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President's Corner – Getting some exposure

Before entering our monthly competitions, would you like to have your image reviewed by an experienced camera club competition winner? Are you curious to know whether someone else thinks the image you selected is “good enough” to be in a competition or if they think it is just a “nice snapshot”? Maybe you feel the image you selected rocks but just want another set of eyes on it to feel confident that you are presenting it in the best light. We have several experienced photographers who’ve volunteered to give you their advice on how to improve a competition image before the judge has a crack at it on competition night.

Many times I feel like I’m just too close the subject and can’t be objective about my own work. I welcome feedback from relatives and friends. Yet mom will always tell me that “it’s great” and that is not exactly what I need to hear to improve. Fortunately, we have greater resources at our disposal (sorry mom!) by having veteran photographers who will give you their honest opinions. These photographers have been where you are and have a good feel for what the judges are looking for in competitions.

The mentor might give basic instructions on how you can develop your image further by making adjustments to composition, cropping options, suggestions on how to tweak the exposure, sharpness, etc. They may also comment on whether the image has that WOW factor, if it tells an interesting story, or how you might want to try a certain shot again. They might suggest shooting it from a unique perspective or under different lighting conditions. They’ll let you know if your image is sticking to the theme of the category you selected to enter or whatever your image might need to get you the right exposure.

This is how it will work, in the subject line entitle your email “Competition Consideration” and attach your image (sized to competition dimensions 1400 x 1050) to me at include the category you’re thinking about entering it in: Open Color, Nature, Assigned, etc. and also include what editing software you use. I will then forward your email to one of our mentors. Within a few days, you will receive an email with their sage advice.

Now your job will be to absorb the mentor’s critique and apply their “fixes” in photographic software like Lightroom or Photoshop or a free program like Picasa, whatever you might use. Keep in mind that this is just one other person’s (albeit, experienced) opinion so you can choose to discard some or all of their advice. Keep in mind that a mentor can’t make any adjustments to your image themselves, only you can bring your images into the proper focus!

May the focus be with you!


President's Corner: It's all about fun

I am amazed that my two years as SSCC president have passed by so quickly. It feels like yesterday that I was standing up in front of 120 members at the first meeting of the year, wondering why everyone was looking at me so expectantly. Then there were my attempts to figure out how to connect together all the pieces of the sound system––there was always one thing that I seemed to forget.

I remember clearly stepping into the role of president in 2013 and thinking, “What have I gotten myself into? How am I going to pull this off successfully?” I was a bit nervous and unsure of how things would go, since I had never managed a 190-member organization before–not to mention that I was filling some big shoes! But I moved ahead with the support of many great people, and we grew the club to 230 members.

A few weekends ago it all came together for me, reminding me not only of why I decided to become president, but also why I joined the club. On May 10, I met up with a group of adventurous club members to go on Larry Fay’s Mother’s Day dawn shoot in Boston’s Public Garden. When we met at the Park and Ride at 4:15 am, I couldn’t believe how many people were in the lot. There were about 15 people there, and every single one of them was ready to roll.

The group split up at the Garden, and I watched and listened to our members as they went about their business making their images. Some worked solo and some in pairs, and every single person seemed to be having fun shooting. I saw one person lying on the ground shooting up; another was crouched in the tulips; some (me) chasing squirrels; and a lovely sight of Larry and Pat sitting on a bench watching the ducks and swans in the pond. And I watched Dave Parsons perform his signature photo bomb with Larry’s camera.

All these things reminded me why I joined the club and why I became president: you guys love to shoot photos; you love to create beautiful and interesting images; you love adventure; you are good people. Most importantly you love to have fun. As I discovered this year, not all camera clubs like to have fun. Some are highly competitive and serious about photography. While I understand this approach, it is not the way I like to shoot, compete or spend my free time. And it’s certainly not the way I want to relate to other photographers. SSCC is a lively, occasionally unruly (in a good way!), fun-loving, image-capturing group of people, and that makes it the best photo club around.

Thanks for letting me lead for two years. Now I can set up the sound system blindfolded. I hope I did good by you and by the club. It was a wonderful experience.

~ Neal


President's Corner: Remembrances of Al Foley

When I sent an email out to club members looking for stories about Al, Larry Fay and Len Carroll wrote a couple of remembrances that were too long to make it into the newsletter. So here they are, both well written and accurate. ~ Neal

Larry Fay:


Once, over the summer, I was speaking with Al and asked him if he was ready for another year to chair set up, and he told me he spent the summer rearranging the chairs in his dining room to keep in practice.  I think he was only kidding, but i"m not entirely sure.

Al enjoyed the speakers and competitions, but never entered any of his images into competition. In fact, I don't believe I ever saw one of his images. I imagine he'd be self-deprecating, and would say they're not good enough, but I sometimes wonder if Al will be SSCC's own Vivian Maier, with wonderful images nobody has ever seen. I can only hope.

I was honored to have him as a friend.



Len Carroll:


He was a good friend and his smiling face will be missed. Al was quite proud of his family, quick to tell you of his latest trips to visit family members at various parts of the country. He was quick to offer his services in setting up the meeting room and the clean up afterwards.  In addition to talking and hanging with him at the CC meetings, we used to have breakfast on occasion at Barrys Deli or the Wheel House Diner.  He had an unusual sense of humor and always a kind word.  It was noticed at the Tuesday night meetings he was an avid note taker, making notes of the the goings on, what our guest speakers had to say, and  would also keep track of future events.  

For some reason or another, Al preferred not to enter photos in competition but enjoyed viewing images of others, and the friendship found in being an active member of the club. 

Summing in up, Al was a kind person, an inspiration. and had that special knack of making you feel good when in his presence.

Again, he was one of the "good" guys and will be missed. 






President's Corner: Chair-Man of the Board, Al Foley

I visited Al Foley at home about a month ago. He was well into his illness at that point, but I wanted to have a social visit with him, see how he was doing, and have a chat to find out his thoughts about the camera club and his part in it. 

Al welcomed me into his home in Quincy, a house he shared with his wife Jeanne for many years. Their home was cozy—snug with the many things that he and Jeanne had collected over the years. Al asked me if I wanted some coffee, and I accepted. The pot was already full, hot and waiting to be poured. 

As always, he was prepared. There were cookies and cake on the table, and Al served it all. He was already weakened by the cancer and was a little shaky, but it didn’t stop him from being a good host. I felt welcome.

We sat down at the dining room table where we talked about how he was doing. Al was very frank about his condition; very practical. He showed no concern over it; we just talked. 

One of the things I was interested in was to hear his thoughts on the camera club. I asked him why he joined in 2005. He said that it was a way to distract himself. He was dealing with another medical issue and the club was his way of putting thoughts and worries aside for a time. While he enjoyed taking photos, he was really there for presentations, companionship and camaraderie. Not being one to just take, Al wanted to give back to the club.

Over the past several years, Al was the first one to show up at the church on Tuesday nights. If you ever wondered who set up the chairs in the hall, it was Al. He would set up 100 chairs. By himself. Every Tuesday night. Without fail. And he didn’t just put them out haphazardly. No, with Al they were carefully and systematically set up with laser-like precision—lined up perfectly so that every row was straight and the seats were staggered to let people see the projection screen just a little bit better. It didn’t matter to him that we piled into the hall like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, making a mess of his work. They were still set up perfectly at the start of every meeting. 

Al also spent a lot of his time and talent repairing our dilapidated wooden print hangers. The ends were always breaking because they were thin by design, and Al reinforced many of them with metal bracing. I don’t know if he drilled the metal pieces himself, but it was a custom job that worked perfectly. When the seat on Larry’s stool broke, Al took it home and fixed it. I still have no idea how he did it, but the seat was stronger than it was before. 

Then there was the evening that I came into the hall early and found Al with his tools spread out on the stage. I don’t recall what he was fixing, but I know it was fixed right. 

Because of his generosity and dedication to the club, and because he was the master of setting up the hall, we gave Al the position of Chair-Man of the Board at last year’s Banquet. Larry called Al up and presented him with a Dunkin Donuts gift card, the perfect honorarium for him—he always got himself a DD coffee and a muffin on Tuesday nights. Al accepted graciously, but we knew it was a stretch for him to accept the small gift and honor. He was modest to a fault, and he was as talented as he was humble. But we liked making a fuss. 

With Al’s permission, we are going to name one of the NECCC scholarships after him and present it to a member each year. I know that Al wouldn’t like all the fuss over him, but I also think that he would be quietly happy about it. He would be glad that someone was learning about photography. Thanks for everything, Al. 

~ Neal



President's Corner: Ghosts in the Woods

I went down to Plymouth a few weeks ago to meet Mike Greene at the the Jenney Grist Mill to shoot wildlife photos. I had visited the pond a couple of weeks earlier, but I didn't see much in the way of birds or other wildlife. Still, having Mike there this time would make it fun even if there wasn't much wildlife. But we were surprised by what was there. 

The Plymouth Highway Department crew was at the pond clearing out the three feet snow that had filled the lot during the last storm. Mike came along, and as we headed down to the far end, one of the maintenance crew told us that he had seen two coyotes on the pond ice. With cameras in hand and hopeful hearts, we headed down to the far end of the lot. The pond was quiet, but one of the coyotes finally showed itself on the ice. 

One of my very favorite things in life is to observe wildlife in its habitat, doing what it would ordinarily do. Behaving naturally. Mike and I got plenty of it, too. The lone coyote walked off the ice into the wooded area nearby, and it started hunting for food. It periodically stuck its head way down into the snow to try to catch a mouse or vole, or maybe look for some berries left over from the fall. That's when it occurred to me that this animal, and all the bird life I was seeing must be terribly hungry. The air temperature was in the teens, and the animals' food sources were buried in deep snow. It was evident that this coyote wasn't well. It was scrawny and missing fur in patches on its body. 

Mike and I chatted passionately about nature and photography as we shot frame after frame of this amazing animal. That's when the second coyote showed up in the woods. Bigger and in better health, this animal was curious about us. It walked back and forth at the edge of the woods looking very curiously at us. It seemed torn between wanting to see if we had (or were!) food and being wary of us. Caution prevailed as it walked back into the woods to find its own food. 

Mike and I were in awe. These marvelous creatures living in such a harsh environment made us feel for them, but not so much as to sway us from our knowledge that beautiful or not, the coyotes were not tamed, domestic animals and, in the end, were unpredictable. We chatted for a minute or so, and when we looked back both coyotes were gone–quickly and quietly they completely evaporated. 

This experience was one that I will remember for a long time. The cold snap of the weather, the bright cloudy light, the ghostly coyotes, and the companionship of a remarkable person–all things that make this life a wonderful experience.

~ Neal

Ghost in the woods - Copyright 2015 Neal Skorka