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.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Open Print Competition #1 - 4 Oct

It was an unusual competition evening but also proof that the club will find a solution to most problems. Changes in the management of the church halls meant we didn't have access to our normal light stand for displaying the prints. Not only does this make it difficult for everyone in the hall to see the photos but also the judge!

It looked a bit desperate for a time but thanks to the resourcefulness of our secretary (Mark) and deputy chair (James), the show went on and, for the evening, the prints were displayed on a chair (the plastic kind, not James).

Visiting judge David Harford took everything in his stride and as usual gave a useful and insightful critique on all the photos presented.

Congrats to Dave Merritt "mmm ... crunchy" and Mandy Byatt "Never mind" for their stunning winning photos that stood out in Level 1 and Level 2 respectively.

mmm ... crunchy

Never mind

And yes, we have access to the club cupboard again so everything is back to normal now.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

27th September 2017 - Digital Editing and Close Up Primer

It was an informative club evening tonight with two topics being covered for the benefit of all members old and new.

Philip opened the proceeding with a live demonstration and walk-through SNAPSEED. This is the free - and powerful - digital editing tool from Google. To help with our evening, Google thoughtfully released an updated version just prior to Philip's talk and from what this observer saw, it looks very much like Google has chosen to build in many of the now defunct Nik software with the new Snapseed release.

The first thing to point out is that Snapseed is only available as an app for smartphone or tablet - iOs and Android - and there do not appear to be any plans to release a desktop version for PC or Mac ( a quick search does reveal a rather complicated work around using emulators, etc. - far too complicated for me to explain here)

So the main use of Snapseed is for editing those images you have taken with your phone or tablet or alternatively, adding other photos to your phone or tablet for editing.

Philip told us that the new version now has many more options and is a more powerful editing tool. The layout has changed when compared to past versions and there is a greater choice available for more specific edits within an image. 

One of the most striking tools is the new "Expand" tool. This allows you to effectively add more to the image, i.e. make it bigger or fill in the gaps after a change of perspective.

I see that selecting part of a photo for editing is now possible and Philip provided excellent "Before" and "After" images plus a walkthrough to show us how it's done.

There are now far more presets available as filters plus a complete set of build in tutorials.

The list of Snapseed's features will be a long one but from my point of view, there are some real stand-out features:
  • The editing is non destructive. So you have the chance to play with as much editing on an image as you like and then decide it's not right - you simply undo your actions or revert back to the original.
  • It is possible to "stack" different edits of the image together and then flatten these, i.e. in the same style as Photoshop.
  • The edited image can be save as a new or copy file and there is an option to save a version with the edits still "live". That allows you to go back to each individual edit in the future and change
  • The most extraordinary new feature is what Snapseed calls "Head" mode. Philip showed us how this works and in particular its potential on portrait shots. The software can identify the head, isolate it and you are then able to move the face to look in a different direction. I am struggling to explain with words so please play with this as it can be quite dramatic.
  • The "healing" and "mono" tool are also greatly enhanced.
  • "Double Exposure" is another addition
The loud and clear message is that Snapseed is very easy to use and all of us are encouraged to try it and have a play. Files can be up to 20Mb and it works on raw files as well.

It is clear that Google have put a lot of effort into this update and are strengthening Snapseed's capabilities. Are they out to challenge Adobe? Knowing Google, that has to be a possibility!

Philip has kindly provided the following link to a dropbox file where he has collated all the available information so I would encourage all to take a look and enjoy.

After tea break, Mark gave us all some pointers and advice on the subject of close-up and macro photography. This is ahead of our own evening on the subject, coming up on 11th October.

Whilst Macro lenses are the most obvious choice, Mark made us all aware of extension tubes. These are simply rings that you add between the camera body and lens that allow you to move the front of the lens further away from the sensor in the camera. That, in turn, leads to greater magnification.

A range or extension tubes made by Kenko are Mark's choice - a set of three for under £100 - but we heard that there are cheaper ones available out there. Just make sure that whatever amount you may choose to spend, you get the right ones for your camera/lens system. Please note that we reached a consensus on the night that extension tubes do not work on telephoto/zoom lenses so keep that in mind if you think you may be interested.

Main topics covered included:
  • Depth of field - the closer your lens is to the subject, the shallower it gets
  • Orientation is important. The sharpest part of the subject is the part that is in focus and parallel to the lens. You can experiment for effect with this and it is good to move around when the object is too big to get into one shot.
  • Keep in mind your camera settings will play a big part in getting the most pleasing outcome. Reducing the lens aperture will result in a larger depth of field and the reverse is true as well. So if you are having problems in focusing on what you want, try changing the aperture.
  • As you make the aperture smaller, your exposure time will lengthen to ensure the shutter speed is correctly set. Make sure your camera is stable throughout.
Focus stacking is another option if you are looking to make the whole close-up image look sharp. He has kindly provided a link to a YouTube instructional video here:

Mark provided an excellent insight into the ways and methods to get close up plus a look at why it can go wrong and how to improve your chances of getting it right. He ended the evening with some demonstrations via linking his camera to an iPad and showed us the impact of getting close with a 5p piece. It was a very informative talk and Mark has made his presentation available to all on our club website.

Perhaps the main message to take away is that it will take many attempts to get the shot you want so be prepared to experiment, be patient and have fun!