Friday, 22 February 2019

Open Print Competition No. 3, 20th February 2019

It was good to welcome Eddie Hyde ARPS of Bookham Camera Club to judge our competition. Quite early on in the evening he issued a warning that many competition judges suffer from ADHD and won't tolerate anything that distracts them from the main subject of an image. He went further I think by stating that it should not contain anything that does not contribute something to the picture. Everything in the picture needs to be part of the story. This seemed to be an encouragement for heavy use of the cloning tool when editing pictures. Hmm..

This got me thinking about two experiences, one old one, and the other very recent. Several decades ago I went to an art fair and was looking at some of the paintings on a stand there. I was attracted to one of the entrance to a churchyard with a lychgate, a stone wall and some trees. It struck me how beautifully balanced and composed the picture was and I asked the artist if that was exactly as it looked when he painted it.

'Oh no' he said, 'I did lots of sketches of the different elements in the scene and moved them about and resized them until I got the composition right.' And how long did you spend deciding on the composition before you started painting? 'Weeks', he said. So this is what artists do.

The more recent experience was watching the programme on BBC 4 Don McCullin: Looking for England. If you missed it, catch it on BBC iPlayer while you still can. The programme followed the veteran photographer revisiting places where in the past he had taken some of his most successful images. We see him wandering about carrying his favourite medium format film cameras, taking pictures, and later developing and printing them himself under the safelight in his darkroom. Apart of a bit of dodging and burning under the enlarger, there were no other manipulations before the pictures appeared magically in the developer. There they were, distractions, unnecessary details all over the place - and they looked beautiful.

So now we can, if we so choose, pretty much do what painters have always done - PhotoShop makes it possible. But don't you think that photography is beginning to lose it's identity as a distinct art form? For all the freedom editing software gives us, I for one, feel uncomfortable with the prospect of photography disappearing into the general melting pot of illustrative art. End of rant!

This is no criticism of Eddie who I think did a very good job; his comments were all constructive and worth listening to. He emphasised that his suggestions were just that - not guaranteed to work but what he would try out if the picture was his. I felt he warmed with a bit more enthusiasm to the landscape pictures, but none of us is perfect..

Now to our winners.
At Level 1, congratulations to David A. who was awarded 10s for two of his pictures.
The 10+ for Highland and dry. Eddie loved the beautiful muted colours and the composition of this image.

His second winner was New Year's Day. Another beautiful landscape. Eddie forgave the blown out parts of the sky. After all, if you take a shot straight into the sun, it will saturate the camera sensor and there isn't a lot you can do about it.

The overall winner at Level 2 was David H. with Declining Years. I am not sure if the placement of the signpost to the cemetery was witty, poignant, or a bit too close to comfort for some of us!

David also received a 10 for Dubai and the Creek. Eddie wasn't quite sure about inclusion of the skyline but I guess this was just another of his 'suggestions to try' and it didn't stop him from awarding top marks for this picture.

The final 10 of the night was for Mark's Godafloss. One of the most stunning waterfalls in Iceland captured in an unbelievable morning/evening light.

A great evening with some really impressive entries at both levels helped by a judge who knew what he was talking about, and justly praised at the end by Brian for his consistency.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

30 January | 3rd Open PDI Competition | Judge: Steve Lawrenson

A hero, stepping in as replacement judge at short notice, Steve supplied his usual succinct and perceptive feedback on our images. In fact, he was so to the point that we finished fifteen minutes early, which was immensely welcome, given the plunging temperatures! As always, it was intriguing to discover what the judge revealed about himself and his photographic likes and dislikes. It turned out that he’d done his ARPS portfolio on ‘Rust’, which boded fairly well for one of my images! He also confessed that he was a ‘heathen’, although he found tonight’s image of the Sagrada Familia church ‘awe inspiring’.

Steve liked pictures that engaged the viewer and conveyed an atmosphere. He was not over-interested in sharpness, but particularly wanted images to avoid distractions. He advised us not to be afraid of trimming off unnecessary details. He pointed out that distractions could have been excised in post-production (such as the stray photographer in the ‘Final Furlong’ photo). Steve also suggested getting a superfluous subject to move away (if you’re in sufficient control of what’s being photographed) or, more likely perhaps, moving oneself to a slightly different vantage point (for instance, to avoid two sets of antlers touching).

Already, during the initial run-throughs, we got an idea of the impact the photos were having on the audience – a chorus of ‘aahs’ for the sweet images; chuckles and groans for clever titles; and a sharp intake of breath for one particularly intriguing title, given our venue (although, as Voltaire was reputed to have said: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!’). 

Congratulations to this week's excellent winning entries...


Level One Winner: ‘Searching the web’ – Steve H


The judge said there was ‘a nice range of light’ and he particularly enjoyed the way the light hit the web and the ‘arrow’, as it were, ‘pointing you straight up toward the centre of attention’ (the spider – arachnophobes, look away now!).

Steve H later told me more about the photo:

‘I was really surprised this one won. It was taken late afternoon last
September. This spider had decided to block the entrance to our side gate
with his web. There was something distinctly red around the spider's mouth
area so I grabbed the camera. The background comprised miniature fir trees
that were easy to darken in Lightroom.

My lens was a Canon 28-90mm with a 0.43x macro extender. As I was using
flash I set the ISO at 100 to minimise noise and the shutter speed was 1/200
at F22 to get as much of the spider in focus as possible. (It sounds as if I
knew what I was doing. The camera was already set up as I had been taking
photos of various insects and bugs in our garden earlier that day inspired
by Ann Healey's talk. There were dozens of pictures that were absolutely
rubbish until I got an idea of which settings worked).’

Level Two Winner: ‘Fisherman’ – David H


The judge reckoned this was a ‘considered and careful’ image. The exposure was beautifully controlled, with fine lighting on the hands, and ‘everything was beautifully sharp’. The subject was ‘beautifully portrayed’ and there were no extraneous elements. He particularly loved the way the net pattern led your eye up to the hands.

David H later gave me the background to the photo:

‘”Fisherman” was taken in Musandam, opposite Iran at the Straits of Hormuz on my last visit to our son,Tim who works in Dubai. I was driving alone along the coast road and noticed a fisherman sitting in his boat repairing nets, I stopped, made coffee for the two of us and sat in the boat with him enjoying the warmth of the sun, the tranquility of the scene and his company. Words are not always necessary. A contact with a local working man is satisfying in itself. Photos can easily follow such a meeting.  Maybe he will remember that occasion as much as I do.

Equipment & settings: Nikon D3x 105mm macro f2.8, 1/500 f5.6, ISO100 and luck as always!’
This was the context of the photo:

And congratulations also to the other entries that scored 10 at Level 2:

Night Train | Dave S
Juvenile Starlings- Aerial Attack | Mandy B
Cathedral of Light - Kew Gardens | Philip R