Stratford Photo Group: A Personal View by Michael Robertson-Smith

September 01, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

D750 My photographic journey started in the early ‘60s when my mother gave me her No. 1 Pocket Kodak, which I still have. I purchased an Olympus OM1 in 1973 and a succession of Olympus point and shoot cameras followed.  I went digital with a Nikon Coolpix 4500 in 2002 and was a happy snapper for years.  Having acquired a decent DSLR in September 2014, I spent three months getting to grips with the basics (so many buttons!) and then I joined SPG in January 2015 as a beginner with the intention of improving my photography.

As I start my third season as a member of SPG, having won the Harding Trophy for the most points gained in last season’s internal Merit, Panels and Annual Cups competitions and now in the advanced section, I am pleased with my progress:  my photography has certainly become more focused and I am finding my metier but still have much room for improvement.  A number of my images feature on the website.

From my perspective, SPG is a deep well of expertise that is freely and enthusiastically given if requested. Whether it is advice on camera settings, composition, technique or processing images, there is at least one member able and willing to help.  All one needs to do is ask!  For me, the most useful learning comes from putting up images at the internal competitions, on the online SPG-Critique Forum (a Google Group for registered SPG members) and the Wellesbourne workshops.  It is through these interactions that I have been able to gauge which members I turn to for specific advice and whose advice I value:  these colleagues know who they are.  The wide range of external speakers is also a great source of inspiration.

Photography is, however, a very individual pursuit in terms of subject, composition and treatment and, whilst we all aspire to technical competence, artistic content is an expression of personal vision.  Consequently, my stunning image, perhaps lauded by family and friends, may not resonate as strongly with other SPG members or judges who have a more developed critiquing ability!  Nevertheless, I will continue to put up images and invite comments because there is always something to be learnt from the observations of members and judges.

I enjoy the camaraderie and social element to SPG as well:  meeting like-minded enthusiasts on club nights to talk about our diverse photographic interests is rewarding and sparks ideas for kit, locations, software and images.  It’s a truism but, to get the most out of membership of SPG, you need to be an active participant in the club’s activities and seek to influence the club’s programme so that it supports your personal objectives.  After all, it is the members and their aspirations that make SPG what it is:  the best small club in the Midlands.

Michael Robertson-Smith


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