THE work of an amateur photographer from Woking has been awarded the first level of distinction by the Royal Photographic Society.

Richard Sheldrake, who is vice-president of the Woking Photographic Society, has been made a Licentiate of the RPS for his submission of 10 images.

Richard, who has lived in Woking for 26 years, joined the photography club about three years ago. He has been taking photographs since he was a teenager and was inspired by his father, who was a keen photographer.

“Joining the society brought me on in leaps and bounds,” said Richard. “It’s the photographic equivalent of joining an athletics club and being pushed by faster runners.”

“The society is very encouraging to new members and the lockdown has helped us in some ways. We used to meet in person once a week but do that online now and also have smaller group sessions at other times.”

Richard trained as an aeronautical engineer and worked in technology for financial services companies before taking early retirement.

A combination of more free time and help from the society expanded his subject matter and skills and last year he joined the RPS and applied for the licentiate.

This involved submitting 10 images showing high technical competence but also presented in a way that gives a strong overall impression.

“The images need to be curated into a hanging plan which shows how the images fit together as a set, and how they will be displayed to the assessors,” Richard said. 

“My images were assessed as prints, but there are also assessments for digital projections and books.”

He said the top row of his panel is warm with yellow tones, while the bottom five photographs are colder.

The COVID-19 lockdown provided him with time to curate the entry with photographs taken over the past two years in Woking and around the world, including Iceland, Gran Canaria and Antarctica.

He said his trip to Antarctica was “the expedition of a lifetime” and he also had some notable photographic experiences in Iceland.

Describing the capture of the Northern Lights – aurora borealis – over the Vestrahorn mountain in Iceland, he said: “We had arrived on the black sand beach around 8pm in driving rain, but knew the rain was forecast to blow over and that there was an aurora forecast.

“After two hours of waiting and setting up, we were rewarded by a glorious show of light over the mountain. The wind was blowing at about 30mph which made the temperature about minus 15C with wind chill, but it was an unforgettable experience.”

After achieving the licentiate, Royal Photographic Society members can move on to become an associate and then a fellowship with increasing levels of difficulty.

“I am starting to think about the next step,” said Richard.