Bega Valley photography group, The Sapphire Snappers, recently celebrated two years of casual monthly gatherings also known as ‘Instameets,’ where amateur photographers meet, take pictures and share their best work on Instagram.
One of the group’s founding members, Jason Guthrie says Snappers was inspired by the positive response he and others were getting after posting pictures on Instagram and decided they wanted to learn more about photography and meet others in the same boat.
Teena Burnell of Candelo and Sonia Grothe of Pambula, both passionate photographers themselves, joined Jason and the three soon attracted a large crowd of both professional photographers and people armed with nothing more than an iPhone and a love for the outdoors.
“Never apologise for just having a phone,” Sonia, a professional photographer and designer at The FlyingParrott says, “because the best camera is always the one you have with you. Go on YouTube for photography tutorials, that’s what we all do, as well as asking each other.”
On Sunday’s sunset meet at Bar Beach, Merimbula, the sea and sky were a lacklustre greyish blue, a stiff wind was blowing and still, 20 photographers arrived, ready to make the most of what was there.
“I love how everyone will get different images from the same time and place,” Jason comments. “Everyone has a different eye and brain, we all see things slightly differently.”
For Sonia, the meets provide an incentive to get outside, be in nature and make the most of a moment.
“I never regret it when I come out,” Sonia says, pulling her jumper closer in the cool wind. “I never say ‘I wish I’d stayed home watching TV instead’.”
It’s the first time at a Snappers meet for Simone Eyles, who has recently moved to Merimbula from Wagga Wagga and has followed the Sapphire Snappers online and used their hashtags as a guide to new places around the Bega Valley.
“I had the thought recently that I’ve moved to paradise, but how do I meet people here?” Simone, a business owner and mum of two, says with a laugh.
Simone is not the only one using the Snappers as a way to connect and meet people. Todd and Adele Thompson moved from Sydney three years ago and both work from home. They say it’s hard to meet people in the area, especially as they have no children.
“We’ve come to these meets on and off and it’s been great to meet people with similar interests and learn from people who know what they’re doing. There are always some professionals but there’s lots of room for people like us, for whom photography is a hobby,” Todd says.
Previously taken with trap-shooting and fishing, which he says requires a similar amount of patience and good aim as photography, Peter Harris and his wife Tracey have taken to photography with a passion, using the art as a way of dealing with their son’s early death last year.
“The whole time our son was ill, while we were in Sydney with him, we would walk out and take photos, it gave us something to take our minds off it all,” Peter says, adding that he didn’t even own a digital camera until about 18 months ago.
Peter’s advice is to take lots of photos, in the realm of 1000 per outing and then keep ten and ruthlessly delete the others.
He and Tracey have been known to get up at 3 am to photograph the milky way and love driving to new locations to capture weather events or special places.
Because not all Snappers are extreme enough to get up for ‘blue hour’ [pre dawn light], meets tend to be at sunrise or sunset. There are no guarantees but the gamble more often than not pays off.
“I had a feeling we’d get a good one today, you get good ones on changeable days” Helen Pearsell of Tura Beach, smiles as the orange light radiates across the bar, sending Snappers scurrying all over the beach to capture it.
Jason is crouched on the ground, using the natural lines of the rocks and grass to lead viewers into his pictures.
“Don’t you think this is the best sunset we’ve ever had?” he smiles at the group in the gathering dusk.