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Amherst Massachusetts is home to a sprawling UMass campus that hosted the New England Camera Club Council’s 63rd annual Photographic Conference over the weekend of July 11-13. Pop Photo’s Senior Editor Pete Kolonia was on hand to take in the dozens of interesting programs, slide shows, print displays, and numerous product demos, photo opportunities, and more. Here’s his report:

I arrived at about 11:00 on Saturday morning, and the programs had been in full swing already for hours. Models in bathing suits and in sun dresses with parasols (yes, parasols) strolled the campus grounds, each chased by upwards of a dozen eager photographers, tripping over their tripods to get the perfect shot. (You knew it was a photo convention, because virtually everyone had a “big rig.”) Those not shooting models (and other setups) filed into conference rooms and lecture halls for digital slide shows, programs on optimizing the digital experience, and the ins and outs of travel, nature, close-up, and wildlife photography, among others.

I dove in and listened first to Adams Jones speak on “Getting the most out of Digital Nature Photography.” For upwards of an hour, he shared his amazing nature work (www.adamjonesphoto.com), as well as tips and tricks for interpreting and mastering histograms, for how and when to fine tune custom white balance, and other digital tools and techniques.

Finding his approach inspiring but targeted mainly for novices, I jumped ship to spend an hour searching the vendor tables for buys and deals. With dozens of companies represented, hundreds of products, and experts from Nikon and Canon on hand, there was no shortage of stuff to buy and photographers with whom to talk shop.

(photo above: Camera Clubbers try their hands at high fashion.)

I took my time, examining large selections of camera bags and backpacks, ink jet printers, ink jet papers, and virtually the entire lines of Canon and Nikon cameras, lenses, and shoe-mount flash units. They were all arrayed on table tops (not behind glass as in many trade shows) where you could handle and study each, even sign them out for an hour to shoot on campus. (This alone was worth the price of admission-$134 for three days.) I made several purchases—including a sample box of fine art Moab ink jet papers—at very fair prices. Best part? The purchases where shipped to my home, so I didn’t have to lug them around campus.

(Photo at right: Photographers study the afternoon’s event program, deciding which lecture or digital slide show to take in. The campus’s appropriately photogenic chapel looms behind them.)

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