When Norma Woodward was 12 years old she got her first camera, a Brownie Hawkeye, and she’s been hooked ever since.
Woodward is the president of the Fredericksburg Photography Club, which meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the United Methodist Church off Hanover and Princess Anne streets in downtown. The club started in 1986 and has about 40 members who pay $30 each in annual dues. Club members, who range in experience from professionals to amateurs, get their photographs critiqued by professionals working in the field. They also get to hear from guest speakers and the group has hosted photojournalists on numerous occasions.
She moved to Fredericksburg from Mississippi in 1963 with her husband, Les. Their two sons and daughter each attended James Monroe High School. Woodward is well known in town because she was the high school principal’s secretary for 17 years and retired as a data analyst for the Fredericksburg School system in 2008.
Cameras have come a long way since Woodward’s box camera. She said digital technology has been a positive change for the industry because more people have become interested in taking pictures.
“You used to have to take your pictures, send it away and wait a while,” she said. “What digital has done, although it has also made people more careless, it also gives you the immediate feedback and you know what you have. One of the other good things about digital is I used to go to Europe with 40 rolls of film in my backpack and now I go with two little 16 gigabyte cards.”
Woodward said one misconception people have is that the camera makes the picture. She said the camera is only a tool and the shooter’s vision is more important. She said photographers should take pictures of subjects that please them and they are more likely to snap a decent shot. Common mistakes that younger photographers make are they try to please everyone, they don’t have confidence in their own abilities and they believe equipment is most important.
“You don’t have to have the most expensive camera,” she said. “The most expensive camera is just more versatile. If you’ve got a good eye, the point-and-shoot can take a good picture.”
Every summer Woodward goes on a cross-country trip, taking thousands of photographs. The Southwest is her favorite part of the country. She keeps a diary of her adventures and shared a few chapters of her prose, detailing her observations mile by mile.
“Last year I drove 15,000 miles and used no interstates. I left in July and came home in September. It’s fantastic. Sometimes I can go 100 miles and not see a soul.”
She’s been to Europe several times, and loves Italy and Paris. But her favorite place to photograph is Sedona, Ariz.
“It is red rock country,” she said. At this moment a stranger overheard Woodward and stood up.
“It is one of the most beautiful places you can find,” he said.
In her diary entry from her last trip, Woodward elaborates more on her love of the midwest. The flat land offers beautiful views of the clear sky adorn with hues of purple and red.
"Many people find the midwestern plains boring. I do not. They are beautiful. Each section of our country has a different personality and a different beauty. We are fortunate to have such diversity and to be able to travel it freely," she wrote. "One can see for miles and the clouds seem to come down to earth and kiss the horizon softly. Wondrous!"
Anyone interested in becoming a member can visit the group's webpage. The Fredericksburg Photography Club meets at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14. Each month, the group selects a subject to photograph and the pictures are critiqued at a later meeting. The Feb. 14 subject to critique is architectural details. Woodward has a photo exhibit at Brush Strokes Gallery downtown.