PLYMOUTH — If you don’t find the club for you, start your own. That’s what Amy Davies of Plymouth did three years ago, and now the Plymouth Digital Photographers Club offers a busy schedule of photo shoots, lectures, member-led workshops, and a photo-sharing website.
“I wanted to join a photography club that did things I wanted to do, and not just do competitions every week,” she said. “And I didn’t want to drive far.”
Recent events have included practice taking family portraits on a beach and a lecture by Lance Keimig, a photographer and photo teacher who specializes in night photography.
On a Wednesday evening earlier this month, I dropped by the club’s meeting at the Plymouth Public Library, where about 50 people turned out for Keimig’s lecture and slides. He spoke about “light painting,” which is the art of adding light to night photographs to achieve a particular effect. He showed the audience how an extra source of light, such as a high-powered flashlight, held and moved by the photographer during a long exposure, can yield a striking image.
“You should light with intent,” he told the group.
‘I’ve learned a lot. It challenges meto do better.’
Ralph Mastrangelo, a club member from Carver, gave the idea of artificial lighting mixed reviews — “that’s not natural-looking,” he said — but he had high praise for the club. He said he likes the variety of events, the chance to be introduced to new techniques, and the cooperative atmosphere. While the club encourages members to enter photo contests, it doesn’t hold many of its own, and members are generous with their expertise, he said.
Even without contests, members have plenty of opportunities to view one another’s work. They post the results of their photo shoots on a members-only Meetup site, www.pdpcameraclub.com. Its photo gallery contains hundreds of albums organized by theme or event. The site also shows the year-round calendar of events, which take place at various times and locations.
Mastrangelo said he enjoys taking portraits of his family, including one favorite of his grandson sitting in the grass with an Easter basket and a colorful egg. With information from the club, his photography has improved more in the last six months than in the previous 10 years, he said.
Connie Pooler, a member who posts her photos on the website, joined a year ago after learning about the club during a bird-watching trip with Mass Audubon. At the time, she considered herself more of a bird-watcher than a photographer, and she took point-and-shoot pictures of birds. On the trip, she met photographers.
The more the Kingston woman learned about photography, the more she liked it.
“I’ve just always been drawn to what I see,” she said.
Donna Leahan of Carver said she loves the outings and trips. Members have traveled to see everything from sunrises to Montana’s mountain goats. On a trip to Glacier National Park, she said, they slept on the Blackfeet reservation and photographed mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Another group is going to Yosemite soon.
“You name it, they do it,” she said.
You don’t have to be an expert to join. Leahan said she knew little about photography before joining the group. Members develop friendships and socialize, too.
“That’s one of the most rewarding parts of it,” Davies said.
Theirs is just one of several photography clubs south of Boston. The Hockomock Digital Photographers meet Wednesday nights September through May at the East Bridgewater Public Library. Depending on the week, the meeting might include a speaker or member-led program on a particular aspect of photography, an image study in which members critique one another’s work, or a competition, club member Jim Weidenfeller said.
On the first Wednesday of the month, the club usually offers information on techniques for people new to digital photography. Members also enter interclub competitions and attend conferences.
The value of competitions, Weidenfeller said, is not to beat other members, but to “be better than myself” — to improve.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “It challenges me to do better.”
Another local group, the South Shore Camera Club, meets September through May on Tuesday evenings at the Quincy Point Congregational Church.
The club holds monthly competitions, hosts speakers and workshops, and maintains a road trip schedule throughout the year. Among the events on this year’s calendar are a sunflower festival in Connecticut, Vermont foliage, and a trip to Italy in October expected to draw about 30 photographers, according to club president Larry Fay.
Fay, who lives in Milton, said the club has been active since the 1930s and has about 175 members. Photography’s appeal, he said, comes because it satisfies a creative need.
Davies, founder of the relatively new club in Plymouth, said she enjoys spreading that creative outlet not just locally but also in Ecuador, where she has traveled three times with donated cameras she collected, giving them to children and spending time with them demonstrating how to take pictures.
Davies said she appreciates photography’s accessibility. You don’t need an expensive camera, she said; even smartphones take decent photos, and the club recently held a workshop on smartphone photography.