Having fun while exchanging know-how keeps Schenectady Photographic Society going strong

The Schenectady Photographic Society will celebrate its 80th anniversary Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at F

Ken Deitcher and Max Tiller remember playing the waiting game. You took what you thought was a great photograph, but you never knew for sure until the film got developed.

“You’d take some pictures and either spent five or six hours in the darkroom or you sent the film away and waited for the prints to come back in the mail,” said Deitcher, a Cohoes native and retired Albany physician who joined the Schenectady Photographic Society back in 1961. “Now, because of computers, you take a picture and you know. You don’t have to wait, and the results are usually pretty good.”

“Today, it’s instantaneous,” said Tiller, a former General Electric photographer who joined the Schenectady club back in 1956. “Instead of taking some time setting up a photograph, you can just start shooting. In the old days, you had to make every shot count, but these days it doesn’t matter.”

Keep up with the tech

Schenectady Photographic Society

WHAT: 80th anniversary celebration

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Fellowship Hall in the First United Methodist Church, 603 State St., Schenectady


MORE INFO: www.schenectadyphotographicsociety.com

Technology, however, hasn’t passed these veteran lensmen by. They are not at all digitally challenged, and they still attend as many weekly meetings of the Schenectady Photographic Society as they can. This Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Fellowship Hall in the First United Methodist Church on State Street, they’ll be in attendance again and will provide the entertainment for the group’s special 80th anniversary celebration.

“Kenny and I are going to go a little retro with a slideshow routine we did back in the late ’90s,” said Tiller, who was born in Tarrytown but moved to the Albany area with his family when he was only a year old. “We did a parody on ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ and called it ‘The Hair Switch.’ It didn’t win anything, but it got a lot of laughs, and we’ve been requested to do it again.”

Keeping its meetings educational and entertaining are two of the main reasons the Schenectady Photographic Society has continued to thrive while other area photo clubs have disbanded.

Learn from other members

“We have a very friendly group, and we pick up a lot of knowledge from other members,” said Deitcher, who pointed out that in the 1960s there were also clubs in Albany, Delmar and Glens Falls. “You really can do a lot on your own, and that’s why so many clubs have kind of phased out. But it’s great to help somebody else out, and it’s nice to have someone help you out with a new program. The technology keeps changing, so it’s important to learn the newest techniques.”

“I enjoyed coming because we have competitions, and that competition would be the catalyst for me to try something different,” said Tiller, who along with working at GE was the chief medical photographer for St. Peter’s Hospital. “These days it’s kind of turned into a Photoshop club. It’s all about the software and how you use it.”

Technology has had such an impact on the industry that Tiller can’t help but be concerned for the professional trying to make a living at it.

“A lot of places, like hospitals, don’t need to have a professional photographer these days,” he said. “The medical staff can shoot the picture themselves and process it with a computer. They don’t need anyone to make slides for them. They don’t have to worry about shutter speed or an F-stop. I think some of the skill has left us, and the amateur has access to things they didn’t have 20 years ago. That’s just the way it is.”

“It helps to have a good eye and the ability to see something, but the technology today allows mediocre photographers to do some pretty good work,” said Deitcher. “There was also a lot of darkroom work in the old days. I closed up my darkroom a few years ago, and now everybody has a digital camera. The only problem is that there’s always something new coming out. That’s why it’s good to go to our meetings and see what the newest stuff looks like.”

Technology has also helped take the art of photography to a whole new level.

“I think it’s even more of an art form today than it used to be,” said Deitcher. “You can take a picture and manipulate it. You can add a sun, the moon, the stars, you can make it look nothing like the original shot that you took. You can’t believe what you see these days. Pictures do lie.”

“Kenny went digital before I did,” remembered Tiller. “He would keep on asking me, ‘When you going digital?’ Well, I miss a lot of the old way. It took me five years or so to really wrap my head around the digital world, and as I got older, standing in a darkroom for five or six hours got a little cumbersome. Now, instead of the darkroom, you’re sitting at a computer. I don’t know if things are better, but they’re easier.”

Anyone interested in photography is invited to attend Wednesday’s event. Frank Bumbardatore is the Schenectady Photographic Society’s president, and Kim Koza is the vice president.

Categories: Life and Arts

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