Monday, 20 November 2017

15 November 2017 | PDI Competition 2

This Wednesday saw the second installation of the ever popular PDI competition – with a slew of top marks across the 2 levels. Congratulations to everyone who entered – with special mentions going to the following:

Level 1:

10+: Maureen H: Tour Guide’s Quiet Moment:

10: Sharon T: A Rose:

10: Sharon T: Skogafoss:

10: Steve H: Dying Sunflower:

Level 2:

10+: Mandy B: Night fighting foxes:

10: Graham S: Autumn Fall:

10: Martin F: Suspended: 

 See you all next week for our "bokeh" workshop!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Exposure Exposed by David P

One of the fundamental issues of capturing a photo is how much light to allow into the camera, how long to "expose" the film (or sensor) to light.

Most modern cameras now come with internal mini-computers and light meters that make many of the exposure decisions automatically based on what they think you want. It assumes you are in average conditions and as a result gives an "average" photo. But sometimes that's just not good enough and we need to guide the camera's computer to take account of our creative preferences.

Dave's talk explained the background to the "Exposure" process, what the camera tries to do automatically and more importantly how and when to override it's "average" algorithms.

So fundamental is the exposure to the photo capture process that any talk that tries to explain it will also divert into side-subjects of ISO, aperature and then focussing.

David covered all of these admirably and also left time for questions afterwards.

I can't repeat all of David's talk here just to mention some of the rules of thumb he included.

(1) If you have no light meter, guess !!  Also called the sunny sixteen rule. On a bright sunny day, use a shutter speed of 1/ISO speed (i.e.) with ISO set at 200, then the correct shutter speed with f16 is 1/200sec.

(2) To avoid camera shake use a shutter speed faster than 1/focal length of the lens. (i.e) when using a 200mm lens, use a shutter speed faster than 1/200sec.

(3) When shooting stars, the longest exposure before stars start to trail is 500/focal length of the lens.

And some more friendly advice, when photographing stars, most cameras might allow you to focus beyond infinity, but don't do it. You don't know what will happen ...


Friday, 3 November 2017

London by Night | Umbreen Hafeez | 1 November

As the days get shorter and the nights draw in, some people put their cameras away. Not so, Umbreen Hafeez, the speaker at Photocraft last week. Umbreen’s specialism is photographing London by night. She took us through a kaleidoscopic array of her night shots of the capital, captured with pin sharp detail and a consistent eye for excellent composition. Most of the photos had been taken from tall buildings, though some had been taken at ground level or, more precisely, river level: Umbreen isn’t afraid to don her wellies and take to the foreshore (though always with an eye on the incoming tide!).

Her real passion at the moment is photographing London from the air. There seemed to be hardly any tall building that Umbreen hadn’t used as her vantage point to create her mesmeric images. She has taken her camera to high rise council blocks, new builds, rooftop restaurants, penthouse suites, and offices in the sky. One way or another she has managed to gain entrance, by blagging, tailgating residents, befriending office workers or simply asking permission. Initially, she is sometimes refused, but her dogged persistence usually gets her into the vantage points she most covets. Sometimes there is some quid pro quo, as she donates low resolution pictures to her hosts. She confessed that she even resorted to becoming a volunteer at Severndroog Castle in order to take photos there. As well as persistence, Umbreen certainly has oodles of patience as she waits for a day with the right weather conditions (50-70% cloud). Mind you, she also warned against cancelling because of bad weather: two of her most amazing images were taken in less than ideal conditions (a full rainbow and a lightning strike). 

The camera she uses is a Canon 5DM2, with 17-40 F4 L lens, 24-105 F4 L IS lens and used to use a 70-300mm DO IS lens but has now switched to Sigma 50-500. She normally shoots an hour before and an hour after sunset, so a tripod (carbon fibre) is essential. She uses Adobe Lightroom for post production. Her standard setting is f13 for 30 seconds at ISO 100, though sometimes, if she’s having to shoot through a dirty window, she’ll open up the aperture to reduce the depth of field and blur out the dirt. As much of her work is through windows she also uses a "lens skirt" to keep light interference from double glazing panes to a minimum. (This is a black cloth/hood which fixes to the window with suction cups and the lens fits through a hole in the middle).

Normally she works with a single exposure, except, say, in the case of Big Ben, when, for obvious reasons, the clock face has to be taken separately and overlaid on the rest of the long-exposure image in Photoshop. She said her use of Lightroom was fairly conservative and usually amounted to: taking down the highlights, upping the shadows, adding lots of contrast, and doing some sharpening. Interestingly, she said that she didn’t tend to boost saturation. She will also adjust white balance, not necessarily for accuracy but for something that looks pleasing. So, there were plenty of useful tips to emulate and Umbreen’s presentation certainly whetted my appetite to try out more London photography. It’s amazing to think that people travel the globe to photograph London… and it’s right here on our doorstep! 

One of the most impressive things about Umbreen’s photography is that she is self-taught – which gives all of us hope! Be inspired by her images and find out more about Umbreen at TimeOut and on Flickr. 

Saturday, 28 October 2017

25th October 2017 - Mono PDI Competition 1

Our first Mono image PDI of the season will go down in the history books of Photocraft!

We had an incredible 81 images entered for judging, a new record and actually over the usual limit recommended by the SPA guidelines – which say around 70 is enough.

We contemplated our options and decided to ask our judge for the night, James Godber, what he would like to do. James took the bold decision to accept all 81 entries and so we settled in for what promised to be an interesting and possibly lengthy evening!

Our Level 1 members put forward 48 images. The standard was exceptional and James ensured that every entry was viewed, commented and scored. We saw 14 images held back and offer congratulations to Steve Hadfield for his superb “Gotham City” winning entry.

Our other Level 1 members scoring 10 were:

·         Bamburgh Castle -  Sharon Thomas
·         Lumiere - Benjamin Bull
·         Snow face sunken impression - Andrew Clarke
·         Escalator - Benjamin Bull

A special mention to Benjamin for a double 10!!

The standard of what we had seen before tea break eventually arrived certainly meant that the 33 Level 2 entries would have to stand up to even harder scrutiny. James once again made the time count and despite telling himself to speed up, it was clear he was enjoying the night and as with Level 1, he was fair in giving all entries suitable time to be assessed. 11 were held back.

Congratulation are due to David Pelling for his winning image, Agave, which got the 10+ award.

The following also gain a worthy mention for their scores of 10:

·         Homeward Bound Separate Lives - David Harford
·         Waiting for summer - Philip Richter
·         George – Graham Simms

So what did our judge have to say? From where I sat, he seemed to be most concerned about the focal length that many images were taken at. He explained that the choice of focal length is critical in ensuring that the main subject of the photograph stands out from its background. Thus, the lower the number for the aperture opening (e.g f8 and lower), the more of the background away from the main subject will be out of focus, thus stopping our eye wandering around the picture.

He also offered good insight into choosing the right image to convert to mono. We saw some on the night that were not black and white and James stressed that to make these ones stand out, there needs to be the right level of contrast, especially with images of one colour.

All in all, it was a successful evening and this writer is delighted that we now have such a confident membership, willing to put their work forward for comment. 81 entries for mono is wonderful given that it is normally the poor relation to full blown colour. If, as usual, we see a higher number for the next colour PDI, I can only suggest we all bring camp beds as it will be a long night but chances are we will look to bring the entries down to 2 per member so my last item to leave you with is to  be sure you number your entries carefully and  that your two favourites are numbered 1 and 2 so that your best work will be in the competition on the night.

Till the next time!

Monday, 23 October 2017

Once, twice, three times a (winning) lady!

So last Saturday five intrepid Photocraft members set off to represent the club at the Surrey Photographic Association's annual Individual Print and PDI competition in East Horsley.

Still smarting from last year's complete failure to print home any bling, the heat was well and truly on, with competition new boy Philip clearly not wanting to let the side down.

As usual, Mandy did her very best to send everyone home with a chronic case of diabetes, outdoing herself this year with a carrier bag full of goodies.  Just like a dealer of less legal "recreational pleasures" Mandy pressured us to eat more sweets than our doctors or dentists would have advised .. to begin with I thought she was just being generous, but her ulterior motive became much clearer as the afternoon wore on  .. but more on that shortly ..

Despite a good showing from the boys with 9 images scoring 10 or above (a good club picture typically scores 9 out of a possible 15) the afternoon undisputedly belonged to Mandy, who came away with not one, not two, but THREE medals: one best in class and two judge's choices!

Now we know why Mandy was so keen to empty that carrier bag!  A very well deserved congratulations from everyone at Photocraft for a truly brilliant performance!

***** UPDATE *****  

If you'd like to check out the winning entries, click here:
And new for 2017, there is a "Judges Selection" section which features a three images from Mark  and David P:

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Internal Match-an-Image competition 18th October 2017

Match-a-Slide competitions were a regular feature of the club's programme in the days of film but fell out of favour with digital because of the need for two expensive projectors. Last Wednesday's competition was made possible by Epsom Camera Club kindly lending us a projector. The club is booked to participate in two Three-way Match-an-Image competitions with other clubs later in the season, so it was thought a practice run at the club would help hone our matching skills.

Mark divided members into two equal-sized teams with an even distribution of people from Level 1 and Level 2 in each to make it fair. And to involve as many members as possible, it was agreed that at least two images from everyone who submitted any would be included. As it turned out, fifteen people from each team did, which is a significant proportion of members, so a big thank you to everyone who took the trouble to take part.

Deciding whether two images 'match' or not was no easy task for our judge David Harford, especially having to deal with the loud heckling (might almost say barracking) from members of both teams trying to influence his decision. David played the part perfectly, deliberately vacillating over his choice in order to wind everybody up.

This type of competition drifts into the surreal towards the end as the choice for an attempted match diminishes. With the final pair of course, there is no choice. David appreciated this fact and relaxed his matching criteria as the contest approached the end game.

The evening was a riotous success that no one could have failed to enjoy. This was due in no small part to David's good humoured commentary throughout. He said at the end how much he had enjoyed the evening, particularly as he was able to relax and get away from the stuffy seriousness of straight competition judging. He sounded as if he meant it - so thank you David for helping make it an evening everyone will remember.

To give those who missed it a flavour of the evening, a selection from the pairs that were awarded 'matches' follows. Try to figure out what was behind the judges decision. The first of each pair was the first image projected with the 'matching' image beneath it.

The final pair - deemed a 'match'..

David, we love you!

Oops.. nearly forgot. Mark's team won by one point.