The evening of Monday 23rd April saw Erica Oram journey over from her home in Sheffield to give us an entertaining talk entitled “Seeing Opportunity”. Basically she experiences the same problems as faced by most of us in that there are limited opportunities for pursuing photographic interests when family, work and other commitments have to be taken into account. When she said this there were a lot of knowing smiles and nods from the audience – including mine!
She started by looking at family holidays and opened with hers to Northern Spain. In this region the weather is usually against great landscape photography with either very strong sunlight or cloud and mist. However Erica showed that by taking a different approach you could get some tremendous shots. She chose to select details as almost abstract subjects to great effect. The other approach was to convert to monochrome, where you can sculpt with light to emphasise texture. As she explained it can be difficult to get into the right mindset with children around but it can be done. She decided to forget great colourful vistas to grab atmospheric misty shots. In other locations she showed that you can wait for a sunset that never happens in the photographic sense but if you change to using the cloud(s) as the subject rather than the backdrop you can still create arresting images, again particularly in monochrome. Most family holidays include some time on the beach and this gave Erica the opportunity to grab abstracts created by streams and water flow drawing patterns in the sand – sometimes aided by carefully placed pebbles!
Erica’s next topic was making the best use of the opportunities you have. She only gets away for a purely photographic weekend once every couple of years so you have to get the maximum out of it. As she demonstrated her trip to Northern Ireland was not her location of choice as she wasn’t really interested in the Giant’s Causeway. However by moving her focus away from what other people were doing she captured images of the sea that she was really pleased with. Similarly the visit included the Dark Hedges which she couldn’t really get a good shot of until she introduced some intentional camera movement to create the atmosphere she wanted.
In the second half Erica turned to people, a subject she had never really been comfortable with. However on one visit to Blists Hill Industrial Museum she ended up taking environmental portraits of people in costume and enjoyed it. She followed this up with visits to “Ragged Victorians” events and re-enactments to create quite a portfolio. She also demonstrated that even in poor conditions of rain you have opportunities. In this case the wet pavements gave ample opportunities to use reflections which can’t be done when it’s dry and sunny.
Erica concluded by emphasising that not all our photography should be done for the benefit of judges, but should be what pleases us. It was a very well-received evening of tips and gentle nudges showing what is possible when time and conditions may be against you.