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Al Belson's Camera Club Without Dues Offers Forum for Critiques, Techniques


Al Belson calls it a camera club without dues, but the photography meetings, held on the second Friday of each month, are a combination lecture and print-critique session. They're also a good place to exchange ideas with other photographers and drink coffee.

It's a relaxed atmosphere in which Belson, owner of a custom black-and-white lab and studio in Costa Mesa, can expound on various technical and aesthetic aspects of photography, including new equipment, composition and lighting.

The evenings usually begin with Belson holding court. A photographer for 40 years, Belson never hesitates to offer his opinion.

"It's very difficult for anyone who is trying to establish themselves in photography to get information," says the 65-year-old London native. "Even if you want very simple advice on a piece of equipment, where are you going to go? If you go to a camera store, they are always going to have a vested interest. They will try to sell you something they are overstocked on or has a big markup. You can make some very expensive mistakes."

Belson, the former owner of the Newport School of Photography, offers a simple reason for continuing to teach. "I discussed this with Ansel (Adams) at great lengths years ago. Morally, you just have to put something back, and that's the way I feel. It keeps people motivated. The more they're motivated and the better their work is, the better it is for everybody.

"If you can pique their interest, maybe they will stay with it. Photography is a great thing because you don't have to be great before it becomes satisfying. You never get to the point where you say, 'I know it all.' "

The meetings emphasize the image, vision and the way you see, and are held on the second Friday of each month at Al Belson Photographic Service, 3303 Harbor Blvd., Suite B-7, Costa Mesa. For more information call (714) 979-0315.

Belson has been recognized for his black-and-white photography in the current issue of ProFiles, a national advertising brochure from Fuji that features profiles of professional photographers.

Featured is one of Belson's photographs from a series of images he took on the first minutes of a baby's life. He used Fuji's Neopan 1600 black-and-white film with available light to photograph several infants.

Belson will teach a 10-week portrait workshop beginning Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. in his Costa Mesa studio. The seminar will feature both technical and aesthetic aspects of portraiture, and practical information on fees and working with your subject. The cost is $500.

According to Belson, learning the techniques needed to take portraits isn't as challenging as handling the people in front of the camera.

The Photography Column, which runs every other Saturday in Orange County Life, is intended to help the serious amateur and weekend shooter.

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