People And Portraits - Judge: Barbara Lyddiatt (Chalfont and Gerards Cross CC) 16th November 2017
Competitive club photography is based on comparison. Comparing one image with another or others on the night. Putting them in a preferred order, the scoring aspect of this system being what facilitates the process. Images are arranged and scored depending on the quality of the other images on the night. Overlaid on all this can come the often tricky dimension of stipulating a set subject. The authors of the better images on this night would have known already that they were good. Most, if not all of them, rose to the top. Barbara Lyddiatt chose to review and comment then run through them again and apportion points quickly. This could have been partly why her scores for the middle ranks were a little variable.
With the evening broken up into PDIs and Prints John J. chose to show the projected images first. At the end there was a slight hitch with the new computer software whereby it was impossible to show thumbnails of the winners. John and Jeremy handled this teething problem, which we knew was coming eventually, with great calm and as the natives started to become restless, called for the tea break while they sorted it out.
Six entries of the forty four had received 20s. A close up monochrome portrait of a thoughtful gentleman by John Jennings and entitled ‘The Writer’ was placed third. A street shot ‘Group Discussion’ very much fitting the subject and by Terry Day was second however it could be argued that his fourth place and also a 20 ‘Punters at a Food Festival’ might have actually been technically better. Topping the lot Rosemary Wenzerul with her very clever capture of a moment in the bluebell woods entitled ‘Camera Shy’. Highly Commended were Sue Hipperson’s ‘Stephen’, Terry’s ‘Punters’ and Jackie Taylor’s ‘End of Shift’.
Despite a full house of nearly forty members in attendance the print entry was somewhat less numerous and still further depleted by the absence of Graham Hutchinson’s two images, a domestic crisis keeping him away. In the main the group shots did well here and so they should have done. Once again it was looking like Terry Day was about to sweep the board with his ‘Would You like A Pickled Onion With That’ and ‘Decisive Moment’ both awarded 20s. However the judge found most favour with John Jennings’s multi exposure dance shot ‘Three for the Price of One’ and topping that Jeremy’s thought provoking ‘Low Key Literacy’ which took top honours and the Trophy.
During this print section there was some consternation as to a relatively high score awarded to an image that in no way fitted the People or Portrait subject – namely a landscape, albeit a fine one with but a tiny figure in it. Perfectly acceptable for an author to enter virtually anything they like to maintain their average scores of course (i.e. not receiving a zero). However even with guidance the judge’s word is final and as there was some disquiet about this occurrence and the resulting high score the committee are examining ways to avoid it happening again both for internal and external competitions. They would appreciate your input and plan to have some small rule adjustment ready by the AGM when any possible changes can be discussed.
Will Cheung At Hemel Hempstead
Sue and I were invited to Hemel Hempstead Camera Club’s 80th Anniversary on Friday night. To mark their occasion they had asked Will Cheung FRPS to give a talk. Will is editor of the Photography News newspaper that we see each month plus the glossy Advanced Photographer not to mention having a finger in numerous other photographic periodicals. He has been a photographer for 50 years and in photographic journalism almost as long.
Although I had been looking forward to meeting him for some time I expected his presentation to be pretty high brow photo-techy. Nothing could have been further form the truth. Immediately it was obvious he was purely and simply a wild enthusiast of taking pictures – absolutely all sorts of pictures. Very much in the same mould at the excellent Chris Shepperd who came to us a few weeks ago. He insisted he wasn’t a super whizz in the computer but used the usual tools. Made as much use of the whole image as possible and cropping in the camera whenever possible hence increasing the chances of the finished image being of a high resolution and more than anything was not frightened for going to extremes with the ISO range in low and sometimes very low light situations.
Despite his job and hence being able to sample masses of top end equipment and often be jetted around the world to exotic locations by manufactures keen to get the sort of exposure only an editor of a magazine can give them, he is still firmly grounded in the fun to be had taking pictures. He never sells them, he never enters competitions but still has plenty of respect for those that do and indeed displayed a large number of his prints which were very much of the competition winning style. He also stressed that he was always very willing to give advice freely to any of those aspiring to attain RPS awards.
He took us through simply hundreds of his projected images and the motivation behind them. He tends to pigeon hole them, at least mentally, into various projects. These often run at the same time and can over lap. They currently included ‘Rubbish’, ‘Umbrellas’, ‘Architecture’, Railways and so on. The last two were particularly enlightening. He showed us a series of images of the Shard but taken from unusual locations so only appearing as an incidental in the picture. Many quite amusing. The railway that interested him was the Docklands Light which he had admitted to having used now more than 20 times just in an attempt to get a good picture at every one of the stations. He had even run a small outing via Photography News that involved some of the finalists of previous Camera Club of the Year contests to further advance his quest.
He admitted to having some shyness when it came to interacting with potential subjects in street situations and would rarely ask people to pose. He found a clever dodge to helping make himself less conspicuous when taking candids was as well as shooting from he waist (a more interesting vantage point) he would appear to be talking on his mobile phone simply because everyone else is doing that and he blends in. Phone to the left ear and right hand on the shutter release button on the camera around his neck and him walking around in tight circles, as you do! He was quite happy to loiter in one location for hours waiting for the right person to do the right thing for him and failing that often ‘stalk’ them around town until they did something interesting or were in just the right position. He admitted that despite being careful he has had a bit of trouble when doing this the worst of which was when photographing some over exuberant young ladies celebrating in Covent Garden late one night being told to ‘P**s off you Chinese Perve!’
He explained some of the thinking behind Photography News’s very successful Photo 24 an all day London photographic marathon held annually each June and for which anyone can register. The group – getting bigger each year - then meet up somewhere in London at noon and continue until the same time the next day availing themselves of various special arrangements, mini-trips and photo sessions around the town. Sponsored by Fuji as is his Camera Club of the Year, prizes are awarded in three categories with winners and runners up published in PN. The concept attracts quite a large number of photographic enthusiasts although not all of them stay on their feet for the entire 24hrs. On the first Photo 24 a few years ago he had agreed to rendezvous with anyone that wanted to, at 4.30am on Westminster Bridge when he believed it would be deserted and perfect for some sunrise pics. of the river and icon buildings. It was pouring with rain from thick cloud and no one turned up but it wasn’t deserted!
Will saw the potential and took a shot from the south end and on the east side of the bridge and facing Big Ben proving the time – twenty to 5. A beautifully shinny pavement reflecting the face of the iconic clock, a black cab exiting to the left, a London bus starting its trip across and in the mid foreground and a couple almost enjoying the rain and one of them looking at the camera! Proving once again that there is no such thing as bad weather for photography only the possibility of rain on the lens. Will still reckons it is still one of his favourite shots. Super wide angle – just look at those diverging verticals!
Open Prints Round 2 - Judge: Allan (Aussie) Thompson (ImageZ). 9th November 2017
There can be few nights when Park Street club members have placed such a large number of high quality prints before a visiting judge. It didn’t go unnoticed. Allan Thompson sounded genuinely impressed and went as far as to say many of them were a lot better than he could have done which, coming from him, was praise indeed.
However he didn’t become over-awed and still managed to push a few perfectly competent images down into the 15s and 16s and make a competition of it. His judging technique is very much by the seat of his pants. He takes on each picture separately and has some sort of inbuilt balance which allows him to finish up with pretty much the correct order and scores. (All opinions vary slightly). You may be interested to know that this is not the preferred way. Images should be judged strictly against the other images on the night. Allan did not review the display before he started even though he was seen to be looking at the remainders before the second half. This is a dangerous technique but one that only he seems to be able to get away with.
I and a few others on the night, have never been completely comfortable with the phrase “work in-progress” when applied to judging pictures. I certainly avoid using it myself. Alan used it rather a lot. However in his case one got the overriding impression that he was genuinely interested in suggesting improvements in the same way as he might approach his own work rather than just throwing the comments out as a criticism. He always seemed enthusiastic about the possible results. One got the feeling that if he could have done it, he would have opened some of them in Photo Shop and started to tinker about right there and then! His tendency to suggest ways of improvement rather than just pointing out the things that are wrong is also slightly frowned upon. Once again Allan can get away with this too and did so expertly this night, often being very careful to explain exactly what systems he was talking about.
Lucky he made it at all, as he hobbled in with a seriously braced and bandaged leg. An injury, amongst others not so visible, sustained from falling off the scaffolding erected around his house to facilitate some major improvements. Beware the sick golfer. Tonight this guy was on form!
Quite early on he held back Peter Winter’s ‘Singing Wren’. Then a few moments later was faced with Terry Day’s 'Fresh Pasta'. Now some of Terry’s recent work has not been finding favour with judges but thankfully he has persevered and tonight he was to be rewarded. Allan was very taken with this first image from Terry with the rather surreal but gentle effect he had produced which enhanced the delectable appearance of the food in a shop window. An effect which we all knew was also very much a part of Terry’s other two entries. Then another masterpiece from Peter – ‘Little Owl’. I mean, how perfect does a picture have to be? It received a 19 then immediately after the tea break Terry’s next ‘En Pointe’ got Allan thinking exactly the way the author had hoped and verbalising it perfectly recognising the two contrasting human elements. He held it back. A little later Dean Tyler’s ‘Alone’ was also held back. Then he confused the issue slightly by awarding a 20 to Chris Gilbert’s excellent 'Spring Evening' without holding it back illustrating what I was saying about his slightly unconventional ‘one at a time’ judging technique. The final image of the evening was Terry’s third, by which time Allan had twigged that they must have been from the same author and once again awarded it a 20!
With three held back and two having scored 20 already there were then five possible winners. Peter Winter’s ‘Singing Wren’ dipped out with another 19. But this still gave him an excellent evening’s total of two 19s and an 18 from his ‘Red Squirrel’. Dean Tyler’s ‘Alone’ was awarded a 20 as was Terry Day’s ‘En Pointe’. The contest was still not over – there were now four with 20 scores. Entirely appropriate in the circumstances. Allan’s favourite was clearly ‘Shopkeeper' from Terry Day. Below that, more difficult to decide and eventually 'Spring Evening' from Chris and the held back ‘En Pointe’from Terry (again) tied for 2nd place so Dean Tyler's ‘Alone’ 20 was only 4th.
As I had said at the start this was a very high standard of prints. I am sure he won’t mind me pointing out that Jeremy’s slightly difficult ‘To Have and to Hold' which tied with three others in bottom place might just have just as easily been the sort of images that could have won a night at Ealing! Everyone is to be congratulated, including Allan Thompson who has an entertaining and unconventional judging style which still finishes up with the correct result.
Members' Evening 2nd November 2017
An evening when it was possible to relax and compare our work with the best and possibly the ‘not quite so best’ photography in the land. John Jennings had obtained an AV of the PAGB’s 2017 GB Cup for Small Clubs (our size and smaller) the same for Large Clubs like Amersham and also the Nature Cup.
However to keep things in perspective Dave Hipperson started the evening by showing us the entire entry from the recent Park Street Neighbourhood Watch photographic Competition with which he, on behalf of the club, had become involved. The brief was simply ‘Park Street’. Dave had been elected chief judge supported by a member of the NW Committee Peter Tiffany (now Chairman) and a representative from Langleys Estate Agents (Ruth Bearne) who had donated £100 first prize and £50 second. (Louise and Dave went halves on a £25 prize for top junior on behalf of our club.) Dave had then attended their AGM 24th October at which it had been hoped the presence of a photo competition would have increased attendance. To that end it was a success in as much as something like ninety people came to hear Dave’s comments on the top ten images and see the prizes awarded. Dave was able to distribute leaflets about our club to one and all while he was there and there was considerable interest.
Now we were shown the entire entry with a few comments from Dave. It has to be said that the entry numbers (only 21) and standard were rather disappointing bearing in mind we are told that so many people take photos now. Encouragingly though a couple of the best images were from the youngest contestant Jimmy Donovan who at only 14 won the top junior award. Dave hopes to coax him along to the club in the future with some other of the more successful entrants.
Against this background, the PAGB images John had to show us, looked even more remarkable and comfortably filled the rest of the evening. These were from clubs around the Country including World leaders like Wigan 10 and Smethwick. It was interesting to see that members of quite a few of the CACC clubs are able to swim in this company. Harrow, Field End and Watford (in this case a shot by Martin Patten) all appeared and in Field End’s case quite a few of their pictures.
Post production work was very much in evidence but the extremely grungy styles popular a year or two ago seem to be on the wane. More realism, less fantasy and it was exciting to see such a lot of good work done on backgrounds both natural in the natural history images and contextual in many of the portraits. In general the judges favoured the less elaborate images to take the top awards.
Then as if by magic Jeremy appeared hot from the second round of the Rose Bowl competition being held down the road at Croxley. He brought us the good news that we had won by a substantial margin. His ability to appear in two places at once – as by rights the event he had attended should not have finished yet – was purely because the judge Barbara Lyddiatt had been very swift and wrapped it all up by 9:30pm. Once again great selecting by Jeremy although he pointed out that he had had plenty of excellent images to work from.
External Competition: Rosebowl Round 1 at Croxley. 2nd November 2017
Results and some feedback from R1 of the Rosebowl
Our images were:
Come Back Safely To Me - beautifully photographed, near-silhouettes all you need, very good framing, overall a lovely picture. 20
Male Kingfisher Preening - had seen lots of kingfisher pics, but never this behaviour before. Good handling of depth of field. Small patch of white feathers burnt out. 18
Narrow Leaf Plantain - a great photograph, not sure what the background was but don't care, excellent detail and nice angle of the plant. 19
Cinnamon Bug - really well photographed, excellent detail, control of highlights in background, beautiful creature, really well taken. 19
Inch Beach Reflection - interesting, minimal, pattern picture. Good that horizon not exactly on the centreline. Not sure if there were people or trees. An unlikely image to work but it does. 18
Young Starling In Flight - Wow! Beautiful wing patterns. Liked the dark background (did it need a lot of fiddling in photoshop to remove?) Superb. 20
Just Dreaming - this mono works extremely well, lighting lovely (very slight burnt highlights). A very pleasing portrait. 17
Oook! - Beautifully photographed, every whisker sharp, catchlight in the eye a bit excessive. A very good crop. 20
Down To The Last Three - Really well photographed, leaf adds interest, well thought out and well taken. 18
Sail Into The Sunset - lovely light, soft focus on the boats, good positions, nice colour in sky, gentle picture. 17
Little Owl - great! Nice to see a picture of an owl doing something rather than just posing. 17
Catbells Caress - nice light on background, interesting sky, but still water reflecting white clouds left too much separation between the foreground and the background. 15
Overhead Frenzy - fabulous pattern picture, birds merging into the mist (not quite sure what was going on). Works really well, though slight concern about right-hand edge (where birds are rather sparse). 18
Bat Out Of Hell - good impression of speed, though would have liked to see the head and less of the bright road. 15
Village Weaver - beautifully photographed, liked the spread wings and angle of the head. Superb. 20
Round 2 of the Rosebowl will be at Windsor on Monday 4th Dec
Talk: "Looking Local" by Chris Shepherd. 26th October 2017
A surprisingly big turn out by club members for this speaker particularly as he had never been to us before. While waiting in the wings he must have been amused and possibly concerned over the difficulty we were having with the relatively simple task of deciding what preferred beverage we would like at break time! Unknown to him, John our Chairman, had dared to ask for the customary show of hands in a different order to the usual and this had caused consternation! Just shows how little a diversion from the strict routine it takes to confuse us. Much amusement, which happily carried on into Chris’s excellent talk.
A much decorated and many times winner of major photographic competitions World Wide he cleverly pitched the theme of this talk right at our feet. “Looking Locally.” In other words you don’t need to go to the Grand Canyon to get impressive scenery and stunning images. He even took the risk of going right back to his very first ever digital pictures (A one mega pixel pocket camera) taken of the countryside around his home in Loughton Essex. The same tree, gate and piece of fence then figured a number of times in both monochrome and colour and in every light and weather condition imaginable. To be honest his first ever shot was none too bad so by the time he had learned the best time to get there and improved his equipment a bit the results were already starting to look impressive.
He does a great deal of photography hoping to be out nearly all the time at weekends and most mornings and evenings during the week in the summer. Like all successful photographers he often visits the same place again and again and like us, not always without incident. Many a time he would struggle through to somewhere on foot to find when he arrived that there was a road to the location and not all his early starts necessarily resulted in successful pictures. Things may have been moved or there was no light at all or too much or maybe, as on one occasion, he dropped his NIK filter array into a muddy river! He showed us many images taken along the Essex coast line and reported greatest success usually at the simpler locations. Indeed many of his images often made the best possible use very few components. Pictures easy to view for a long time.
His use of HDR is pretty much what it was designed for. Reinstate to the captured image the contrast range inherent in the scope of the human eye. He also quite rightly pointed out that it was rarely essential to have a tripod for such shots particularly if your camera can be adjusted to take a burst of say seven frames all at different exposures (shutter speeds) and from one press of the button. Indeed he reassured us that modern blending software (Photomatix) is quite capable of super-imposing hand held images even when adjusted for and taken, separately. He did remind us however that a fairly fast shutter was to be recommended for these both to compensate for camera shake and freeze any movement in the subject. He also pointed out his preference for his photographs to finish up looking as the eye might have seen rather than somewhat over processed which is becoming more common.
It was interesting therefore to notice that this quest for realism hasn’t dented in anyway the popularity of his images. He showed us examples of numerous magazine cover shots including Country File and examples of some of his most ‘stolen’ photographs the favourite being a tranquil sunset shot across the Thames estuary – so no change in public taste there then. For me the two most outstanding images were the bright and beautifully lit close ups of corroding cars he had found in Epping Forest. Superb mini-landscapes in glorious colours.
A friendly and often amusing presentation that most of all offered us hope and encouragement, emphasising the importance of doing plenty of picture taking above all else.
Park Street Interclub Landscape Competition - Judge: Malcolm Rapier ARPS CPAGB AFIAP BPE3* (Edmonton CC). 19th October 2017
It quickly became apparent on the initial run-through this year, that the Judge, Malcolm Rapier would have his work cut out to sort the wheat from the chaff with the seventy-two images from twelve clubs to sort through. I am a great fan of landscapes and it is rare to be able to sit down and enjoy so many fine examples, ranging from the traditional to a more imaginative and unique take on the subject.
True, even with Park Street’s wide definition of the term ‘landscape’, there were several images which I personally considered stretched the definition a little too far, an image of several beach huts for instance and another of a single tree against a white background, both very attractive and eye-catching, but ‘landscape’? However Malcolm worked his way through, with kind and helpful observations, awarding points from 14 to 20.
There were, as usual, a sprinkling of Tuscan landscapes, and some very dramatic skies and seascapes, but in the end he narrowed the choice down to eight very strong images which he held back. These included two from our club; Chris Gilbert’s Sail Into The Sunset, and Connie Fitzgerald’s ‘The Day’, and I was delighted when the latter emerged as Malcolm’s winning image of the evening , he especially liked the big format, the sense of space and scale added to by the tiny figures, and the streaking effect of the clouds in the sky.
When the scores were totalled up Park Street was revealed as the winning Club, followed extremely closely by both Potters Bar and Northfields, both just one point behind; a very nail-biting finish.
Full results are avaiable here.
Thanks are due to Ken Liversidge and everyone who worked so hard to make the evening seem effortless, to Connie and her fellow authors on the winning team, and to Dave Hipperson, Terry and Chris who selected our images.
I would also like to thank all our guests, those that made it on the evening despite horrendous traffic problems on the M25, and to all the clubs that took part. I'm a believer in the stimulus of competition as an incentive to get the best out of people, and we have a great set of clubs in our area, so thank you for helping to make the event.
Open PDIs Round 2 - Judge: Martin Patten (Watford CC). 12th October 2017
There are two parts to a photographic judge’s job. To score and put our images in a sensible order, and to comment and generally perform without offence or, what is sometimes more difficult, irritation! Martin Patten seems to have grasped these two essentials perfectly and did another excellent job for us on his third visit to the club to judge our second PDI event.
In the same way as with a small group of other judges like Stan McCartin, Kevin Day and Mark Buckley-Sharp one can relax in the knowledge that you will be treated fairly, never talked down to, often amused and always informed. It’s going to be a good night - and so it was.
The entry numbers suggested 18 competitors which is less than half the club but the standard was quite high. A steady improvement that at times I think we forget we are making. The good images coming from a much wider field now – very healthy. For a young guy Martin is quite traditional and conservative in his tastes admitting that he was not a great fan of composite images but giving them his due attention none the less. Perhaps on the technical/picky side but then that is to be expected from someone who is such a meticulous photographer himself. The overall enjoyment of the night was compounded by Martin’s humour and clever non-judgemental approach to criticism. Sounded like a critical friend all the time rather than the headmaster. The applause at the end was genuine – blimey he got two lots!
Slightly un-conventionally he scored up to only 17 through the night and held back the rest which gave us quite a number to look at again. Interestingly, of this pack of fourteen images, no less than ten were from ladies. First round leader Sue Hipperson managed to get all three of hers in the final selection as did Jackie Taylor. Jackie doing better with 19s for both her “Watching” – leopard in a tree and “Bath Time” – elephant in pool as well as a 20 for the excellent and deceptively simple “Cayman.” Rosemary W. showed us her “Intricate Beauty” and “Robin Red Breast” again and this time scored 18s for both. The same score was awarded to Chris Gilbert for his rotting boot “Abandoned” and David Butler’s Red Kite in flight “He’s Spotted Me.” Graham Hutchinson obviously appealed to the latent boy racer in Martin and all us men and gained an 18 with his “Alpha Romeo” from Goodwood.
Fiona Gurr’s “Butterfly” impressed him enough to get a highly commended and 19 but her best image of the night was “Round Room” an interesting interior sensitively lit and in monochrome to heighten the 30’s feel. With such successes for the ladies male pride was somewhat restored when Jeremy emerged top of the 20s with his “Total Eclipse” taken in Svalbard and despite it being a composite it had won the night!
The excitement spilled over at the end of the evening proper when many of us were still in animated but friendly conversation with our excellent judge long after we should have left.
NW Federation R1 results. 11th October 2017
The scores from last night’s round of the NW Federation competition are attached. After 12/32 images, XRR have 223 and 3 stars, Park Street 217 and 1 star, Chesham 204 and no stars.
Well done in particular to Dean whose “4 minutes at Herringfleet” got 20*, and Fiona whose “Down to the last three” got 20. In Dean’s case, the title referred to how long it took the judge to work out what the title was about...
Still all to play for as we have plenty of aces left up our sleeves!
Full scoresheet is here.
R2 is at Chesham on Tuesday 21 Nov.
Members Evening:- The "John Jennings Lecture". 5th October 2017
Very much home grown talent for our first members' night of the season. John Jennings, our multi-talented chairman talked about “Light”. Of course this is what we are all endeavouring to capture when we take any photograph. Light and how it creates the image. He has developed a heightened enthusiasm and awareness for this subject since his recent greater involvement and subsequent success in studio work.
Refreshingly, his was very much an explanation of exactly how these magical digital camera devices of ours capture pictures rather than how our computers can muck about with them later. He couldn’t have known in advance exactly at what level to pitch this but somehow instinctively he got it spot on. The trick perhaps being his delivery, which was simply not school teacher-y, something that such presentations can so easily become. He rounded it off with the example of a couple of his most recent and successful studio shots and explained clearly how he had set them up. People I spoke to afterwards understood most of it with just a little bit going over their heads and making them think. All good then!
Elsewhere on the Website is the entire talk for those that want to go back over the more difficult bits. Be in no doubt we can all learn something from it.
Very sportingly he then opted to slightly curtail his talk at the end of the night so that club members could see an advance run through of the forthcoming Landscape Competition. This proved to be most enlightening and hopefully will encourage even more members to attend the How Wood School for the contest proper on 19th October.
Open Prints Round 1 - Judge: Damon Guy (Marlow CC). 28th September 2017
Another competition night and another new judge – at least new to us. Like Pat Begley a couple of weeks before, Damon Guy has been judging only a couple of years but clearly an obvious candidate for such a job as, as well as being an established professional photographer, he has a clear voice and a most agreeable manner. I am sure he won’t mind me letting you know that the reason he, such a young man, walks with a stick is due to a terrible accident he had when slalom canoeing a few years ago. The canoe tipped on end and was held vertical by a rock whilst he was ejected forward snapping both his legs off at the knee. It is astonishing to see how well he walks considering this accident wasn’t that long ago. Indeed in the short time I have known him he has got noticeably more and more mobile.
It was useful then that such a competent fellow should come to judge such an equally competent array of Park Street prints. Throughout the evening one certainly got the impression that he was enjoying the images we put before him and I don’t think I heard him make a disparaging remark – just compliments and constructive suggestions. When opening he said that he thought the evening would be a success if everyone went away having learnt something new. A good criteria. I was so hoping that at the end he wouldn’t ask us what we had learned and thankfully he didn’t! Can be so embarrassing. However I took away from it one clear idea and a great line to remember . Don’t be in too much of a rush to work on a new photo – better to put it away for a few days and “Allow your author’s pride to wear off .”
Faced with a corker from Chris Gilbert “Bluebell” as the first print he wisely held it back then carried on scoring up to 18 and holding back those that might and did, earn more. This is a very tidy way of working although it has to be said it did rather emphasise his slightly tight range, never dropping below 16.
From an initial look at all the prints the standouts were clearly from our leading and expected experts. For me the suprise wasn’t that John Jennings won so much as with which picture he won. Damon’s choice was his “Blue Zoom” a tricky delayed flash dance studio picture for which John is renowned. A trio of “Peacock Frogs” by Connie was second. The excellent composition plus near perfect reflection making it so much more than a simple natural history photo. Maggie Fricker managed to get two held back and he chose as his 3rd her “Dog Rose.” Once again it was the composition that appealed to him – three heads – the largest one sharp and the other two as support acts recessing into the background. He got this and he was right. Sometime, somewhere in the recent past I had heard it judged without this observation so it was pleasing that on this night the omission has been corrected.
The four remaining scoring 19 including the other one from Maggie “Skeleton Tree” from Namibia, that first print from Chris Gilbert of the “Bluebell”, Peter Winters “Magnificent Hummingbird” and an excellent long exposure “Four Minutes at Herringfleet” from Dean Tyler.
Talk by Andy Sands (XRR) 21 September 2017
As a camera club, clearly speakers that talk about and show us their high quality images are going to be of interest. Well not always! Furthermore someone who is involved in the business and runs a successful camera shop could have interesting things to tell us. Not necessarily! A man with a lifetime of experience and enthusiasm for wildlife of all sizes and bangs on relentlessly about it – well that could be positively boring. Someone with all three of these properties rolled into one would be an astonishing find but if by any chance they were able to make it all, not just interesting, but riveting, then that would have to be a miracle! Well that miracle exists – his name is Andy Sands.
He has been to us many times before – however this time we forgot to inform him he was booked! Not until a couple of weeks before the date that is, when our programme secretary would automatically double check with a visitor to avoid a no-show disaster on the night. He was booked of course, just not until November and we had re-shuffled some dates and forgotten to ask him. However as those will know that do these sort of performances or even just write copy for magazines time pressure can produce one’s best work. Andy was dropped in it with two weeks to prepare. What we got was a master class not just on the subjects he covered but how he covered them.
Someone had very recently asked him to give them a talk on trees so he started with some of the images he was getting together for that. He admitted that they had been a more difficult subject than he had thought. (We all sighed in collective agreement.) His images were fine of course and he had examples of some very ancient specimens (100 years per meter of girth being the rule of thumb when you don’t want to fell them and count their rings.) There are some 1500 year old trees quite close – he showed us some of them. He explained the significance of pollarded oaks. The very old (largest) ones marking the boundary to Henry VIII’s hunting estate. They can be traced all the way down into the west country and back in a great big loop. Some estate, but more importantly some research there from Andy now word perfect on a new subject.
While examining these trees close up of course he couldn’t resist a glance at the fungi close by - getting smaller. Then of course the occasional microscopic insect that lives on them - smaller still. The Honey Fungus has one particularly delightful looking tenant it would seem. He had its picture and knew its name. You could see he was even happier when getting down in the leaf litter – and various other sorts of litter as well – and arranging LED lighting and small soft boxes around the floor and mounting his camera underneath the tripod for very close up, on the same level, photos. His subtle use of focus stacking then gave these originally tiny specimens enormous presence. They too now began to resemble trees and many no higher than a centimetre! Once again he explained that by using a fairly open aperture (f5.6) the background was always way out of focus but all the subject was kept sharp by way of the multiple (sometimes up to 60) individual images all at slightly different focal points through a depth of perhaps only a centimetre or so.
A few months before he had been asked by Olympus to test their new OM-D EM-1 Mk2. He was presented with the camera and various additional lenses from very wide angle to 600mm. Obviously Olympus realised that Andy could be very useful promoting this both by way of his camera shop and even more his ability to put together talks and deliver them in an entertaining way. The camera had allowed Andy to be even more creative and do some astonishing stuff often hand held! It isn’t full chip (which of course helps for close-ups) but it is 20mps. It will shoot 18 frames per sec in total silence, it’s half the weight of a conventional DSLR and even has a focus stacking application built in if one doesn’t have the software on one’s own computer. Furthermore the image stabilisation was so effective it could compensate for 6 stops no less. In no time Andy was going out without his trusty original but bulky equipment and relying solely on the Olympus admittedly with a few extension tubes and so forth. He smuggled it on holiday with them (not heavy) and in no time was capturing beautiful images of the hovering hawk moth he spotted in the greenery around the swimming pool!
He showed us some pictures of butterflies and dragon flies in such detail that he could enlarge to stupendous sizes and still retain perfect clarity. It was a case of hairs on hairs. Almost pictures through microscopes. Just to prove it was no projected trickery he brought along some A3 prints of parts of the creatures. Quite astonishing. This is what happens when you put the latest technology in the hands of a genius. Wonderful to look at.
He had also explained the trials and tribulations involved in more conventional wild life photography when working in the North. He showed us a barn owl he had been training to come to a post for the last two years! He had perfected his silent routine to such a degree that eventually he had to make a noise to attract the birds attention so that for one frame at least it faced him! At the same time cleverly illustrating the advantages of shooting in RAW especially of a subject with so much white on it. He also explained how much time could be involved in getting the perfect shot of a nesting bird feeding its young. One particular specimen holed up in a stone built bridge led him a merry dance. Once he had traced it to its nest and set up a hide a few feet away in the dead of night he was then in it two days dawn to dusk, got thousands of frames of the bird arriving with food but just one of it not obscuring the chicks. Just one!
It is this full depth look into the work involved in his sort of photography and the amusing and often self deprecating way he does it that makes Andy’s talks so absorbing and accessible. Furthermore one went away feeling that it was all possible if you were willing to be patient and it didn’t rely upon extremes of photo-shop trickery. The man should be on the television twice a week instead of one, if not all, of those infernal cooking competitions.
Open PDIs Round 1 - Judge: Pat Begley (Wycombe and Marlow CCs). 14th September 2017
A fresh judge for Park Street to open our new season. Pat Begley is a member of both Marlow and High Wycombe clubs, an experienced photographer but has been a judge for only a few years, so the early enthusiasm for the job hasn’t worn off yet.
I have to admit to being slightly biased here as it was she who was in charge at High Wycombe on the occasion of my very first judging job and was most encouraging. She was also reading out the titles to me in a clear voice from the front row and made that part easier too. No surprise then that we could all hear what she had to say when she visited us.
I have mentioned before that our system of grouping all abilities together does tend to create a more difficult scenario for the judge. It is tricky to adjust the style and depth of the comments and suggestions on any image if one has no idea of the author’s experience. Furthermore the judge is having to remember an enormous number of images from the run through (when they mentally try to put them in order right away or at least select the best and worst) then get the level of scores correct right from the start. This is all much easier when the competition is broken down into smaller sections and usually has the effect of finishing with a fairer result as well.
So over 60 images was a task. She opted to score them all straight away too, rather than hold back any thus making it even more difficult! Despite that she ran beautifully to time and actually finished with a screen of nine attractive and differing 20s’ from which to select the winners. The two stand-out shots were clear and had to be 1st and 2nd. Terry Day’s “Dark Glasses” portrait top and Connie Fitzgerald’s beautiful “Robin” portrait runner up. This shot was different from so many on this subject by way of the bird’s interesting pose which allowed the author to get nearly all the creature perfectly sharp. A technical masterpiece. The close up rugby football shot from Miranda Steward snatched third place from a collection of six other 20s. Pat enjoyed the immediacy and the low camera angle and quite rightly wondered how the author had got into such a position to take it. Sadly this meant that Chris Gilberts “Blue on Blue” butterfly image (with delicate two tone key line) was only 4th but highly commended none the less along with Sue Hipperson’s “Sweet but Exhausting”. Of the remainder Jeremy Frazer-Mitchell’s “St Stephens Basilica” ceiling image appealed from the point of view of symmetry and clarity and David Butlers “Bashful Yorkshire Seal Pup” won on the ‘ah’ factor and wonderful whiskers!
Further down the lists there were, it had to be said, some slightly higher than expected scores which is inevitable when compressing the range down to only 20 -15 and there were only three of those. How polite of the winner Terry Day when accepting, to acknowledge the help given to him by John Jennings in improving his portrait techniques. Particularly as in many ways our chairman John was the hero of the hour having driven the computer/new projector link all night without a hitch despite a serious system failure a few minutes before the start! Very cool and professional.
The new season starts on 7th September (7.45 for 8.00 at the Parish Centre)
The subject for the evening is "Holiday Snaps" and we hope members will bring lots of interesting images, not just of their summer holidays but anything that they have been photographing during the summer break.
Exhibition at St Stephens Gardening Club Annual Show
The club will exhibit a number of members' photos at the annual Gardening Club show at How Wood School on 9th September. The prints were chosen from those in the Print of the Year competition at the end of last season, and we are grateful to the authors for the loan of their work.