They do say, a picture paints a thousand words. But that picture could tell us so much more, with the odd tweak here and there! So if you'd like to make the most of your camera work, come a little closer. Sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. I chatted with Arthur Harding, group leader of the Photo Editing Group at Alsager U3A and what a fascinating chat it was! Here are the highlights:
Me: Photography Group, Photo Editing Group, Monday Club – one in the same thing?
Arthur: Well, we didn't really like to be called the Photography Editing Team, and that sort of thing. But we held it on a Monday, and it's always been a Monday. So we thought, we'll call ourselves The Monday Club. So that's what we did. We have a Facebook page called The Monday Club. And we also decided we should publicise some of the stuff we do. So we have a YouTube channel, which is called ... The Monday Club! But we won't change the name on the U3A website, otherwise we'll be getting embroidery people phoning up to join us!
Me: Does the group have a lot of members?
Arthur: At the moment, there's thirteen in the group. We've never tried to restrict it, we've never turned anybody away. But we need to keep to a relatively smallish number. If it gets too big, you sort of lose quite a lot of the relationships that you get in a group. And it can get awkward, when you're giving lessons or training. Some of the members have been with us for five years, maybe longer, since the beginning, really.
Me: And how did you all feel, when the pandemic came along?
Arthur: When the coronavirus hit in March (2020), we thought ahh, this was a bit dismal. Most of us are in their 60s, 70s and 80s, and we got frightened, no getting away from it. We didn't want to get involved with other people, but we didn't want to give up on Monday Club either. That's when we decided that we ought to use Zoom. We were probably the first of the U3A groups to take off on Zoom. And to be honest, Zoom is probably one of the best things to happen to us.
Me: Zoom is that good, why is that?
Arthur: We don't have to go anywhere, we just sit in front of a screen. And it's easy for doing photography, we display what we want to do, it just works. We won't be booking the fire station, even when we get back to the so-called new normal. At the fire station, we were stuck with up to about ten people around the table and only one projector that we could use, so that meant we were swapping memory sticks around. But with Zoom, it's just instant. Click, job done. We run from 13:30 to about 17:00 every Monday. Seems a long time but the time flies, and some of the guys stay on after that, they are that keen!!!
Me: Now you're online, are you ever tempted to 'go-it-alone'?
Arthur: We could have easily broken away from the U3A. It would be very simple, because we were doing our own thing. But morally, that's not a good thing to do. Because U3A is a fantastic organisation. If everyone broke away from it, because you could, it would just fall flat. We definitely want to stick with U3A, and their philosophy and way of working.
Me: When the pandemic is over, where will you be taking your cameras?
Arthur: Well, I'd probably like to go back down to Ireland, down to The Ring of Kerry, and around that area there. Not necessarily for seabirds. It's more about the cliffs, and hills and landscapes. The scenery there, they've got some beautiful crofters' houses. Because we spent so long (during our trip) in Scotland, and we did quite a few of the islands as well, Mull and Skye, you get a bit spoilt. So, The Ring of Kerry would be good, but Scotland would also be good to go to as well.
Me: Ireland, that's a fair distance. What about local photos?
Arthur: There's a lot of good places around here. Any of the National Trust places. Nice gardens, nice buildings, nice architecture. And you've got deer, what more could you want?
Me: And who are you, when you're behind the lens? Photographer or photo editor?
Arthur: Your eye should be hitting the composition, not getting the best image out of your camera. If you're using a digital camera, shoot in what we call 'RAW' format. Nothing wrong with jpeg, it's great, but you lose quality. The camera automatically converts images into what it thinks is the best image, from that particular view. Jpegs are relatively small, 8-9 MB, they don't contain all the bits of information. Depending on your camera, shooting in RAW produces bigger files, 25-50 MB, you're getting the pure picture. You'll be able to pick out all the detail, when you start editing.
Me: It must be difficult, getting the most out of a photo and staying true to the original shot. How do you decide, where to draw the line?
Arthur: Okay. You're entering a competition, that's focused on wildlife? You're limited to what you can adapt. One of my passions is white tailed Sea Eagles. All I can really do is, I can crop it, change the colour of the background, the brightness and contrast, that's basically about it. But if it was an open competition, not natural history, I've got no boundary. (For a typical Eagle shot) you can add a bright blue sky, some fluffy white clouds, a hill in the background would be good ... people on the edge of a loch, a red anorak always shows up nicely!
Me: Finally, advice to anyone who is interested in joining your group?
Arthur: You've got to have a good sense of humour. And you've got to be open to different sorts of ideas. But one of the things we insist on, whoever joins us would have to have a program called Affinity Photo. The reason for that is, at one time, we had people with about four or five types of software. And when you were trying to do a lesson, it's impossible because they say "what button do I press now?" And of course, on every bit of software, it's in a different place!
Me: And to anyone who has never tried photo editing (or Zoom) before now?
Arthur: We're not total beginners, we're not total experts, we're sort of stuck in the middle. When we exhibited at U3A Open Days, we had quite a few people come along and say "we don't know what we're talking about, but we'd like to do something about photography." And we've said if we had sufficient people, we'd look into a beginners' group. But I think lots of people are frightened of Zoom. If you're into photography, you've got a laptop or PC, simple as that. You can't do anything, unless you've got one. So they have the capability, of running Zoom. But join us for a couple of weeks, and see what you think.
You've been reading excerpts from my interview with Arthur Harding, about the inner workings of The Photo Editing Group (aka The Monday Club). How enlightening! A bit technical, but it's definitely not rocket science – well, you get the picture, right?
So get in touch. And have a go. You won't be sorry.
PS. If you like what you see, share it with a friend – thank you!