Gary Langley: “Faces and Places”. September 9th 2020

Keswick Photographic Society was pleased to welcome Gary Langley as the first outside speaker of the season at their normal Wednesday evening meeting time but in the new pandemic format of an online Zoom presentation from the speaker at his home.

Gary hails from Nottingham and has been a member of a number of camera clubs in that area, including a stint as Vice-Chairman of the prestigious Rolls Royce Photographic Society of Derby. He is sponsored by Paper Spectrum, a company renowned for its Pinnacle photographic paper range and Gary was at pains to lament the fact that his presentation was digital rather than his preferred physical display of photographic prints.

Although he had titled his presentation Faces and Places, in the event Gary also included fauna and flora as an added bonus. But he did indeed start off with images of faces, in a series of unconventional portraits. These were mostly off-beat characters set against equally off-beat graffiti-laden backgrounds, some of which were introduced in Photoshop post-processing to give composite images. He readily admitted that his style was not always appreciated by judges used to traditional approaches. The ‘grotesque’ treatment was accentuated by his choice of lens, Instead of the normal 50-75mm focal length range which portrait photographers favour, he uses a 17-40mm lens which inevitably introduces facial distortions into an image. This worked quite well for some of the punk-type characters with facial piercings and exotic hair styles. His image of the ‘Punk Couple’ showed this effect in practice; the couple in question were in fact separate portraits with the match-making accomplished in Photoshop.

 

Gary then moved on to Places, with the exact placements often being suggested by research of his intended travel location on photographic websites. As he confessed, the location of the images tended to fall into two types – those where his wife drove him to in the British Isles (he doesn’t drive) and more exotic overseas locations where he took his wife on holiday for her birthdays. Perhaps I should mention that his presentation was entertainingly peppered with this deadpan humour! Of course the British landscapes and places were far from mundane and included Southwold, Brighton, the Sage and Millennial Bridge in Tyneside, Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, the Peak District and the Isle of Harris, Cairngorms and other highlands of Scotland. The overseas locations featured Western Australia and Singapore amongst others.

Some of his images were an interesting departure from the standard landscape format by having a camera converted with an infrared sensor. In particular this tends to bleach out the greens in a landscape so that fields and trees appear to be cloaked in snow. An example from Swaledale in north Yorkshire was an image which showed the effectiveness of this technique.

 

Finally we were introduced to his love of the natural world. Gary showed an array of bird portraits, taken with a telephoto 70-300mm lens, which were incredibly detailed in their plumage and other anatomical details whilst having sympathetically-coloured non-intrusive backgrounds which is the hallmark of an accomplished wiildlife photographer. Mammals included otters, water vole, red squirrels, prairie dogs and kangaroos. But his self-confessed passion for insects was what captured his imagination and our admiration. There were pin-sharp butterflies, staghorn beetle and a wolf spider, but the star of the show was the praying mantis. Gary’s photograph showed how perfectly these insectivores can imitate the twigs on which they perch while they lie in wait for their prey to inadvertently come within reach.

 

Inevitably Gary had to address the challenge of lockdown and he embarked on a new project of flower and plant still life portraits taken indoors using studio lighting. Mostly they were  photographed against plain, mostly white, backgrounds which showed off the architectural detail of the plants and flower arrangements as well as their colours. Some portraits were combined with textured layers in Photoshop to give a more artistic presentation and the subjects included wild flowers as well as cultivated plants and flowers.

The audience were left to acclaim the quality of the images on show and the creativity with which Gary approaches his photography by a visual display of applause on their Zoom screens. While this is not the same as a physical presence, the online approach to presentations at least provides the opportunity to enjoy seeing the work of other photographers and to gain inspiration from hearing their approaches to their art.

Keith Snell

David Keep: Underwater Photography. September 2nd 2020

This evening we joined Dumfries Photographic Society for an inspiring talk given by David Keep via Zoom. David is an award-winning photographer based in Chesterfield. His talk, titled “Underwater Photography 2 – from Manatees to Crocodiles”, covered underwater adventures he undertook in 2019. His subjects included Manatees, Whale Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Atlantic Grey Seals, Saltwater Crocodiles and Gannets.

David has been a keen diver all his life. On retirement, five years ago, he took up photography and has since combined these two hobbies. It has taken him some time to become proficient at underwater photography and this is not surprising given the difficulties associated with this and the specialist equipment needed. To say, however, that his photographs are superb is an understatement. He has won numerous awards but probably his highest achievement was a gold medal and a best in exhibition in the FIAP World Cup in November 2019 for an image of diving gannets. As well as taking still images David also takes videos underwater and these show the viewer exactly what is involved in achieving his photographs.

Of particular interest were the measures David took to photograph sharks and crocodiles. Extensive research was necessary to make arrangements to photograph these species. In the case of sharks, he used a company that specialises in taking tourists to dive with, and to photograph, them off the coast of the Northern Bahamas where they congregate in a relatively shallow area of water. The larger sharks, including Tiger Sharks and Hammerhead Sharks, are fed by hand by an employee while customers take photographs.  The video showed just how close the sharks came and one even touched David as it swam past. Despite the dangers David described sharks as his favourite creature saying “they are so photogenic”.

 

Photographing Seawater Crocodiles was an even riskier undertaking. David said that since watching Tarzan on television as a boy he had been fascinated by crocodiles. Again, he undertook extensive research and discovered that the best chance to photograph them was in the shallow water of the mangrove swamps off the coast of Cuba. It takes considerable nerve to enter the water when a crocodile is present and even David admitted to being nervous but his guide would only allow him to enter the water when a suitably sized crocodile had been found, one not too small and especially one not too large. They can grow up to five metres in length. Apart from the danger involved, photographing the crocodile was tricky. The light had to be right, not too sunny, the water not too shallow and he had to be careful not to stir up the muddy seabed as this would cloud the water. Despite the difficulties David succeeded in taking some magnificent shots. The shoot however was not without a moment of danger when David had what he described as “a far too close encounter with a crocodile” when returning to the boat. Unsurprisingly, David admits that he has no desire to get back in to the water with a crocodile again.

 

David’s other subjects were of a much less threatening nature. He described the Manatees he photographed in Florida as “very friendly creatures” and the Atlantic Grey Seals he found around the Farne Islands as “super cute and inquisitive”.  To photograph the seals David had to wait on the seabed until the seals approached but, once they arrived, he was able to have a close interaction with them.

Finally, David showed his images of diving gannets taken off the coast of Shetland. These are his own personal favourites for which he has won numerous awards. Before entering the water, David’s fear was that one of the gannets might hit him as they dive at speeds in excess 60 mph and could do considerable damage. But the birds are so skilled not one touched him. David said this was one of the most exhilarating experiences of his life.

 

This was a fascinating evening of captivating photography and David is to be admired for his skill, courage and patience in achieving the unique images on show.

Julie Walker