Thursday, 13 December 2018

A (very) rare blog entry from the Chairman!

As another year draws to a close, I would like to wish everyone at Photocraft a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2019.  Whatever you are doing over the festive period, please don't forget your camera .. remember there's all that that street photography, intentional camera movement, and "telling a story with pictures" to practice! :-)

Thanks to everyone that joined in the fun on Wednesday, and an extra special thank you on behalf of everyone present to Jane for organising the food and to Anne and Steve for organising the raffle and "ambiance".  It was a really fun night :-)

With best wishes ..


p.s. see you back on the 9th January for our second Monochrome Print competition!

Friday, 7 December 2018

5 December | Open Print Competition 2

Do you ever do background research on competition judges, to optimise your chances of winning?  According to the internet, tonight’s judge, Royston Williamson ‘aims to stray from the norm in (his) photography hopefully producing a reaction in the viewer’. It didn’t help me win, but his website revealed that he specialises in flora and fauna, landscapes and surrealism, and goes on regular cruises.

There were a few more things that I found out during the evening that I wished I’d known beforehand. Royston liked subjects to face the camera. He wanted photographers to pay attention to the edges and backgrounds of their images and remove anything unnecessary. He loved colour, though not too bright. He liked to be amused by photos and appreciated pictures that contained ‘something different that sticks in the mind’ afterwards. Above all, Royston delighted in black mounts and guess what colour mounts both tonight’s winners had used! Since all my mounts were antique white, that meant I had no chance… alongside the fact that the winning photos were so good!

There were an extraordinary number of entries ‘held back’ for final judging at level 2. ‘They’re all too damn good’, Royston claimed, ’it’s not my fault!’. But was it my imagination or did his judging get a tad stingy just after the tea break (had we short-changed him on his biscuits)?

As always, competition night was a useful learning experience and not just about photography. Royston’s judging was enlivened by extra nuggets of information. We discovered that there are sharks in Sydney Harbour and that people instinctively keep looking around when eating on their own. You never know when information like that will be useful!

Level One Winner | Bavarian Church Door | David A


Royston explained that this image was ‘all about patterns’. He loved the fact that it was taken straight-on and was ‘sharp all over’. The placement of the crosses was ‘well-thought-out’ and ‘dynamic’. He also felt the colours were ‘extremely nice’. The dark mount was well-chosen: a white mount would only have been ‘half as good’.
David A told me: ‘Of the three I entered, this was my third choice; it was chucked in and one that I was happy to be discarded if there were too many entries’. He explained ‘before I joined the club (when I took this photo) I tended to go for strong graphic images’ and that he was (justly) proud of the sharpness of this image. David took it on a Nikon full frame, with Sigma 35mm Art f1.4 lens - at f4 for best sharpness, aperture priority, and programmed for minimum sensitivity (giving him 100ASA) and slowest possible handhold shutter speeds (giving him 1/40s). For post-production he used Lightroom.  ‘It would have been minor tweeks (if necessary)’, he told me, ‘I usually take my pictures on Nikon Flat Picture Control, but I probably increased contrast in Lightroom and cropped a little to get things off-centre with no full diamonds’. David’s favourite subject matter is landscape/cityscape, and/or strong graphics.


Level Two Winner | Sunset over Archaway Islands, New Zealand | Mark B


Judges are seldom lost for words, but Royston simply felt this image was perfect: ‘what is there not to like?!’ He loved the ‘fantastic’ lighting of the rocks, the ‘astounding colours’ and the appropriately chosen dark mount. ‘You were so lucky to have been there’, he said. And we were lucky to be transported there by Mark B’s brilliant photo! In fact Royston had difficulty choosing between two potential winning entries – both stunning images by Mark B.
Mark told me: ‘We’ve had a number of speakers (one this year actually) who've talked about researching a picture beforehand, and this image is a great example of that.  This was taken on holiday in New Zealand and we visited this location specifically because I wanted to see what sort of pictures these rocks might make.  It also required a bit of time planning too, as the rocks are on the west coast of the island and I had to be there in time for sunset!’

He was most (justly) proud of ‘the colour of the sky, the contrast of the rocks against the sky and the smooth effect of the sea’. It was taken on a Canon 6D and a EF24-70mm f2.8L II USM lens.  It was a long exposure image (10 seconds at f9) and he also used a “Lee stopper” filter to smooth the sea and naturally he needed a tripod. The image was “improved" in Lightroom: ‘a bit of cropping, a bit of temperature, shadow, clarity, contrast and shadow adjustment .. a bit of everything I think’. Mark still considers himself to be relatively new to photography and he is still trying out new genres and techniques (when he gets the time!), but he loves night photography and landscape work.


Congratulations to tonight's worthy winners and to the other successful entrants who scored 10 (at Level 2):


Form an orderly queue please | Brian C

 Sydney by night | Mark B


Saturday, 1 December 2018

Competition Discussion Evening 1 - 28th November 2018 - Talking Crop and other photographic editing skills

It was good to see a healthy selection of members willing to put their past works up for discussion and comment last Wednesday evening. Following on from the extremely helpful talk of the week before by Marcus Scott-Taggart on how to prepare images for competition, this promised to be an evening where we could all see how our own images met the criteria or not, as the case may be.

Following Mark B's alphabetical arrangements, Alan M was first up with a nice image captured in Tuscany. This featured two wooden "Pinocchio" puppets and triggered a good few minutes on the merits of how the title of the image can be misinterpreted, either when reading out loud for a print competition or by the judge when just seen on screen with a PDI competition.

We also had our first mention of cropping; the first of many as it turned out. What became clear was that we all had some form of fear of overdoing this when creating our entries for each competition.

Your writer had his own example of this with a monochrome image taken on a film SLR camera. I have no idea why I had included so much extraneous stuff in the original shot but what the judge said when viewing was absolutely correct and so I had a fresh version that had been far more cropped that the one first entered a few weeks ago. It was pretty clear that I had left too much in the frame and the new one was much more clear about the main subject.

David A gave us the background to his "Man of War 1981" image but what became clear in this debate was that there seems to a limitation on the number of characters that can be used when inputting a title in PhotoEntry. David A explained that the full title when he had entered the image was far longer and Mark B recalled that this was not on screen when the PDI came up in the competition. Another example of where the judge was thus not getting the whole story of what was in front of him.

Dave C then gave us an insight into his time and effort in creating his Epsom racecourse image. This had entailed some great creativity in getting the images in the first place with Dave putting his camera pretty much on the turf to capture a worm's eye view and then firing off several shots. He then made the best of the horses caught in his shots and created a fine piece with three horses racing neck and neck. Due to some of the original images having no horses in them, Dave also took a lady photographer from the opposite side of the course and added her in just the right place to enhance his final image. It seems the judge that night was not very familiar with the thrills of the turf!

David P took us into his creative mind when explaining the background to his mono shot of "Teenage Angst". Make your narrative was the message and with skilled cropping and layering, he had a high scoring PDI image from a few weeks ago. He then took us to a wonderful waterfall and explained again where a good eve and a specific crop can find an image worthy of competition entry.

Graham S offered his straightforward thoughts of a couple of images and again it was cropping that played a significant part in what we had seen entered in the past competition. There was also some views on what we shoot for mono and for open competition. That was an interesting insight into how members pick what they enter in each category.

As we went through the evening, more was revealed as those of us who put work forward took our turns. 

Cloning was an area that led to some good discussion on when and how to do it. It seems that we had had some judges that missed a few small areas but the overriding message is that we are all as careful as we can be.

There were some good examples of the use of filters, specifically the "Big" and "Little" Lee filters that are 10 and six stops respectively. Used correctly to create long exposures, they can help create outstanding images.

Members also shared how many post-processing software is in use, ranging from free (Picasa) to the full Photoshop range of whistles and bells.

Jane D told us that her great street image had been taken with just her "little compact camera". With just some careful cropping and a hint of saturation, she scored a 10! 

Jane also shared with us what seems to be an excellent book called "104 Pictures To Take". This gives 104 different items to capture and she had "earrings" on the list, hence her memorable mono image of the gentleman with his many, many earrings from a few weeks back. Cropping and Silver Efex Pro and there you had it!

Martin F highlighted where cropping helps his street photography. His message was to be careful when framing your shot, especially where feet are involved! We all now know that the first judge Marting faces when he is thinking of what to enter is Mrs F...and she is the best one of all as he sees it! Very good to have Martin! 

His second image highlighted the use of a good title and also where it can be difficult to process an image.

Mark B shared his views on his Seattle chewing gum image that he felt was worth taking time to edit and present and then was categorically not the favourite of the judge on the night. It happens and was a good example of what we had been told about a judge not really being concerned with what had been done in the lead up to his or first view of the image.

Finally, David H gave us the first view of what he is going to enter on the 3rd December 2018 PDI competition at his other club, Dorking. The mountain lakes waterfall had been taken in 2002 on a three megapixel camera!! Some colour efex pro editing was pretty much all that David had done. He uses A mixture of Photoshop Elements, CS6 and Nik software but his main aim is to get the most of the shot right when taking it in the first place.

All in all, a useful evening with some interesting and helpful insights and a lot of common concerns. The overriding message though was "Do not be afraid to Crop!!"

Can we, therefore, look forward to many future competition entries where the subject and meaning will be self-evident? It will be something to watch out for.