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Club of the Month: Photography Club develops from negatives

The Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Photography Club has reformatted its memory card and is starting over with a new vision in mind. For more information about the club, contact Ryan Wurdinger at (919) 722-7438 or via email at ryan.wurdinger@us.af.mil. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Brittain Crolley)

The Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Photography Club has reformatted its memory card and is starting over with a new vision in mind. For more information about the club, contact Ryan Wurdinger at (919) 722-7438 or via email at ryan.wurdinger@us.af.mil. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Brittain Crolley)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Over the years, technology has greatly changed the photography world. Gone are the days of developing film and dark rooms; instead replaced by digital cameras and photo editing software. What once took hours of careful handling, bathing and drying, can now be done in less keystrokes than it took to construct this paragraph (assuming you're familiar with "hot keys" that is).

Photography, much like today's world, has become instant ... instant viewing, instant sharing, and instant gratification.

The Photography Club at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, however, has set out to prove that going back to your roots is sometimes the best method for success.

A product of the Make It Better initiative, the club was one of many that flourished when the program began, seeing Airmen from across the base join together to enjoy a common hobby. Meetings were held, trips were planned, and of course, photos were taken. But the rapid growth soon proved to be too much for the newly-sprouted seed to withstand, and the group withered.

Like a desert cactus in need of rain, the club finally found a storm to bring it back to life.

"We've completely changed the dynamic of [the Photography Club] and what the goal of it is," explained Ryan Wurdinger, 4th Force Support Squadron outdoor recreation programmer and club mentor. "We're taking it less from a career path and putting the passion back in photography."

Wurdinger noted that the club was previously focused around professional photographers, which was discouraging for newer members. That's no longer the case.

"We're dedicating a lot more to looping together beginners and mentors," she added. "I think that by focusing on those new to the craft, we can start from the beginning and work our way up as a club, together."

Between her and two other mentors, Wurdinger believes they have created a team capable of covering a broad spectrum of photography skills. While she excels in nature and abstract imagery, the rest of the trio have backgrounds in portraiture and combat action photography. Combined, they bring more than 60 years of experience to the table and are more than willing to share their vast knowledge with anyone willing to ask.

One unique opportunity the club offers is an internship of sorts through the Connecting Hearts Through Photography program, run by Master Sgt. Anthony Smith, 4th FSS readiness NCO and portrait guru.

The program was developed in August 2015 to help connect the spouses of deployed and remote tour service members to their loved ones by means of family portraits. Smith has since started inviting young photographers to join him on his shoots to allow them to learn the different techniques he uses.

"They will have the opportunity to go through the process of preparing for a photo shoot and receive real-time instruction and feedback in a non-threatening and positive environment," he explained. "Our vision is to grow new photographers by developing their skills through structured training, workshops, and real-world application."

The club also plans to partner with other organizations on base, according to Wurdinger, to provide their members with an array of opportunities to practice different techniques and types of photography in order to figure out what best suits them. If action is more their speed, they can team with the Roller Derby Club to try out some motion shots. Or if they're into nature, they can take their skills to new heights with the Rock Climbing Club.

With more than 100 clubs now on base, the possibilities are endless.

"It's a great community overall and it's a great club to join because it's not about your skill level, it's about your passion for it," Wurdinger said. "We're welcoming to everybody. We want the Photography Club to be a photography family, and if that's the kind of thing you're looking for, then we'd love to have you."

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and while this article hasn't quite gotten to that milestone, you can, by joining the Photography Club. For more information about the club, contact Ryan Wurdinger at (919) 722-7438 or via email at ryan.wurdinger@us.af.mil.
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