Dateline 16 October 2015


How To Take Bad Pictures – 14 September 2015 – Darren Pullman

Report by Peter Flower

This talk was a master-class in how to entertain an audience with dozens of very bad pictures. To quote a currently popular advert phrase 'The product did exactly what it said on the tin'! Fortunately the many low-grade images were accompanied by a sparkling commentary from Darren and interspersed with other excellent images that demonstrated his skill as a photographer. The overall theme of his talk was that the process of taking many photographs, and then analysing them critically, should ultimately lead to improvement. Whether this involved using a different standpoint, changes to lighting or camera technique it was by persistent experimentation that success was likely to be achieved.

As a comment, it has to be said that this approach has largely been aided by the introduction of digital photography. The relatively high cost of film tended to preclude the taking of too many images. The introduction of digital has been a two-edged sword. On the one hand it has encouraged the scatter-gun approach of many people with smartphones and compact cameras. However, for the more serious photographer, like Darren, it has made possible experimentation that led on to the perfection of techniques that have resulted in many very high-quality pictures.

For many of us there is a tendency to concentrate on one or two general objectives such as taking quality landscapes or wildlife photographs. Variations to this pattern tend to be on a more casual basis unless we are faced with the challenge of 'set-subject' competitions. In Darren's case he often deliberately sets out to explore different photographic challenges. In his talk there were numerous examples of his methodical approach to photographing a wide variety of subjects. By critical analysis of his initial attempts he is able to refine his methods and produce improved images.

Two examples of this process are discussed below. The first involved the photographing of a small elephant model. In the first image it can be seen that fairly diffuse lighting has been used. It is a satisfactory, if rather ordinary, record of the subject. In the second photograph a curtain was opened to the right of the subject to allow additional light to illuminate the scene. There is an immediate improvement due to the modelling that this extra light provided.

© Copyright Darren Pullman

The second example is also taken in a studio setting. In this case extra virgin olive oil is being poured from a bottle into the spoon and then spilling over below that. The first photograph illustrates one of the problems of photographing fluids (and very often glass objects). Being semi-transparent there is a lack of definition to the image of the liquid. It is in this situation that control of the lighting comes to the rescue. By the use of so-called black 'flags' to each side of the subject the dark outline to the liquid stream is created. These 'flags' could be simple black cards. In many instances they are used to control lighting in a studio set-up, but in this case they are reflected from the sides of the stream of olive oil. This is a much improved image. There is the additional bonus in this second image, in that it captured the creation of a separate droplet of oil below the spoon. Darren did not say how many shots it took to capture that particular moment!

© Copyright Darren Pullman

Not all photographs are the result of a careful and considered process. Sometimes luck plays a part, as illustrated in the following image. I'm sure that all of us have taken photographs of seagulls at some time, but very few of us have been fortunate enough to capture such an interesting incident which Darren entitles 'You'll have to share'.

© Copyright Darren Pullman

Capturing blurred movement is always a challenge. The following example shows this concept taken to a new level. In this case the camera was mounted on the central spinning disc of a roulette wheel so that the outside rim became the blurred object.

© Copyright Darren Pullman

A significant factor that Darren mentioned in his talk was choice of point of view. He said that it was important to wander around the subject in order to obtain the most effective viewpoint. This was illustrated with a number of examples. The image of lavender benefits from two points. Not only is there a pleasing symmetry to the image, but the positioning adds impact because of the fact that the foreground lavender has already been harvested. A similar symmetry can be seen in his image called 'Tube'. But for the figures in the far distance, which have the benefit of drawing your eye into the picture, it could almost be a mirror image left to right.

© Copyright Darren Pullman

Two other variations on this point of view theme are shown below. In the first case it is a shot taken almost vertically of a very tall brick chimney. Not only does this give a pleasing shape, but the warm brick tones contrast pleasingly with the deep blue of the sky. The second example is humorous and, according to Darren, was taken with a rather more hit-and-miss style of photography. Using a very wide-angle lens he crouched near to the ground amongst a number of donkeys. It took quite a quite a few shots to get anything satisfactory, but he was well pleased with the image which is shown below.

© Copyright Darren Pullman

A case of a project which appeared doomed to failure concerned a visit to the viewpoint near the cafe at the top of Reigate Hill. Darren had envisaged some impressive night-time shots of the view looking down on the lights of the town. As so many of us have found, night-time views that appear impressive to the eye do not necessarily translate into good photographs. Despite his best efforts there were no results that appealed to him. However, he was able to rescue the situation by turning his camera around and pointing it at the cafe. The combination of a long exposure, the background lighting from the lights on Reigate Hill road behind, plus some star trails and even the light trail from an overflying jet plane resulted in an excellent photograph. Another example of his ability to adapt to circumstances and a fitting image of our home territory to show to the audience.

© Copyright Darren Pullman

Summing up, as the first formal talk of the new season this got things off to a cracking start. Darren's presentation combined tongue-in-cheek comments (including some about judges!) and a light-hearted approach to photography with more serious and useful guidance. It was a reminder that although we should aim to produce good photographs we should also have fun along the way.

More of Darren's photography can be found at -


Round Table Evening – 21 September 2015

Report by Lester Hicks

The annual Round Table evening gives the Society’s new and recently joined photographers an opportunity early in the new Season to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of experienced senior members. They can pick up the practicalities of entering prints and digital images in the regular competitions, as well as getting advice on developing various skills and techniques. More established members can also find it useful. Who would have thought that a spoon and tissue paper are necessary for top class print mounting?

This year’s event was no exception. Society members offered advice not only on preparing and mounting competition prints but also on making the best use of your camera, improving your images, using Adobe Lightroom ® for photo-editing, preparing digital images for competitions and panels, photo-editing on iPads, tablets and phones, the requirements for (and benefits of) entering Surrey Photographic Association competitions, and how to join and use the Society’s Mentoring Scheme for novice and improving photographers.

There was a good turn-out from new and new-ish members and, as the evening got into its stride, a real buzz round the various tables. So much so that it was hard to tempt people away for refreshments at half-time. By the finish several people, notably Les Dyson, Tony Peacock and John Fisher, said they had hardly stopped talking for 2 hours, and John Gall was still demonstrating print mounting after the rest of the hall had been cleared.

This is clearly a popular and useful event, and on this night’s evidence fully deserves a place in any future season’s programme. Thanks to everyone who shared their expertise, offered advice and organised the evening.


Mountaineer's View of South-East England – 5 October 2015 – Chris Hutchinson

Report by Peter Flower

And now for something totally different. This was not a talk about photography per se and had nothing to do with mountains, but was an illustrated talk about the interesting places and history of the area in which we live. We have the highest point in the south-east of England nearby at Leith Hill. However, even its elevation of 965 feet (294m) topped by the tower which adds 64 feet (19.5m) giving a total height of 1029 feet still does not qualify it as a mountain. (2000 feet in the UK)

Chris explained that he was interested in the geography of the south-east, centred largely on the North and South downs ridges and the area of the Weald. In addition he enjoyed discovering the many places of interest that are dotted around this part of the country. His interests are not limited to visiting a place, but extend to research about the background and history of it. His researches reveal many interesting facts and it was these that he shared with us when he was showing the photographs of the places that he had visited.

Since the late 90s he had undertaken extensive walks in the whole of the south and south-east areas of the country. The photographs had been taken from that time up to the present, mostly on film originally which had been scanned for the digital projection that we saw. There is not sufficient space to mention all of the details from his extensive talk but some of the highlights are documented below.

Early mention was made of many of the truly ancient sites that he visited in his travels. In particular he cited the images that were etched onto chalk hills such as the Bronze-age Uffington White Horse and Cerne Abass Giant.

Uffington White Horse © Copyright Chris Hutchinson

In order to avoid possible offence to our more sensitive readers we have omitted an image of the Cerne Abass Giant! However, if you are interested you can read about him at the following web site. You can also see a video of the project from November 2013 to add a temporary moustache in aid of charity.

He also referred to the Avebury henge, a stone circle which is the largest of its kind in Europe.

A significant feature of our area is the existence of the North and South Downs ridges which run west to east across Surrey and Kent. Chris pointed out the difference in slopes between these two. The south-facing slope of the North Downs, different to that of the South Downs, explained the suitability of it for the large vineyards at Denbies in Dorking. Numerous images were shown of the Pilgrim's Way and two of these are shown below.

Pilgrim's Way – Near Canterbury and Above Wye - © Copyright Chris Hutchinson

Amongst the prominent features on the South Downs ridge are the two windmills, known as Jack and Jill. These are ideally located to capture the best of the wind.

© Copyright Chris Hutchinson

Chris did also show some interior shots of a tread-mill that was used to raise water onto a high point of one down. Unfortunately the relatively slow film and dim light had resulted in less than crisp images. As he said, there were great advantages to the higher ISO speeds available on modern digital cameras and image stabilised lenses!

Although the ridges are not of great elevation they do present a problem for the railway lines that run from London stations to various locations on the south-east coastline. Chris pointed out that there were a significant number of tunnels in a relatively short distance on these lines, far more than in much longer distances to the north. An interesting feature is associated with the tunnel at Clayton. As can be seen from the following photograph there is a residential building over the mouth of the tunnel. Chris mentioned that access to the property is not easy and that it tended to come onto the market at fairly regular intervals. One can only assume that there are not too many keen train-spotters interested!

© Copyright Chris Hutchinson

Also in Clayton is the Church of Saint John the Baptist. We were shown an image of the path leading to the porch. This is unusual in that it is made of "ripplestone" - Horsham sandstone taken from a nearby riverbed. The stone has a ripple-marked appearance, similar to that seen on the sandbanks and beaches of Sussex.

© Copyright Chris Hutchinson

The various walks that Chris had undertaken encompassed the majority of the coastline from the banks of the Thames in London, around the North Foreland and then past Dover and the southern coast as far as the Isle of Wight. This was concentrated on during the second part of the talk. Amongst the images shown were the following two which appealed to Chris's sense of humour. The first appears to be a fairly ordinary shot of the Thames looking towards the O2 arena, until you spot the shopping trolleys and, even more bizarrely, that ladder sticking up out of the mud! In the second shot the hanging sign of the Queens Head pub in Brighton seems inappropriate, unless you are familiar with the name Freddie Mercury and the group that he headed!

© Copyright Chris Hutchinson

The photographs and commentary provided a fascinating insight into the interesting scenery and sites that many of us may have seen without being aware of their background details and history.


First PDI Competition – 12 October 2015


We do not publish detailed reports of our internal competitions. Just a brief comment – it was interesting to see that a number of new names were mentioned in respect of images that gained high marks. It is encouraging to see that newer members are quickly getting involved. For information, many of the images can be seen in the Image Gallery section of this web site.


And finally . . . . . .

Peter Flower

Regular readers will know that this section is normally reserved for humorous images to round off our reports. These images often involve animals interacting with camera equipment. This time we feature the highest ranking animal, homo sapiens.

I recently saw some enchanting and humorous photographs by Markku Pajunen, a photographer living in Espoo, Finland, and thought that I should share them with you. I contacted Markku by email to obtain his permission to publish them in our Newsletter and am glad to say that he agreed. In these photographs parents will recognise the scenario of potential conflict between older and younger siblings. I should point out that Markku assures me that no baby was harmed in the production of these photographs! He used photo manipulation and post processing. To quote him 'I didn't put the baby in the toilet seat, really!'

Duct Tape Really Works! © Copyright Markku Pajunen

Waste Disposal © Copyright Markku Pajunen

My sincere thanks to Markku for his co-operation. I laugh every time that I look at these photographs.

You can see more of these amusing images and his other work by visiting the web site -