Mono Cups for Print and Projected Images – Judge Alan Thompson (ImageZ) 17th May 2018
This was hard work but for all the right reasons. Alan Thompson, who had been able to stand in at the last minute for an ailing Kevin Herbert, threw himself enthusiastically into judging our Mono Chrome night even though half way through admitting tending to see and appreciate colour more than black and white in most things! Somewhat reluctantly I have to admit he is emerging as a model to which all photographic judges could aspire. Constructive to a fault, super observant but above all involved in a way that so many are not. So the reason it was such hard work was that he examined so much and in such detail (two minute dots in one of Dean Tyler’s landscapes!) and imparted so much personal software knowledge and suggestion that it left one a bit drained. Despite that he was still able to leave some of his characteristic long ‘pauses for thought’ while we caught up.
A considerable entry in the projected category. Two of Jackie Taylor’s with 19 were commended. Her "Leopard" could have done with some local sharpening he thought, and her "Red Eyed Tree Frog" could have benefitted from reductions to the slightly intrusive background. Also receiving 19s but Highly Commended were Fiona Gurr’s "Starling" which he intimated was ‘only a starling’ and of course would have been even more effective in colour as he certainly appreciated the subject’s potential. Chris Gilbert's "Derelict" brought together elements of ruined house, spooky tree and flocks of birds. Main criticism being that the building itself was rather too bright and dominated the scene but quite rightly he loved the tree. Quite a few images were a bit bright – remember this when preparing PDIs. Connie Fitzgerald’s "Venation" - presumably a micro-wave/light box production - was a cracker and he said so but thought it suffered slightly from ‘insufficient pictorial content.’ Mmm…?
A great shot of the Thames Barrier by Terry Day came in 3rd with a 20. Terry’s other projected entry "Wet Day at Queens Walk" was not nearly so well received, only a 16, so come on there is hope for us all. The two images with which he had to wrestle to finalise on a winner were both from Dean Tyler. One a superb image of the ‘lone tree genre’ – “Sentinel” the other a more complicated and smaller scale landscape coincidentally much in the style of Terry Day –“Along the Ridgeway”. This latter found favour for the win – both were beautiful. Slightly overlooked maybe were Chris Gilbert’s "Blackfriars Bridge" and Jackie Taylor’s "Railway Station" her first non-wildlife entry this year!
The prints section was shorter and although once again the points spread was rather too tight with only one 15 the top images were the right ones. Just out of the money – John Jennings’ “Don’t Mess With Me” and Chris Gilbert’s “Back to the Fuschia” (ouch!). It was Dean Tyler and Terry Day fighting for the top places again. This time Dean had to be content with 3rd with his rather conventional “Dunwich Friary” leaving Alan once again deliberating over which of two images from the same author should be the winner. “Wet Day at Wapping” or my favourite “Man at The Market?” It was reassuring to see how accurate he was at recognising similar styles of which he approved. He had done something similar with a couple of Connie’s earlier. It is a sign of a man that is concentrating and making a real effort to get it right. His extended comments on “Wet Day at Wapping” were most illuminating. One really felt he was seeing the pictures and wanted to enjoy them. Excellent judging.
So both Terry and Dean went home with trophies or rather Dean would have done had he been there! However their high evening totals were still not enough to catch the front runners in the Overall Photographer of The Year award which went to Connie with Chris G. in pursuit a mere seven points below and he only three points ahead of Jeremy. Ten points covering the top three individuals who had each scored close on a thousand points each during the season. Phew!
An important evening well handled by a judge that can be relied upon to finish up with the correct order despite his slightly unconventional although attractive technique.
Talk by Kevin Day. 10th May 2018
It is usually a fact and possible thankfully so, that truly gifted people hardly ever recognise their talent. In the case of our guest on Thursday although an established and successful professional and competition photographer as well as an accurate photographic judge, Kevin’s real talent is a much rarer one. In the past when he has visited us to judge I remember remarking that he seemed to fit in to such an extent that it felt he was actually a member. Nobody else quite does that. So here was an opportunity for us to see another side of him and it explained a lot.
“Photography – the complete story!” This could so easily have been the title of his talk. He was almost apologetic about the fact that the images he was to show us were simply from various parties and get-togethers which he had been hired to cover. What quickly became obvious was that this man could put his subjects at ease and move around unnoticed in private celebrations including those of Asian and Russian families recording quite intimate details. The relaxed expressions on the subjects' faces endorsing the fact that he was not an intrusion but rather one of the family. Wouldn’t we all love to be able to do that even at our own parties?
As if that wasn’t sufficient a talent he then went a step further and explained to us his ‘Day in The Life’ concept. He admitted that it sometimes required a little encouragement on his behalf but the upshot was that he would embed himself into a family and record pretty much their every move through a typical day. Many of the images he showed us were simply stunning. From dawn to dusk in the life of a typical family with two young children simply going about the usual things they do. Wonderfully captured. He reminded us of the documentary quality inherent in this concept in as much as these modern images would in say 10 or even as little as 5 years time seem quaint and antiquated bearing in mind the current rapid advancements in our day to day world. Documentary at its best but also a wonderful record for the family – all of them. Just what the camera was intended for.
As if that wasn’t enough he rounded off the evening with his photographs taken in Greece. Once again embedded in a party delivering humanitarian aid to refugees that had found themselves stranded there. The sort of thing only the hardiest of us might think of doing but Kevin’s trip of ten or so days was made in mid winter and started on Christmas Day! His images brought to life what we hear briefly referred to on the television news and showed the cold and difficult conditions they were working under not, somewhat understandably, helped by many of the Greeks’ reluctance to accept these huge influxes of refugees. Kevin explained the systems implemented to try to ensure the food, clothing , blankets and tents were fairly distributed. A task that meant his team were often working twenty hour days. Rather humbling to see the resilience on the faces of the mainly Syrian subjects and the stoic way they seemed to maintain standards right down to their dress.
Our Kevin Day is a very talented photographer indeed and we look forward to seeing more of his exploits whether they be at Ascot or in Afganistan! For a continued healthy balance I feel that talks such as these, from people able to communicate the delights of photography which is not always aimed at competition, are vital. I look forward to more.
Members Evening: BPEs 3rd May 2018
A healthy attendance of members despite the uncharacteristically warm May evening served as a portal on National photographic competition standards. John Jennings explained the workings of the BPE (British Photographic Exhibitions) system, then showed us some of their recent acceptances and medal winners. He clearly explained the various categories and some of the stipulations and then went on to show us a host of sensational images.
It quickly became clear that this was a very high standard indeed however it was encouraging to see that John himself had had quite a few images accepted some of which we already knew. They held up well amongst the others.
Having time to study some of the classes and their related restrictions it was interesting to see that apart from ‘Creative’ divisions images were positively encouraged to have the ‘minimum of computer manipulation.’ By this they probably meant they still had to look realistic as the vast majority of the images we saw had quite clearly benefitted from enormous amounts of subtle, arty, complex and carefully applied computer techniques. Indeed one leading member of our club was heard to mention in the break that he was puzzled by the impressive clarity of nearly all the images. Very little of it looked like it had come straight out of a camera no matter how elaborate a one!
It was a splendid and refreshing change also to see so much interest in sporting shots when down here the CACC judges tend to dismiss photographs of racing and rallying cars which can from the right angle prove exciting subjects. The gymnastic images were also first class as were the cricketing and aviation shots. John made the interesting point in summing up that although position and viewpoint were crucial to capturing such pictures he thought that it would be well worth asking for a photographers pass when attending at least the lesser sporting events. They can only say no or at least let you know how to get one next time. Try it.
A very informative evening made all the more interesting for the very varied and different subject matter. Worth thinking about if only to add a little more variety to our comp nights.
Open Print League 2017 - 2018
We went into the 5th and final round with Chris Gilbert just 1 point ahead of both Connie Fitzgerald and Peter Winter. Unfortunately, Chris didn't have his strongest round and slipped to 3rd, 2 points behind Peter Winter, who secured 2nd place. One point ahead was our League winner, Connie Fitzgerald with 279 points, an average score of 18.6 across 15 images throughout the year. Congratulations to Connie as well as to Peter and Chris who made it such a tight competition. With so many fine images, the Print of the Year competition promises to be excellent.
Full League Results are here
Open Prints Round 5 Judge Barbara Lyddiatt (Chalfont and Gerards Cross) 26th April 2018
We were very grateful that Terry Coffey, booked for this competition but unable to officiate as a result of some health issues, arranged with his friend Barbara Lyddiatt, a regular visitor to Park Street, to stand in for him. An already small field was reduced by 10% when one photographer didn't turn up, leaving Barbara only 27 images to judge, but there was plenty of quality on show which more than made up for the small numbers.
Barbara likes to comment on all the images before marking them, and it quickly emerged that we had succeeded in baffling her with a number of images, starting with Chris Gilbert's "Something's Fishy", the very first image and a fascinating abstract created from a tank of Koi Carp, and continuing with my "Where Are You Ken?", a photo of a ballerina in Grand Jeté on the Embankment opposite County Hall.
Once Barbara had commented on all the images she went through them again awarding marks. She had a good range - possibly not to everyone's liking - nicely spread, and finished with four with the maximum 20. Forced to place these four in order, Barbara made Connie's "Robin in Flight" Highly Commended, and after much internal debate Peter Winter's "Male Kingfisher" enjoying a breezy day was 3rd and Connie took 2nd with a lovely, head on shot of a black headed gull, head beautifully sharp, wings beautifully blurred. The winner on the night was "Alive and Kicking", another of my ballet photos.
Talk: Sports Photography and (Much) More by Brain Worley. 19th April 2018
This was Brian's first visit to Park Street, but I am sure not his last. The first half of the evening was a selection of his motorsport photography, embracing (almost literally) rallying in Finland, motocross and track racing, liberally sprinkled with tips and advice on such things as panning, use of the track surface as a grey card to get the correct white balance, shutter speeds, use of flash (I particularly liked the story of asking a motocross rider if the flash had disturbed him and the rider asked where he had been standing: that'll be a no then) and much more. Everything he said was relevant to the sport in question, and yet much of it was relevant to many other fields of photographic endeavour.
The second half of the evening was a live shoot of the three best looking men in the room, and Brian demonstrated how to take a boring "passport" photo and with small tweaks of flash-gun position and setting, to get a very respectable portrait.
No doubt there were many other calls on people's time, yet it was disappointing that a number of members were absent on this occasion. It may be that they thought sports photography was not their thing, but they missed an excellent speaker and I would be very surprised if there was anyone present who did not learn at least one new thing to improve their own photography.
Landscape Cups – Judge Alan Taberer (ImageZ) 12th April 2018
Originally scheduled for Stan McCartin to judge, Alan Taberer stepped in since our great friend Stan had moved away back to the wilds of Edinburgh. Alan, also from the ImageZ club, is no stranger to Park Street and can always be relied upon to produce an entertaining evening from the images we put before him. Furthermore Alan actually managed to suggest a couple of very neat lighting dodges for brightening dark contrasty bits even in landscape images without recourse to complex computer techniques. This sort of inspiration is becoming rare amongst judges and is genuinely useful.
Quite a sizable entry in the projected section (35) and Alan spread the scores with an early 14 for no less than Chris Gilbert’s "Tranquility". Our overall points leader was to suffer further disappointment later to take him off the top spot. Five images were held back for a second view. Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell already gaining an 18 for his very strong Yorkshire dales "Landscape Lines", received 19 for an even more graphic Grand Canyon image “Dead Horse Point”. It’s always amazed me how quite simple place names in the USA sound so much more romantic than our equivalent, which in this case might have been “Flat Battery Alley – Newport Pagnell”. Hasn’t got quite the same ring somehow, has it?
Indeed it may be a clue that none of these top five images were shot in England. David Butler scoring another 19 with his cityscape “Wall Street and Lower Manhattan” taken from a very high vantage point. Also with 19, Rod Fricker’s richly coloured “Under Big African Skies” took third place and wrestling for top spot both with deserved 20s Dean Tyler’s “Porth Nanven” and Connie Fitzgerald’s “Cei Ballast Island, Porthmadog”.
The print part of the evening didn’t go quite as well. Not much argument over the six he held back from the original 25 entries even though half of them received mere 18s. They were Derek Dixon’s wintery "Footpath to Wheathampstead" and two of Connie’s. "Sunset, Purbeck" and "From Beachy Head" this later being very arty indeed and could easily have won it. However the top three in reverse order were Dean Tyler’s "View From Hound Tor" (19) and the very striking "Atlantic Ocean, Cuba" by Connie once again but this time just squeezed out by Dean with his charming shot of Southwold pier entitled "Southworld Stillness", both with 20s.
Fine. However the competition is not just about the winners. Indeed some would argue that the lower placed are actually more important as it is those we wish to encourage and improve. Dumping nearly half this print entry into the 15s - all equal bottom in this case - does neither of these things and reduces the value of that part of the competition, which was a pity. Contestants deserve to know how their images compare with the rest of the field and why. There are plenty more (well at least three) scoring levels below 15 before things get unkind and some would argue that a few could have actually been scored above 15 anyway.
PDI League – The Final Round. Judge Julia Cleaver. 22th March 2018
Enthusiasm. That’s what she has got. Enthusiasm. Should be a no brainer really, all judges should have it. Perhaps they do, but we don’t always see or hear it. Could be of course the benefit of not having judged for too long – she thought it was 5years, actually it’s four. The lady to whom I refer is of course Julia Cleaver, leading member of the ImageZ club and a well respected photographer. She had been to us as a judge only once before. She hadn’t forgotten the way and we hadn’t forgotten how good she was.
Right from the off Julia seemed to be enjoying the images – a pretty reasonable cross section of the club’s efforts and at 45 not so many as to swamp her. It is always encouraging to hear a judge accentuating the positive then only reluctantly pointing out the weaknesses. Furthermore she managed to spread the scores down to 14 which always helps to ensure there are not too many tying in any one position. She was possibly still a little too kind to some of the lesser images but always full of constructive advice even for the best!
She held a fair few back. In fact a dozen. Chris Gilbert’s ‘Cobbles’ - a shop front rather than a street losing favour with only an 18. Nineteens for both Sue Hipperson’s ‘Apple Music’ nicely executed desk top shot contrasting vividly with Jacqui Taylor’s twin leopards. Such a rare moment between two wild animals only let down by their camouflaged coats blending too perfectly into the background. She got another 19 and commended with her ‘Caiman and Catfish’ as did David Butler which his ‘Echinacea’ and the prolific Leo Southern’s ‘Sunburst’ complete with a slightly too demanding border!
Three images finally tied at fourth. A very clever shot straight up a bell tower enigmatically entitled ‘Under the Bell Tower’ earned Graham Hutchinson a 20 and a highly commended. The other two in this group were from your reporter and he was startled at their success. One was an homage to a couple of previous images from Fiona Gurr. He copied the idea of Fiona’s shot in the Kings Cross light tunnel and than added the heading from one of her railway station pictures taken in St Pancras and called it ‘Lone Commuter.’ The title of his other entry ‘Falling Man' was taken from the iconic documentary about the 2011 Twin Towers but it was shot in nowhere more exotic than Somerset House, or at least the staircase was. The man himself was a toy soldier and neither he nor anyone else was hurt in the execution of the photograph.
Just as one might have begun to think that our judge was going for the slightly unusual she very much came back to earth for the top three. Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell was 3rd with his professionally executed landscape of ‘Garraputa Beach and Bluffs’ and Jacqui’s excellent 'Malachite Kingfisher' was 2nd with Julia still talking about how lighting from a slightly different angle might have improved it still more! A very atmospheric shot of Stonehenge again from Jeremy entitled ‘Winter Solstice’ won the night.
Before the competition Jacqui and Jeremy had been one point apart in the overall PDI league for the year’s five events. On this night Jeremy scored two 20s and an 18. Jackie scored one 20 and two 19s – exactly the same total - so her lead remained. It could also be the first time that the PDI award has been taken by someone entering exclusively natural history images. Well done Jacqui. She had even got high marks when she had entered three others in the creative event!
Going away it was difficult if not impossible to know what Julia Cleaver prefers in images. For a judge this is a very good sign indeed.
Photography News Camera Club Of The Year – 4th Round.
The subject this time was “Fantastic Light” and we did much better. We were half way up the list of the 39 clubs that entered and tied with four others at 15th with 84 points. The scoring was even tighter than usual probably because of the wide scope of the subject. Indeed three clubs, Caister, Leicester Forest and Midlothian tied at 1st place with 88. To resolve this they remove the top and bottom scores and add the middle three together. Just out of this group was Leighton Buzzard at equal 4th. Bottom scoring club had 75 points total.
Our entries are below. Great Staple Tor (Dean) scored 16, as did Eilean Donnan Castle. Tromso, Norway (Chris) and End of the Shift (Jacqui) both scored 17, and Purple Passage by Fiona scored 18.
The next and final round closes end of March and is for “Natural Beauty” - once again a very wide definition. Your images please by or before midnight Saturday 31st March.
Wildlife Competition Judge: Andy Sands (XRR)
Although entries were a little down on the usual levels for this one, attendance was certainly not, and for good reason. Plenty of club members were in their seats early to watch and listen to Andy Sands the man that is indisputedly our favourite visitor.
First half dealt with the thirty or so PDIs and right away it was evident that Andy might have been a smidgen too impressed with the quality as his scoring was tight. He held back eight but also scored a couple at 19 straight away – Jeremy’s ‘Golden Crocodile’ and Connie’s ‘Red Squirrel’ the latter benefitting from a frame full of red fur and a pleasing vignette that lightened the edges. Those 19s scored later included Fiona’s ‘Grasshopper’ which he most politely corrected to ‘Cricket’. Jeremy’s ‘California Sister, Yosemite’ for which he commended the use of the place name to distinguish it from something taken in a butterfly house. The excellent ‘Lilac Breasted Roller’ by Jackie with the very unusual angle showing the soles of its feet, or should that be claws? Finally Terry Day’s monochrome ‘Wallaby’ - one of your reporter’s favourites of the night - with its excellent expression and fur detail.
That left only four all of which he awarded 20’s with Rosemary’s spider ‘Catching its Prey’ in 4th place with a highly commended. There can be little dispute that the top three were all excellent and each very different. Terry’s close in shot - a fine portrait - of a lion’s head once again in monochrome was 3rd. Terry explained later that he felt that in all cases his shots benefitted from this black and white treatment to accentuate the hair texture and at the same time reducing the distraction of colour. It certainly worked. In complete contrast, Chris Gilbert’s striking ‘Male Pheasant’ was all the colours of the rainbow but also benefited from the tight crop. It was a rather unusual image that topped the lot. That of Rosemary once again, this time ‘Laying a Second Egg.’ Andy could tell us the species of butterfly, the gestation period, the number it usual lays and I believe he also mentioned where and when such goings on were most likely to be found! Phew….!
After the break the print section was slightly shorter – less than 20. Here I think Peter Winter might have actually been a little unlucky with both his superb ‘Jay with Hazelnut’ and ‘Little Owl Landing’ receiving only 19s. Connie had all three of her entry held for a second look and her “Hoverfly on Lavender’ and ‘Wasp enjoying discarded Orange’ being highly commended. Better than that her ‘Robin’ received a 20 and was 3rd. Chris Gilbert’s ‘Common Green Capsid’ was 2nd and to make up for the other two of his entries Peter Winter’s technically perfect ‘Fiery Breasted Hummingbird’ won the night.
Andy skilfully manages to blend his encyclopaedic knowledge of wildlife, that seems to be getting wider every year, with a very light hearted delivery of the information. As if they all might actually speak Latin in his house by choice. There is never a hint of the stuffy dry presentation one might expect from someone so knowledgeable. He just trots out the ‘actual names’ of the plants as well as the insects sitting on them and is also very careful not to poke fun at people that have got the name of what they took completely wrong! He was obviously delighted and proud, understandably so, of his young daughter Skyla (5) who had recently been able to correct her class and their teacher at school about the definition of a ‘bug’. When a book they were reading had ‘bug’ in the title Skyla pointed out that actually there were no bugs in the book at all as they were all insects or other things. When cross questioned regarding what the difference might be she simply replied “Bugs suck in their food – insects don’t.” We could all appreciate Andy’s delight – even those of us, like me, without children!
With a little more time available than is usual Andy was able to introduce a few more little anecdotes. He has explained to us before how he sometimes takes somewhat comatosed (frozen?) specimens out and positions them appropriately and starts to shoot only as they come round. However his explanation of his efforts to photograph Jays out of season by freezing bagfuls of Autumn leaves and acorns and then laying them out in February in an attempt to entice the creatures down for some photographic opportunities left one wondering just what his deep freeze unit must look like. He had already explained that at his last residence he had no less than 40 sparrow boxes on his house all of which were being used! It was practically a relief to hear him tell that the Jays totally ignored his efforts with these leaves and acorns and it was left to the squirrels to polish them off. Makes one think of possibly the next step. Deep frozen Jays!
As always a tremendous night’s entertainment. From a judging perspective though although the top images pretty much all finished at the top with scoring so tight, that is nothing lower than a 16, it did take away the advantage of a 20 from the better entries as well as disappointing the owners of the lower scores with the feeling that they were all bottom. I still think, just as we expect a 20 at the top, we should be prepared, indeed expect 12s and 13s at the bottom. This separation is becoming increasingly rare.
Open Prints Round 4 - Judge: Les Spitz ARPS (Pinner CC) 22nd February 2018
As the competition part of the season reaches its climax, just what the leading figures use for their entries becomes crucial. The running table kept up to date by Jeremy shows that less than half a dozen members are in the running for the Overall award but there are more like eight with a chance in the Print award. This fourth round saw no slackening of enthusiasm nor quality. Indeed the display laid before Les Spitz, our judge for the night, looked really polished and professional throughout.
Having been to us many times before in guises as A.V. and Monochrome Judge it was no surprise that there were quite a few black and white entries amongst the 30 or so. Les got through a considerable proportion of them by the break so had only a few for the second half. However he had held back one quarter of the images leaving quite a bit to look at again.
Peter Winter lost a point for some softness around the bottom of his “Blue-Chested Hummingbird”. “Dancing In The Rain”, an imaginative combination of real action and wall art by John Jennings, slightly lacked separation in depth. Similarly his “Dance With Me” fooled Les into thinking it was numerous dancers when we know better, don’t we, and were not surprised by John’s later explanation. Les seemed pretty struck with Jeremy’s “Tunnel Vision, Yosemite” too although parts of it were a little too muted for his taste and even Chris’s sensational harbour with Northern Lights picture “Heavens Above” languished in the 19s.
The top three were all 20s. A relatively straightforward side shot of a jumping red squirrel “Running The Wall” from Peter Winter was 3rd.Dean Tyler was 2nd with his understated “Southwold Silence”. Dean regularly does well with his landscapes despite their being a somewhat maligned genre currently. An absolute beauty from Connie entitled "Coolroe, Dingle" having already got past him scoring a mere 18!
The winning image was unusual. Chris Gilbert had taken a piece of the Atlantic coast and flipped and repeated it, joined the pieces together and created a striking spherical pattern around which he had wrapped a sky and presented it in a square format - “Planet Atlantic”. In complete contrast to his excellent "Tranquillity" (17) that looked its best from the back of the room this special effect needed to be studied close up. It was Les’s favourite and took Chris into a slender lead over Connie in the Print Challenge where only twenty points separate the top eight contestants. Everything to play for in the fifth and final round scheduled for 26th April and in the hands of Terry Coffey.
Photo News Camera Club Of The Year Round 3 - Subject – Decisive Moment
We were not so lucky this time placing way down the list. I feared this because as always I selected images that as closely as possible fitted the subject. Trouble was I also realised that was probably not what they actually meant! DECISIVE MOMENT to my mind meaning a moment which would illustrate the precursor to another important moment. An animal leaping on prey, a baby’s first steps, the first bite of a hamburger, sporting upset or goal, gun firing, flower opening etc. In practice it was interpreted more to be any moment frozen in time i.e. high speed shutter. Even one of ours was pretty much that. Hence our slightly lower than usual photographic quality probably let us down.
Personally I feel that a great many of the images that scored well did not truly fit the requirement including two from the winning club. All excellent images of course, but that is the minefield of set subject I am afraid.
Auction Night with Rod Fricker. 15th February 2018
This gave members a chance to turn some of their unwanted items into cash for the club’s social fund. We can bring anything we like and it doesn’t have to be photographic necessarily. All money raised goes to the club, anything unsold has to be taken away again by the vendor. The formula works from an entertainment point of view because we have in Rod Fricker a man who might have missed his calling as an auctioneer. It is just a joy to listen to his encouragement to us to buy each item placed in front of him no matter how inconsequential!
Trouble is that the audience, although generous with material donations, are just that because most of them want to de-clutter particularly at this time of the year. There were some very high quality items on offer – but no one wanted to take home more than they had brought. This formula inevitably results in un-sold goods. On refection I think had we opened and drank the carrier bag full of interesting alcoholic beverages instead of auctioning them it may have loosened wallets still further.
As with any auction it is well worth attendees examining what is on offer in advance something your reported took trouble to do and came away with at least three useful and valuable items for a fraction of their proper cost. Rod’s determined and amusing efforts, aided by a few straight donations, this year raised the club close on £200.
Dave's Documentaries 8th February 2018
Dave's Documentaries is a fun evening with a purpose: to get us looking at photography as a story-telling medium as well as a "work of art". This year the subjects set were "Progress" and/or "Your Street", to be represented by a set of 3 - 5 images. The number of submissions was disappointing but Dave made an extremely entertaining evening of it.
Jeremy nobly made up the numbers by adding a set at the very last minute, but good as it was it failed to convince our shrewd judge that it was in fact his street, being in the centre of Las Vegas. Terry got credit for showing the Mops and Brooms, his local pub, and a very nice contre-jour image taken I think on a misty morning, but the winner was Barbara with a well-told story of parking issues in her road.
We had four entries under the heading "Progress". John's entry failed to impress the judge and would have been improved by leaving the last (and weakest) image out. Terry's documentary about the demolition and rebuilding of the house next door, despite having been started several years before the topic for the evening was set, also missed out, but one of his images was awarded the accolade of best image of the evening.
Barbara's exciting sequence in an emptying dock provoked much interest, with hot debate in the audience about the method of rope coiling and whether there had actually been any progress between shots. The way was therefore clear for Rosemary to scoop up the prize, as she did last year, with a very interesting set showing the conversion of a found shape to a piece of graphic art.
It would have been nice to have had more entries, but it was a thoroughly entertaining evening and a good sized audience went home with smiles on their faces. Grateful thanks are due to our judge/compère Dave Hipperson.
Open PDIs Round 4 - Judge: Alan Taberer (ImageZ) 1st February 2018
It had been a while since Alan Taberer had been with us. However we were quickly reminded how easily it was to hear what he was saying! A powerful voice explained this time by his revelation that he grew up with a number of deaf people in his family.
We offered him slightly over 50 images which is quite a large chunk of pictures to digest, in one go. That run through may be fun for us but the judge is doing a lot of his scoring at that time and retaining that many in the memory is often difficult and can give rise to some aberrations in the final order. No doubt at all about the top few however. He held back Jackie Taylor’s “Resting” (zebras) right at the start and by the finish it had been joined by “Hats and Hands” from Jeremy, Chris Gilbert’s “Mountain Cornflower’ and “Pear Trio”, another natural history shot from Jackie, “Kestrel”, an unusual angle on slot car racing “Grand Prix” from Dave Hipperson, Terry Day’s excellent “Contemplation” portrait and Miranda Stewards “Where’s My Board” sports shot.
Alan had quite a bit of interesting comment to make so the evening over ran a little but the finalist looked about right when they came up at the end. Fiona Gurr’s “Dandelion Seed”, Chris Gilbert’s “Lights Over Tromso” and once again another shot from Leo Southern, his very evocative “Flight”, were perhaps rather unlucky to not each score a couple of points higher.
Final positions of the top eight shuffled down to “Grand Prix”, "Where’s My Board” and “Pear Trio” tied at 6th. Highly Commended 20s tied at 4th were “Mountain Cornflower” and “Resting”. The top images were also the best three portraits of the evening – Terry’s “Contemplation” and Jeremy’s “Hat and Hands” which took the trophy either side of Jackie Taylor’s rather unusual seated “Kestrel”. From the scoring it would appear that Alan definitely prefers images of natural history and people over pictures of things. Worth remembering.
PSCC Creative Night: Judge - Andy Sands APAGB (XRR) 25th January 2018
Quite a few clubs don’t let their members know the name of the judge until the entries are in for the competition. We don’t do this. Hence we all tend to accommodate what we think are the forthcoming judge’s tastes when we select our images. Doubtless we had done this for Creative night. Certainly I had. So it was with some disappointment that we were informed that the judge booked was seriously indisposed with a gastric virus and we had to endure a stand in! The fact that this deputisation rendered us at the mercy of Andy Sands, was a huge consolation.
Of course Andy has an enormous grasp of all the aspects of colour, composition and lighting and probably just as important, camera techniques. Furthermore he is so popular at Park Street that really nothing could go wrong. It was then positively reassuring to hear his concerns that not only did he not judge very often but also that the creative business was a bit beyond him. We all knew however that his wife Sarah, who should have been doing the judging, would give him hell when he got home if he made a mess of it so he was under huge pressure!
Rather fewer prints than normal but a large entry (40) in PDIs and of a very high standard with much imagination on show. Even the two lowest scored images at 15 were none too shabby. Leo Southern had his “Release the Kraken” kaleidoscope effect image held back to score a 19. His similarly treated "Engage the Flux Capacitor" was a bit unlucky with a 17. His “To Infinity and Beyond” another 19 could easily have taken the evening. I was able to a look at the picture he had started with for this one. What impressed was that he had seen the potential in a quite basic shot and had known what to do with it. Two 19s and a 17 is not a bad night for anyone. Leo seems to have an advanced eye both for an image's potential and what to do with them not to mention exciting titles. I am not quite so sure what his wife must have felt being used as the basis for his Kraken frightener!
A group that were unlucky not to do better included "Unfinished" by Chris Gilbert – a crayon colouring in the petals of a flower. Terry Day’s "Crocus Impression" and Sue Hipperson’s "Orbiting Flowers", all of which were positively creative. One got the impression that Andy might have better enjoyed the blooms being left alone – in fact he did suggest that. Being a botanical as well as wildlife photographer one can understand this of course.
Five images were held back and the two 19s went to Leo’s “Kraken” and Sue H’s “All the Fun of the Fair” – a motion blurred image of a very colourful model carousel. The remaining three were 20s. Third place being Chris Gilbert’s very subtly handled spoon and fork still life “Spoonerism”. Second Dave Hipperson’s weird self portrait taken though a hologram at Tate Modern entitled “Looking Back". The winner was a standout image from the start and had that additional quality of engendering a positive reaction in the audience when it appeared. I think there would have been quite a few of us including Rosemary Wenzerul who hoped it would win. I did and I was second! She had spotted what looked a bit like a potato head image in a flat rock on the beach and had added arms and legs via the use of a handy starfish. This created a very life-like impression of a person spread eagled and asleep on the beach. All that was necessary was to add two eyes and nose and the image was complete. A keen eye, a good idea, some clever physical creativity as well as convincing photography. A great competition shot from Rosemary, absolutely what was intended as well as great fun.
That left a much shorter second half where Andy perused our 16 prints. The nineteens were Martyn Styles' coloured, almost mosaic effect of a face “Face Painting” and Connie Fitzgerald’s gentle treatment of a sea shell “Under the Sea”. Her “Sea Storm” then figured in the 20s and placed 3rd leaving the top two spots to John Jennings. “Aerial Display” a multi image dance sequence was, knowing John, probably shot with cleverly timed flashes as the protagonist looked to be going in two directions at once! His winner “The Storyteller” however was unusual in as much as he had created a photo-montage of pictures taken at a Ragged Victorians event, illustrating the main story teller surrounded by the faces of the other characters in the plot. Properly imaginative.
Andy was under instruction to photograph the winners so he could report back concisely to Sarah and show her his efforts. We hope they met with her approval – they certainly did with us.
Photography News Camera Club Of The Year Round 2
We didn’t do quite as well with our portraits as we did with the scenic images.
However the scoring is very close and any slightly glitch can drop you a way down. The secret, as with all team events, is to maintain a high general standard. To illustrate this, the winning club, Great Notely PC did not score a 20 but neither did they score lower than a 17! In this round as before the wining club scored 90 from a possible 100. That’s only averaging 18. We scored 84 only one point less than the last time. Forty clubs entered, we tied with a number of others at 17th. Far more of the CACC clubs figured this time. Leighton Buzzard 4th with 88, Imagez and New City equal 5th with 86, Harpenden 12th with 85. The red hot club of Aye only got 84 like us and tied with us and Maidenhead another big CaCC club. The bottom score was 68 the Beckenham Club who in the past has done very well.
Our images were John Jenning’s "Ecce" (18), Rosemary Wenzerul’s "Cutting Lavender" and "Propped Up" by Jeremy Frazer Mitchell (17) and Terry Day’s "Man at the Market" and Chris Gilbert’s "Geisha Girl" (16). It should be remembered that the standard for this comp is pretty much as high as it gets and very few images receive 20. Indeed quite a few get 13! So well done for this lot. The day everyone gets an 18 could be the day we will a round.
The next round closes 5th Feb so I need your images in before midnight on Saturday 4th Feb. The set subject is ‘DECISIVE MOMENT’. Already I see some problems with this as in essence every picture taken is in some way a decisive moment. However I would argue that the image should be the capture of a moment that changed things even ever so slightly for the protagonists in the picture or possibly for others. Sport shots would naturally lean in this direction, natural history of capture of prey would be good, possibly clever street photography…. It’s a tough subject. If you have got a shot of the first atomic bomb test then you should be quids in! Do your best. Let me have your pictures as soon as you like with their largest dimension at least 1500.
LUMIERE, LONDON 2018
This is a four day event held in London every two years. It is a light festival that is completely free to attend and brings together some of the world’s most exciting artists.
The PSCC trip was organised by Jeremy for the late afternoon of Saturday, 20th January, the organisation included ensuring that each member arrived approximately at the same time at Blackfriars, despite starting from different Stations!
Our group of three comprised Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell, David Butler and Terry Day.
Weather was typically British, so any hope of taking a sunset over Waterloo Bridge was dashed. However, bad conditions did not stop Nikons and Pentax’s working overtime even before we crossed the bridge and arrived on the embankment. A leisurely walk to Trafalgar square took us to our first main Lumiere site, but as this was before the light display was switched on, we retired to the Sherlock Holmes Pub for a well earned drink and meal.
On our return, we found substantial number of people looking at the display and the reduced lighting level made photography a bit of a challenge with very high ISO levels being the order of the day, typically 3000 to 6400! The resulting images were well worth the effort and wait to get a good position.
We visited other sites, ending up at Kings Cross. As it was inevitable with the large crowds we would lose each other, we agreed meeting points along the way. Overall, we all collected some worthwhile images that may appear at future club competitions.
North-West Fed Semi-Final: Judge Mark Buckley-Sharp ARPS CPAGB APAGB (Harrow CC). 23rd January 2018
It would have been quite an upset to beat Amersham in the head-to-head semi-final of the North-West Fed last night, and without question they deserved their win on the images they put up against us, particularly in prints where there were at least three award winners, including "Walking the Dog" which won a Silver Medal and was the Public Vote Winner at the Masters of Print competition run by the PAGB in October last year (and which our judge Mark Buckley-Sharp admitted he had voted for) and "Soaking" which was a medal winner at The London Salon in 2017.
We were also hit by a considerable number of issues Mark had with our prints, for instance Mark did not catch the reference in Jeremy's title to the Walkie-Talkie building, so judged it as an abstract; and he felt that "Come Back Safely To Me" was a cliché, and that hundreds of similar photos are in circulation. Quite rightly Amersham won the print leg, and also took both of the two twenties on offer, but the margin of 10 1/2 points felt perhaps a little harsh.
We did better in the projected image leg (a cup of tea can sooth frayed nerves, can it not?) and Chris Gilbert's "Narrow Leaved Plantain" and "Sail into the Sunset", and Jeremy's "Cinnamon Bug" were in the five held back. "Sail into the Sunset" was given one of the twenties and our other two got nineteen, a much more satisfactory outcome.
When the scores were added up, we had narrowly beaten Amersham in PDIs (by 1 point), but of course this was not enough to catch their lead from prints, so Amersham go through to the final where they meet Watford, who won a narrow victory over Field End.
I think we can be proud of what we have achieved and thanks and congratulations go to the various authors and also to Jeremy for his selections and hard work.
Talk: Nature Photography by Tom Way. 18th January 2018
Fabulous images and many insights into the world of Tom Way on Thursday kept a full room gripped right to the end. Tom only became a professional photographer 5 years ago but had a clear plan which he executed brilliantly. Tom's business is driven by 5 or 6 outstanding photos a year, aiming primarily at making large, high impact pieces of wall art, which in turn gives him the opportunity to lead expeditions and workshops in this country and abroad, as well as being in demand as a speaker.
His style, which is completely conscious, is to present his subject against a simple background, often just sky and usually in very soft focus, to make the subject leap off the page. It is important to show something of the animal's character as well, and his personal connection to the subject transfers effortlessly to the viewer. He sells large framed pictures in limited editions at substantial prices, but you can own one of his best sellers Puffin in Flight for as little as £2.50. This incidentally is his second to top-selling image and was one of the very first he took.
Although his preference is for powerful, close-up portraits of big, powerful animals, he also showed some superb wide shots, of which my personal favourite of the entire night was Giraffe Sunset.
It was an excellent evening, enjoyed by us all, and I look forward to Tom's next visit in a couple of years when he will have 10 or 12 new stunners to show us.
Open Prints Round 3 - Judge: Colin Southgate FRPS DPAGB (Harpenden CC). 11th January 2018
Round 3 of the Print League produced a modest total of 32 prints for judge Colin Southgate to assess, but the quality was certainly there, as was a good range of genre and style. Colin proceeded confidently and calmly through the entries holding no less than 9 images for further consideration. Four of these, Connie Fitzgerald's lovely orchid and "Close-up of a Cabbage Rose Leaf" and Chris Gilbert's "Cold Morning" and Norwegian landscape could 'only' manage 19.
The remaining five were deemed worthy of the maximum score of 20. Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell's "Brown Study" was likened to an Escher drawing, while Connie's portrait of a robin with a beak full of mealworms was noteworthy for its slightly unusual viewpoint, with a profile from a little above being more often seen. Both of these were Highly Commended.
Peter Winter's fine hummingbird was 3rd. Colin noted that the background was soft and out of focus because of the correct choice of depth of field and that while the majority of the bird was pin-sharp, the wingtips were blurred as a result of the rapid wing-beat, making the image as aesthetically pleasing as technically correct. John Jennings' landscape "Low Tide" was described as a powerful monochrome, a considerable compliment from someone who tends to specialise in this area, but there was no doubt about the winner, Chris Gilbert's excellent still life of a few shavings from sharpening crayons. Imaginative in concept and very cleverly executed, this was an image to be enjoyed!
Photography News Camera Club Of The Year (1st Round)
We did our best ever in the first round of this event placing equal 12th from a nationwide entry of 42 clubs which is one of the biggest fields yet. The eighty five points we totalled averages out at 17 per image. A great score and only 5 points short of top place. We were a few slots above New City who are very strong in all aspects of photography and won this contest last year.
For those that haven’t been able to get on the Photography News website (it’s a bit of a fiddle – or should that be faff?) Connie, Dean and Terry all got 17s for THE DAY, CORFE CASTLE and MIST & FROST respectively. Chris Gilbert’s STAITHES which is the best version of that shot I have seen so far was marked down with a 15. Ouch! This could have been because it was a much seen view.
However balance was restored by Jeremy with his DESERT STORM which received 19 – the second time he has got such a high score in this contest. Of all the images I sent in it was this one of Jeremy’s that I was most worried about! Great, but I didn’t think they would get it. So much for my opinion.
Round two for Portraits has closed now and our contestants in this are John Jennings, Rosemary Wenzerul, Terry Day, Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell and Chris Gilbert. I had less choice for this one but I am still extremely happy with the quality of the images I have sent in. Johns’, Jeremy’s and Chris’s are what you would call conventional studio type images. Terry’s and Rosemary’s are more People pictures but equally impressive and with the benefit of a bit of context. We will see.
Talk: Creative Photography by John Humphrey FRPS. 4th January 2018
Connie had seen John Humphrey give this lecture last year and was impressed enough to suggest we booked him. At the time she had been particularly intrigued by his technique of microwaving pressed flower specimens to prepare them for photography. She invested in some of the equipment necessary and had demonstrated the technique to us some weeks before Christmas so we knew roughly what to expect. However that was only a small part of the story.
His distinguished presentation was professional and precisely timed much the style of the excellent Colin Southgate. Although the show was entirely projected he had also brought along forty or so of the same images printed and had them on display throughout the evening for comparison purposes and to encourage further discussion into which he was very happy to enter. A most approachable fellow who, when I explained to him, sounded delighted that we had already done some experiments with the microwaving of flower heads. He admitted to enjoying flower photography the most of all and hence pleased with the discovery of this super rapid pressing technique where the usual period of a couple of months is shrunk to 30 seconds. We were additionally impressed by his determination to continue ‘ploughing this furrow’ despite firm advice from the Royal Society to “Not do flowers” for his fellowship panel. He did them and got it!
He showed us the almost endless possibilities with the colour patterns made up from macro photography of all manner of flower blooms before developing the talk into other subjects most quite locally sourced some almost mundane. Kitchen and bathroom utensils being a favourite.
Arty but also scientifically accurate, a fact born out when he deviated slightly whilst on the subject of the possibilities of super wide angle lenses and re-affirmed that the depth of field is entirely controlled by the ‘f’ stop and not whether the lens is wide angle or telephoto. Those properties simply altering the perspective and giving the illusion of deeper and shallower fields. Always reassuring to hear good solid technical sense from an FRPS. Amusingly his fish eye lens shots of a cat, a dog and a sheep got the biggest reaction of the evening!
He was almost apologetic about the extensive use of photoshop, athough he certainly needn’t have been. His explanation that the effect of computer filters are enhanced by the resolution of the image to which they are applied was interesting. The lower resolutions being the most susceptible to effects. Thereby allowing him to use quite small parts of an image to create full size pictures. Indeed using smaller fragments actually helped. Tools like swirl and blur creating their own environments if you like and leaving behind the conventional confines of what is sharp and what is not sharp. Encouragingly at this point he powerfully de-bunked the more traditional reasoning that you always need a good picture to start with. In his opinion you definitely don’t!
A particularly striking example was his take on the Taj Mahal. He started with a competent straight on picture. However the right hand side of the image was more attractive and clearer than the left as it had fewer people in it and no trees obstructing the bottom of the minarets. He selected the right hand half and simply flipped it over to give the illusion of a perfectly symmetrical building. (Try doing that with a shot of someone’s face – it won’t look like them at all.) Well in John’s case it certainly was still the Taj Mahal but then he introduced some filters and may have gone into ‘find edges’ as well. Thus creating what to all intents and purposes looked like a line drawing impression of the iconic building in the mist.
This flipping over facility we too often forget as a tool and it was good to be reminded. Some of his more elaborate constructions were built up from relatively simple beginings by flipping a pattern both horizontally and vertically. The most colourful of these were quite stunning and just as one was thinking they might make an ideal pattern for a head scarf for instance, he produced one made from the image he was currently projecting. Nice touch. The firm that will do this printing are Contrado. (contrado.co.uk/fabrics) by the way.
He explained that he had discovered an animated Gif option in Photoshop (see information sheet) that allowed him to incorporate three or four images and create one that appeared to be MOVING! His examples of this started with a simple living room fire with moving (licking) flames and finished up with people rushing about on St Pancras Station platform. Personally I can’t wait to have such a thing shone up in front of me to judge – the sooner the better. (He admits, to use his own words, that it is ‘a bit of a faff’ but has sent us the steps. Be warned – his suggestion of a ‘faff’ is no over statement!
He was just as happy to induce blur the manual way – ie. Camera shake. Or in his case the careful use of smooth movement with the shutter is open. Tree ‘scapes benefitting particularly from this approach. He did remind us however that this process tends to throw up rather a lot of rejects until you get the hang of it. Often he took his experiments to their pictorial conclusion and then went a few steps further to show us basically when to stop! Interestingly he was of the same opinion as me that, photo stacking, although excellent if wanting to show every detail, can actually detract from the enjoyment of an image by somehow giving our eyes just too many perfectly sharp places on which to rest. The antithesis of that comfort one receives from a picture with a nicely out of focus background allowing us to concentrate on the main subject. Good advice. It’s a useful tool but it’s not to be overused.
A great evening to a full house – even if it did leave me feeling rather inadequate as far as my entries into the forthcoming Creative competition are concerned. Well after 10pm the print display was still standing and John was surrounded by a huddle of people still asking him questions.
Open PDIs Round 3 - Judge: Chris Drury (St Albans CC) 7th December 2018
Judging an Open photography class strikes me as impossible, or at least impossible to make everyone happy. How do you compare wildlife, studio, macro, landscape and street photography? Judging is always subjective and personal, but Chris Drury did a good job of sorting out a very varied entry for Round 3 of the Projected Image League, the high standard of which was reflected by his awarding 9 scores of 20 and a further 10 of 19.
On his first run through, Chris held 11 images back, but also awarded four 20s in the last dozen images. Jeremy had a 20 and his other two held, and Leo had all three of his held back!
Six of the held images were awarded 19 and the other five scored 20, a lot of high scoring images yet the scores ranged down to 14.
Connie's "Early Bird" claimed 3rd place with Fiona's "Flower" in 2nd, but the winner was Chris Gilbert's fine mono landscape "Western Ireland". All the other 20s were Highly Commended.
Bedfordshire Invitation Inter-Club Competition - 29th November 2017
Also taking place at Leighton Buzzard last Wednesday was the Bedfordshire Invitation Inter-Club Competition, to which we were invited. The judge for the competition was Rosemary Wilman HonFRPS AFIAP BPE5*. Rosemary is a photographer, lecturer and judge with diverse photographic interests. She is a former President of the Royal Photographic Society and currently chairs the Society’s Licentiate Distinction Panel. She is based in Surrey and is a member of both Epsom Camera Club and Molesey Photographic Club.
This year thirteen clubs took part in the competition, each submitting five PDIs. There was no set subject and the entries covered a wide range of subject matter and approach. The results were as follows
|1st||New City PS||89|
|4th=||Biggleswade & District CC||86|
|4th =||Park Street CC||86|
|6th||Ampthill & District CC||85|
|8th =||Bedford CC||81|
|8th =||Gamblingay PS||81|
|10th||Leighton Buzzard PC||79|
|11th||Shillington & District CC||77|
|12th||Luton & Dunstable PC||74|
|13th||St Albans CC||73|
Six images were given the maximum 20 marks and the Grievson Shield for best image of the competition was awarded to “Impression of the National Gallery” by Peter Stevens of Harpenden PS.
Our individual scores were
|LAVENDER FIELD IMPRESSION by Rosemary Wenzerul||18|
|OOOK! by Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell||17|
|THE DAY by Connie Fitzgerald||16|
|JUST DANCE by John Jennings||18|
|SAIL INTO THE SUNSET by Chris Gilbert||17|
Once again, this was a very creditable performance against some strong opposition, so congratulations to the authors and to Sue Anderson for her selection.
NW Fed Interclub competition. Judge: Martin Patten (Watford CC) - 30th November 2017
The NW Fed is a particularly interesting competition in which three clubs meet three times when each present 5 prints and 5 projected images. We started with PDIs, marked with great perception by judge Martin Patten, who was able to explain exactly what he liked and was not so keen on. He marked from 15 to 17 and held five images back. Peter Winter's "Male Kingfisher Preening Toes" scored 18, as did XRR's Stuart Brocklebank's "Cathedral Arch". Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell's "Cinamon Bug" went one better, scoring 19, leaving just two images held back. Andy Sands (XRR) and Connie Fitzgerald ("Small Copper on Milkweed" and "Clematis" respectively) were awarded the maximum score of 20 and were starred images. Martin described "Clematis" as a still life transformed into a work of art.
After tea we moved on to a strong collection of prints. Again Martin scored from 15 to 17 but held back no less than 7 of the 15 images. "Come Back Safely To Me" (John Jennings), "Early Mist" and "Tall Stories" (both Stuart Brocklebank, XRR) scored 18, and Andy Sands' "Wood White Butterfly" scored 19. That left 3 images held back, all Park Street's, each of which scored a very well deserved 20.
Martin described Dean Tyler's "Stepping Stones to Serenity" as beautifully simple and "I love it". Chris Gilbert's "Grass Flower" was traditional but with excellent use of texture and a lovely jaunty angle, but his favourite was Peter Winter's "Little Owl" which he felt was just outstanding. The last two were the starred images.
Park Street had gone into the third round with a very slight lead over XRR and edged a further 3 points ahead in the projected image section for a lead of 7 points after each club had shown 25 images. A very convincing win in the print section doubled the lead and put PSCC into the semi-finals. Warm congratulations to all the authors, especially Connie, Chris and Peter with starred images, and to Jeremy for selecting such successful entries.
XRR Visions 2017 - 29th November
I arrived at XRR Headquarters ridiculously early last night, to be greeted with a scoresheet showing Park Street equal first with Amersham after two rounds of judging. XRR Visions is open to individual entry, and clubs can nominate a team of three to represent them, this year being Connie Fitzgerald, Chris Gilbert and myself. With 100 entrants, everyone's images are divided into three rounds, the first two of which are prejudged, and the evening begins with a slideshow of those images, including titles, authors and scores. Then the fun begins, with 100 images to be judged live (the judge had a private preview while the room was filling up). Could we hang on to the lead?
Well, the short answer is no, we couldn't. The judge was not taken by Connie's lovely image "The Day" and gave it 14, Chris's beautiful "Perennial Cornflower" scored 16 and a new image from me, "Sparring Partners", scored 17 for a disappointing third round total of 47. However, to put it into some sort of perspective, our team scored the same overall as Harpenden, coming equal 9th out of 15 club teams.
Other individual entries came from Dave and Sue Hipperson, Fiona Gurr, Ken Liversidge and Terry Day. Once again it feels a little different being judged by someone from another area (Marilyn Steward ARPS DPAGB BPE4* EFIAP/b all the way from Harlow) and it can only be a good thing to pit your efforts against the best images from 99 other authors and to see how they compare.
Members Evening: Tabletop Photography - 23rd November 2017
After a slight re-shuffle of the programme we arranged one of those all too rare occasions when members were invited to bring their cameras to a club night.
Connie first demonstrated the art of zapping a selection of small flowers in a press popped into a microwave oven for a few seconds. The results were art in themselves and there was considerable interest in the purpose built and commercially available device she used. It allowed further interpretation to be entirely in the photographers control as regards how the resulting specimens were then arranged on a light table. Very appealing as the most minute of details in the blooms were crisply evident and a treat to photograph. The compact, effective but relatively inexpensive light pad she used also proved of great interest to all.
Ron Brown had rigged a very clever set up with remote side flash illuminating the smoke from a Joss stick. As Ron pointed out tripods were hardly necessary on this as shutter speeds could be kept high however it did assist in accurate focussing. It worked very well – the trick being to get absolutely ready and then wait for the smoke to settle down into a smooth vertical flow and then just introduce a tiny bit of turbulence to disturb the pattern.
John Jennings had set up two tables. One had a "stage" under a continuous fluorescent light in a softbox and various still life subjects. The other, easily the most challenging task of the four was his ‘drop of water into a glass’ set up. lots of people had a go at this but only a few achieved recognisable ‘drops in the air’ effects. To do this manually one needs either a great deal of luck, the reflexes of a racing driver or some very expensive electronic detection equipment.
Thanks are due to John, Connie and Ron who must have been at the club ages before us to get such a lot set up so effectively. Hopefully we will be able to do this again.
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 the print section there was some debate about a relatively high score awarded to an image that was not an obvious fit for the People subject, namely a landscape, albeit a fine one, with just one tiny figure in it. Perfectly acceptable for an author to interpret the subject how they like, and as always the judge’s word is final, even if not unanimously shared by the audience and/or the author of the image.
Edited: JDJ 26/11/17
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.