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Every year, I make the five hour trek to Amherst, MA for the NECCC (New England Council of Camera Clubs) convention, a weekend affair where over 1000 photographers, ranging from beginners to enthusiasts to seasoned pros, gather for seminars and fellowship. And of course to look at the excellent selection of money-sucking gear and tours on the excellent trade floor put together by Hunt’s and the suppliers. The campus is the least photogenic on Earth, but the photography on display makes you forget where you are.

Not scenic UMass campus.

Not scenic UMass campus. Photo by D. Gould.

As I will be shooting wildlife for the first time this October, I paid special attention to travel and outdoor offerings. The excellent Roman Kurywczak gave the best one hour introduction on shooting wildlife imaginable, and David Wells (finally, an Olympus shooter) mixed inspirational photos with practical advice. Dave uses mirrorless cameras, which sets him apart from the crowd, and Olympus was there in force, offering rentals for the first time, right alongside Canikon.

The weekend also featured the excellent Dave Cross from NAPP/Kelby, conference favorite Janice Wendt, who is now working for Perfectly Clear, Jim DiVatale, who always has something new to teach, conference regulars Joe LeFevre and Mark Bowie with their challenging night and time lapse work, and Truman Holtzclaw, who might be the funniest photographer on the planet. Keynote speaker Nevada Weir told interesting tales of risky photography and showed fascinating documentary photos, though her presentation oddly failed to hold the audience for an hour and a half. I don’t blame her – because of remodeling, the keynote had to be delivered twice (Friday and Saturday) in an uncomfortable hall, after dinner, and following a half hour of awards and raffles. Once the Fine Arts Center renovation is finished, we should be moving back to a suitable venue for this sort of presentation.

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Phenomenal instructors. Photo from Mike Moats.

On the technical side, Brenda Hipsher from X-Rite (color management) and Cemal Ekin (printing) clarified issues and techniques that puzzle a lot of photographers who are taking the leap and managing their own workflow from capture to output.

There were a few clunkers, as expected, though I did not expect the normally superb Shiv Verma to look so completely lost demonstrating selections.

As always, one of the highlights was Antoinette Gombeda’s Camera Club session, where I got to meet other club officers and exchange ideas. This year the topic was finding programs and speakers, and I learned a lot about that often frustrating endeavor.

As for trends, which are always apparent at these gatherings:

1. The RAW vs JPG war is over. With today’s fast cards and cheap storage, there is no reason not to shoot RAW exclusively.

2. More photographers are managing their own workflow. “Calibrate and profile your monitor” has become as pronounced a mantra as “Shoot RAW.” It has even extended to profiling individual cameras. Color Checkers and iOne/Munki machines were flying out the door.

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3. Despite the refinement of global adjustment software like Lightroom, and slider and preset driven plugins from OnOne, Nik, Topaz, and Perfectly Clear, etc., shooters are taking more control over adjustments and learning to make selections and use layers. The tablet has become the latest must have peripheral, touted by virtually every speaker. As Jane Conner-Ziser memorably said at an event I once attended, “Using a mouse to do retouching is like using a potato to wash your car.”

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Time to start making plans for next year’s trip to this marvelously run, informative, inspiring conference. I definitely want to avoid those lousy dorm beds by finding a hotel, so I am booking now.

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