Sunday, 24 June 2018



Hello all,

We had a good selection of members' past entries during this season, from both print and PDI, at last week's meeting. This was an evening where we could get that sometimes hoped for boost or that sometimes unfortunate reaffirmation of our past works marks from a new judge. Where comments and feedback were encouraged and the judge could provide a different insight into what makes an image worthy of getting the best marks.

We were delighted to welcome Jay Charnock, an accomplished photographer in her own right and a respected judge on the SPA circuit. She set out her stall by telling us that she thinks judging is "horrid" but she likes looking at photographs and what better way to be able to see so many different images!

Jay was quick to point out that she does not care for things like "...odd or even numbers..." but prefers to see the mood of the image. Why was it taken? Does it do what the title says? Does it make a personal connection? She also gave many of us some comfort by stating that she has no problems with post-production being "creative" in its use but also warned that by its very nature, there will be some personal preferences in any judges' comments and marks as it really can't be helped - you like what you like!

We proceeded through the evening and Jay gave many fascinating insights into how she judges with some of the observations being her own and others reinforcing ones we've heard before - going to show that there are certain areas where all judges agree!

In her more conventional judging evenings, Jay said she gives her marks based on peer groups. If she knows the place where the picture was taken, that can be a good thing. In no particular order, here are a selection of Jay's other thoughts on judging and her own interpretations on how to improve what you present:

  • Humour in the image will often make a positive impact
  • When printing, use a small print in a "bigger" mount. This creates a better impact and will make the viewer have to walk up to it to scrutinise it.
  • As we have heard before, for square prints, put them higher in the mount, if it is not a square one.
  • Use the mount to enhance your presentation, not detract. Choose the mount colour carefully, especially for monochrome images.
  • Make sure the mount is cut well.
  • Print your image in keeping with the subject. think about the impact you want to make - e.g. a more sombre mood will probably be best on matt paper rather than gloss.
  • It is becoming harder for judges not to suspect some manipulation in the image. Jay suggests that the title can be used to steer the judge, e.g. "Birds in flight, as seen" or event adding "no manipulation" to ensure the message is clear.
  • Use a title that is suitable for the category the image is being entered for.
  • Think about the image you enter. Is it right for a competition?
  • Beware of overdoing post-production. Jay observed that some images had been oversharpened in her view. "too much of something is not always good."
Jay was honest on many occasions in her judging. She observed that many of the images needed more punch or "ooomphh". Here, it is important to get the light right and use the background to support the main subject. Another point to bear in mind is to ensure the orientation is right for the image. What is it you wish to show? Even with what you may think is a "landscape" wide image, if the main subject is more upright, crop and use portrait style. The style of the shot can be made too bland with the wrong presentation.

Jay gave an excellent tip for being able to judge the tonality of your image - simply turn it upside down! That way, you are no longer seeing the "correct" view, but simply looking at the image - do the tones in it work together? Is there something that dominates? If so, you can reduce that shade or colour. This works best for monochrome but also is a useful tip for all images. 

Using angles and setting up your shot with the correct depth of field will help create that "best" shot. Depth need not be the same throughout so pick the correct aperture to help maintain your main subject as the focus of the shot. Do you need everything in the photo? Leave out anything that detracts from your aim and try to balance the mood and light for the best ambiance.

There was certainly a lot of good advice and Jay spoke with the humour and confidence born of many years taking wonderful images. It was a pleasure to have her take a look at our "second chance" shots and allow us all to learn from such useful tips.

Finally a special mention to David P for bringing along a wonderful image of one of his granddaughters. It led to some healthy debate about how a portrait shot can be created and gave me the headline for this blog. So, all of us, please make sure that we observe this new rule  - we'll be keeping a close eye on this next season...or should that be toe?

Thursday, 14 June 2018

AGM | 13 June 2018

Oddly, for a camera group, we didn’t see many photos this Wednesday. Except for the outgoing Chair’s well-illustrated PowerPoint, which even seemed to include an image of a chocolate teapot!
This was a friendly, informal AGM, with plenty of laughs and well-deserved applause for those who had helped run the club during the last year. Thanks to an issue with the main lighting, the platform party were suitably back lit – a nice example of contrejour!

In his Chair’s report, Aodan celebrated our strong growth during the past three years. Now that Photocraft has fifty members, we have been able to afford premium external speakers. We have been impressed by the determination and perseverance that speakers have described in order to get good pictures, as well as a good dose of blagging in some cases! People have also appreciated the members’ evenings, when we have drawn on our own considerable stores of accumulated photographic knowledge and have explored particular niche interests. We have had a stimulating set of events and outings. Photocraft has engaged with a number of external competitions, often with stellar performance on our part! Internal competitions have attracted plenty of fine entries. PDI competitions have benefitted hugely from the new projector and the new streamlined PhotoEntry online submission system. The weekly blogs have continued to give a good flavour of what happens at our meetings – not least, to potential new members. Whilst, behind the scenes, there is a lot of generous volunteering to keep the show on the road.

As Treasurer, Steve reported a healthy bank balance. One of our next purchases is likely to be a new projection screen, to put an end to wavy PDIs.

Mark, as Programme Secretary, presented the findings from the free online survey tool we have been using to evaluate external speakers. Most speakers had been pretty well-received and none had received an overall score of less than 8.29 out of 10. He encouraged all members to complete the surveys in future: on average each survey takes just 2 minutes 28 seconds of your time!

Election of committee members and appointment of other volunteers took place without any painful contests or embarrassing silences. Full details will be in the official Minutes, but the headlines are – Chair: Mark B | Deputy Chair: Martin F | Treasurer: Ann H  |  Membership Secretary: Steve H | Programme Secretary: Graham S. Most of the other positions are as before, except that Jane D has segued across to help organise the tea rota. We wish them all well in 2018-19 in these different roles.

AOB included:
  •  The idea of holding an annual exhibition was aired.
  •  An amendment was agreed to Monochrome Competition Rule #5, so that it now reads: ‘The term monochrome describes an image produced in varying densities of a single hue. Conventionally that hue would be a neutral grey, with densities from white to black. However, the neutral grey could be replaced by any single hue.’
  • We agreed to use the PhotoEntry online submission system for Print as well as PDI competitions.
  • As part of our value-adding for members, we welcomed the idea of an Events Newsletter, containing information about local photographic exhibitions, etc – Brian C volunteered to collate the newsletter and send it out to members as a bi-weekly/monthly email
  • We were attracted to the idea of introducing more club outings (apart from Wednesday evenings) to do photography together, etc – Brian C volunteered to make some creative proposals.
  • It was recognised that we will need to find ways of spreading the load in terms of opening and setting up the hall for our meetings.
  • Our GDPR policy will be devised by the end of the summer.
  • The summer social will be kindly hosted by Joy S, on 12 August, from 14:30.

As AGMs go, this wasn’t the shortest, but it was very well-focused, extremely productive and lots of fun!

Friday, 1 June 2018

Print and PDI of the Year Competition 30th May 2018

It was good to welcome Ian Brash from Selsdon Camera Club this evening, an ‘A List’ judge from the SPA and an old friend. This competition is the only one where everyone has an equal chance of earning a club trophy, irrespective of level. Up to two prints and two PDIs could be chosen from those entered in our competitions of the current season.

Everyone has their own idea of what makes a picture work and hearing someone commenting in detail about one gives us a rare glimpse into the mind’s eye of another individual. So were there any take-home-messages from Ian’s adjudications? A couple perhaps.

First, keep your picture as simple as possible so that the viewer immediately understands clearly what your message is. So should we have to clone out most of the rich tapestry we encounter in the real world from our pictures to produce a sanitised version of existence? A kind of escape from reality instead of a reflection of it. Or was there a hidden agenda here, like 'don’t make me have to think too much to understand the point of your picture - I’ve a lot to get through this evening!'

Ian also advised putting a key line around all PDIs as this will clearly delineate your image from the black background. It will certainly help with some pictures but I think a key line is part of the body language of an image and whether you use one or not should be thought about. A key line is saying ‘this is a composition I have extracted from reality and I have boxed it in because it is all I want you to consider’. But not using a key line is saying ‘I want you to be aware that what I have captured is confluent with a bigger world so please don’t lose sight of that context.'

You’ve heard enough waffle I’m sure, so here are the worthy winners:

The winner of the PDIs was Waterworlds by Martin F. An outstanding piece of candid street photography I would have given my eye teeth to have captured!

Ian awarded three Honorary Mentions so congratulations to them too:

Starlings, An Orderly Queue by Mandy. For the record, this was a straight shot. No smoke and mirrors.

They Who Served - Oxford Street by David H. An engaging study of Chelsea Pensioners on a bus.

The Outsider by Martin F. A picture that leaves the viewer to make up their own storyline.

The winner of the Prints was Robin in Flight by Mandy. A perfectly executed photo of one of the most technically challenging of subjects - small birds in the air.

Again there were three Honorary Mentions:

Return of the Cranes by Dave S. Ian said that he ‘hoped the Cranes had been photographed like that’, but knowing Dave we might suspect a bit of smoke and mirrors with this one.

Mubarak-Omani Fisherman by David H. It takes bottle and good communication skills to take such unselfconscious pictures of ordinary people like this, the second from David to receive an Hon Men.

Events Noticeboard, Shanklin by David P. A cigar for Anne for being the only person yet to have got the title.

So that was it, the end of The Night of the Long Knives. A great evening and thanks again to Ian for helping bring our season’s competitions to an exciting close.