Ron took us on a photographic journey to see the Sika deer on the Arne peninsular and other locations in Dorset. He has been visiting the area for 20 years and has not only built up local knowledge of the area but has also encyclopaedic knowledge of the deer. This means he knows the best places to photograph them and what they will be doing. It also means that over these two decades photographing them he has acquired 5,000 ‘keepers’.
Ron showed us an array of top class shots of the deer on Arne where he could get close up to them. All this though came to an end in 2019 when, due to prize-bull breeders lobbying, the RSPB changed its policy on culling the Sika deer and brought in a more aggressive cull of them. The remaining deer were much more elusive to photograph and for Ron it was a ‘paradise lost’ and he had to look elsewhere.
Fortunately, after numerous tries, he did manage to find a new venue and showed some very tender intimate moments between a stag and a hind as they ‘danced a tango’. The stag rather than the pumped-up testosterone-fuelled beast of the rut was a sensitive ‘mate’ and Ron captured this beautifully. It is no wonder Ron has been awarded the British Deer Society Photographer of the Year for the last three years.
The second half of his talk was focussed on Peregrines that fly along the cliffs of Dorset. Over the years Ron has discovered several perches on the cliff edges which the Peregrines use.
Peregrines are wonderful powerful birds and superb killing machines. There is little notice of when they will take off from their perch. Ron has stood for two hours with his camera on a monopod trained on a bird waiting for a shot. He showed many pin sharp shots of birds in flight, great action shots with all feathers captured, catch lights in the eyes and even one of these jet fighters of the bird world looking into the camera as it zoomed past.
Ron finished his talk with some tips: find a subject you are passionate about, be persistent, find the place(s) where you can best photograph your subject and return and return and return.
In the second half of the evening Dave took us through his journey of achieving his British Photographic Exhibitions 5 Crown Award (BPE5). To achieve it Dave had to get 300 acceptances in BPE approved photographic exhibitions, there are currently 17 approved exhibitions.
Dave started this journey to a BPE5 award unintentionally with a holiday shot of a shepherd with his flock in Greece getting accepted. He would occasionally get a shot he had put in accepted and he showed shots of a lone tree, damsel fly with prey, mushroom close up, hover fly in poppy, minimalist grass in water reflection and others. All these were in old money – film. Then digital came along and Dave started to learn how to use Photoshop.
Digital and retirement meant that he could not only take more photos but he could go on photographic holidays. Dave showed superb photos of wildlife from trips to Kenya, Canada and Namibia. These shots got accepted and soon he had achieved his BPE3 without knowing. He then decided why not go for BPE4 and through doing this concentrate on improving his photography. He kept, and added to, a pool of photographs in his Lightroom catalogue for potential exhibition entries.
His first Gold Medal was a stunning shot of two Oryx, horns locked in battle, and his most successful shot was a Bald Eagle in the snow. Dave had many superb shots on show, flamingos in silhouette, pelican flying and reflected in the water, salt workers in low sunlight etc but it was always a puzzle to him what the ‘judges’ were looking for. Novelty or rarity was something that worked but Dave was taking photos for himself, things he enjoyed, he wasn’t taking shots for others.
At the end of his talk he asked himself: was it worth it? An end in itself? No. But as a discipline to improve your photography an emphatic Yes. As with lots of things in life the journey is the reward. Wise words indeed.
Many thanks to Ron and Dave for such an interesting, quality image packed and inspiring evening.