Keswick Photographic Society was pleased to welcome Gary Langley as the first outside speaker of the season at their normal Wednesday evening meeting time but in the new pandemic format of an online Zoom presentation from the speaker at his home.
Gary hails from Nottingham and has been a member of a number of camera clubs in that area, including a stint as Vice-Chairman of the prestigious Rolls Royce Photographic Society of Derby. He is sponsored by Paper Spectrum, a company renowned for its Pinnacle photographic paper range and Gary was at pains to lament the fact that his presentation was digital rather than his preferred physical display of photographic prints.
Although he had titled his presentation Faces and Places, in the event Gary also included fauna and flora as an added bonus. But he did indeed start off with images of faces, in a series of unconventional portraits. These were mostly off-beat characters set against equally off-beat graffiti-laden backgrounds, some of which were introduced in Photoshop post-processing to give composite images. He readily admitted that his style was not always appreciated by judges used to traditional approaches. The ‘grotesque’ treatment was accentuated by his choice of lens, Instead of the normal 50-75mm focal length range which portrait photographers favour, he uses a 17-40mm lens which inevitably introduces facial distortions into an image. This worked quite well for some of the punk-type characters with facial piercings and exotic hair styles. His image of the ‘Punk Couple’ showed this effect in practice; the couple in question were in fact separate portraits with the match-making accomplished in Photoshop.
Gary then moved on to Places, with the exact placements often being suggested by research of his intended travel location on photographic websites. As he confessed, the location of the images tended to fall into two types – those where his wife drove him to in the British Isles (he doesn’t drive) and more exotic overseas locations where he took his wife on holiday for her birthdays. Perhaps I should mention that his presentation was entertainingly peppered with this deadpan humour! Of course the British landscapes and places were far from mundane and included Southwold, Brighton, the Sage and Millennial Bridge in Tyneside, Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, the Peak District and the Isle of Harris, Cairngorms and other highlands of Scotland. The overseas locations featured Western Australia and Singapore amongst others.
Some of his images were an interesting departure from the standard landscape format by having a camera converted with an infrared sensor. In particular this tends to bleach out the greens in a landscape so that fields and trees appear to be cloaked in snow. An example from Swaledale in north Yorkshire was an image which showed the effectiveness of this technique.
Finally we were introduced to his love of the natural world. Gary showed an array of bird portraits, taken with a telephoto 70-300mm lens, which were incredibly detailed in their plumage and other anatomical details whilst having sympathetically-coloured non-intrusive backgrounds which is the hallmark of an accomplished wiildlife photographer. Mammals included otters, water vole, red squirrels, prairie dogs and kangaroos. But his self-confessed passion for insects was what captured his imagination and our admiration. There were pin-sharp butterflies, staghorn beetle and a wolf spider, but the star of the show was the praying mantis. Gary’s photograph showed how perfectly these insectivores can imitate the twigs on which they perch while they lie in wait for their prey to inadvertently come within reach.
Inevitably Gary had to address the challenge of lockdown and he embarked on a new project of flower and plant still life portraits taken indoors using studio lighting. Mostly they were photographed against plain, mostly white, backgrounds which showed off the architectural detail of the plants and flower arrangements as well as their colours. Some portraits were combined with textured layers in Photoshop to give a more artistic presentation and the subjects included wild flowers as well as cultivated plants and flowers.
The audience were left to acclaim the quality of the images on show and the creativity with which Gary approaches his photography by a visual display of applause on their Zoom screens. While this is not the same as a physical presence, the online approach to presentations at least provides the opportunity to enjoy seeing the work of other photographers and to gain inspiration from hearing their approaches to their art.