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Friday, March 31, 2017

PHOTOGRAPHING WILDLIFE FOR USE IN ART with Betty and Tony Rackham

The following account was written by Di Alexander.


Tony and Betty Rackham gave a superb presentation on their methods for photographing wildlife and using the photos as references in their paintings. We saw how a tiny plant was introduced into the foreground of a landscape painting. Photos of butterflies were  cropped and re-positioned onto a photograph of flowers. Photos of wading birds were cropped and used as part of a landscape. We could use photos of birds at our own garden feeders in order to create  a close-up study, such as Betty’s painting of woodpecker.


Betty and Tony use their expertise  to obtain high quality images. They explained how using the macro settings on our camera could enable us to sharpen the foreground and blur the background. They often isolate a plant from the background by placing bark or white card behind it. Since they are proficient users of Photo-editing software programs, they also have the option of placing that plant on top of another photograph, for example a mass of blooms in soft focus.


Tony and Betty know where to find wildlife and when they are likely to be  available. Tony’s strategy for obtaining photographs of moths is to set up a collecting station with a light overnight and then get up early in order to take photographs before they become too active. The wonderful hawk moth was used as a subject for a painting.


One of the slides showed how  a college created with tissue paper, card and newspaper was transformed into a forest scene using paints, inks and cut-out photographs of ponies.


We were grateful for the chance to share Betty and Tony’s twin passions of photography and art. Studying and photographing wildlife brings us closer to the beauty of the natural world. Since we are artists, we all have endless opportunities to celebrate nature through taking photographs and using them in our artwork. 


Tony and Betty

Display of paintings

Elephant hawk moth by Tony

Forest Scene - collage by Betty

Greater Spotted Woodpecker in watercolour and graphite by Betty

Tortiseshells on Fleabane by Tony

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