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Shooters helping shooters

Two photos clubs — one a half-century old, the other started in 2011 — both feature monthly critique challenges to help develop and keep member’s skills sharp, and both welcome newcomers to the hobby.

“We do have rank beginners who are interested in learning,” said Barbara Tricarico, president of the Southern Oregon Photographic Association, which has been around for more than 50 years.

Andy Spliethof, organizer of the Rogue Valley Photography Club, has seen novices become really good at shooting in a short time after joining the club. The club has a number of retired members as well as students and working people.

“Most of us are amateurs or hobbyists or extreme hobbyists. There are some professionals in the group,” said Spliethof. “You can get into a club with true experts.”

RVPC has 386 registered participants who receive notices of meetings and competitions through the meetup.com internet platform, but not all of those pay the $10 annual dues. The group has grown from about 100 when Spliethof joined a few months after it started.

The association has 46 members who pay the annual $45 dues. There’s an annual meeting, but a board of directors takes care of most club business. A monthly newsletter published on the club’s website displays works submitted for the contests and lists contest rules and judging criteria.

RVPC meetings are the second Wednesday of each month at the Medford library and usually see from 25 to 30 people attending. Meetings are held primarily to critique submissions to online galleries, but there are also times that workshops are offered.

Shooting themes for critiques are announced monthly, and members have until the next meeting month to submit, Spliethof said. Monthly themes usually include a color, a subject and a hunt. For February those were “white, food, and chairs, stairs, bears, stares.” Other themes over the last year included holidays and black-and-white photos.

“It’s to challenge people to get out and do it,” said Spliethof. Many photographers are learning on a regular basis, and the meetings give them a chance to share discoveries with others.

A few photographers who work globally or nationally but live in the Rogue Valley and want to remain relatively anonymous will occasionally do a workshop covering topics such as how to set up a studio or shot framing, said Spliethof.

Tricarico describes most members of her group as hobbyists, although some members show at galleries or sell for publication.

“We have contests. And we always strive for the perfect pictures,” said Tricarico. SOPA has both online and print competitions.

SOPA holds meetings at Twin Creeks Retirement Center in Central Point on the first and second Tuesdays of each month. At the first meeting members view digital images submitted in a slide show and get to view submitted prints. Nonmembers are welcome to attend the shows.

“We get lots of prints. It’s more traditional,” said Tricarico. “It’s not just taking the photo, but making sure it’s printed decently.”

The second meeting is devoted to educational topics. Photographers from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, areas businesses and the Mail Tribune have given presentations to the group.

Both groups also feature field trips.

Sometimes RVPC challenges will revolve around a trip to places such as Harry and David, Hanley Farms, waterfalls or the Chinese New year parade in Jacksonville, said Spliethof.

SOPA usually takes one field trip per year. They have visited the coast, Klamath Basin wildlife refuges, Eugene and Wildlife Safari in Winston. The trips are designed to be fun with no shooting competition involved.

“We have a lot of the same members,” Spliethof said of the two groups. There are a few small groups of photographers who meet regularly to critique each other’s work, he said, but those generally aren’t open to the public.

Tricarico is also a member of the Rogue Women Photographers Association, which has about 25 members and regularly schedules shooting field trips. More information about the group can be found on Facebook.

Web addresses for the clubs are: sopacameraclub.com and meetup.com/Rogue-Valley-Photography-Club.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

“Moment of Reflection,” by Sue Stendebach, a member of the Southern Oregon Photographic Association.
Rudy Dierks of the Southern Oregon Photographic Association took this photo at the Josephine County Gun Club during a Cowboy Action Shooting Event.