“Posed or Unposed”, Prints competition, 12th February 2020

The third Set Subject competition of the season, titled ‘Posed or Unposed’, took place on Wednesday 12th February. The judge for the competition was a society member, Dr Keith Snell, who holds distinctions with the Royal Photographic Society, the Federation Internationale de l’Art Photographique and the Photographic Society of America. Keith is a Northern Counties Photographic Federation judge and he judges at both club and inter-club competitions.

For this competition, members could enter up to three prints and, in total, 39 prints were submitted. Keith had chosen the title of the competition and not surprisingly people featured in the vast majority of the images, although a few animal species were also represented.  Keith commented on the excellent quality of the prints stating that he would have given practically all of them a score of at least sixteen out of twenty. Because of this he had decided that whilst commenting on the prints he would only announce the marks of those with scores of nineteen or twenty. Keith spent time on each print referring to the composition, technical aspects and, where appropriate, the storytelling quality of the image.

Four prints received top scores of twenty and these were ‘Sat Waiting’ by Julie Walker:


‘Careful – I Have a Reputation’ by David Woodthorpe:


‘The Bygone Hollywood Era’ by Alan Walker:


and ‘Undoubtedly Posed’ by Richard Jakobson:


Nine prints received excellent scores of nineteen and these were ‘A Hard Life’ and ‘Unmasked’, both by Richard Jakobson, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Trio Hanging Loose’, both by David Woodthorpe, ‘Little Auk’ and ‘Hey!!! Do You Mind’ both by Carol Minks, ‘Anti-establishment’ by Alan Walker, ‘She’s Nothing to do with Me’ by Julie Walker and ‘Sultry Soul’ by Tom Stenhouse.

At the end of the judging, Keith asked the society members to choose a ‘best in show’ image from the four top scoring prints. A show of hands resulted in Alan Walker’s ‘The Bygone Hollywood Era’ being chosen as the best image. This print was a superbly captured sepia toned image of a young lady, the style and treatment producing an image very reminiscent of the 1940s.

Keith was formally thanked by the Chairman, David Woodthorpe, for his excellent critique of the prints.

Tricia Rayment

All the images entered can be seen on our gallery pages:

2019_2020 galleries

“A Wander to Wonder” by David Woodthorpe, 15th January 2020

On January 15th the current Chairman of our society, David Woodthorpe, gave a fascinating presentation featuring his immediate locality.  David  lives in Grange in Borrowdale and for the last few years has regularly repeated an early morning walk around surrounding area.


Although his route is not long, perhaps four miles if he completes the entire circuit, it takes him through a wide variety of natural habitats and it is his patience to just stand and watch and listen that makes his walk such a source of satisfaction and pleasure for him.


David is a talented photographer and we were able to share, through his photographs, some of the fascinating creatures and plants he has studied, from the tiniest of Leafhopper insects, just a few millimetres long to Roe Deer and the sheep and cattle in the fields he passes through.


Such an interest means that his walk has become a gentle wander rather than a route march and he never knows how long it will take him, or even how much of the whole route he will undertake; indeed he has written a very well received book “A Wander to Wonder: The Best Walk in Borrowdale” which is heavily illustrated with his own photographs.

Crossing the iconic double arched bridge over the River Derwent, (we saw photos of the river in flood during Storm Desmond as well as the unfortunate bus that crashed into the parapet),


his walk takes him up onto rather boggy fellside, a macro-photography paradise, with damselflies and numerous other insects as well fascinating plants such as the insectivorous Sundew


and then up onto Grange Crag which has fantastic views in all directions in spite of its lowly altitude. It is up here that David’s skill as a landscape photographer comes to the fore, at times aided by his ability to scramble into the best viewpoint to look directly down onto Grange village,


a sight not enjoyed by his wife Marilyn who was apparently watching fearfully from their house. Dropping down into Troutdale gives him the possibility of spotting Red Squirrels and Woodpeckers

before he emerges onto the Borrowdale road and crossing onto the fields running beside the River Derwent.

It is here that he may come into contact with some of the grazing livestock and he gave, what was for most of us,  new facts about sheep management that he had gleaned in conversation with the local farmers who have become well used to him passing their way. He told us about Sand Martins nesting near the Chinese Bridge


and had managed the impressive feat of photographing some of these speedsters in flight. The raised walkway is another habitat altogether and it is an area that David got to know individual birds such as Reed Buntings or Willow Warblers

knowing exactly which branch of which bush he was likely to see them on; and having the patience to wait until they returned as predicted with a mouthful of insects for their young. Such fieldcraft as well as the individual birds getting used to him allowed him to take fantastic photographs.

And so the walk continues over wet and dry areas, past fields and woodland before gently ambling back down the back road into Grange. We were left greatly impressed by David’s enthusiastic presentation of what is the very traditional British trait of an enthusiastic amateur natural historian getting thoroughly to know his local patch, (think Gilbert White and the village of Selbourne from the 18th century), but with the added dimension of superb photography to record it all.

Memorable Places, January 29th 2020

Our meeting of 29th January comprised of presentations by ten of our members of ten images, each with the theme of “Memorable Places”. This was organised by Julie Walker who had chosen the theme and had collated all our images.

Tony Marsh started off with photographs all taken one, still, morning last November walking through the woods near Manesty. Tony described how it was memorable for the morning light and the beautifully frosted trees and grasses:


Richard Jakobson also showed images taken in Cumbria. Clints quarry is an abandoned limestone quarry which is now a site of special scientific interest managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust. Richard showed images taken over recent years of the orchids, kestrels, buzzards, dragonflies and other wildlife to be seen there:


Ken Rennie’s Memorable place was Glen Affric in Scotland and he showed us a series of very atmospheric landscape images taken last October.  Several of his images were shot with very unusual light bathing the landscape before the sun had actually risen. There were also photographs of the River Affric demonstrating the colours of the autumn foliage:


Keith Snell photographs were memorable for him as they were taken in a location new to him, Liguria, Italy, and also because they were taken on a workshop aimed at honing his creative photographic skills. As well as slow shutter images of Ligurian seascapes there were also photographs combined together in a panel of four showing the varying colours and textures visible in a mountain stream:


Deborah Tippett also found Italy memorable, but in a slightly different context. She was travelling around Puglia on a back of a bike. Most of her photographs, by necessity, were taken with a small compact camera. She presented us a range of images from seascapes to ancient olive trees to Puglian villages to local architecture:


Italy certainly rated highly in the “memorable stakes” as the next presentation, by Carmen Norman, was of photographs taken on a trip to the Dolomites last October. Carmen showed us a series of landscape images which demonstrated to the full the exceptional beauty of the Dolomite mountains, particularly when shot in wonderful light. Of note was an image of a “fog bow” taken with Carmen’s silhouette centred beneath the bow and a background of the Dolomites in the morning light:


Alan Walker’s memorable place was much further afield in Alaska. The journey there involved travelling the final stage in a small plane, which from the photograph he showed us, appeared to be constructed from recycled tin cans and paper clips! The purpose of such a trek was to photograph grizzly bears in their natural habitat. Alan presented a series of photographs of bears and cubs on the seashore hunting for salmon and clams and also in meadow grassland:


Further still than Alaska is Hiroshima where Aline Hopkins went in the spring. This was primarily to photograph the cherry blossom but Aline reminded us that this year will be the 75th anniversary of the atom bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. She showed us images of the Memorial Park  including the iconic Genbaku Dome which is all that remains of a huge hall located there before the bombing. On a lighter note there were also several images of the also iconic, white cherry blossom:


The final two memorable places were both in South East Asia. Tom Stenhouse showed photographs taken on a trip from the south to the north of Vietnam. Tom told us he tried to capture the essence of the people of Vietnam as well as the environment they live in, both of which have been impacted by the decades of conflict prior to unification. His photographs included ancient fishing coracles, a barge scooping refuse out of the Mekong river, Vietnamese children in western dress with 4G smartphones:


Julie Walker’s images were from Tonié Sap, the largest freshwater lake in southeast asia. Julie’s photographs showed the people who live there and how they live. Due to the normally huge rise in water level in the wet season most live in houses built on stilts or built floating on brushwood rafts. Whilst presenting her images Julie commented on the serious threats to the area due to climate change and overfishing:



All of the images shown can be viewed on our gallery page:

Images entered into our 2019-2020 internal competitions

3rd Open, January 22nd 2020

The Society’s 3rd Open Competition took place on Wednesday 22nd January judged by Richard Speirs, DPAGB, BPE2*, APAGB, a Northern Counties Photographic Federation judge from Wetheral. Richard said how much he enjoyed receiving and judging the images from Keswick because of the excellent quality of the work submitted.

The judging commenced with the thirty-four prints that had been entered. The prints were given a score out of twenty and, before awarding the mark, Richard discussed each image, commenting on the good points and occasionally suggesting where improvements could be made. Four prints received a top score of twenty and two of these were by Ronnie Gilbert. Ronnie’s prints were ‘Leopard in Candalabra Cactus Tree’


and ‘The Evening Mud Larks’, the latter a beautifully lit action shot of two horses splashing through shallow water and fast heading towards the photographer!


Marilyn Woodthorpe was awarded a top score for her amusing image of a Dalmation pelican titled ‘Cheeky Pelican’.


Carol Minks also received top marks for ‘No Fishing!!’, a beautiful image of a kingfisher perched on a wooden sign bearing the words ‘No Fishing’  This image was selected by the judge as his overall winning print. He commented on the beautiful plumage of the bird set against a lovely subdued background, the whole enhanced by the presence of a long branch bearing numerous red berries.


Four images received scores of nineteen and there were ‘The Luskentyre Ponies’ by Sue Rugg, ‘Giant River Otter Eating Catfish’ by Keith Snell, ‘Me First’ by Alan Walker and ‘Eagle Confrontation’ by Julie Walker. The prints awarded scores of eighteen were ‘Dipper Dipping’ by David Rayment, ‘Afraid’ by Sue Rugg, ‘Thirsty Jaguar’ by Keith Snell and ‘Sunshine and Shadow’ by Ken Rennie.

After a break for refreshments, it was the turn of the digital images to be judged. Two images achieved a top score and these were ‘Muddy Buddies’ by Sue Rugg and ‘Young Leopard Injured by a Porcupine’ by Alan Walker. Sue’s image was of two women competitors in an obstacle race struggling to free themselves from copious amounts of mud but still managing to look as if they were enjoying themselves!


Richard chose Alan’s beautifully lit young leopard with a partly embedded porcupine quill as his overall winning digital image.


Three images received scores of nineteen and these were ‘Under Attack’ by Julie Walker,


‘Across the Mersey’ by Sue Rugg


and ‘Stripping the Bullrush’ by David Woodthorpe.


The digital images scoring eighteen were ‘Barnacle Goose’ and ‘Arctic Reindeer, both by Carol Minks, ‘I’m Hungry Too’ by Julie Walker and ‘Tree Sparrow’ by David Rayment.

All the entered images can be viewed on our gallery page:

2019_2020 competitions


“External Competitions” with Tony Marsh, 8th January, 2020

It seems that every organisation concerned with work or play is littered with a plethora of acronyms.  The world of amateur club photography is no different and many of them are confusing.  Additionally, throughout the year Keswick Photographic Society (KPS) takes part in a number of external competitions at local, regional, national and international levels.

So, to kick off 2020 and ensure everyone of our members start the new year with 2020 vision Dr Tony Marsh our External Competitions Secretary took it upon himself to clear away the fog with his usual clinical precision and explain how each competition was managed.  I’m sure the readers of the Keswick Reminder will be quite relieved to know that I’m not going to explain in fine detail those extremely convoluted processes which only bored bureaucrats could dream up.  The processes and rules also differ for each competition seemingly to get tweaked on an annual basis for the sheer aggravation of it (and possibly in a vain attempt to stop Keswick winning!).  Suffice it to say that KPS consistently punches above its weight locally, regionally and internationally.

The Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) is divided into a number of regions and Keswick is one of 49 affiliated clubs in the Northern Counties Photographic Federation (NCPF). The NCPF annual competition is made up of 20 categories, including such as Landscape prints, monochrome prints, natural history projected images, beginners etc., etc. for which all 49 clubs compete. Keswick Photographic Society won 9 of the 20 trophies on offer.  This was a remarkable achievement for such a small club. KPS won the club trophies for both colour prints and for projected digital images (PDIs).  Carol Minks, David Woodthorpe, Julie Walker, Tom Stenhouse, Tony Marsh, David Leighton and Deborah Tippett each won individual category trophies.  As the most successful club, this meant that KPS represented the northern counties in the national prints and projected images competitions where the best of the near 1000 clubs competed. We did not finish in the top ten but nevertheless performed creditably in such accomplished company.

On the international stage KPS has also excelled.  The Photographic Society of America (PSA) is open to every photographic society in the world, though clearly not all join.  We joined three years ago to compete in both the open league and in the natural history league and we were initially assigned to the third division.  After two promotions in two years we have now found ourselves competing in the premier division and even managed to achieve third place in the top division at the end of last season.

As well as providing the explanations, Tony showed some images from the national competitions so that we could all get a better understanding of the high standard of those clubs from around the country who are successfully competing at the highest level. Tony was thanked for putting in a great deal of work to produce what turned out to be a very revealing and educational evening.

The next meeting of Keswick Photographic Society is 22nd January when Richard Speirs will judge members’ entries into our third open competition of the season.

David Woodthorpe

“City Life”, Short Sets Competition, December 11th, 2019

The third Set Subject competition of the season, titled ‘City Life’, took place on Wednesday 11th December. The real purpose of the set subject competitions is to give  members a chance to submit pictures in a more relaxed way since, unlike the Society’s Open competitions, the marks awarded do not go towards the season’s photographic league. In addition, they also give members the opportunity to see how they can improve their images and photographic techniques. The judge for the competition was Alan Walker, a society member from Ambleside. Alan judges at Open Exhibitions, the Northern Counties Photographic Federation and both club and inter-club competitions and he holds distinctions with the Royal Photographic Society, Photographic Alliance of Great Britain, Photographic Society of America and Federation Internationale Del’Art Photographique. Alan enters the Society’s Open competitions so cannot judge these but the Set Subject competitions are a separate set of competitions so, in this competition, Society members had the chance to have their images judged by him. Before Alan commented on the digital images, he described the competition as a bit of fun but also competitive and technical with the extra dimension of how to interpret ‘City Life’. Alan stressed the importance of adhering to the theme as defined by the title of the set subject, although members had been told that towns could also be included so as not to exclude anyone who didn’t regularly travel further afield. City life in cities and towns across the globe featured in the entries as well as one image taken in Keswick.

Members could enter up to three images and, in total, 46 digital images had been submitted. Five images received top scores of twenty and two of these were by Aline Hopkins, whose third image gained an excellent score of nineteen, making her the highest scoring photographer in the competition. Aline’s top-scoring images were ‘City Walkway’


and ‘Night Crossing’, both taken in Tokyo with the latter image featuring the famous Shibuya Crossing.


The other three images awarded top scores were ‘Pigeon Fanciers, Havana’ by Keith Snell,


‘Isolated in a Busy World’ by David Woodthorpe


and‘Traffic Flow, Venetian Style’ by Tricia Rayment.


Three images were awarded scores of nineteen and these were ‘Night Market, Kolkata’ by Tony Marsh,


‘City at Night’ by Sue Rugg


and ‘Morning Ablutions’ by Aline Hopkins.


A grand total of eleven images achieved scores of eighteen and these were ‘Krakov’, ‘All Roads Lead to Putin’ and ‘Railway Line Market, Peru’, all three by Stephen Harris; ‘Don’t Argue, ID Please’ and ‘Ligurian Morning Tide’, both by Keith Snell; ‘Belfast Wall’ and ‘Church in Hiding’, both by Philip Cartwright; ‘Early Morning Delivery’ by David Leighton; ‘Circular Architecture’ by Tony Marsh; ‘There’s an Elephant in the Room, Berlin’ by Tom Stenhouse; and ‘Frauline Bland Goes Running’ by David Rayment.

All the images can be viewed on our gallery page:

2019_2020 galleries

At the end of the judging, members had time to ask questions and then Alan was formally thanked for all his hard work judging the images and for giving such a good critique of our pictures.

“A Look at RPS Distinctions”, 4th December, 2019

The latest meeting was a departure for the Society with an evening highlighting two of the distinctions that can be awarded to photographers by the Royal Photographic Society. It was founded, almost unbelievably, in 1853 under the patronage of Queen Victoria and has the Duchess of Cambridge, a photographer herself, as its current royal patron. The distinctions are made to individuals on the basis of collections of their photographs organised and presented as a panel. We were fortunate to have three club members and two visitors who guided us through their successful panels, two at Licentiateship level (LRPS) and three at Associateship level (ARPS).

Julie Walker started the evening by presenting her LRPS panel and explaining both the requirements for entering for this distinction as well as guiding us through her prints. The optimal print size recommended is around A4 size in a 21 by 16 inch plain white mount. The aim of the LRPS distinction is to recognise the photographer’s proficiency in various photographic techniques. Julie’s images included a mix of landscapes,


mainly from Yellowstone national park, and wildlife images taken under different lighting conditions, at different focal lengths (from close-ups to distant views), with different depths of field to show the effects of having only the main subject sharp or the whole image pin sharp.

For this level ten prints are required which are usually presented as two rows of five in a balanced arrangement so that, for example, vertical portrait format prints might bookend the panel at each extreme with landscape or square format prints in between.


Julie arranged for corresponding images to appear on the two rows, such that landscapes were positioned above each other and her raptor bird images were positioned above each other. The importance of a visually pleasing balanced panel is emphasised by the requirement to submit a hanging plan to show precisely how the prints should be displayed for judging. There are five assessors and a chairperson doing the judging and after a period spent examining the prints they each pronounce an indicative judgment of pass or fail. One assessor recommending pass and one assessor recommending fail then present their reasoning with a critique of each photograph in the panel. The chairperson may well intervene during these discussions with guiding principles or other observations. After this a second and binding vote is taken with the opportunity for assessors to change their original judgements and the award is made or not on the basis of a simple majority.

Aileen Hopkins also presented her LRPS panel which was a mixture of travel photographs from Burma and Singapore which included individual portraits and people groups as well as urban and rural landscapes and achitectural images, with some taken indoors in low-light conditions. Again, her prints demonstrated a command of different photographic techniques and were arranged in a visually balanced panel.

The ARPS distinction panel is very different with fifteen prints (in three rows) reflecting a single theme within a specific genre and which together demonstrate the development of a cohesive photographic style. This requirement is emphasised by the need to present a written statement of the intentions and aims of the panel as well as a hanging plan for the display. Linda Duncalf showed her very distinctive fine art panel of creative multi-exposure  images of trees.











In these two or three images were overlaid to create each print using an app on her mobile phone.











All her prints were printed on the same photographic paper and at the same square size.


Carmen Norman’s ARPS panel was also in the fine art genre but was a collection of delicate Lake District landscapes all of which were suffused with mist to varying degrees. The emphasis on misty scenes meant special care was needed with the choice of paper (Permajet Distinction) to allow the warmth and detail of the mist to shine through the images.


The final ARPS panel was in the travel photography genre and was presented by Tim Hancock from Junction 36 Photo Club near Kendal. His theme was people in Paris, including visiting tourists and locals at work and play. All prints were 10 by 8 inches on a lustre photographic paper. Tim emphasised the need in the travel genre to have a central print in the panel arrangement which defined the location and so tourists around the Arc de Triomphe with the Eiffel Tower in the background fitted the bill perfectly.


All the presenters were enthusiastically received by an audience who were appreciative of the quality and variety of prints on show as well as gaining an understanding of the distinction requirements and the inspiration to perhaps have a go themselves.

Keith Snell

Ken Rennie, “Processing Landscape Images”, November 27th, 2019

On Wednesday 27th November Keswick Photographic Society members were given an excellent live digital demonstration by award winning photographer and member of Keswick Photographic Society, Ken Rennie. Ken has had work accepted in a number of prestigious exhibitions including Landscape Photographer of the Year and Edinburgh Festival Exhibition and has been published in Landscape Photography Magazines. He has been a member of the Society for over four years and has contributed in Keswick’s success in both international and national photographic competitions.



Ken travels far and wide in search of his amazing landscape photographs, but favours his native Scotland to provide most of his evocative images. Although he does present his work digitally his preference is for fine art printing to show his work off to its fullest extent.

Ken’s enthusiasm for his subject shone through as he treated members to this live demonstration. He showed how he achieved his award-winning images together with new, never seen before images, in which he invited members to help him in choosing appropriate treatments for lighting, crop and colour balance, thereby helping the understanding by members of the process.

The second half of the evening was taken up with Ken showing his  ‘fixes’ to improve images by removing distracting matter and annoying artefacts, often caused during the post processing by software and ‘tips and tricks’ for adding light, mist, sharpness and colour where necessary. This proved very popular with members who kept Ken going way past the usual finishing time with requests to see more techniques for achieving the high-quality images he is known for.

Rydal Dawn:


The talk contained a high level of technical information as one would expect of an evening demonstrating the processing of RAW photographic images in Photoshop, but Ken delivered it with his dry sense of humour and made it totally inclusive for all levels of experience by demonstrating techniques several times and taking question as he proceeded.

Ken has produced a set of notes from his talk which members can access from the member’s page of the website

Everyone enjoyed Ken’s fun evening packed full of tips on how to improve our photographs and he has been booked for another evening next season to show how he produces his amazingly power monochrome images.

Alan Walker

2nd Open, November 20th, 2019

The Society’s Second Open Competition took place on Wednesday 20th November and the judge was Gerald Chamberlin, DPAGB, EFIAP from Carlisle. Gerald is a Northern Counties Photographic Federation judge, judging club, inter-club and Federation competitions. Although for this competition all the images were required to have been taken in the British Isles, there was still a wide range of photographic genres entered, including nature, creative, landscape, sport and portraiture. Gerald commented on the high quality of the photography and printing which made differentiating between the images, as regards scoring, far from easy. The prints and digital images were given a score out of twenty and, before awarding the score, Gerald discussed each image, commenting on the good points and often suggesting where improvements could be made.

The judging commenced with the thirty-four photographic prints. Three pin-sharp images were awarded a top score of twenty: ‘Be My Valentine’ by David Woodthorpe which featured a delightful image of two harvest mice perched face to face on top of a drooping pink rose;


‘Whose Idea Was it to Shelter Here’ by Alan Walker, a captivating image of two little owls sheltering from the rain under a large leaf;


and ‘Gannet Coming in to Land’ by Tricia Rayment.


Gerald selected ‘Be My Valentine’ by David Woodthorpe as his overall winning print image. A score of nineteen was awarded to four images: ‘Little Egret Strike’ by Tony Marsh; ‘A Brief Encounter’ by Alan Walker; ‘Brown Hare’ by Ronnie Gilbert; and ‘Skye Blue’ by Ken Rennie. A further eight images received scores of eighteen: ‘Meadow Pipit with Insects’ and ‘Razorbill’ both by Carol Minks; ‘Angel Descending’ and ‘Redshank on Duddon Sands’ both by Keith Snell; ‘Male Stonechat on Gorse’ by Tricia Rayment; ‘Preparing to Dance’ by Julie Walker; ‘Early Morning Glen Affric’ by Ken Rennie; and ‘Dirt Bike Riders’ by Ronnie Gilbert.

After the break for tea and cake the forty projected digital images were judged. ‘Backlit Kestrel with Mouse’ by Alan Walker


and ‘Barn Owl Dispute’ by Julie Walker both achieved a top score of twenty. The overall Digital Image of the Competition was awarded to Julie Walker for ‘Barn Owl Dispute’, a superbly captured image showing the interaction between two barn owls having a dispute.


Gerald awarded high scores of nineteen and eighteen to a total of nine images. Three images scored nineteen: ‘A Lucky Find’ by Marilyn Woodthorpe, ‘Spot the Ball’ by Alan Walker and ‘Kingfisher on a Bullrush’ by Ronnie Gilbert. Images scoring eighteen were ‘Red Squirrel in Rain’ by Julie Walker, ‘Fluffed Up Goldfinch’ by Tony Marsh, ‘A Sustainable Future’ by David Woodthorpe, ‘Introspection’ by Keith Snell, ‘The Splash Pool’ by Ken Rennie and ‘Taking Flight’ by Tom Stenhouse

All the images can be viewed on our gallery pages

Images entered into our 2019-2020 internal competitions

Tom Langlands: November 13th, 2019

This week’s talk was given by Tom Langlands. Tom worked as an architect, but since retirement seems to have become even more full time a photographer, mostly concentrating on wildlife, and this talk was about British wildlife in particular. Starting from his beginnings of interest in the natural world, which he attributes to his mother taking him to a rich area of marshy ground close to their home in Dundee.


Tom showed us a Water Rail, Barnacle Geese and wild Whooper Swans from Caerlaverock, Red Squirrels from near Lockerbie, Red Kites from Galloway, Bottle-nosed Dolphins leaping high out of the water in the Moray Firth, Red Deer and Sea Eagles from Mull, Puffins and Arctic Terns from the Western Isles, Gannets from Bass Rock and Starling murmurations near Gretna amongst others.


But it was not just the excellent photographs which made the talk so special, Tom was generous in his advice about how he makes pictures that draw the viewer into the world of the animal he is portraying. He stresses the importance of spending a long time with each indivdual he wants to photograph. This has the double benefit of the bird becoming relaxed in his presence, happily carrying on with its normal routine and allowing a close approach, but also Tom then gets to be able to predict where the bird is likely to go, what perches it uses, what route does it take to its nest. This allows him to be positioned in just the right place to catch the killer shot, and very frequently this means being really low to the ground to get on to eye level with is subjects; he carries an old camping mat in the car which he habitually uses in the field. He will then make small adjustments of side to side position to achieve the best background as possible.


Backgrounds in nature shots are incredibly important in allowing the subject to stand out free from background clutter or bright distractions that draw the eye and with luck the background colours will be complimentary as well. Such a painstaking but productive approach was exemplified by spending five days getting to close terms with a Water Rail, an incredibly shy and secretive inhabitant of reedbeds in Caerlaverock Wetland and Wildlife Reserve. The results are stunning, and all the better for being rarely achieved.


As well as explaining how and where he takes his photographs, Tom gave fascinating details about the life history of many of the species he showed. It is obvious that he is a naturalist primarily who also takes, (very good), photographs and his passion for nature conservation shone through. Some of the messages were positive, the numbers of Barnacle Geese wintering on the Solway has increased from 300 in the post WWII era to 400,000 now mostly due to the protection of adequate feeding areas at Caerlaverock. There is the downside, however, that the climate crisis is melting the ice around Svalbard and Polar bears there, deprived of the option of going out onto the ice to hunt seals, are so hungry that they attempt to climb the cliffs where some of the Barnacle geese nest and many bears fall to their deaths.

Tony Marsh