Washington Camera Club marks 75 years

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Members of Washington Camera Club were skeptical about digital photography when it was new to most people about 20 years ago.


Some of them held on to the belief for about a decade that black-and-white film captures the best images.


And then digital technology kept improving to the point that, today, all of the club’s members use digital cameras to capture images, said club president Ray Racunas of Washington, a retired teacher.


“Most of our prints are made from digital,” Racunas said as the club prepares to celebrate its 75th birthday and he reflects on how it has adapted to the many photography industry advances that have taken place during its existence.


The club formed in 1939 “for the purpose of advancing the knowledge and enjoyment of the art of photography for its members,” the club’s charter states.


Photographers in 1940 were using complicated, labor-intensive equipment that required them to manually set a camera’s aperture and shutter and film speed. Every shot counted.


The innovation of digital photography was as revolutionary as the use of film was to the tintype and wet and dry emulsion processes in the 19th century, club members agreed.


“The big advantage now is you see your image on the back of the camera,” Racunas said. “You used to have to wait until you got back to the darkroom to see it under an enlarger.”


Photographers who still use darkrooms today have to follow stricter regulations for the disposal of their chemicals as compared to 30 years ago, when they simply flushed them down sink drains, said club member Dan Halulko of Washington. “I donated my darkroom to Trinity High School,” Halulko said, adding that a few professional photographers in the club still use darkrooms. Other members occasionally return to using film for certain projects, he said.


The fact that everyone with a cellphone has become a photographer has resulted in stricter rules for photo contests.


“I belong to the Photographic Society of America,” Halulko said. “Today the bar is raised so high. You have to have a perfect image to win an award for a serious competitor.”


For example, there cannot be anything manmade in a photograph submitted in the nature category of such contests. In the past, something like a fence or a car in a photo would have been overlooked by judges in the nature category, he said.


“Your capture is most important,” said Halulko, a retired accountant.


The club has 50 members, one of whom resides in Puerto Rico and travels for business to Washington County Airport. A near-equal number of men and women belong to the club, which has a print display every other month at Citizens Library in Washington. Membership is open to anyone interested in photography.


The club will hold its salon in March at Frank Sarris Public Library in Canonsburg.


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