Behind the lens: Get a glimpse into the Sumter Digital Camera Club

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 2/27/19

Visitors to Swan Lake-Iris Gardens can likely observe others any day taking pictures of swans, ducks and occasionally even a bald eagle. Nature-goers at Santee National Wildlife Refuge, Poinsett …

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Behind the lens: Get a glimpse into the Sumter Digital Camera Club

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Visitors to Swan Lake-Iris Gardens can likely observe others any day taking pictures of swans, ducks and occasionally even a bald eagle. Nature-goers at Santee National Wildlife Refuge, Poinsett State Park or any other shoreline along Lake Marion, Moultrie or Wateree can likely observe others any day capturing foggy landscapes, reflections in still-as-glass water and kaleidoscope sunsets. Usually, hikers, explorers and photo hobbyists observe the beauty of the Midlands in small groups, alone or with family.

I see them. Usually with iPhones, but I’m not surprised when I see an actual camera with an actual lens that can zoom.

I was covering a historical backcountry event at the Sumter County Museum for the paper a recent fall weekend when I saw something I had not before. A group of about 15 people, all with digital SLR cameras, shooting the event together.

They were members of the Sumter Digital Camera Club, a group of photography hobbyists from Sumter and the surrounding area who “love to shoot, share photos and enjoy being in the company of like-minded folks.”

Club members split their shared time between a classroom setting, where they meet quarterly at the Central Carolina Technical College’s main campus library to watch videos focused on a chosen theme before an open discussion, and the world within walking distance to frequent day-trips and occasional weekend excursions. Their walkabouts have been anywhere from documenting downtown scenes in black and white to capturing color and shadows in wildlife and nature.

“We try to get together as often as we can,” said Nancy Byer, a club member and one of three administrators of the group’s Facebook page, where they post photo themes and challenges, host a yearly contest, share informative articles and hold a platform to – if wanted – ask for constructive criticism.

They have practiced long exposures during night shoots. They’ve gotten together to capture Christmas lights, learn the macro settings, frame for black and white photos. Through the club, they’ve witnessed waterfalls, meteors, the moon and stars, themed shoots on rust, abandoned buildings, state parks, historic sights, light trails, the Milky Way and cemeteries.

I can’t imagine many better ways to learn about the world around you.

‘A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW’

The group was spearheaded in 2005 by Chris Moore, a former photographer for The Sumter Item who is now the interactive media coordinator at Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital. He was an adjunct instructor for a basic photography class at CCTC when his students “really wanted to learn more.”

“They wanted to go out and take pictures and just to be exposed to different things outside the classroom,” he said.

Moore is not affiliated with the club anymore, but he said one of the most interesting aspects of getting a group of people together to shoot the same scene or event or place is that it can produce as many different photos as photographers.

Take, for example, a walkabout at Swan Lake with that group of 15 I saw at the museum. One will focus on the birds and ducks. Another will notice how the light hits the trees and water. Someone else will capture how the color pops from a certain angle.

“It just helps you to just enjoy the art of it and enjoy the art of photography and just how people look at the same thing, yet they see something different,” Moore said.

Sherry Lawrence, a club member, said it is a “good community and a good way to better your craft.”

It’s not, Byer said, simply about photo sharing. It’s about a passion for the hobby of photography and for learning from and with others.

“You can look at someone’s photo and say, ‘How did you shoot that? What settings? What were you thinking?’” club member George Davidson said.

For Pete Lawrence, the club has been a friendly way to learn the mechanics of digital photography after starting with film in 1974.

Some members have been in the club for years, some for three weeks.

“It gives you a different point of view,” club member Glen Clinch said.

A point of view changing with each camera’s settings, each photographer’s experience, passion, eye.

I could keep talking about the club, but who wants to read 1,000 words when there are photos that tell it all?