“When you look at all these photos,” says Mike Anderson, one of the originating members of the Photography club at Callawassie, “It looks like everything was perfect. They got a perfect photo. What you don’t see is all the trial and error, exploration, and discovery.” A chorus of members echo in agreement, synchronized as they paint a picture of their shared and passionate interest. Equally passionate, however, is the point emphasized between refrains: All are welcome.
Gene Durick, one of the founding members in 2011, was among those inspired by the Art Club to ask, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could exhibit photos?” Joined by fellow Islanders Joan Eckhardt and Mike McNally, and with input from the Beaufort Photography Club on where to begin, the Callawassie Island Photography Club was born, and would continue to be a source of art and inspiration, as well as connection and innovation through the years.
Longtime resident and a member from the start, Mike Anderson encapsulates it saying, “We focus on education and opportunity. All meetings are education oriented – learning new skills and learning from other people – and the club provides opportunities to connect with interesting resources and go out as a group to good shooting locations. We average 40 members consistently over the years. We meet monthly with the first half hour as a social gathering, but even during that time, there’s a slideshow running of member photos, where you enjoy seeing your work, and get the opportunity to ask someone how they got a particular shot.” Beyond this, meetings are organized around visiting experts or members sharing on specific subjects and now in 2020 include valuable webinars and learning sessions.
“The club is designed to make it easy to get involved no matter your skill level,” Durick reassures. “We’re there to help each other.” The Club is structured around building blocks like Focus Groups, Mentor Groups, field trips, annual workshops, events, and exhibits. Canon and Nikon groups (camera models used in majority) concentrate on learning your equipment, while the Lightroom Group introduces photography-based software and sharpens editing skills. Where you gain perhaps the greatest momentum is by participating in a Mentor Group.
Self-ascribed as “as new as it gets” member Christine Reck attests, “A beginner can come in and feel completely comfortable in one of the Mentoring Groups asking the most basic questions from how turn the camera on to which lens to use.”
Like so many, Reck’s interest in photography was especially piqued by a move to Callawassie Island. “My husband bought me a camera and said, ‘You have to be a photographer. You love nature and being outdoors.’ I’d never done anything but a little point and shoot. I got into a Nikon Mentor Group and the Lightroom Group. When I started, I was afraid of having no experience whatsoever. I learned quickly that all it takes is patience – which I don’t have – and luck — which I have a little. It helps to have a general eye but what helps the most is what you get from others – the constructive criticism and encouragement from people who have been doing this longer than you have. I went from terrified to comfortable and I am so glad I gave it a shot.”
A majority of members start out like Reck, beginners who became interested in photography by merit of moving to Callawassie, which is understandable from any vantage point from the gate onward. Because of this, the Mentoring Program is perhaps the most valuable offering, for the expertise transferred, relationships forged, and common ground shared by members from hobbyists to pros.
Anderson encourages, “Most start out not knowing about exposure, equipment, lighting, and at first it can seem overwhelming. But you have a group to support you in your process, hold your hand as you progress, guide you along the path, and feed you the information you need when you need it. Even when we get into more complex topics, instruction is geared toward teaching members at any level. We make an effort to make sure anyone understands, there’s a place for you.”
The voices represented here are an accurate illustration of the variety in the group – from founding and originating members to curious amateurs to nervous novices. “Since starting in 2011,” Anderson says, “It’s fun to see the changes from some who come in as beginners, nervous about displaying their work against more experienced photography, then seeing over the years the change in the photos – and in the people – and seeing how involvement in the Photography Club makes a difference.”
Advice to those curious about joining from someone who did? “Trust that you are welcome,” says Reck. “Be patient. Allow yourself the room to learn and to try and wait to get the shot. Enjoy. And watch where you’re walking.”
If that advice sounds like there’s a backstory to it, there is; one of several to be shared in upcoming coverage from recent interviews with the Photography Club as well as their annual Fall event, plus a peek into the great “exposure” the club offers to connections both on and off the island.
For those who resonate with the call of the wild heard here, take the advice from current members who started the club a decade ago, or island residents coming and going for 25 years, or newer recruits fresh off the training wheels. You needn’t an ounce of experience to find your flock, and on an island like Callawassie, anywhere you point your lens is already pretty much Picture Perfect.
Learn more about the clubs and events at Callawassie Island here!