Before I recall my first year I thought it worth noting why I joined. I have held a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera for around 40 years. I knew some basics and could sometimes produce a picture that other people liked. My first camera was a Praktica but I got fed up changing lenses with a screw thread mount, so upgraded to a Canon FTb and (over many years) a selection of lenses. About 8 years ago I did manage to pick up a Canon AE1 body. I had resisted the pull of digital SLRs (DSLR) as I was not convinced they could match the quality of my Canon but about 4 or 5 years ago I gave in and purchased a Nikon D3200; there was an offer for camera, two lenses and a fairly decent tripod, so that won on price over a Canon DSLR.
The DSLR opened up a whole new world in not only taking pictures but in editing them either in camera or using software on my computer. Although I purchased a book to help me I soon realised I needed a lot more guidance. I prefer hands on guidance, or tuition, rather than endless hours of videos such a YouTube although there is nothing wrong with YouTube and I do occasionally use it. I felt I had a choice of evening classes with the local adult Education or finding a club where I could learn from everyone else. A quick search on the internet came up with the Medway DSLR which was also fairly close to me.
I contacted the chairman and he suggested I pop along for 2 or 3 weeks to see if it suited me. Back in the mid 1980’s I had briefly joined a camera club when I lived in Croydon and a tennis club. Both were a bit elitist (especially the tennis club) as they graded people on ability, so I was a bit worried about how this club was when it came to new members. It was soon apparent that this could not compare to my previous bad experiences! There are no graded streams, this is a much a social club as a camera club.
There are a few members who could be classed as professional level. However there is no segregation on ability in any of the competitions; everyone is encouraged to enter and stands as much of a chance as anyone else. I do not view the competitions as such. For me they are a learning experience; the judges are trained to provide constructive feedback. My suggestion is to listen to the comments on every photo presented and not just your own because you will pick up tips on what to look out for when taking a picture but also how to correct some of the items.
All the members are happy to chat and will give their time freely on any topic whether using your camera, composition, editing, etc. I probably learnt more in the first few months that I did in previous 40 years. I entered all but one of the competitions and was pleased to receive a 2nd in a portrait competition in my first year, especially as I had not done any dedicated portraiture before. The entries that did not do so well in other competitions I regarded as learning experience noting the comments from the judge. Whilst you are encouraged to enter competitions, there is no pressure if you do not want to.
I have been on a variety of field trips either as part of the club calendar of events, or as weekend jaunt with another club member just for fun. The variety of events at club evenings has included portraiture of male and female models, an evening with spiders and lizards, photographing a rock band who played for the evening, a session on water droplets, talks and demos from professional photographers.
In summary for the cost of £1 a week I have had much greater exposure to a wide variety of techniques and topics that I could get at a local adult Ed. I also have a choice of 50 people to learn from; whatever the topic someone at the club is likely to know about it. As well as a club to share and expand my photography I have made new friends.