‘Sport, Action and Birds of Prey’ with Larry James. Friday 24 November 2023

On Friday, Ilkley Camera Club was given an engaging ‘members lecture’ by Larry James entitled, ‘Sport, Action and Birds of Prey’ 

Larry, from Silsden, is a long standing member of the club and was for a time its President.  He began his talk by explaining that he began his adventures in digital photography in 2008.  Since then he has developed his skills to achieve many award winning images, particularly of wildlife.  

On display at the event were many of his fine printed images which Larry says he prefers to digital display.  In his talk he gave many many examples of sport and wildlife images together with the stories behind them.

A big part of Larry’s presentation was devoted to planning and the need for extreme patience. On occasions he would sit for many hours in a cold hide waiting for a bird to show, “I sat in a hide for twelve hours waiting for a Northern Goshawk” he said. “I’ve actually been waiting to see one of those for fifty years”.  On another occasion he spent six or seven hours waiting for an action shot of a Pine Marten just to get one photograph.   

On the subject of equipment, planning and preparation is also a key aspect. “I always shoot in manual mode, and it’s always a compromise between aperture, shutter speed and light sensitivity.  “More recently I have switched to automatic ISO (light sensitivity setting) which gives me one less thing to think about ”. “One of the difficulties of focus and exposure is that you have to focus on a subject before it makes an appearance”, he gave some examples of how to anticipate where the bird or athlete would be before it actually arrives. 

Larry talked a lot about the need to practice before the subject comes along. To get a shot of a toad dropping into water he practiced beforehand by dropping a log into the water. “Always plan what you are going to do and practice, be persistent until you get what you want.” 

Larry’s passion for understanding and protecting wildlife was a strong theme in his talk, “it’s been an honor and a real privilege to spend time watching these birds”, he said. 

The Preservation of Grain Act, passed in 1532 by Henry VIII and made even more severe by Elizabeth I in 1566, made it compulsory to kill as many creatures as possible that appeared on an official list of ‘vermin’. Larry explained that these “vermine” Acts were particularly bad news for the Red Kite.  According to the records in one parish, twelve hundred Red Kites were killed and handed in as vermin. More recently the pesticide DDT traveled through the food chain to affect bird populations.  

“I’m not interested in rules and things, but I have come up with a few things that might be helpful”, he said.  

First of all a good photo needs a critical moment, perhaps it can be an interaction or a facial expression.  In a sporting image, it is sometimes difficult to convey motion and the emotional effort required, “you need to be able to tell what’s going on and what the sport is about, capturing the effort is a challenge in a still image. You can include faces, some action and perhaps the ball as well, and you can think about a bit of a story”.   In sports shots, backgrounds are a particular problem, but Larry’s advice was to try to think about how you can use them to add to the story.

Stu Thompson thanked Larry on behalf of the club, paying tribute to his patience and persistence in achieving some fine work. 

Ilkley Camera Club is currently meeting on Friday evenings at 7.30pm. Some meetings are held at St Peter’s Church Hall in Addingham and others on Zoom. For more information visit the Club website at ilkleycameraclub.co.uk or their Facebook page, facebook.com/ilkleycameraclub. Visitors are welcome.

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