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Putting amateur photographers ‘in control of their camera’

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Stephen Raynor and Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni are offering hands-on photo classes and workshops for beginners and budding amateurs (Photograph by Stephen Raynor)

As government staff photographers Stephen Raynor and Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni took high-profile shots, preserving images of dignitaries, special events and local culture for generations to come.

Now retired, they are offering Camera Talk: “informal and fun hands-on photo classes and workshops for beginners and budding amateurs” interested in getting “out of auto mode and in control of [their] camera”.

The classes cover the technical aspects of phone and digital single-lens reflex cameras with special instruction in composition, lighting, landscape, portraiture and still life photography. It is not essential for people to have their own cameras.

“There's a lot of photographers on the island and there’s a lot of good work going on through amateurs and professionals,” Mr Raynor said.

“But I find that quite a few of the amateur works, although the photographs are beautiful, they still need a bit of attention when it comes to composition and focal points. I also want to help people pull away from using the camera on automatic and try to learn the features of the camera – to basically make pictures, instead of take pictures.”

Stephen Raynor’s shot of a collision during the 1976 tall ships race drew notice (Photograph by Stephen Raynor)

He got his start at 19, working at The Royal Gazette under Tony Cordeiro who was then the chief photographer.

“Basically, he kept me in the darkroom for years before I could touch a camera. Then I started shooting a bit of sports and a couple of cheque presentation pictures and simple things,” Mr Raynor said.

It all changed with the 1976 tall ships race. Mr Raynor was sent out on one of the tug boats to snap pictures; Mr Cordeiro went up in a helicopter.

“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time because that's when the ships came together and the collisions and masts broke and people were falling from the mast. So I had the bulk of the most interesting pictures, news outlets from around the world were requesting pictures. It was my first experience at actually selling photographs because all these people came in for prints. So that was quite exciting.

“The editor at the time, Eric Hopwood, he actually wrote an editorial on me. It was called ‘Opportunity’. So from that day, people started to recognise my name anyway.”

He stayed at the newspaper for seven years and then left to work as a freelancer before joining ZBM as a cameraman for a year. Mr Raynor returned to the Gazette but determined photojournalism was not his calling after two incidents: a man at a firebombed grocery store put a bow and arrow in his face and threatened to release it and an angry mob on their way to protest the hanging of Larry Tacklyn and Erskine Burrows for the assassination of Governor Sir Richard Sharples and his aide de camp Hugh Sayers, pulled him to the ground as he attempted to do his job.

“After covering a couple of riots I felt that that wasn't going to be for me because there was just that element of danger involved. I worked with photographers from the States and England that came in to cover the riots …. these guys were fearless.”

Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni and Stephen Raynor (Photograph supplied)

After three years he joined what was called the Bermuda News Bureau, the precursor to the Department of Communications.

“In that time it was more tourism related. I was hired as a black and white lab technician/photographer.”

Interested in still life and fashion photography he decided to start shooting and picked up “a couple of clients”.

Six years later, he decided to start his own business.

Stephen Raynor and Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni are offering hands-on photo classes and workshops for beginners and budding amateurs (Photograph by Stephen Raynor)

“I was in the business for a period of 20 years before I took the government job. And through those 20 years, I started off in retail, a lot of fashion. I had all the major retailers as my clients and eventually the retail sector sort of died down a bit. Tourism died down with it. And then the corporate work started to tick in so I turned my attention to [it].

“So the last ten years of my freelancing I was more a corporate photographer working for a lot of the major players – Ace, XL; insurance companies. Over the years, it's been a variety of people and product.”

Stephen Raynor and Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni are offering hands-on photo classes and workshops for beginners and budding amateurs (Photograph by Stephen Raynor)

He returned to government just as the economy started “dying down”.

“I thought it was a safe place to be, not only that but they were doing tourism pictures along with the government coverage. And it was working out very well. I was happy to be there.”

About a year before he retired, he started thinking about his options and was thrilled that Ms Dismont-Frazzoni, his co-worker who was also near retirement, was on the same wavelength.

What pleased them both, was that they brought different skills to the venture.

Ms Dismont-Frazzoni got her start in photography through the graphic design courses she took in college. After graduating in 1977 she joined Elbow Beach Hotel.

Stephen Raynor and Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni are offering hands-on photo classes and workshops for beginners and budding amateurs (Photograph by Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni)

Eventually she was taking pictures not only there but at the Sonesta Beach Hotel and the Hamilton and Southampton Princess hotels and started a business, eventually running it with her husband, Elis. In 1989 they sold DF Photo and Ms Dismont-Frazzoni joined the Department of Communications.

“I went to work at the Department of Information Services as it was called then, in October ’89, managing the darkroom. Once they knew I was a photographer they never looked back and so I was a relief photographer and, once we went digital in about 2004, the photo librarian until my retirement last July,” said Ms Dismont-Frazzoni who recalls her photographs of sales conferences for the fashion designer Calvin Klein, and of the implosion of Club Med, as highlights.

Like many other people her cell phone has been her go-to camera in recent years.

“I think I look for something that no one else sees. I go deeper. I love the light. I’m consumed by the quality of light, and the colour of the light which you'll see in some of my pictures online.”

Stephen Raynor and Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni are offering hands-on photo classes and workshops for beginners and budding amateurs (Photograph by Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni)

It is a skill Mr Raynor believes is often underrated here but important for photographers to have.

“I want people to think about what they're trying to accomplish, whether it be the light or composition. I’ve been to photographic exhibitions and you kind of walk along. Some images will hold you for a few seconds and others you just keep walking because you can see right away that there's no real interest to your eyes. So my intention is to educate those that are really interested and be able to walk into a gallery one day and see a whole bunch of fantastic pictures because people are taking the effort to really focus on what they're doing.

Stephen Raynor and Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni are offering hands-on photo classes and workshops for beginners and budding amateurs (Photograph by Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni)

“You walk along the street with Michelle and she’s going to stop and take a picture of something. She sees something and I just walk straight by. I'm used to organising my shoots, calculating the lighting, composition and all that kind of stuff. She just whips out her camera and I was amazed with what she was getting. Not only that, she showed me features of the camera that I didn't even know existed because I forget that my phone even has a camera.”

Mistakes to avoid

Photographers Stephen Raynor and Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni say there are common mistakes people make when taking pictures. Below are some simple problems:

Distorted images

Selfies are the main cause here, Mr Raynor says.

“People look distorted and their faces bloated because they're photographing from high angles; people are looking tapered.”

Not being creative

Said Ms Dismont-Frazzoni: “They pick up the [smartphone or DSLR] and they’re shooting on automatic. They probably think that manual is not the best route when it’s actually the exact opposite.”

The same applies to flash which is particularly poor with the iPhone 11, she added.

Group shots

Said Mr Raynor: “I am a stickler for making sure that if I'm doing group shots that everyone is on the same plane. I can't stand a curvature in a group. The reason why it's so important is because normally the more important people are in the centre of the photograph. And if you do photograph on the curve, then the people that are important are the smallest people in the photograph. And I tell the ladies that if you’re on the end of a photograph, and you are towards the camera more than everyone else, then you're going to look larger.”

Most smart phones have the capabilities as a DSLR although they have their “limitations as far as size and whatnot”, he added.

“When it comes to the basic mechanics of a phone camera – and not just the iPhone any phone that has a camera – it has those features but you just have to find them and understand them.

“So that's our intention. We want to not only deal with the DSLR but also the phone because the basics are the same. I don't want people to feel that because somebody else has a DSLR they're at a disadvantage. Because that's not true.”

For more information about Camera Talk: cameratalkbda.com; cameratalkbda@gmail.com

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Published March 10, 2022 at 7:58 am (Updated March 11, 2022 at 8:05 am)

Putting amateur photographers ‘in control of their camera’

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