Sunday, 17 December 2017

Christmas Party

Last Wednesday we met for our annual Christmas party. A great night was had by all with some new ideas coming from your committee.

Martin and his wife Monica arranged the food and set out a fine and varied spread.

Brenda help to collect the money for the food and also came up with the most intriguing photo quiz thanks to the Radiology department at her work! They even prepared a presentation with all the answers. Thanks also to David for pulling himself away from the mince pies to help set up the screen and projector.

And then came our raffle organised by Steve.

This was all carried out to the backdrop of christmas lights donated by Mark which also became the bonus prize in the raffle.

And thanks to everyone else for making it a nice way to round off the 2017 Photocraft season.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Open Print Competition 2, 6th Dec 2017

It is always good to welcome Don Morley to judge our competitions. A man with a lifetime’s professional experience in photojournalism; what he doesn’t know about photography wouldn’t cover the back of a postage stamp.

It was encouraging to see so many entries in Level 1 considering the extra effort and pain needed to turn a digital file into a successful print. Don was encouraging to all entrants in this level with gentle constructive criticism on technique or content. I am sure everyone who entered at this level felt they learnt something without being disheartened where their efforts may have fallen short of perfection.

But there must have been something in his tea because he came out with all guns blazing when the first three Level 2 prints were put up (two of which were mine!) because they were slaughtered. When the fourth was presented, he said perhaps he should start commenting from near the exit door.

As one would hope and expect at this level, technical criticisms were fewer and the pictures separated more on concept and composition. It came down to whether a picture ‘worked’ or not. If it didn’t ‘grab’ him, it didn’t score well. I thought it was interesting that he did not criticise pictures that did not conform to the conventional camera club ‘rules’ of composition, provided the picture ‘worked’.

Being able to recognise when a picture is working is the Holy Grail of good photography. I always listen hard to those judges able to make that distinction, and continue to believe for my sake that this is a skill that can be learnt with practice. Vain hope perhaps.

Well done everyone who entered the competition and congratulations to those achieving top scores.

The 10+ at level 1 was a beautiful night shot Blue Line to St Paul's by Maureen

Another new member entering a print for the first time and awarded 10 was David A with Southwest Cyprus, west of Coral Bay

The other two 10s at Level 1 were Little Owl; with Attitude by David M

and Bruarfosse waterfall, Iceland by Sharon.

At Level 2, Dave S gained the 10+ with Balloons

also receiving a 10 for his seasonal Robin

Two more 10s were awarded at this level, David H for Heron

and Martin F for On Dungeness Beach

Half of these award winning pictures were from new members, so it looks as if us old hands will have to watch our backs and up our game for future competitions!

Friday, 1 December 2017

29 November | Paul Sanders | Pictures on a Page

Not many of us have our pictures viewed by over a million people a day – unless your photo happens to be selected for publication in a newspaper.  Paul Sanders was Picture Editor for The Times till 2011. Every day he would have to review upwards of 20,000 pictures, for 14 to 16 hours a day, to identify the best photos for that day’s edition. In his presentation to Photocraft he let us into some of the secrets of newspaper photography.

For instance, if you want an image selected for the front page, the trick is to hide your best picture in the middle of the pile that's being reviewed by the editorial meeting, skip over it, poker-faced, and let the Editor claw it back as ‘their own idea’! Photoshopping or pixelating out any part of a news image is a sackable offence – readers have to be able to trust the honesty and integrity of the newspaper. Getting unique images and stealing a march on competitors depends on building contacts with ordinary people - including sometimes scheming to get sole access to their family photo album! 

Paul recounted how one of his photographers had handled a severely truncated photo shoot with President G W Bush. 48 frames were shot in just five minutes, thanks to the photographer knowing what he wanted and how to get it: ‘powerful people respect decisive people’, he said, so it was important to be ‘respectful, but forceful’.

Many of Paul’s stories and images were hauntingly tragic. He showed a 2008 image of a young female AIDS victim from Zimbabwe, Sarudzai Gumbo, who was suffering from a number of different AIDS-related illnesses. Her face was disfigured by open sores and she was very frail, in a country that, thanks to Mugabe, had next to no remaining health care. Apparently, after Times photographer, Richard Mills, working undercover, took her picture, readers of The Times donated enough money to move her to a properly equipped hospital, but sadly she died shortly afterwards. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the story: Richard Mills took his own life later that year, depressed that his pictures were not changing the world – and probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Paul confessed that he was still haunted by this and would never have sent him back to Zimbabwe, had he known his state of mind.

The Royal Wedding cover ©The Times

The last royal wedding, in 2011, was a source of much happier stories. Paul described the challenge, on that occasion, of identifying the right photo for The Times front page. The image was to wrap around the front and back pages. The most obvious picture would have William and Kate kissing on the balcony of the palace, in a deliberate echo of the iconic Charles and Diana wedding photo, but this image would have been hard to wrap around. Paul told how he'd had a huge row with his Editor as to which photo should be used, but had stood his ground, and ultimately had got his way. Instead of the kiss, The Times featured an image of the happy couple driving from Buckingham Palace to Clarence House in a vintage Aston Martin. Paul’s judgement was proved absolutely right when this souvenir edition of The Times not only uniquely stood out from competitors, but completely sold out and boosted sales for some time. Ironically, though, Paul revealed that the photographer of this shot only ever earned £175 from the picture!

If you ever take a really good photo of breaking news, Paul advised that you should send it in to a news desk straightaway: ‘news doesn’t wait for you… if you get something good, move it!’ Ultimately, Paul lost faith in newspaper picture editing, left The Times and has started to rediscover himself in landscape photography. However, that’s another story, for another day. You can read about it here.