Snapshot: Peter Toolan

Peter Toolan is a retired High School Teacher from Redditch and has been an active member of his local U3A Digital Photography group since joining about 6 months ago. Peter and the group visited Winterbourne for the first time in July and found plenty that caught the eye.

“I have always enjoyed taking photos on holiday, or of our children when they were young, and editing them. I mostly enjoy taking landscapes while I am out walking or on holiday. I tend to take photographs of scenes, buildings or flowers that I like, as a record to keep, and I make a lot of electronic photo albums.”

The Pergola and Winterbourne House, photograph by Peter Toolan, Snapshot Peter Toolan,, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

The Pergola and Winterbourne House, photograph by Peter Toolan

“The U3A (University of the Third Age) is a Voluntary Learning Co-operative with branches nationwide, aiming to encourage lifelong learning for mature people, middle-aged and older, no longer in full time employment. My local Digital Photography group has been going since 2011; it exists to encourage the development of members’ photographic skills in a friendly and sociable atmosphere.”

The Sandstone Rock Garden, photograph by Peter Toolan, Snapshot Peter Toolan,, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

The Sandstone Rock Garden, photograph by Peter Toolan

“The group now has about 20 members and anyone with an interest in digital photography is encouraged to join, whether they are owners of compact cameras or the latest DSLRs. We meet once a month, with activities ranging from ‘show and tell’ (sharing photos taken on previous visits) to hosting visiting guest speakers or photographic activities such as practising editing skills.”

The Herb Circle, photograph by Peter Toolan, Snapshot Peter Toolan,, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

The Herb Circle, photograph by Peter Toolan

“We go on visits once a month in search of inspiration. They always begin with coffee, cake and a chat before moving on to taking photos. At the end of the year we produce an annual calendar. Members submit photos for consideration which are then whittled down to a short list and then a final selection is made by a visiting photographer. The calendar is then published and sold.”

The Pergola, photograph by Peter Toolan, Snapshot Peter Toolan,, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

The Pergola, photograph by Peter Toolan

“Since joining the U3A photography group I have started to think more about photography on a wider level, considering new forms such as street photography or macro. I mostly try and follow the ‘rule of thirds’ in composing, and get some ‘leading lines’ into the shot. It obviously helps to share ideas and to see what approaches others take, then to share comments when we have ‘show and tell’ sessions.”

The Oak Border, photograph by Peter Toolan, Snapshot Peter Toolan,, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

The Oak Border, photograph by Peter Toolan

“I can’t carry heavy equipment because of a neck problem, so I just take my camera (Panasonic GX8, mirrorless and therefore lighter) and a very light lens (12-35mm) plus a 14-140 (28-280 in 35mm terms) for getting in closer. I also have a 20mm fixed lens (40mm equivalent) which is great for low light, and a 45-200 (90-400 equivalent) which I rarely use but I did find it useful on safari!”

Sunflower in the Walled Garden, photograph by Peter Toolan, Snapshot Peter Toolan,, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Sunflower in the Walled Garden, photograph by Peter Toolan

“I try to balance just capturing a scene I like with the techniques that make a good photograph as well – e.g. using a wide aperture to get sharp focus in a close-up with a blurred background behind, or using a narrow aperture for a long view. Sometimes I use a polariser to enhance sky or clouds, cut out glare in water, and help to cut out unwanted light on flowers.”

Waterlily in the Dipping Pool, photograph by Peter Toolan, Snapshot Peter Toolan,, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Waterlily. photograph by Peter Toolan

“I was amazed I had never heard of Winterbourne before visiting with the U3A, despite living in Redditch for 45 years! I thought it was a lovely garden full of interest with lots of scope for both close-up shots of flowers and plants, plus shots of the house and garden together. I’ll definitely be back with my wife and friends and for photography at different times of the year.”

The Broad Walk, photograph by Peter Toolan, Snapshot Peter Toolan,, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

The Broad Walk, photograph by Peter Toolan


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