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A pie and a pint by Simon Caplan

Simon Caplan "Out of the Dark"

Still Life in the Style of the Old Masters
Guest speaker, Simon Caplan, is a man of many photographic talents as his web and social media activity illustrate so well. Bristol based with an interest in wide a range of interesting genres in more “normal” times , and a host of exhibitions to his name, Simon based his presentation on Thursday on his techniques for light sculpted, classic, still life images. Like many of our members, for Simon’s sanity, the camera has been a lifeline in lockdown. The enforced isolation and restrictions on wider travel have given him the opportunity to hone his skills in a darkened garage, where he perfects the art of still life photography, largely but not exclusively, in the style of the Old Masters.

Members were entertained and educated by Simon’s whole presentation “Out of the Dark”, in which he took us on a journey through the work of those artists and photographers that have inspired him and influenced his personal style. Along the way he gave us a wealth of tips and links to help us develop similar images that make the most of lighting, colours and backgrounds, arranged and executed in ways that give pleasing three dimensional images with complementary tones and textures so beloved of Renaissance artists, and latterly adopted by modern successful photographers.

Simon was adept at explaining the basis of his arrangements of often everyday objects, something members have found difficult in the past, and his creative use of limited light sources often from simple torches that give the ability to “paint with light”. We were directed to Caravaggio for his use of surfaces, textures and line, as well as Claesz for his ability to shape with light and textures. Chardin, he says, will be good for ideas and Weston can inspire us with monochrome. He kept the technicalities simple- a 50mm lens on a Bulb setting for 40-70 seconds at f16-18 on ISO 100/200, and gave us plenty of his own work to illustrate the points he makes so clearly. Modern photography techniques were explored in the second half of the programme alongside the muted colours in the Dutch photographer Tinneke Stoffels’ work as well as, amongst other modern takes on the still life theme, the work of Britain’s Mandy Disher who uses flat lays and lightpads in her stunning work, the Russian Diana Amelina, and the American food photographer Michael Lamotte, again a monochrome artisan. This was an evening in which those with an interest in controlling the light and form in their own photography could learn a great deal, from a practical and talented man so keen to develop the skills in others. Simon was warmly thanked, and members look forward to his return as a competition judge in the Autumn.

In the meantime, the next Challenge will be to produce Still Life images in the style of the Old Masters” to encourage us to dabble in the “dark” art immediately. The Committee meets in the coming week to finalise arrangements for the coming year, which remains uncertain regarding face-to- face meetings. However, as usual Jill is masterminding a programme that has something for everyone, and our regular walks look set to continue due to popular demand. Next week we welcome new to NRPS judge, Bob Phelps, who has kindly judged our latest competition, “Pathways.”

Jenny Short 09.04.2021