If you’ve read a copy of The News recently, you will have noticed the fantastic photographic spreads featuring images from around the world, and taken on our own doorstep here on the south coast.
The incredible pictures – from a kestrel in flight swooping down on its prey, an eerie shipwreck by moonlight, or even a busy Indian marketplace – are all good enough to have appeared within the pages of National Geographic magazine.
But they are actually the work of members of camera clubs – groups where people of all levels go to share ideas and learn and develop new skills.
They are welcoming groups where everyone was once a beginner, and there is no need for fancy equipment to get started.
Jean Brooks is the chairwoman of the highly-regarded Havant Camera Club and knows all about the pursuit of the perfect shot.
‘Photography has completely transformed the way I look at the world around me,' the Hayling Island resident explains.
‘When I pick up my camera I’m ready to explore and discover new places. That eagerness, over time, has helped me develop a skill for observation.
‘I’ve become much more appreciative and aware of what’s around me and everything, from one interesting angle or another, is an opportunity.’
This thirst for life through a lens took a step up for Jean during her 30s, when her penchant for photography became more serious.
Her desire to immortalise beautiful moments – shared by each and every member at Havant Camera Club – has earned her acclaim on a national level.
Six years ago, her wintry shot of beach huts at West Wittering in West Sussex, right, won the Your View award in the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition. And in that same year, her chaotic long exposure of a bustling row of kiosks at Grand Central Station in New York City won a prize in the Urban Photographer of the Year competition.
Without a doubt, she says, being part of Havant Camera Club for the past 25 years has brought such success as this within reach.
‘To even get a mention in a competition you know is entered by hundreds of photographers is extremely fulfilling,’ she explains.
‘But to win comes with a huge feeling of achievement, especially knowing someone on a jury who really knows their stuff has looked at your work and likes it.
‘We run internal competitions at our own club and to have someone critique your work constructively is so helpful for a photographer, irrespective of experience.’
Though Jean’s talent has come from decades of practice, all clubs in the area say beginners should not be worried to get stuck in – even if that means getting involved with a smartphone at first to learn the basics.
This is certainly the view of Geoff Foote, who for the past five years has been chairman at the Fareham and Portchester Camera Club.
Between September and June, his members meet every Tuesday at Portchester Parish Hall.
‘New faces and beginners are what makes a club like ours thrive,' the 74-year-old explains.
‘I have seen first-hand absolute beginners grow and go on to do well in our own competitions and make a name for themselves among other regional and national bodies too.
‘Although we are full at the moment with about 40 members, we are very open to everybody who is over the age of 18 and we do have a waiting list they can join.’
Fareham and Portchester Camera Club members, like others across the region, don’t just benefit from a programme of team photo walks and competitions overseen by the Southern Counties Photographic Federation.
They also enjoy talks from seasoned shooters and outside visitors, who as well as imparting valuable knowledge, help build a friendly informal atmosphere which puts everybody at ease.
Val Goldsworthy, secretary at Fareham and Portchester Camera Club, speaks highly of the group’s social make-up.
The 76-year-old, from Gosport, who has been involved with the group for 17 years, says: ‘Our membership is small enough that everybody knows everybody – I’ve made a fantastic circle of friends here.
‘It’s probably testament to the dynamic of the club and how much members enjoy what they’re doing that they even take the time to meet up outside of our programme months.’
With friends to be made and skills to be honed as part of a camera club, one man, Steve Day, knows just how beneficial being part of one can be.
The 62-year-old from Waterlooville serves as Horndean Camera Club’s programme manager and, thanks to his 17 years of membership, has forged a career as a photographer in the Royal Military Police at Southwick Park.
‘Without a doubt, I would not be doing this had I not taken the decision to join a camera club,’ he explains.
‘I would not have had the breadth of skills to do the job which, having now been in it for just over a year, I can confidently say I absolutely love.’
Steve adds ‘no two days are the same’ in his role.
‘One day I’m capturing sailing activities at Thorney Island, the next I’m alongside officers as they’re making arrests, and another I can be taking pictures of local MPs.
‘It’s brilliant, fascinating work and I’d say it’s proof of the interest joining a camera club can help develop.’
Horndean Camera Club meets at Catherington Village Hall, at 7.30pm, every Wednesday between September and May.
Fancy joining a club?
There are camera clubs across the area and most welcome new members, including beginners.
Only a basic camera is needed, even just a smartphone.
Chichester Camera Club: chichestercameraclub.org.uk
Fareham and Portchester Camera Club: farehamportchestercc.wordpress.com
Gosport Camera Club: gosportcameraclub.org.uk
Havant Camera Club: havantcameraclub.co.uk
Hayling Island Camera Club: haylingislandcameraclub.co.uk
Horndean Camera Club: horndeancameraclub.org.uk
Marwell Photographic Group: marwellphotogroup.org.uk
Petersfield Photographic Society: petersfieldphotographicsociety.org.uk