January 12, 2006

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Arts: Photography buffs unite

Snap snap, grin grin, say n’more

By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

If you’re a photographer in southern New Hampshire and feel you’re not getting enough support, your license to whine is hereby revoked.

No fewer than three clubs serve photogs in Nashua and Manchester. Many more camera buffs are part of a region-wide network, the New England Camera Club Council (NECCC). Clubs provide each other with slide presentations and judges for competitions.

Nashua Camera Club claims the title of oldest operating camera club in New Hampshire, according to its president, Al Estrada. It started in 1936, scaled back during World War II, hit a peak of nearly 100 members in the 1970s and ’80s and now claims about 16 consistent members.

“We were film-only until about two years ago,” Estrada said. “That’s when we opened it up to either digital or film. Obviously you have to make a place for digital because it’s the thing that’s happening nowadays.”

Each month, members bring in prints or slides for competition. Typically there are three subject categories, one of which is “open” — pretty much anything goes. Other categories have included subjects such as benches, bridges, restaurant signs and statues. Judges use a contraption with three voting paddles connected to an LCD display; no scores are shown until all three judges have entered their scores based on composition, lighting and focus.

Photo manipulation is generally allowed. One of Estrada’s bridge photographs has power lines edited out with Photoshop. No one noticed (or at least commented on) the reflection of the power lines still present in a river until after the competition had ended.

In Nashua Camera Club, slides and prints compete on the same playing field, but in other clubs they’re considered separately.

Bill Gehan is a member of both Photographers Forum, which also meets in Nashua, and Manchester Camera Club and frequently judges at Nashua Camera Club.

“You learn stuff from other people’s prints,” Gehan said, “you know, how they took the picture, how they did it. They might’ve done the field trip that we all went on. You say, ‘Gee, I didn’t think of doing that.’”

Different clubs also have different equipment. Nashua Camera Club uses an old-fashioned slide projector and a homemade print-viewing box to provide uniform lighting to all prints. Photographers Forum, with a larger member base, has a digital projector, so its members can e-mail photos from their digital cameras or from scans of traditional prints.

Estrada said the club motivates him to keep taking pictures and challenging himself. He’s taken photographs since he was 14, but the club is open to those of all skill levels.

“For the most part everybody really puts their heart into it,” Estrada said. “It’s really a labor of love more than anything else. I mean, there’s a few people that do it for the competition, but for the most part it’s just coming out here and having fun.”

 



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