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Beth 3

Looking Back

by Dave Balcombe ARPS CPAGB BPE1*

I invited RPS Volunteer, Dave Balcombe, to talk to us about his photography; where it all started, what he enjoys and where he wants to go next.  I knew he would have an interesting story to tell....

"I guess I first got interested in photography when as a young lad I would find a strip of negatives drying in the kitchen that my Dad had processed the night before.

The first pictures I sold were shots of the Apollo moon landings taken from the TV screen and sold to the boys at school for 3d each!


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Though tempted with photography as a career I ended up studying engineering and I started work at Vauxhall in Luton.

I guess I had a bit of a journalistic streak as I did a lot of the photos for the school magazine when I was in the 6th Form and I still wanted to try and sell some pictures.  

This led me to try my luck with the local weekly papers.  


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One of them took me on as a part-time freelancer and for several years in the early 1980s I covered all sorts of events from the mundane to famous people, sport and theatre.

Pictures were to be had everywhere, waiting for a match to start I saw a line of policemen at the back of the crowd.  You had to think fast, keep a lookout for a different angle and be creative to make your photos stand out.

Mostly it was good fun, sometimes quite challenging.   There was always the pressure of the deadline and I had to come back from every job with a photo the editor could use.

I was lucky in that the spare bedroom became a permanent darkroom so turnaround times could be quite quick.  

Nowadays the best pros can have a picture on the editors screen a few seconds after pressing the button.

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Eric Morecombe was a regular subject and a genuinely funny man.  He was always willing to support local charities and was a real pleasure to photograph.

The night Luton Town were promoted to the first division was also a big night, the press pack got through 16 bottles of champagne afterwards!

I did some crazy things to get a different picture.  At one event there were two vintage turntable fire engines, I persuaded them to extend both ladders with me at the top of one looking down on a fireman on the other.

I covered a few big events.  I got a press pass to cover the Pope's visit to Coventry and had a double page spread of pictures published from that.

You may recognise 'Hi-de-Hi' actress Ruth Madoc at the local launch of a new VW Golf!

I managed to get a few photos published in the nationals and by now my list of kit had expanded with a brace of Canon A1’s, a range of lenses and a powerful Metz 45 flash.  

I also did weddings for a couple of the local studios as a freelancer using a Mamiya C220.  I was given 6 rolls of film (72 shots) of which the bride would have 60 in her album so not much margin for error!

I gained my LRPS with 15 colour slides in 1983. Unfortunately, I cannot find them which may be just as well!

Then in 1986 this came to an end when we started a family, I changed jobs and we moved across to Norfolk.

The commercial work stopped and, while I joined Lotus Photography Club for a few years, photography became mainly snapshots for the family album and for some time I mainly used a compact.


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Blue Tit Taking Off

My interest in photography was revived in 2014 when I started planning for early retirement and I joined Wymondham Photographic Society.

I quickly got back into taking pictures for competitions.  I joined the RPS, got my LRPS reinstated and started thinking about an ARPS panel.

I attended an RPS workshop designed to show people how to put a panel together and get advice on their work before attending an Advisory Day.  


Vanishing Point
The Heroes Return

It was at this event that I first started sharing ideas for my A panel and received some encouragement and invaluable advice.

I had been inspired by the curved roof of Newcastle station and I created a flipped and mirrored pattern image from it.  Many hundreds of images and an Advisory Day later, my panel was ready.  Fortunately, it was successful at the Assessment in March 2019, which was one of the first to be held at the Paintworks.  (See all of Dave's A Panel HERE)


Dark Hedges

I would describe myself as a generalist photographer as there are many genres that I enjoy from nature and action to architecture, people and landscape.

I still enjoy monochrome work and producing and exhibiting prints.  

Although my darkroom days are over, I am quite happy spending time in Lightroom and Photoshop and I am always up for trying something new.

I take inspiration from the work of other photographers and often attend workshops to learn new and creative techniques such as Intentional Camera Movement.


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I like to have a goal so I am currently working towards my BPE2* and have started on my FIAP journey.

Ultimately, I would hope to achieve my FRPS.  Although I haven't yet decided on a theme, I will continue to take lots of photos and see what emerges.

All the advice is that it should be something you are passionate about and ‘it will find you’.  I hope it’s not too long before mine finds me!


Dawn Mist
White Arches

I enjoy volunteering for the RPS at Advisory Days and particularly like working as a print handler.  It’s amazing what you can learn each time from the expert advisors and it puts a bit back into helping others.

The photos shown here reflect some of the press work I did way back and some of my current favourites.  

The main image of Beth at the top of the page in a 1920s style is my most recent and the one below of Salisbury Cathedral is a different type of panorama that I occasionally play with.

I hope you enjoy them as well."

Thank you Dave for trawling through your analogue archive to show us just a few of your 1980s gems!  I look forward to featuring your F Panel.

Salisbury Cathedral Pano 2