Victoria Camera Club members Richard James

Victoria Camera Club draws from around the Capital Region

The West Shore provides resident club members, and those just visiting, with infinite photographic ideas

Photography is an activity that knows no bounds, in terms of who can take it up.

The advent of digital photography and advances in technology have combined to give people with the most rudimentary photographic skills the ability to create pleasing images.

The Victoria Camera Club, established in 1944, has grown along with the popularity of capturing images using whatever means one has at their disposal. Its roughly 300 members come from around the Capital Region, including many West Shore residents. As a group, it continues to offer people with a love for photography – from rank beginners to professionals – a venue to share ideas and learn ways to improve their skills, in everything from specific shooting scenarios to general photographic concepts.

Club members Leah Gray, Nancy MacNab and Richard James, gathered recently in a busy Langford coffee shop for a conversation about the club and photography in general. They pointed out that amateurs looking to up their game need not be overwhelmed by those with more time behind the lens.

While many club members produce stunning images – many of which can be viewed on the organization’s website, – the trio pointed out that one need not be an expert shooter or own thousands of dollars worth of equipment to be welcomed into the fold.

“You can have a point-and-shoot, you can be working with your cell phone, you’re still more than welcome. And you can still learn a lot,” says Langford resident MacNab.

The club meets three times a month between September and May, but also puts on seven or eight events in that time, usually workshops dedicated to specific areas of photography such as night photography or lighting; or field trips aimed at getting people out to new areas and to practise their skills.

“Almost all of our workshops are run by members. We do a few paid ones but generally it’s members helping members,” said James, a Saanich resident who is VCC vice-president in charge of communications and editor of the club’s award-winning magazine Close-Up.

“It’s a real community,” adds MacNab. “Everyone helps everyone else. If I don’t know the answer, or Richard doesn’t know … there’s always someone who can help.”

Gray, who lives in Colwood, joined the club nine months ago but has already taken on the busy job of webmaster. She and her husband have been avid photographers for many years and even plan their holidays around shooting locations or iconic sites. But they’ve found that joining the club has helped expand their photographic work.

“Having others to bounce ideas off makes such a difference,” she said. “The more you learn you want to try things.”

While they agree the club’s demographic has traditionally leaned toward older, often retired people with more time to spend taking pictures – a couple of members have been with the club more than 40 years – James said the average age is gradually getting younger. “As the club has grown over the years the membership has become more diverse,” he said.

MacNab explained that shift further.

“It used to be very heavily weighted toward the landscape and nature photographers, and now there’s a much more diverse interest range as well,” she said. “There’s more people, more street photography, more night photography.”

“We want to see more portraits and more sports,” added Gray.

In terms of favourite places to shoot, Gray said often some of the best places are close to home.

“Get up in the morning, check the light, run down to Albert Head or Esquimalt … when the light is too good you can’t not go out,” she says of her routine. “There’s nothing like sitting in the dark with your cup of coffee, just waiting for the sun to come up. There’s something about that quiet time that is part of the experience.”

The proverbial “golden hour” when the light is perfect happens twice a day.

MacNab often stops by the Gorge Waterway for a walk on her way home from work in town and frequently brings her camera. Not only are the Japanese Gardens in Esquimalt Gorge Park a picturesque spot, she said, there’s usually people walking their dogs or boats travelling along the waterway, to create more activity in the shot.

James, a landscape specialist who had been shooting in Goldstream Park, Esquimalt Lagoon and Thetis Lake this particular week, pointed out that a person can plan their photo trip and be prepared to a certain extent. While being alert is always a good thing when shooting in a rural or remote area, one of the best suggestions is to look behind you to see what you may have missed, he said.

Membership in the club runs $85 a year for individuals, $43 for students and $128 for families. Interested parties may sit in at three meetings before deciding whether to join. For more information on the club, visit

The best from behind the lens

• Today (Nov. 10) the Victoria Camera Club opens an exhibit of members’ work at Art Atelier 546 Gallery in Victoria. The items in the show range run the gamut, from landscape and people shots to black-and-white and digitally enhanced imagery. Colwood resident Leah Gray’s monochrome photo (shown above) of a windblown horse on a rugged hillside is among the 36 juried prints in the exhibit.

A special opening reception is being held tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at the gallery, with artists in attendance. The show runs from now until Nov. 24. Art Atelier 546 is located at 546 Yates St. and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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