Friday, 18 May 2018

Tides and Tempests, a talk by Rachael Talibart 16th May 2018

Being ready to ‘suffer for our art' may be a bit of a cliché but this evening’s speaker, Rachael Talibart, made me feel decidedly sheepish when she described what she put herself through to capture the shots she wanted. How many of us would spend all day lying on a beach in a raging storm waiting for that special wave or that special moment?

Rachael was brought up on the South Coast of England. Her father was a keen yachtsman and many sea trips and visits to the coast gave her a love for this environment and its infinite moods, colours and shapes. But for one problem - chronic seasickness. She started on a career in the city, but the pull of the marine and a growing interest in photography led her to abandon this and devote all her attention to what she loved most. She now concentrates exclusively on coastal photography and has published two books ('Sirens' and 'The Coast'), had many exhibitions of her work, and feature articles written about her. She won the Classical View section of Landscape Photographer of the Year 2017, and Black & White Photographer of the Year 2018. She also runs photography courses under the name f11 Workshops.

It is impossible to do justice in words to the many breathtaking images we were treated to, so I'm not going to try. If you were unlucky enough to have missed the meeting you can get an idea of what I mean by exploring Rachael's website:

As well as giving detailed commentary on each picture she showed - how and why she took it and what excited her about the scene - there were many tips and tricks, and comments about the way she works. Here are just a few:

She is prepared to wait all day at a particular spot for that magic moment.

Try returning again and again to the same location to savour all its moods as you are much more likely to get a feel for the photographic possibilities than from one-off visits to unfamiliar places.

If you visit a tourist spot, get the stock shots taken quickly and out of your system before looking for your own take on the location. Try to avoid the cliché pictures that everyone goes away with.

If considering a photo for conversion to black and white, it helps to have strong colour depth. This gives more flexibility for adjusting tonal balance using the colour sliders. Get used to adjusting contrast using Curves as they give the best control over tonal balance in the image.

Once you have finished your adjustments, view your image as a 'thumbnail' as this obscures all the fine detail and allows an overall impression of how the composition will look, whether the vignetting works etc.

Because of the dynamic range of most modern sensors allowing readjustments to be made after taking, graduated filters are not necessary in most situations. However, a good reason for using them is to give a better idea through the viewfinder of what the scene will look like in the final version. Use a hard grad for seascapes with a visible horizon and a soft grad for woodland scenes.

Tips for using ICM (intentional camera movement). Use shutter-priority exposures set at 1 to 2 seconds. Start moving the camera before releasing the shutter. Move horizontally for a seascape and vertically for woodland. To get a painterly look, hand hold - don't use a tripod. Don't move the camera too far if you wish to retain some image details.

Rachael uses Lightroom and Photoshop for image editing. She doesn't use SilverEfex Pro saying that all the adjustments in this add-in can be produced in the other packages.

She uses two Canon 5D bodies (one the 50 Megapixel model).
Her lenses were Canon L series: 16-28 f2.8, 24-70 f4, 70-200 f2.8 and a 2x converter. She also uses a tripod and cable release and Lee filters - a 6.6 hard grad, 9 soft grad, polariser and 6 and 10 stopper filters.

But it's not all about equipment, is it!?

She thought that camera clubs were great for people. They encourage you to do more photography in a friendly social environment and learn from comments by impartial judges. However, she encouraged us to look outside the confines of the club for inspiration. Go to as many exhibitions of photographs that you can. Look at what the masters do and consider how they might have achieved international reputations with photos that would simply dive if put in front of many camera club judges. And go to art galleries. Looking at paintings too can get your brains rattling with ideas.

She concluded by drawing our attention to a number of other contemporary photographers' work and has kindly provided the following links to help you find them:


Maggi Hambling

Isabel Diez

Susan Burnstine

Jonathan Chritchley

The Togcast

This was a brilliant evening and one we will not forget. Thanks a million Rachael!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

9 May 2018 | Monochrome Print Competition 2

This week saw the last of the monochrome print competitions for the year, judged by Rob Bonfield.

The quality of the prints were, as ever, outstanding, but there can only be one winner (in each class).

These were:

Group 1:  Canal Reflections by Terry Hodges:

Group 2: Spiral Staircase by David Pelling:

A recurring theme of the evening was the depth of field - and the need to bear this in mind when you're taking your shot. A quick internet search brought back a number of sites that will do the heavy lifting when calculating the amount of your subject you'll have in focus when you use the settings you use - I've included but one of the sites below. Happy calculating!

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Celebrating Croydon - Fun Competition

This week one of our group had an idea to hold a competition based on photos taken in an around Croydon. The intent of the competition was to celebrate the various sides of Croydon whether it is the people that make up the bustling area, the parks or the variety of architectural styles to be found there.

A member of the Croydon Camera Club kindly volunteered to judge the photos to give an insiders view and also, as it turns out, the view of an architect who has worked in Croydon at various times over the last 40 years. Thanks to Nina for giving us your time and sharing your opinions on the photos and thanks to Martin for having the original idea and then organising this evening.

There were some great photos to be seen and below are the photos that gained 10 points. (Another new departure for this evening was the final winner is each category was chosen by volume of cheering method!).

Level 1
Merritt, David - Columns and Light (winner)

Randall, Chris - Legalised Graffiti

Randall, Chris - Tram

Level 2

Faiers, Martin - St George's Bride

Harford, David - It's Croydon In'It (winner)

Harford, David - Morning Walk Addington Hills Croydon

Friday, 27 April 2018

25 April 2018 | Open Print Competition

This was the club evening that nearly didn’t happen. The judge, Roger Mendham, started with a salutary tale of his computer’s catastrophic hard drive failure. Mercifully, his 100,000 images were well backed up, but details of this Wednesday’s judging appointment were lost. Thankfully, a phone call from Mark Bulle saved the day!

Roger told us that he especially enjoys judging prints, as opposed to PDIs – ‘there’s no hiding place… a print is exactly what the author wants to be seen’. Black mounts seemed very popular, though one seemed to be upside down (normally the widest part of the mount is at the base!). There were some wonderful titles, especially ‘Wind-ruffled Robin’ – try saying that quickly! Roger was especially keen on images that evoked feelings, such as the power of waves or lonely contemplation. Tiny details were also important, like the person walking with a child in a very distant archway. As he pointed out, the photographer needed a good deal of patience to wait till just the right moment to fire the shutter. 

The Level 1 Winner this week was Maureen Hodges, with her splendidly evocative ‘Old Cottage Window’. The window was wonderfully sharp and the glass patently old and fuzzy. It gave a sense of being somewhere warm and homely.

The Level 2 Winner was Martin Faiers, with his beautifully detailed ‘Elemental Lights: Yellowstone’. This had excellent balance and had captured the right moment – people in motion, at the right hand third of the picture.

During the coffee break, I asked Roger what he looked for, as a judge, in photos. He also told me about his own style of photography and nominated just one photo that he would take with him to a desert island. Let’s hope he comes back from the island in time to judge another competition for us!

Saturday, 21 April 2018

18th April 2018 - Viveca Koh - From iPhoneography to Fellowship

Last Wednesday, the club welcomed Viveca Koh. Viveca was to take us on a journey from her beginnings with a box brownie, via the iPhone and its array of photo editing apps, to her achievement of the FRPS in 2014.

It became clear very quickly that Viveca's creative mind is a family trait as her mother is a painter and her uncle a poet. What was particularly fascinating to me was that her vision for an image was always on, even during the commute to work!

Working with her iPhone - beginning with the 2012 model - she confessed she likes the discipline of only having a fixed focal length lens to work with. Alongside that, Viveca has invested many 99p's - up from only 79p in the early days - in a multitude of creative and editing apps. She has produced a worksheet listing these in full which we hope she will pass onto the club so that we can carry out own trials and determine what works best for our own work or be inspired to try out something new.

A short list of her favourites:

  • Photoshop Touch - scaled down photoshop for smartphones
  • Glaze - Replicates paint texture
  • Repix - to be able to add texture to specific areas of the photo
  • Percolator - to use more of the colours in the image
  • Hipstamatic - clearly Viveca's most used app and one that (sadly for us Android users) appears to be only made for iPhones and iPads. It comes with a huge variety of lens options, brushes and designs and it seems Viveca must be very near the top of their Best Customer list!!.
Other apps are used to add vintage analogue effects, frames and borders.

Viveca made us aware of the words of Chase Jarvis, who said simply:

"The best camera is the one you have with you."

In this day and age that, invariably, is your smartphone and Viveca then demonstrated her skill and eye for making everyday scenes into striking images. Her creative mind and ability to see something, figure out what app to use and then work on photos that she has taken out of a bus window as she heads to the office had this writer sitting up and being seriously impressed. Most of us are probably barely awake on the way to work or have our eyes on the phone or paper but Viveca shows us that there are so many possibilities with her iPhone and pointed out that it is less intimidating to use, being great for being able to get close to your subject - especially bird close-ups

Like many of us, taking street photography can be intimidating as it is not easy to point your lens at strangers in the street. Viveca found that using her phone also freed her from this element and working in her then local area, she took part in local photo projects with community publications. These included the "Dogs and Legs" set, of which she shared a sample of with us. 

Her favourite location is Venice and as a challenge to herself, on her last visit, Viveca set out to use only her iPhone for her photography - something she admitted finding liberating. Here again, we saw her wonderful creative skills in taking and making eye-catching images from scenes that would doubtless pass most of us by. Working with the translating tools on her phone, she managed to persuade the locals to pose and react for her images. It sounds like a work in progress and is something to keep a watch out for.

Part of the appeal of using a phone for photography is that it can be a very good rehearsal for projects on a "big" camera - in Viveca's case, this is a Nikon. 

After tea break, Viveca gave us an honest and striking insight into how she obtained her FRPS. This was to follow her LRPS in 2010 and ARPS in 2011.

The inspiration for her attempt came from working on images created to accompany her uncle's poetry. His words were formed elements of astronomy and what struck me was how much Viveca put into her work, with her ability to be able to match what came into her mind from her uncle's words producing images that are visually stunning.

Having created her own book of images, she applied for the FRPS - with a book this needs 40 images - but did not pass. The advice she took away was to re-apply but using prints - this needing just 20 images. Seeking advice from other Fellows of the RPS, she eventually produced a set of images to propose. Some last minute changes to the panel - mainly to ensure a good balance in her portfolio - meant that she succeeded in her second attempt.

Viveca learned from this experience that, in order to achieve this goal, you need to be ruthless in judging your own work and not pick what you may consider your own favourites.
Again using her creative skills, much of what was used in the images came from the past, i.e. she has built up her own databases of sky, textures, etc. and images taken in such diverse locations as barbers shops and old, derelict buildings; also making sure her old stomping ground of Crystal Palace featured via using photos of her favourite mannequin!

She also offers a course on using Photoshop layers and masks, especially blending. This works best if we can gather 10 members who are interested.

Elsewhere, you can find Viveca's website and blog here: 



I fear I may have gone on here but I did find the evening one to remember and I hope you all enjoyed Viveca's intriguing and excellent journey and insight into her creative skills.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, 16 April 2018

11 March 2018 | PDI competition 4

Welcome back after the Easter break! This week we were visited by John Nathan who gamely judged close to 60 of our best images.

Things we learned this week:

1) Taking photos of wildlife is fraught with frustration. Ears can "ruin" the shot. Birds don't care to look in the right direction, or even look "right" when you snap them. And if you happen to get a shot with more than one bird aiming for the same thing, Photoshop must DEFINITELY have been used to stitch the animals together (spoiler alert: it wasn't...)
2) Even at 38,000 feet, it'd be nice to get a bird in the shot.
3) Aperture is key to a good shot.
4) ISO is key to a good shot.
5) Focus is key to a good shot. Unless it's not. In which case, it isn't.
6) Diagonals are key to a good shot.
7) Mopeds are good. Unless there's a bus in the way. Buses ruin everything.
8) Trees can steal the limelight. Even from a man with a day-glo T-Shirt on.
9) Calling something abstract doesn't necessarily mean that the judge will agree.

And... Wait for it... You've guessed it... I've saved the best for last...

11) Any photo will be enhanced by a dash of red. A red farmer in a field, 2000 feet down. A person in red skating on an otherwise isolated frozen lake. But not a bus. Definitely not a bus. That bus ruined the shot. 

So... After the mutterings, mutiny and scowling of the evening was complete, the following shots waltzed off with top marks, red or no red and congratulations should be given to:

Group 1: 

Winner:  Alan Marchant - Creme de la Creme Brulee:

David Merrit - Hillcroft in possession:

Chris Randall - Rooftops of Brugge:


 Chris Randall - Burnham-on-Sea Low Lighthouse:

Level 2:

Winner: Graham Simms - Lochan Urr:

Graham Simms - Loch Leven Dawn: 

Friday, 23 March 2018

Match-an-Image Competition at Cheam 21st March 2018

To call a Match-an-Image competition a ‘Bun fight’ is a bit of an understatement. Gone was the button-lipped silence of our normal club competitions: instead the poor judge, Steve Lawrenson ARPS APAGB of Reigate Photographic Society, had to withstand a constant barrage of heckling abuse from the audience, two thirds of whom understandably disagreed with his adjudications. But it felt great to let rip like this and subject a judge to the kind of emotional torment they often put us through, and, give him his due, Steve took it all in very good spirit, pretending sometimes to be swayed by one team or another, then changing his mind again.

The occasion was a three-way Match-an-Image competition at Cheam Camera Club where we pitted ourselves against the host club and Carshalton Camera Club. Each club took turns to lead with an image and the other two had to display one within 30 seconds that matched it in some way. The lead club scored a point automatically, then a point for a successful ‘match’ in the judges opinion. A further point was awarded to the best image projected, providing the judge had declared it a match.

We started off good, scoring the maximum available two points in 6 out of the first 10 rounds. By round 26 and the tea break, we were 3 points ahead of our nearest rival. By the end of the evening and after a gruelling 51 rounds, we slipped back a little. Nevertheless PhotoCraft won the contest with 63 points, a point ahead of each of our rivals. Getting good at this aren’t we?

So congratulations everyone as this was very much a team effort. Thanks to the many of you who offered your pictures to use. We had plenty to make our final selection from. The selection was made by Mandy, Dave S and myself who tried to get the best balance of subject matter, matching difficulty and image quality to optimise our chances of winning. We included at least one picture from everyone who sent some when choosing the 60 required. Only 51 were actually used, so if you didn’t see any of your own, they would have been among the 9 that didn’t see the light of day.

Mark managed to get this shot of PhotoCraft members returning to their seats after a punch-up with the Carshalton supporters sitting next to us (a couple of bloodied noses but no bones broken :x)...

An impressive 20+ of you turned up to add your voices to the ruckus. Thank you for your support on an evening I’m sure was enjoyed by everybody. Thanks also to Mark for masterminding the event and for his sterling performance at the laptop on the night, and to Brian G for kindly lending us his projector screen.