City Lights shine brightly

On the evening of 29th October a large audience of members were present at a fascinating talk by Dave Butcher entitled “City Lights”. Dave is one of what is nowadays a rare brand of photographers using exclusively film – indeed he has no digital camera. He uses a Mamiya 7 medium format camera (only 10 images per roll!!) and everything is processed in the darkroom.  He used to work for Ilford as a chemist and at one time managed their print department. He explained that there is still quite a big demand for printing and Ilford are still developing new papers. Dave does printing workshops, publishes books and commercially licences prints. He produces prints up to one metre in size but some of the commercial images go up to three metres.
This evening Dave started with images themed on “City Lights” which is also the title of one of his books. Naturally all the presentation was black and white prints of superb quality. Many of them were night shots with street lights and other man-made lighting. He said that symmetrical images work well in black and white and that was certainly the case with his. The parade of glorious prints took us to London, Oslo, Verona, New York, Washington, Venice and Glasgow amongst others. Most shots had no people in them allowing you to concentrate on the architecture etc. Dave explained that he achieves this by having long exposures and as long as people move through the image they don’t actually register enough on the film to be visible. There is no manipulation – it is all done in camera. The overall effect was one of sublime images giving a different “take” on familiar settings.
In the second half Dave took us on to landscapes. Many images came from walking in the Swiss Alps near Grindelwald (all of 210 miles with camera and tripod!). The scenery was majestic and perfectly suited to monochrome. He explained that whilst others in his walking group may be relaxing at a hotel he was out in the snow taking photographs – it’s hard work being a photographer. Dave demonstrated the effects of using different lenses. He has no zoom, just 3 prime lenses and the contrasting perspectives and the images created were really interesting. After Switzerland came New Zealand as he wanted pictures of snow-capped volcanoes. He went over mountain passes on South Island and to the Fox Glacier producing images of the same high standard and continued his cityscapes in Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland and Sydney. 
It was a wonderful evening with a stream of amazing prints. It was instructional as well, as virtually everything that applies to film applies to digital work as well. Some time ago someone asked him how many good images does he get out of a 10 shot roll. He paused and answered ….. 10, why would it be anything else? The point being he takes time and care to get the shot, something we could all try and do. Thanks Dave for a great evening and if you want to see more of his images visit his website by clicking here.



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