The Waltham Abbey U3A Photography Group
The Waltham Abbey U3A Photography Group is led by Clive Simpson
The University of the Third Age (U3A) movement is a unique and exciting organisation which provides, through its U3A’s, life-enhancing and life-changing opportunities. Retired and semi-retired people come together and learn together, not for qualifications but for its own reward: the sheer joy of discovery! U3A’s are for the advancement of education and in particular the education of more senior people and are conducive to the learning and personal development of those who are retired from full time work.
The U3A of Waltham Abbey and surrounding areas has over 460 fully paid up members. Monthly meetings are held in the Town Hall in Highbridge Street, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1DE
Dublin born, 74 year old Tony Gorman, bought his first ever digital camera, a Canon Sureshot, to take pictures of the fish he caught on the banks of the River Lea and alongside the many lakes in Waltham Abbey. His favourite spot is Magic Lake.
Sitting quietly alongside his rods he realised he was surrounded by wildlife, particularly birds, and decided to buy a better camera with a large telephoto range to photograph his feathered companions. He purchased a Panasonic FZ100 and, four years ago joined our U3A Photo Group. Tony’s shots demonstrate that you can take great pictures without having to carry large cameras and lenses.
During lockdown he has walked a number of miles every day, along with his partner Carol, in various parts of Waltham Abbey. Tony feels that it is important to, where possible, to get out and shoot pictures every week. He is then able to share is enthusiasm and his knowledge on regular Zoom calls with the U3A group, where he is considered one of the wildlife experts.
It has been said, that it is his Irish blood that has given him a gift for words and he often adds a poem to his pictures.
Copped Hall and Upshire
Lea Valley Regional Park
Born and bred in Edmonton, North London, Sue is a 64 year-old retired primary school teacher. Her husband Rai bought her a Canon 1100D for Christmas, the year before she retired. Unhappy with the quality and precision of photographs taken on her phone, Sue wanted to progress to something a little more professional. Although initially this was all about taking pictures of the family, five grandchildren no less, Sue quickly realised that real pleasure also came from taking shots of wildlife and flora and fauna in the surrounding areas of her home town Waltham Abbey. Her special interest is in extra close up shots that allow her to capture unusual pictures.
Sue joined the U3A Photography group in 2015 and has developed her knowledge of her camera alongside some expert tuition in what makes a good photograph! She has also much enjoyed covering local events for the local press as part of the photography group.
Herrings Green Activity Farm
I joined Waltham Abbey U3A Camera club approx. three years ago for various reasons but mainly because I had bought Panasonic LUMIX camera as I was going to Japan for my son’s wedding, but I struggled to get to grips with it.
My partner Tony had joined the club a few months previously and suggested I come along to one of the weekly sessions. Up until then I had no knowledge of photography and I found the first few sessions difficult as I did not seem to be progressing but with Clive’s patience and suggestions I slowly gained confidence however it was not until lockdown started in early 2020 that I started to really enjoy photography, especially the wonderful nature and scenic views we literally have on our doorstep in Waltham Abbey.
I have lived in Waltham Abbey for forty years, I retired from full time work in 2011 and after 12 months of retirement I joined the local Citizens Advice as a volunteer but sadly the pandemic has affected that service, I am hopeful it will reopen sometime in the future.
I would urge anyone and everyone to go out with a camera, take a little walk and take photos…it is very therapeutic and I have found it very enjoyable and rewarding.
Lea Valley Regional Park
Sarah Hart, 54 year old mother of three, born in East London moved to Waltham Abbey in childhood. Sarah took early retirement from her job as a cook after being diagnosed with MS. Sarah was given her first camera by her husband in 2014, this was a Cannon EOS1200D however Sarah didn’t start using it regularly until joining the U3A photo group. With the training and support from this group, Sarah soon developed her skills and confidence as an amateur photographer, also attending group meetings and trips to local beauty spots. During the first lockdown of 2020 Sarah used three large Ash trees in her front garden to her advantage, now encouraging wildlife to her, rather than visiting the countryside to find photo opportunities. With the addition of a long lens, Tamron 600mm F/5-6.3 (2.5Kg with camera body) and the conversion of an old swing seat to a hide, Sarah was able to take photos of many bird and wildlife species, whilst complying to the rules of the lockdown. Sarah continued to use this setup though 2020 and into 2021, however is now very much looking forward to seeing everyone back at the weekly photo group meeting.
Wildlife in my Waltham Abbey Garden
Mick Day. 32 years a Police Officer in Hackney then retired to become a driving instructor for the police, retiring again in 2015. I’ve been involved in photography for a long time. My first camera was a Praktika MTL3 film camera. I used that to get some very good grizzly bears in the Rockies in 2000. My first digital camera was a Canon 300D 2003 which was was imported from China. I moved up to a Canon 7D in 2012 but couldnt really get to grips with that so I “downgraded” to a Sony RX10 bridge camera in 2013. I learnt a lot from this so in 2014 I went back to DSLR with a Nikon 7000 with a 28-300 zoom lens. I thought `i was doing well enough to upgrade so I went for another Nikon – a 7200. I then decided to really upgrade so I went to a full frame Nikon 750 – a really good bit of kit!! On one of our day trips, we went to a Bird of Prey centre for a “Dusk Photography” session. I hired a really good lens for this event – it cost £60 to hire a £1200 lens but it was really worth it. I took advantage of a Cameraworld Event special offer when they offered my eBay price for my 750 in exchange for a new mirrorless Nikon Z6 – I had to do it! I’ve since added a used 70-200 f2.8 lens to my equipment and also a 150-600 Sigma zoom lens, which is highly rated for wildlife. I regularly go walking around Waltham Abbey, often alone but also with others from our Photo Club. Just one other at this time…. I’m often to be found around Fishers Green, Abbey Gardens, High Beech or, at the right time of year, in the forest of Copped Hall taking pictures of the deer. I’ve also got some good shots of the short eared owls around the Gunpowder Park. With a family of three children and now six grandchildren, I’ve got a lot of pictures of them, so my photography isn’t just wildlife. I enjoy helping to organise the club, helping Clive check and circulate the pictures from our weekly competitions, even if we occasionally miss something, like a duplicate entry. There’s quite a lot to do, so if I can take some of the load off Clive, that’s great. I’m quite happy to sit down with others, maybe on a one to one, to help them with some element they are having trouble with, whether it be actual camera work or maybe the IT behind that, downloading, cropping and sending. I find that it helps me undertstand things better by explaining things to someone else
Waltham Abbey Gardens
Born in Bow in June 1936. Went to secondary school at Coopers’ Company School just off Tredegar Square. The next significant event was joining the RAF for 3 years, where I did a 9 months course on radio electronics and general electronics. After leaving the RAF I got a job, on the strength of my training and experience, with ATV in the Vision Control section. With the arrival of video tape, I transferred after 3 years for a significant promotion. There was a very relaxed atmosphere at the studios. Security knew everybody and waved us straight in.
There was just one occasion when security was tight. I was scheduled to work on a Sunday, and when I arrived not only did I have to produce my ATV card, I had my name checked against a list to show I was due to work. That day was the day after England won the world cup! The company had laid on a lunch for the whole of the squad, including Alf Ramsey. Best of all was that everyone working that day was invited to mingle with them for a drink for the 45 minutes they sat down. This was the sort of spirit fostered by the company. Quite a coup on the part of ATV!
I was with ATV for 25 years, until political pressures forced the company to relocate to the midlands. I then got a job in a supervisory position with a television news agency, where I stayed until I retired aged 60. In the 16 years there it grew beyond recognition and training new staff in some of our overseas bureaux became a very enjoyable part of my job.
I had started to take a serious interest when I was about 14 years old. My father had been a fairly keen photographer in the mid-1920s to early 30s. He showed me how to develop films and make contact prints. Seeing the magic of the mage emerging in the developing dish had me hooked. I had a variety of cameras over the years before moving to 35mm using a 35mm Kodak Retina 2. with an excellent f2 Ektar lens. When SLRs gained ground, I got a Pentax ME Super SLR with an f1.8 super Takumar, I also had an f2.0 24mm lens and later a 25mm to 210mm Vivitar zoom.
With the arrival of digital I started working my way through the Panasonic range, and now have 2 pocket cameras, a TZ8, with 25 to 300mm zoom. The other is a TZ60, just slightly bigger, but with an incredible 25 to 750mm zoom, and a small viewfinder in addition to the 3″ screen. Both are very sharp. I also went through their FZ range of bridge cameras. Starting with a 70, I now have a 200, and very recent 1000. The 200 has a 21 times zoom, which retains an f2.8 aperture through most of its range. The 1000 has a much bigger 1″ sensor, but is significantly heavier. It can also record 4K moving pictures
Moving pictures started to take precedence over still pictures. I had also been using 8mm cine film quite extensively from the 1960s, until camcorders came along. I was upgrading on a fairly regular basis, and now have 2 high definition Panasonics, and a 4K Sony. I have often kept the earlier version of cameras too as the drop in value makes it not worth selling them
Butterflies, Moths and Bees
Bees and Spiders
Born 85 years ago in Kilmacthomas, County Waterford, Ireland. George started work on a local farm at the age of 14.
Three years later he moved to the Irish porridge oats factory Sovahs. (still available in Tesco)
In 1960 he and his wife moved to England originally living in the grounds of Arundel Castle, where his brother in law was a stable jockey.
46 years ago he moved to Waltham Abbey as a Supervisor for the CO-OP Dairy.
He retired at 65, but although he had always had a camera and had always been interested in wildlife, these interests did not develop further until his 80th birthday when his son presented him with a top class Nikon. He then joined the U3A Photo group and has established himself as one of our leading wildlife photographers.
Shooting mainly on a Nikon 70 – 300 mm. lens, often using a monopod to keep the camera steady George sets out around Waltham Abbey’s many wildlife locations just after daybreak regardless of weather conditions.