had arrived as a member just in time for the ‘Top Shot’ Competition. I had never even considered going into a competition with my photography. Photography was just for fun.

Charlie Cowell won the overall Top Shot that year with a Still-Life image that had a background where ‘light just disappeared’ into the background.

I had been trying to shoot various Still-Life scenes but my backgrounds were awful. I sat there wondering how he did it and commented so to another member. The member said, ‘why don’t you ask him?’

Summing up the courage, I did. ‘Black Velvet’, Charlie said & proceeded to tell me what to buy and where to buy etc. I still have that piece of Velvet 35 years later…

I started to enter the competitions about a month later. Club competition entries, if successful, were awarded a Merit or Credit by the visiting Judge who evaluated the images on display and suggested points for improvement.

Myself being presented with a Bronze Medallion for 25 Merits in Monochrome c1990’s by then President, Enid Duncan.. I went on to achieve 75+ Merits in Monochrome; and 205 Merits in Slides which was/is a Club record for that medium. Wish I still had the hair!

I learnt so much going along to Campbelltown Camera Club in many ways, the competitions being just one of them.

It certainly helped build up my ‘photographic confidence’ over time and also, being exposed to a new group of people helped start me on the road to ‘general self-confidence’ too.

Over the next few articles, as I continue write about my Photographic journey, I will explore other facets of my wonderful experience of being a member of a Camera Club/Photographic Society.

A few years back, Campbelltown Camera Club changed it’s name to Macarthur Photographic Society. To find out more about MPS and how being a member can improve your Photography, click on the following link. https://macarthurphotographicsociety.org.au/

Till next time.

Written by David Johnson

27 February 2021

My Photographic Journey – Part 1

People find their paths into Photography in many different ways.

For some it is by virtue as a camera as a present; others are enticed by one of their peers; some choose it as a career.

Many years ago (while I was at school) I was building Airfix model plane kits and I used to stick them to fishing wire that I had strung across my bedroom. If you were taller than say 6 feet/185cm, you had a problem…

I then thought how cool would it be to photograph them so I bought some blue cardboard, held it up in the background and fired off some shots with a Kodak Instamatic camera (110 negative) size to try to make it look like they were flying.

Throughout my youth I used to take photos (on a couple of different cameras) on the Kodak Instamatic, an old Box Brownie or a Polaroid Instant Film camera. The photography bug was ‘nibbling me’ though at that stage it had not ‘bitten’ me.

When I was 19 (1982), the Family moved to Leumeah (60km SW of Sydney, NSW, Australia), and not really knowing many people in the area my brother & I joined a Church Youth Social Club.

We had so much fun on the outings, picnics etc I decided it was time to buy a better camera, a Canon AF35M Autofocus compact camera, purely to record the fun times we were having.

The camera lens had a thread on the end and I enquired what that was for? Question answered but the salesman said you could do much more with an SLR. ‘A what’ was my response…?

That day in 1982 my world changed forever and for good! I started saving for my first SLR, an Olympus OM-10.

The real journey had begun…

“Solitary Moments”

This blog post is inspired by a Photography Exhibition I went to today.

The Exhibition featured the images of Chris Donaldson, Frank Alvaro, Ray Finneran, Enrico Scotece and Paul Dorahy, three of whom I have known personally for many years. They specialise in Medium Format Monochrome Film Photography, and develop and print their own images.

“Solitary Moments” for them are those moments when they pre-visualise the idea and image, then spend the time photographing the scene, with the camera on a tripod. It is quite likely that they may only take 1 – 4 images in a day… Their “Solitary Moments” continue in the act of developing the negatives and seeing the finished prints appear ‘like magic’ in the developing tray.

Having experienced the above, I can certainly identify with the “Solitary Moments” they are speaking about.

Shooting Medium Format Film from a tripod-mounted camera slows you down. This helps you get a feel for the scene that you want to photograph i.e. the greater connection you have with the subject the greater chance you have of communicating what you want to say. Here the pre-visualisation continues as you imagine what the final image will look like before you take the photo.

It is later, in the Darkroom that you continue the process to achieve what you set out to communicate initially.

It reminds me of the “Solitary Moments” I have and am experiencing in my aim to become a better writer of Poetry and my fledgling steps of becoming an Oil Painter.

The processes whilst different in terms of the technology used, have some parallels.

I remember on my last trip to Joadja, a historical Shale Mining town in New South Wales, Australia. I took my camera gear and a visual art diary, pens and pencils with me.

These days I shoot digital and whilst the urge was there to do what many do with DSLR’s these days, i.e. shoot a 100 shots and then move on, I decided to sit down and ‘get a feel’ for what was in front of me, absorb the sense of history whilst studying the light and possible compositions.

The pencils came out first and I began to make some rough sketches after walking around the subject. I jotted down in a few words about how I felt and what I was seeing (which later became the poem below). The camera came out next and I again walked around the scene, pausing to take it all in before I started to shoot.

Through The Mists Of Time...

“Solitary Moments” are precious things to experience.

They also come whilst I am fleshing out an idea for a poem, when I sit at my canvas and endeavour to communicate what I feel I want to say, or when I am writing a speech.

I, like the photographers in today’s exhibition are looking forward to many more…

Written by David Johnson
1 May 2016

Exhibition details:

The Bowral Art Gallery – home of the Bowral & District Art Society & BDAS workshops. 1 Short Street, Bowral NSW Australia (02) 4861-4093
April 27 to May 10 Solitary Moments – Chris Donaldson, Ray Finneran, Frank Alvaro, Enrico Scotese and Paul Dorahy.

For more “Solitary Moments” click on the following links:

http://www.chrisdonaldson.com.au
http://www.rayfinneranphotography.com

 

Where Is The Mystery?

When I first started photographing seriously (early 80’s), one of the attractions of photography was the mystery of how one would be able to achieve the image. In this instance I am talking about the technical process rather than the imaginative one that is connected with the idea or desire to portray a subject/emotion.

It was (and remains) a fascinating process. Light entered the camera and exposed the film which then was developed, then printed. There were a number of variables at each stage that could alter the way the image was captured and developed, let alone the printing process in the Darkroom.

To obtain a technically proficient image one had to perfect the techniques required to obtain the best possible image in your negative or positive image.

Fast forward to the Digital world. For some years now (due to the advances in technology, and indeed the Digital format itself), it has never been easier to obtain a ’technically proficient’ image in terms of the basic reproduction of a scene.

On the one hand, this is a positive, as it allows the photographer to concentrate more on the ‘creative’ side of things, knowing that they have the initial in-camera/process taken care of. On the minus-side it has taken away skills, enjoyment and a sense of challenge that many found to be a key part of the photographic process. Learning to choose the appropriate film, exposure, development time etc to gain a negative or positive that would help produce the desired results in printing was the goal.

There was a certain ‘mystery’ connected with the early part of the process i.e. through the processing of film and the effect of light on silver halides through exposure and development (before the darkroom printing stage) which has been lost to a certain degree. Once learnt, those techniques could be applied, but of course that took time…

I am not for one minute saying Digital is a bad thing as the Digital process has brought with it many benefits, one I have already alluded to. I shoot Digital myself.

Of course we do have the wonderful world of image manipulation programmes where we have the choice to alter images with abandon, depending on what we want to achieve. This is a great thing. With all this at our disposal though, sometimes I wonder if the technical aspects of photography have been made too easy?

Even though my passion for photography is as strong as it always has been I have (in the last few years) been slowly getting interested in painting and am currently learning Oil painting. There is certainly a ‘mystery’ there in terms of getting a ’technically proficient’ image.

I cannot just go out and purchase a brush/canvas/paint combination that will give me a technically proficient image. One has to endeavour to learn the skills, practice, make mistakes, learn some more, and repeat the process. (I am aware that I could do ‘Oil’ Painting digitally but that doesn’t hold an interest for me). Once I get better at these skills I will be able to communicate what I want to say, better and in more creative ways.

I love Art and my love for photography will continue throughout my life however my love for painting has increased with each passing year, to a point where I now aiming to allocate a certain amount of time every weekend to painting.

Much like coming up for an idea for a photograph or looking at a scene through a viewfinder, I can look at my blank canvas and proceed to paint an idea or sit outside and interpret a scene.

Ultimately though, what continues to separate individual photographers and individual painters is our imagination and the ability to convey the desired idea through creativity and technical skill.

Harry Callahan, Photographer – 1912 -1999 once said:

“The mystery isn’t in the technique, it’s in each of us…” – More Joy of Photography, Eastman Kodak – 1981

Where is the mystery?

“The mystery is in the learning and application of the technique which we then use via personal expression to creatively communicate our ideas…”

Written by David Johnson
2 April 2016