Photography is fun for all

Barbara Blaisdell shares photo tips for better pictures.

By Mike Floyd

Caswell Messenger News Correspondent

Twenty years ago, the art of photography was a very specialized and esoteric skill. The necessary knowledge of shutter speed, light conditions, ISO speed and depth of field were mandatory to snap a decent shot.

Nowadays, with all the highly capable smart phones, taking amazing shots are a hand-held piece of cake. Digital photography has come a long way in terms of quality and convenience. It’s scary how good they can be.

So, is everybody with an i-Phone a photographer? No, not really, because there is much more to photography than just letting a high-tech phone do all the focusing and composing.

In full-on photography, there are camera bodies, lenses, focal settings, equipment like tripods, knowing how to set up a special shot and posing subjects to get a great shot. Lugging around expensive equipment and traveling hundreds of miles for that one perfect landscape shot is what separates the “selfie” shooter from a serious photographer.

Such a photographer is Barbara Blaisdell of nearby Person County. She is the president of the Roxboro Photography Club and photography is a big part of her life.

“After all my job-related relocating ended, my husband, Michael, and I moved back to North Carolina. I became a member of the Wake Forest Photography Club and I was involved with that for ten years. When we moved up here to Person County, I felt like we needed something in the way of a photography club. I went over to the Kirby Theater being that’s the cultural arts center of Person County and the lady there, Erin Hill, recommended several places to have meetings,” explained Blaisdell by phone last week.

“I talked to Maynell Harper at the Roxboro Senior Center, and she graciously gave us a wonderful room to meet once a month. I went to the local newspaper and wrote an article about proposing a new, local photography club. As a result, we had a good-sized group coming out for the first meeting,” says Blaisdell.

The first official meeting was in October of 2018. In November, the new members set up their bylaws, elected new officers, and set up group agenda. Ultimately, the club ended up with about 22 members and the meetings went off regularly, once a month. “But, when COVID hit, in February of 2020 and through July of 2021, we decided not to meet. I kept communicating with our members online to make them aware of what we had been planning, but couldn’t really do so they knew we were in a holding pattern.”

In July of ’21, RPC resumed the face-to-face meetings and only several people showed up because of the fear about the COVID presence, and it held people back. It could use more members.

“Our club mission is that we welcome people with all kinds of experience as whether they have their first camera or they’re Nikon and Canon pro’s, it doesn’t matter. Our whole point is to explore as many aspects of photography that we can to get personally involved in, to getting as many people as possible who can give their perspective and different ways of looking at photography.”

Blaisdell says that several people had come in and talked about action photography and how to shoot it. One of the members, Donnie Solomon, specializes in sports photography. Wells King, a local attorney, came in and answered questions on photography, the law, and copyrights. Another member, Steve Long, has traveled extensively and has done presentations on the different places he’s visited.

“I used to teach photography at Pullen Arts Center in Raleigh for a few years, so I’ve done meetings with the different ways of dealing with light. I’ve done presentations on composition and on all aspects of photography. We’ve had someone come in and talk about basic photography 101. There is also a trouble-shooting meeting segment where any member can ask a question and get help on any photography question, and it will usually get answered with a thorough explanation. It’s not just

troubleshooting, but there’s also a lot of sharing.”

She goes on to say, “We still have people coming that do not have cameras, but just come and it doesn’t matter to them. We had a meeting where Steve Long went over all the new masking aspects of the software, “Light Room,” which lets one change individual details of a photo and not the entire image. All the members found out what you can be done with Photoshop and a computer.”

Charles Gledhill, the former president of the Durham Photo Club, is a regular member and taught a thorough class in Photoshop on how to put frames around pictures, which was enthusiastically received by club members.

As far as Blaisdell’s travels in search of different photo subjects, “She’s been all over the world.” Her most recent trip was to Morocco, which was “quite an experience” and she even got to ride a camel! There has been a trip to Namibia in Africa, South Africa, several safaris, and several trips to Iceland. She has been throughout the U.S., including national parks, and the scenic region of Banff, Canada.

Blaisdell believes she’s taken her best pictures at Caddo Lake, which spans Texas and Louisiana. It is actually a giant cypress forest. A small boat taken out at sunrise or sunset can get some very intriguing back-lit images. Blaisdell says the pictures don’t have to be processed or edited by a computer. They are stand-alone good.

“I’ve shot the ice caves on Lake Superior in the middle of wintertime where you must go across the lake ice, and they pull you and your equipment on a sled with a snow mobile. Then, you spend the whole day out there shooting. I did a presentation at one of the meetings called “Two Lakes” and it was about my shoots at Caddo Lake and Lake Superior.”

Blaisdell prefers outdoor and wildlife photography. She likes shooting in the wintertime and in terms of Yellowstone Park, she enjoys the starkness of winter landscapes and their definition.

“For equipment, I have two camera bodies, three lenses and a tripod. I use all zoom lenses. I also switched from Canon equipment to the lighter Fuji models because it just got way too heavy for me to shoot. I have a wide-angle zoom, my go-to lens which is a 18-135 mm and then I have a 100-400 mm lens. I use them all the time. I swore I wouldn’t buy anymore equipment, but I’ve got a new Fuji body coming in the mail pretty soon. Fuji came out with a new camera with better features than the one I have so it was hard to resist.”

As far as people having a “good eye” for a shot, Blaisdell says, “It depends. Some people have a good sense of composition while other people must learn it. I was very intuitive when it came to composition, however when it came to the technical aspects, I really had to learn those. Many of our members can offer advice on just about any subject in photography.”

She elaborates, “We’re always trying to organize field trips and group shoots, but it’s tough. Everybody’s got responsibilities, this one works, this one doesn’t. We’ve set up field trips at VIR with one of the most popular of all shooting, which is the racing cars and competing motorcycles right down by the track. To capture objects at that speed, photographers must be very familiar with shutter speeds and know how to “pan” (track) as the vehicles go flying by. We know that rodeos, festivals, and circuses can be a great shoot, so we pay attention to related press releases and suggestions by our members.

The club meetings are held, weekdays, at the Person County Senior Center (87 Semora Rd.) at 7 PM and the meetings usually go for an hour and a half. There are normally 12 or 13 loyal members at every meeting.

Blaisdell always tries to get several of the members down to the NC state fair, which is consistently a good shoot. After editing the pictures, the best ones are uploaded to a memory stick and there is a presentation at a future meeting by the photographer. It’s a great way to see the many styles and techniques of each portfolio. Duke Gardens is also a popular photo-op that is done every year.

“This month, I’m going down to Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuse to shoot the Tundra swans and snow geese. It’s down east and near Columbia, SC. That area is on the migratory route of these two fowls, and they come through there every year during January. I used to lead a group of photographers there and I encourage our members to go down there, ride around and get some great wildlife shots.”

There is also plenty of great shooting around Person and Caswell County with all the old farmhouses, period homes, and tobacco barns. The club participates regularly in the Person County Photography Competition and for two years in a row, Steve Long came in with “Best in Show “and Jason Beaver came in once with a “Best in Show.” “We’ve always had people winning first, second, and third place ribbons and our group consistently comes out on top in the composition category,” adds Blaisdell.

Roxboro Photography is on Facebook and prospective members can send questions there. To see more of Barbara Blaisdell’s work, visit her website: