ROCKINGHAM — Cedar of Lebanon. Water in the sky. Autumn leaves on a pole (as opposed to a tree). Tar Heels. These are the kinds of things you are asked to find — and photograph — if you’re a member of the Richmond County Photo Group.
Now in its sixth year, the RCPG brings local aesthetic enthusiasts together to grow their skills with a camera.
RCPG was spawned from Arts Richmond, which wanted to form a group that would meet regularly in an attempt to build a strong artistic community in Richmond County. Jimmy McDonald, a board member and photographer with more than 20 years of experience, was selected to run it.
Each month, members get an assignment to take pictures related to a specific topic such as “made of glass” or “night.” November’s topic was “country road.” McDonald said the members come up with the topics through a brainstorming session and discuss the technical challenges that may come with each idea.
“One thing I say at every meeting is…we all have the same assignment and it’s interesting to see everybody’s different interpretations,” McDonald said. “(The assignments) are a chance to shoot something that takes us outside of our norm.”
There are between six and a dozen people at each meeting, held at Arts Richmond on East Washington Street, according to McDonald. The meetings are free and open to the public and McDonald said people of all skill levels are welcome.
McDonald got his start in product photography where he became comfortable with different settings on the camera, learned to color balance and take sharper pictures. Having kids also contributed to his photography, giving him a daily opportunity to photograph candid subjects. He now has his own company, Jimmy McDonald Photography, which shoots portraits, weddings, city sports and real estate.
At Christmas on the Square last year, RCPG has held its first scavenger hunt, where members are tasked with photographing specific items from a list. These aren’t as simple as, for example, finding a “yellow car.” For their most recent scavenger hunt in October, members were asked find “purple haze,” “water in the sky” and “iron stairs rising from the trees” in downtown Rockingham.
McDonald said more people are getting interested in taking quality photos now that everyone has a camera in their pocket, making what is often casual snapping into a dedicated hobby, and for some, a career.
Myra Stone, owner of Myra Stone Photography, joined RCPG in the last year. A Rockingham native, she now lives in Scotland County and said that the group gave her a chance to reconnect with her hometown.
“Rockingham has changed and grown so much and when I heard about the group I had to join,” Stone said. “It’s been quite an experience for me.”
Stone said she’s missed a few of the monthly assignments but says they’re a great way to “keep you inspired.” She said that going on a scavenger hunt made her look at downtown Rockingham with a different perspective.
“I saw businesses and places that you wouldn’t normally see if you were just driving through,” Stone said. “There’s always something to learn.”
The members post their pictures to the group’s Facebook page along with the settings and the equipment specifications they used to get the photo. Submissions are printed, framed and put on display at Arts Richmond. The next exhibition will be in January, though there is not a set date yet.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org.