Insights - Norman Marsh, 01 Jul 2020

Insights - occasional articles about our club members - Norman Marsh, 01 Jul 2020
'Insights' is a series of occasional articles about our club members. We hope you have been enjoying reading these short articles about some of our members and their journey so far in photography. On this occasion, my time for a chat over coffee has been with Norman Marsh.

Norman has been a member of the club since 1990 with a short break of a few years when he left the UK to live and work in the Middle East. Some of you may recall in the early 90’s that Norman served on the Committee as Programme Secretary, along with Gerry Comley, Penny Piddock, John Tilsley, Fred Worth, Frank Cooknell, and Roy Lowe to name but a few.

Like many of us, Norman’s interest started when he was a boy of about ten. Every Saturday morning he would go to town with his Mum for the usual weekend shop and after what seemed boringly ages, he was given free range to ‘look around’. He always made his way to a small photographic shop at the end of Darlington High Street. Although he knew his parents could never afford any of the cameras, he was mesmerised and intrigued and determined to get a camera – one day !!! And so it came to pass that his first camera was a Kodak Brownie 127 - fixed focal length lens, fixed shutter speed etc and to quote “He loved it “!!! A couple of years later, he was given a Canon Demi
(half frame camera ) by his elder brother – and felt like the ‘bees knees’ at the age of 12! His first SLR was a Zenith B and remained so for years until he fell for Nikon’s Nikkormat FTn and has been a Nikon follower since! By the age of 15, he was developing and printing and was still doing that when he got an ‘A’ Level in Photography at the age of 45!

Norman enjoys taking images of all things – landscapes to macro, but his favourite is People and more especially, candid and street photography. He thinks he may be a closet voyeur, as he seems able to indulge and participate with strangers with no ill-effects. Maybe that’s why he has taken up being a photo Judge with the WCPF – and thoroughly enjoying it!

Taking forward his People photography, the only criteria for him is to have a place where there are things to do or occupy the subjects, so that they are unaware or oblivious to his presence. The seaside and shopping areas are excellent – though some quieter places can also produce surprise results. So when it comes to planning any photography outing, this invariably is associated with the kit that he is going to use and take with him. Having been caught out before with a lack of battery power, the night before he will make sure that all batteries are fully charged – and that includes spares! Like most of us, if he’s guilty of anything, it’s probably taking more kit than he actually needs, although for anything landscape he’ll probably stick to one or two filters and then wish he’d brought the big stopper or grad etc. The other items he must take (and he has left without them before) is a mobile and his wallet – you always need a cup of tea somewhere or an Ice-cream!

When it comes to any advice he has received, the two that he has always tried to follow (given when he was a member of Darlington Camera Club a long time ago) are - ‘Fill the Frame’ and when using a long lens 'use a shutter speed that is the reciprocal of the focal length’. Although understanding that modern cameras have Vibration Reduction systems (he has them himself) and faster shutter speeds may reduce some ‘creativity’, it’s a long term habit and hard to fight against. Likewise, the other piece of advice – today’s ethos is to show context of surroundings and that flies in the face of ‘Fill the Frame’. Rules are made to be broken, so he’ll keep shooting anyway!

With so many years enjoying his photography, one incident came to mind when on a family holiday to Thailand in the 1980’s. His family were visiting an elephant sanctuary - loads of elephants of all ages - some rescued and some born there. At that time there was very little control of the people - some drifted off whilst some older folk stopped to rest due to the heat. It was this later group that brought this story to mind.

An elderly couple feeling the heat sat back on a large boulder and surveyed with interest an adult female and her energetic calf. This calf was running about ‘like a naughty child’ and actually quite amusing. It suddenly caught sight of this old woman on the rock and made its way swiftly to her. In horror it touched her with its trunk and then rolled on top of her whilst she sat on the rock!!! The people who saw this, including myself, instinctively ran to her and started pushing this calf off. No one gave a thought about the mother elephant! The keepers reacted swiftly and thrashed the calf who got to its feet - only for it to flop back down onto the woman again. Well, we all got the little fellow off and questioned the husband as to whether his wife was alright and not injured. He assured us all that she was shaken and nothing broken – the only comment he offered was ‘that he didn’t even have time to take a photo.’ Motto: Always be prepared!

Of all the images Norman has taken, one of his favourites was back in the days of slides. His wife and their 3 month old son were touring around Switzerland. Very early one morning, he got up to find himself in swirling mist on the shore of a Lake (name not recalled!). There in the swirling mist in that eerie half-light he spotted the ramparts of a castle on an island in the lake. Hand held he took the shot and was greatly impressed when he got the slides back. The result was one of blue-grey swirls – very grainy just indicating the castle - very ethereal. He just loves that image - and the happy memories of the holiday!

As mentioned previously, Norman is an avid Nikon Man! He has progressed to a classic F2SB (which he still has) and eventually moved over to Digital format with a Nikon 7100. Currently he uses a D800. Like a lot of us – once you buy into a system it can be very expensive to change to another brand – so you stay – he has not been disappointed at any stage with his Nikon choice! However like several of us, he has delved into the mirrorless sphere after a Panasonic evening at the Club a few years ago. He was very impressed by the GX8 as promoted by Damien Demolder, and it is his ‘go to’ camera for street photography.

So, what next for Norman - Fine Art Nude! Not quite the answer I was expecting! Certainly, this is outside of his photographic comfort zone and the current lockdown has not enabled him to pursue this genre very much. With studio costs and model costs being quite expensive it imposes certain constraints, but he will overcome them and partially fulfil a requirement of the fine art degree that he had intended to follow after his ‘A’ level photography years before.



~ by “Camera Shy"
Norman and Sue at Uluru