Davis Life Magazine Article Featuring The Photo Club of Davis
By Bob Schultz
As I neared retirement from my job as a school district superintendent, I was eager to get back to doing more of three activities that sometimes got lost in the shuffle of my job: writing, teaching and photography. I quickly got back into writing for Davis Life Magazine and other publications. A few weeks later, I started teaching again through Chapman University and at Davis Community Church. Then I discovered a Web site announcing a meeting in October at Sudwerk for something called the Photography Club of Davis. I decided to give them a try.
I showed up early on Oct. 21, 2008, hoping for the best, but fearing that I’d run into a handful of photo snobs who’d be speaking in some technical language about equipment I couldn’t afford. Within moments, I could see that I shouldn’t have worried. I was greeted immediately by an enthusiastic young man who introduced himself as Samer Alassaad, the president of the club. He introduced me to David Jolkovsky, the vice president, and to Clyde Elmore, the nature photographer who was the main attraction for the first meeting.
As the actual time of the meeting approached, I was amazed to see dozens of people pour into the rented room at Sudwerk, including a number of people I knew. Who knew that Davis had so many photography enthusiasts?
Everyone was pleased and surprised by the huge turnout at the photo club’s first meeting on Oct. 1, 2008 at Sudwerk.
Alassaad opened the meeting by sharing the club’s plans to hold monthly meetings, do photo exhibits, hold critique sessions and go out on photo shoots. To my surprise, I discovered that this wasn’t a 50-year-old established organization like the Woodland Camera Forum, but it was actually the inaugural meeting of this new club.
I learned later that Alassaad, Jolkovsky, Elmore and underwater photographer Ian Kennedy had been planning this first meeting and the club’s Web site for several months. Alassaad already served as webmaster and membership chair for the Rotary Club of Davis and was quick to apply what he learned there to this new endeavor. That core planning group had wisely let the summer pass so that everyone had settled back into the university and school time schedule so they’d be ready for a meeting.
They chose Clyde Elmore, a local nature photographer who had just been the featured photographer at the 2008 Yolo County Fair, as their first speaker. Elmore’s amazing photographs and stories captured the ears and eyes of the 50 people in attendance, and his explanations of the technical details gave the more professional photographers an added bonus.
Subsequent club meetings have included presentations on landscape photography, preparing photos for print, photography in graphic design and photojournalism. A strong local photo professional has shared a particular area of expertise at each meeting. In the most recent meetings, the professionals have also been willing to review and critique photographs of members, thereby helping everyone to grow as photographers.
Presenters have included Terry Nathan, a professional architect and interior photographer, and professor in the Art-Science Fusion Program at UC Davis; Patrick O’Kane of Cali Color Digital Photo Lab in Sacramento; Neil Michel of Axiom Photo & Design in Davis; Tom Martin, editor of Tahoe World and other newspapers; David L. Robertson, a photo critique expert; David Robertson, a UCD English Professor; Greg Rihl, photojournalist for the Davis Enterprise; and portrait photographer, Tom Deininger, past owner of Impressions Photography. Notes about past events and notices about future ones are posted at the Web site.
In addition to the regular meetings, the club has offered photo excursions with trained leaders to get photographers out in the field. Docent and club member, Rob Floerke, has taken club members to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area.
I attended one of Rob’s excursions, which began with an orientation to the property and then allowed us to spend several hours there enjoying the photographic opportunities in the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. Waterfowl, songbirds, raptors and other animals of the marsh could be seen, as well as many plants associated with wetland habitat. Go to the photo club Web site for details about the excursions and to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region3/yolo for details about the Wildlife Area.
Another photo opportunity is being provided by club member Mark Robinson, who is the track photographer for the Blue Max Kart Club on Poleline in Davis. Mark hosts photo workshops that allow five members access to the track for the day of practice, qualifying, and racing - after they learn all they need to know about track safety. Again, go to the photo club Web site for details about shooting at the track and go to http://www.bluemaxkartclub.com to learn more about the races.
The club Web site at http://www.photoclubofdavis.org is a great place to learn more than I can fit into this overview. There, you’ll learn about past and future meetings, get a chance to see photos of club members, their families and some of their favorite photos. As the Web site demonstrates, the club focuses on photography as a family experience and
never forgets to keep families involved and understanding of the time club members put into their photography.
Another of the goals that Alassaad shared at the first meeting was to give club members opportunities to display their photographs. Within a few weeks of that initial meeting, he had arranged for a showing of photographs by club members at Bistro 33. In less than six weeks from the first meeting, many club members were proud to see their work in a show. For some, like members Bob Sahara and Rob Floerke, this was their first opportunity to see their photographs on display in public. Since that time, other club members like Ian Kennedy has had personal shows and more exhibits are being planned, including a November show at The International House of Davis. The club also keeps members informed about other photo contests and exhibits taking place locally so that club members can get involved.
Visitors Linda and Lou Zisking at one of the club’s photo exhibits that took place at Bistro 33.
One more example of the success of the club and club members was in evidence at the Yolo County Fair this year where the featured artist for 2009 was club member Richard Owens. Club members Samer Alassaad, Bill Blakewell, Susan Bovey, Clyde Elmore, Prem Laumas, Jerry Schimke, Bob Schultz, Dick Stern and Roger Spangler all won prizes, including Elmore’s "best of show" photograph.
As the club continues to expand its influence, they have become regular contributors to Davis Life Magazine. The July cover was by club member Jared Ropelato, and other club members will contribute to future issues. Editor Cary Arnold has already built a regular team of great staff photographers, but now she has the added resource of the Photography Club of Davis to build on the strong photographic presence already in place at Davis Life Magazine.
How did the club get so successful and accomplish so much in its first year of existence? Many club members have credited the energy, planning and enthusiasm of club President Samer Alassaad as the key to the club’s rapid evolution. Alassaad is just as quick to share the credit with the planning group and then with all the members who have offered their time and efforts to make the club a success.
I have to point out that good luck and timing have also helped move the club forward. At the initial meeting, they had only reserved a small room that wouldn’t have held the 50 people who showed up, but fortunately Sudwerk had not rented out their larger room, so the meeting expanded there. In trying to find a place for a first photo exhibit, the persistence of Samer Alassaad and luck came in again when a last-minute cancellation left the Bistro 33/City Hall gallery open around Thanksgiving of 2008, and Alassaad got club members to submit photos and get them ready for exhibit within days so that the month-old club could have its first exhibit. As golfer Gary Player once said, "The harder you work, the luckier you get." Regardless of who shares the credit, the club members have worked hard and developed into a major presence in Davis.
It doesn’t matter whether you own a simple "point and shoot" camera that you’ve only used for family snapshots or you’re a professional photographer with the latest digital SLR’s, lenses, flashes and other requisite equipment, because this is a club designed for everyone. As charter member David Jolkovsky told me, "All you need is an interest in photography." Club President Alassaad also spoke of how photography has helped him see the world in new ways and notice things he’d never seen before. The club has continued to grow to more than 40 members now and encourages photographers at all levels to come and gain new skills and understanding through club activities. Meetings had been held at the Blanchard Room of the Davis Public Library, but they are currently taking place at the Hallmark Inn, as the library is being renovated. Check out the Web site http://www.photoclubofdavis.org for the latest events.
Like a new pair of bifocal lenses, the Photography Club of Davis sharpens and expands your vision, so you see details right in front of your eyes that you’ve missed before, and you frame scenes in the distance that show the world around you in a new light. On top of that, you’ll learn how to capture those sights to share with others an artistry you didn’t know you had.
As Alassaad said, "Photography today is the most accessible and rewarding of all art forms. The resources we have are unlimited, and the fun is yet to come. With your participation and endless passion, we will make every meeting a memorable experience. We hope to see you at our next meeting."