Friday, 24 February 2017

Print Competition 22nd February 2017

This was the third of our four open print competitions this season. Our judge this evening was Sheena Rogers of Dorking Camera Club.

She said that it mattered that our intentions for how the picture should be read have to be clear. If we are not sure ourselves what they are, how can the viewer decipher them, and any uncertainty we may have about why we took the picture will be evident in our composition.

Details that distract from our message need to be toned down or removed so that the viewer is clear what we want them to look at. Also, if the most attractive feature of a picture is its subtle tones and colours, be careful not to shatter the effect by including a jarring slab of rock in it. A careful harmonising of foreground and background makes it obvious what you want the viewer to take from the picture.

A focal point in a picture helps, although that's not to say that you cannot invite the viewer to 'romp around' the picture space instead. However, be careful not to make it too busy as 'peoples' tolerance level for busyness can be quite low'.

Although she is new to us, Sheena's sensitive and perceptive comments on our pictures must have ensured that it won't be long before we invite her back again.

Congratulations to Joy in Level 1 for her winning shot of a squirrel eating a Yew berry A Nice Little Treat. This ticked all the boxes for a wildlife shot - looking bright-eyed and alive and doing something interesting, with no distractions in the background.


There were three 10s awarded at Level 2, the 10+ going to Dave S. for Shen-Mai. Sheena admitted she had no idea how this had been done or what the scale of this 'Chinese' monochrome landscape was but she absolutely loved it.


Mark's Beached Iceberg'  was a visually stunning image of a hunk of ice on a beach - a natural sculptural marvel backlit by a low sun.


In contrast, Brian's coastal shot The smooth sea at Portland  was a soft and subtle blend of colour, shape and texture.


Mark's weekly instructions on the location of the Fire Exits and to muster on the church steps if a fire alarm sounds was put to the test halfway through the evening. Much to our discredit, an orderly evacuation of the hall did not happen. One or two people left but, as it was raining, most stayed put and just sniffed the air for smoke. Anne managed to find some instructions on how to turn it off. Someone said they didn't think it sounded like the fire alarm - it put me in mind of the classic fire alarm scene from Fawlty Towers.

Friday, 17 February 2017

15 February 2017 | Buddy Night



Buddy Nights are a great way of finding out more about your camera or a particular aspect of photography from other club members. There was a lively buzz of conversation around the room last Wednesday.  Here are just a couple of examples of what people were sharing:

How to be in different places at the same time - Photoshop Layering

Joy S wanted to try something wacky. She had made three pictures of herself, in ‘musical soirée’ mode, and she asked David P to help her layer them in Photoshop Elements. By placing the images side by side and after a bit of juggling, David was able to demonstrate how to ‘rub out’ bits of a layer to reveal Joy in the next pose and so eventually this clever composite picture was created. Notice that they kept to the ‘odd number of subjects’ rule!

 

Musical soirée

A powerful free post-production tool – Snapseed

If you have an iOS or Android tablet and can either not afford the likes of Lightroom or one day find yourself away from your normal computer, you might like to download Snapseed. It’s software originally created by Nik and now owned and regularly updated by Google. With it you can do some powerful editing of your photos. Philip S had brought along three deliberately poor photos to demonstrate some of Snapseed’s capabilities. Here are some before and after shots and a note of the functions applied in Snapseed:

 

Before
After

This was a RAW file. Snapseed was used to warm up the image, enhance the pool of light, lighten some of the shadows, heal some areas, sharpen the image and apply a modest vignette.

 

Before
After

 Snapseed was used to spotlight the face in this image, darken the highlights in the sky, lighten the foliage, straighten the horizon slightly and apply a white border. Shame about the subject – but there we are!

 

Before
After

For this picture of Rome, Snapseed was used to lighten the shadows, straighten up the verticals slightly, crop the top a little, and increase the dynamic range (using the HDR function on this single image). HDR is like Marmite - people either love or hate the effect - and you might actually prefer the 'Before' image in this instance!

These were not award winning shots, but I think you might agree that Snapseed did manage to improve the images. And the most impressive thing is that it’s entirely free… and I don’t get paid commission!





Friday, 3 February 2017

PDI Competition 3 - 1st February 2017 (Was it art??)

Hello all,

The first thing to say is well done to everyone who put in entries for this week's competition! A record number of photographs up before our judge, Eddie Hyde. It was particularly good to see the turnout for Level One and here's to more of our newer members taking their first steps into the wild and wonderful world of competitive photography!

Congratulations now to our Level 1 entries getting the big 10, especially Kevin with a double success.

Level 1: Kevin Brookes (10+) - this wonderful Peacock Portrait
















Level 1: Kevin Brookes (10) - Swallowtail Butterfly

















Level 1: Chris Heckford (10) - Gazing

















Level 2 provided us with another array of wonderful photos to enjoy and congratulations are due to:

Level 2:  Graham Simms (10+) - Northumbrian Winter - Wonderful capture of a stormy sea.




















Level 2:  Mandy Byatt (10) - Dragonfly in Flight - Sharp and perfectly caught in motion















The evening opened with a flurry of images captured on days out with family and friends (e.g. see Chris's above). Our judge provided some interesting comments on these sort of photos...specifically that, whilst they are sure to be enjoyed by said friends and family, do they work as well if the viewer does not know the person in the picture? Suffice to say, this one from Chris did but our judge was not convinced by many of the others.

Eddie also gave useful insight into what should be included in the PDI. Don't be afraid to crop in, to give your image a main subject, or to remove the dead spaces from your original image. Sharpness too, plus ensuring you are focussing on the key items you want the viewer to see and enjoy.

Converting to mono may also work for some photos where it can add that extra dynamic to what may have been an otherwise flat image. In fact, there was a clear message that using software correctly will definitely enhance the photograph, so be willing to experiment.

It also does not pay to have too much going on within the frame. Eddie made more than one reference to areas "fighting" or "competing" for the viewers attention as there were some colourful entries for him to judge.

The one key word I heard our judge say time and again was "ART". Personally, this is the first time i have heard a judge make this a key issue in his thoughts of the images he is scoring. "Would I have these on my wall?" "Do I enjoy this photograph?". I have heard these many times but Eddie was the first one to specifically refer to art as part of his judging criteria. Now, I may not know art but I know what I like and it will be interesting to hear if other members take the art aspect into the making of their work, especially for entering competitions.

In closing, it will be great if we can keep up the number of entries at this level - I for one would be happy to have a rule of a maximum of two entries if it allows for more of us to enter. 

Enjoy and see you next week.







Friday, 27 January 2017

25 January 2017 | ‘An Evening of Contrasts’ | Rosemary Wilman



I was prepared to be impressed… and I wasn’t disappointed! This week’s presenter was Rosemary Wilman Hon FRPS AFIAP BPE5, who is a past-President of the Royal Photographic Society. Her images took us to the Greek island of Santorini in summer and then on to Yellowstone in winter – Photocraft’s modestly-heated meeting room helped us identify especially well with the extreme cold of Yellowstone! After the break we continued to the Outer Hebridean Isle of Harris and then finally to the Kelpies horse sculptures at Falkirk.

These were all stunningly beautiful images, accompanied by a fascinating commentary, with plenty of tips to take away. Rosemary’s favourite format is square. She enjoys moving around her subject to discover interesting compositions and playful juxtapositions. Her images ably demonstrate that ‘less is more’ – she keeps them simple and often homes in on a particularly photogenic detail that others might not notice. She is drawn by simple designs and by patterns that stimulate the imagination (who would have expected to see an outline of Queen Victoria on the beach at Harris?).There weren’t many people in the images, partly because we were looking at snowbound Yellowstone and other places not overrun by tourists. The pictures were simple and uncluttered and often serenely beautiful. 

Rosemary said that she prefers to get it right in camera. She does very limited post-production – just enough to recreate what she originally saw. One of her most intriguing images was a collage in which she juxtaposed pictures of Harris Tweed with pictures of the local stone and flora that inspired each of the Tweed colour variations. Most of the images in the presentation were projected, but some were also displayed as prints. I thought the prints on the titanium lustre paper were especially stunning. I believe the lab Rosemary mentioned was DSCL in Manchester. When using their pricier fine art papers, one price-saving trick she suggested was to have several images printed onto one of their larger sheets.  

There were plenty of other useful photography tips. These are just a few that I took away:
  • always look around the edges of your frame, to see what you’re including/excluding;
  • always watch your exposure on the histogram;
  • if you’re processing very light images (eg, the snow of Yellowstone or the freshly painted white walls of Santorini), don’t use a grey background – turn it white or you might risk making everything grey!
  • don’t forget to colour-calibrate your monitor;
  • snow images may sometimes be best in monochrome, if snow crystals catch the light this can start to look like digital artefacts;
  • landscapes with very blue sea may look better with a greyer sky;
  • watch where you tread, in case you leave footprints or crush what you want to photograph;
  • feel free to break the ‘rules’ of photography, once you’ve understood them;
  • don’t just take a single image – explore the subject thoroughly  (but, if the conditions are too bad or the animals are too fierce to get out of your vehicle, make do with where you are!).