The Potters Bar Trophy 2019
The Potters Bar Trophy competition was held at Potters bar on Monday night 17th June, judged by Naomi Saul, and Leo, Chris and I went along. The full results are here.
We didn’t win any 20’s but had consistently good scores as you’ll see. It was a nail-biting finish, as three clubs had exactly the same score, Southgate, Loughton and Park Street, so the ‘Tie-break images were shown, and we came 1st and won the trophy! (our tie-break image was Jeremy’s ‘Winter Solstice’)
|TIE BREAK RESULTS|
|1||Winter Solstice||Park Street|
|3||Flamingos In The Early Morning Light||Southgate|
Congratulations to all the authors, well done, (and thanks Jeremy!)
Print of the Year. Judge Colin Mill BPE2* (New City CC) 13th June 2019
One would hope that an event selecting the very best of our prints from a whole year might involve very good images. However the display that awaited us and the judge, at Print of the Year Night was exceptional on many counts. All entrants, or should that be qualifiers, should be congratulated on their high standard. Furthermore to a ‘man’ all 49 of the prints – filling both our stands beautifully – were mounted on the regulation 50x40cm board and as a consequence presented a most professional looking, exhibition-style display. Members may be astonished to learn that there are still many clubs where mount sizes vary, sometimes wildly. It greatly reduces the impact.
Colin Mill had never been to us to judge before and had torn himself away from his own club night to attend. Furthermore this being New City CC in Milton Keynes, his journey had been considerable. In the same way as with Martin Patten the week before it was most appropriate that we had a highly competent photographer for our ‘final’, and in Colin’s case someone who had a appreciation of all the genres. What we were not expecting however was someone with quite such observational skills, more of which later.
Selection criteria had been the same as for the best PDI of the year. Appreciating that the images before him would have been scored highly before and were pretty much of an equal standard he saw fit to hold plenty back for another look. Pretty much one third of the entry came around again and here David Butler and Rod Fricker did a sterling job of arranging the final fifteen on our left hand display board as the evening went along, hence at the end presenting Colin with a perfect view of the prints from which he had to select a winner and the runners-up.
By the very nature of the competition there was a limited number of authors involved but with contestants often being represented by many prints, a dozen in the case of Dean Tyler! Notables that didn’t make the cut included Dean Tyler’s ‘Together Alone’ – a single strategically placed leafless tree overhanging the lake at Llanberis with a perfectly positioned swan. It transpired that the view is a well-used one and this undoubtedly affects judges' decisions. Chris Gilbert’s very fine panorama of a section of the Duoro River in Portugal also fell at the first fence. It would have benefited from being able to be printed much larger as indeed is often the fate of panoramas. David Butler’s wrap-around distortion of a city skyline entitled ‘Kaleidoscope Manhattan’ failed to impress enough as Colin said he had seen this ‘miniature planet’ effect used rather a lot in the past.
He then eliminated five of the held-back images: ‘Tree Creeper’ by Peter Winter, ‘Luminaire London 2018’ by Terry Day, ‘Vortex’ and ‘Hard & Soft’ by Dean Tyler, and ‘Paper Weight’ by Chris Gilbert. Three of the ten remaining were Commended, these being ‘1 Click & 3 Pops’ from John Jennings, a title inspired, if that is the right word, by previous judges’ inability to appreciate that many of John’s dancer images are not of three dancers but rather of one moving subject exposed three times with multiple flashes during a single shutter opening; ‘Money Plant Flowers’ by Chris Gilbert, a subtle and hazy treatment of a very rarely seen flower despite it being on a quite common indoor plant; and Sue Hipperson’s “Here Comes the Bride”, a tight crop depiction of the front of a wedding Rolls Royce.
Highly Commended were Dean Tyler’s ‘Dorset Delight’, an image of Corfe Castle in the dawn mist - timing appreciated by the judge; and ‘Porth Nanven Mono’, a striking, black and white landscape in portrait format, rich in detail and contrast. ‘The Hairpin’ by John Jennings was also Highly Commended – a delicately lit nude pose that only the very young and supple could hope to achieve and finally another from Sue Hipperson, this time an abstract entitled ‘Lights of Montmartre’. It should be pointed out to those members that had no automatically qualifying images but still didn’t enter any others, that although quite well scored, none of Sue’s prints had placed in the top three during the year and now two of them were here in the final few.
So from the original near fifty prints, Chris Gilbert’s traditional still life ‘Onion Basket’ was awarded 3rd. By way of his well known prowess in post production Chris had created a most atmospheric picture from a simple subject. Runner up was Dean Tyler’s ‘Laid Bare’, an isolated tree in snow with just enough additional interest to make the viewer feel they were actually there. Thanks to Colin’s astonishing eye it seemed that we had already seen this tree tonight. He pointed out that it appeared way off in the background fog in Dean’s ‘The Outcast’, another snowy scene, shot, as it happened, from further along the same field! One had to remind oneself that our judge had not seen these pictures before. Here was a man that was really concentrating. Often so rare in a judge and most reassuring.
So finally the Print of the Year went to Chris Gilbert’s ‘Alone’. This was a deceptively simple portrait/street photograph of a traditionally dressed Marrakech lady in a softly lit but beautifully coloured alley. Colin had even spotted a mysterious piece if graffiti on the wall behind her which looked uncannily like the devil. ‘Satan at her back’- was Colin’s reaction. Maybe she wasn’t quite so alone. From a distance the picture looked almost too simple – from close up it glowed with intrigue and atmosphere. A classic piece of work that would not look out of place printed ten feet high at next years RA’s Summer Exhibition for instance. A worthy winner.
Projected Image of the Year. Judge: Martin Patten LRPS CPAGB BPE3*. 6th June 2019
Projected Image and Print of the Year are particularly interesting competitions. Those images placed 1st 2nd and 3rd in all 10 regular competitions and the John Woodworth Trophy, are automatically pre-selected, and each member can add 2 other images from the year, so last night's final total of 50 could easily have been higher.
We don't ask the judge to mark them again, but the usual procedure is to dismiss about half the images, having critiqued them all, and then to knock out the others one by one until a select few stand waiting for their awards.
With a different judge, opinions expressed in the original competitions are often not shared, or not entirely so, and the first batch of 24 dismissals included 4 previous winners, 4 second places and 3 thirds. However, Martin Patten has always shown himself to be one of the best judges around and he was able to explain his decisions with great clarity. He also noticed stuff that other judges - as well perhaps as the authors - had not!
Another 9 images were now sent on their way with his best wishes and things started to become even more interesting with a further 7 casualties. Martin was reluctant to let the next 3 go, but it had to be done and then we were into the places.
4 images were Commended: Jeremy's landscape "What the Passing Storm Reveals" was loved for its patches of sunlight and shade, but a small shiny patch of water was a distraction. Chris's " Calocoris Roseomaculatis" - or "some bug" as Jeremy tried to re-title it - was admired for the control of the reflections from its shiny back, but some of e background wasn't as creamy-smooth as it should have been. Connie's "Revolving Doors" was very much admired from all aspects, but was just too bright as a projected image: Martin thought it would make a wonderful print. Dean's " View From A Norfolk Garden" was much enjoyed but was thought to maybe have too many mid-tones: a tough assessment this for a misty morning.
Chris was up again with "Last One Standing", one poppy in flower in a small group of more or less aged stalks, an image that chimed well with the celebrations earlier in the day for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, awarded a Highly Commended. Jeremy's lovely shot of a snoozing gorilla "Forty Winks" would have done better but Martin was not happy about the lighter background at the top of the image. Similarly with "The Knot", one of mine, he pointed out some basic flaws in my processing which had left one bright area of floor and one foot too dark: I was glad of the Highly Commended as well as the pointers!
Chris Gilbert's last image was placed 3rd, basically a simple enough shot of a flower but very cleverly presented as though it was on a stack of Polaroid prints. Connie's brilliant concept "Lines in a Book" was Runner Up (together with "Revolving Doors" it had been in her entry that won the John Woodworth Trophy). That left my own Ecce! as the winner: what can I say? I'm over the moon!
Club Evening: "Second Chance"
Second Chance, hosted by our very own Chris Anderson and Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell, was a club evening with a difference. Volunteers - guinea pigs - offered 3 images that had, in their view, not been appreciated, understood or marked rightly by the original judge, or alternatively new images that they wanted to see projected and get some feedback on. The images were shown and Chris discussed them as a judge, and gave them a mark, and then invited comments from the author and indeed from anyone in the audience. The usual suggestions - crop tighter, crop looser, darken the edges, move the cormorant etc etc - came up, and in the background Jeremy was making changes to the image. At the end of the evening, he ran through his changes and we had a chance to consider whether they were improvements or not.
From a personal point of view, I learned a very important lesson. I realised that the three images I had offered for reconsideration had something in common: I had liked each of them for some particular feature that made me overlook the impact of the image as a whole, and other faults or weaknesses. One of mine was a landscape which in fact was about 60% water, which had ripples, reflections and wind-blown streaks which I felt were very important to the image. I was very put out when the original judge dismissed the excess of water, and to be fair it is attractive but it completely unbalances the image; a classic case of being two different images hiding in one.
I hope this, or some version of feedback session, becomes a regular fixture in the calendar as I think everyone enjoyed it, and as I say, I for one learned a valuable lesson in appraising my own images.
Talk: Drone Photography by John Clare. 23rd May 2019
Recent experiments with visiting speakers to Park Street have gone very well. However nothing could have prepared us for John Clare and his camera drone. I had spotted one of John’s stand-out shots whilst judging at Ealing earlier in the year and after a short conversation suggested he might like to think about giving us a talk on the subject. Rather surprisingly he hadn’t already had this idea so this presentation was really produced specially for us. The fact that he lectures on the subject of ‘how to give computer assisted presentations’ would have of course pretty much guaranteed a good show but I didn’t know that at the time! Thankfully Leo had managed to find a spot in our calendar that gave a long light evening so the stage was set but even he couldn’t have dared to hope the weather on the night would be so perfect.
John’s performance was professional in every detail. He had arrived early enough to check out our grass field and had already been test flying there before anyone had arrived much to the amusement of a group of Brownies.
For us the evening started indoors and with a surprise right away. The drone unit was very much a camera with ‘wings’ rather than a quad-copter with a camera fitted as an after thought. Furthermore it was extremely compact and lived in John’s modest sized camera bag along side all his other paraphernalia. When he produced it, Pandora like and we watch him unfold it as it morphed into what appeared to be a metallic insect, we were spellbound. The tiny camera was a Hassleblad. Good heavens. A Hasselblad with wings! What would Ansel Adams have thought of this?
It was a Mavic MkII Pro. Controlled by a miniature handset with two joy sticks (up and down, left to right) and taking additional information from his i-phone which was plugged into the controller. John explained the rudiments of its control and how fail-safe the systems were. It had automatic object avoidance and if it encountered problems like too high a wind, low battery level or erratic signal it would fly back to where it took off. The hands-off default state was always a stationery hover wherever you left it last. He explained that the trick was to fly the craft to where you wanted it and then adjust the direction and settings on the camera just as you might with a camera in any position. The ‘drone’ aspect was simply regarded as another platform or vantage point like a tripod, or a ladder, a hot air balloon or a full size helicopter, but somewhat cheaper and quieter than the latter two.
So before the light failed we were off outside for a demo. This had a proper club night spirit to it with everyone all too ready to sample the beautiful summer dusk and stand on the grass, mesmerised by the possibilities. We were all able to look over his shoulder to see the view from the camera and the information it was feeding back to him such as height and speed and in what direction as well as the control he had over the more familiar picture taking activities. I cannot recall ever a group of persons so eager to have their picture taken. The possibilities from such a compact piece of kit looked extremely promising.
Back inside John gave us some technical information. The package he was using would cost around £1300 plus useful extras like spare batteries and so forth. Battery life was about 25 minutes although it would warn you when that was approaching. His would shoot stills or video of course but there was a more expensive version with a zoom lens - Johns had a fixed focus of around the very versatile 28mm.
On his i-Phone he had downloaded various maps, as exclusion areas have become a hot topic of late since the Gatwick incident. To simplify the restrictions: currently, for a machine weighing over 250 grams there is no flying within 5 kilometres of an active airfield, never fly above 400 feet and the maps will explain to you what other areas may be no fly zones, such as prisons, places of national security and sensitivity, and gatherings of more than 1000 people, temporary or otherwise. John discovered this when he attempted to use it at his home and it refused because there was about to be a match at an adjacent football stadium. Software is updating all the time and it might be sensible before investing in such kit to check that you don’t already live in a no-fly zone. A nuisance if you couldn’t practice in your garden!
As with all aviation activity it is beholden on the pilot to make themselves aware of the restriction on a daily basis as ignorance of the law is no excuse. These are UAVs (Un-manned Aviation Vehicles) much the same as radio controlled model aeroplanes, both helicopter and fixed wing. In this case they are quad-copters and the reason the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) are coming on tough is simply that a quad-copter is neutrally stable. Hands off it looks after itself, unlike all other flying vehicles. For this reason it can be flown pretty much out of the box by anybody, and hence they are expected to become very numerous. The possibilities of either accidental or deliberate interference with full sized aviation are endless. Understandably the penalties for infringement can be serious. From October it will be necessary to have taken a basic proficiency test and probably paid a small fee to register. From then you are free to operate inside the laws unless you take off with the intention of earning money, in which case you aso have to be registered as commercial. Currently many people are earning money with architectural surveys, estate agent promotion, holiday advertising as well as wedding photography.
He showed us some of his images and explained their creation and continued with award winning photos from other people around the world, including a breathtaking shot high over the skyscrapers of Hong Kong and some very imaginative shadow images taken in the Namibian desert. Personally I thought his own efforts - particularly the sandy beach shots and the pictures of boats moored on Mediterranean blue seas - were just as captivating. Composition and imagination are still key despite the unique perspectives possible.
Throughout the talk John was at pains to emphasise that this was simply another way to take pictures. Simplifying the need to alter the view-point which we all know already can be so critical. Not every picture was taken from straight above - just a few feet higher than what might have been expected was often just as impressive, like a couple of pictures taken inside a church and similarly a couple of landscapes in evening light taken outside a church. Clearly the possibilities are endless and after a bit of practice, mostly with the tech rather than the actual flying, one could call upon the ‘aerial camera’ simply as part of your kit as you might a very long lens or a series of fancy filters.
We must expect to see many more images from the sky in our photographic competitions. An exciting new tool but still just as dependant on those basic rules of colour, composition and most importantly our imagination. It will be interesting to see how this idea develops. So far I feel we may only have just scratched the surface.
Members' Evening: AV presentations. 2nd May 2019
Our first night back after Easter was reserved for Audio Visuals. Competitions in this genre have not proved very popular in the recent past, so we now invite non-competitive submissions and allow the club to enjoy the efforts of the few that dabble to show us their ideas. For this reason the work tends to centre around holidays and trips abroad, but often suprisingly educational never the less.
Sue Anderson’s submission was particularly strong in this area, opening as it did with an enticing balcony view into beautiful woodland scenery with no clue as to where we were. It was most interesting to discover that on the other side of the World there are places that could be confused with Ivinghoe Beacon! In fact it was Maleny in Queensland, Australia, a little inland from the coast and some 50 or so miles north of Brisbane. Her story told of both the modern facilities, like animal sanctuaries and the more serious concerns about the loss of the original sub-tropical rain forest of which she gave us a glimpse but emphasised how small the patches of it now were. Joni Mitchell’s prophetic words “They took all the trees and put ‘em in a tree museum” came to mind. Most appropriately as Rod Fricker, whose AV was up next, has used that very track to accompany previous shows. This time his entry featured traditional Greek music accompanying a pictorial tour of the blue and white domed buildings of Santorini. A couple of his images captured beautifully the contrast between these ancient wonders and the truly massive and slightly less than wonderful cruise ships which now visit them daily.
Jacqui Taylor punctuated her wild India with some fine images of the greatest of big cats, the tigers looking so much happier and more relaxed in their own environment than they ever do in European zoos, although perhaps that was just the eye of this beholder. Thankfully there are still a reasonable number there for us to visit. She followed this up with a trip through Brazil and in particular through the Canastra National Park where the most impressive of the images were of owls and also rather surprisingly ant-eaters, a much less photographed subject.
Miranda had created her story from a collection of action shots of bears fishing - or trying too, spicing that up with an appropriate musical score and captions. Bears fishing for their supper makes an excellent photographic subject and this sequence certainly showed how it’s still not that easy even if you are a Brown bear! Finally Rod’s second entry was a pictorial trip through temples in India. This came with appropriate music and bell noises in the right places. It was clear that the author had appreciated the possible sensitivities of his audience as a number of images of some slightly risqué carvings were on the screen for a noticeably shorter period than the rest!
Perhaps because of the novelty of a sound track I felt some of the music slightly intrusive and a little too loud. This is an area where I am sure authors would like better control. Perhaps more could be done at the production stage with varying the levels and possibly scouring the record collections for even more appropriate music. Miranda’s was certainly well on the way to doing just that.
Audio Visual is a worthwhile off-shoot from conventional, still photography and it seems appropriate that camera clubs should include it in their annual programme. The fact that it is and will probably always be, a bit of a poor relation to full blown video, which is so easy to shoot now, is probably its undoing and the reason it never attracts that much of a following. That and the fact that the audio part of the evening involves quite a bit more setting up. I certainly got the feeling from the authors here that a great deal of the enjoyment was actually had in the construction process. I see potential in the more mundane subjects. With sympathetic and creative photography (of which we are all capable) quite routine processes and operations – even jobs around the house – could be set to music. Sort of musical documentaries perhaps. More of us should give this a try.
Print League, Round 5. Judge Julia Cleaver ARPS (ImageZ) 11th April 2019
Every time a judge ventures out, inevitably they have to travel to club appointments in the tail end of the rush hour. On the night of our final print league competition, Julia Cleaver got caught in a huge traffic jam on the M40. She soldiered on and made it, but was almost an hour late.
It was Leo who, thinking on his feet, suggested that we should fill the time waiting with our authors explaining their images. This worked extremely well. An absorbing exploration into the pictures that were later to be scored. An idea that might be worth considering again, deliberately, as a special night as long as enough of us were willing to participate. So official proceedings began with only an hour left but thankfully just 18 prints so still plenty of time.
General technical quality was high but compositionally some were perhaps not so good. With the time available, Julia’s holding back of five prints was about right. We will come to those in a moment. Of the images passed over, John Jennings' “Elegance” was most unlucky to receive only 17. Great lighting giving a very unrehearsed and spontaneous feel as did his “September Dancer” street shot, also only 17. Dean Tyler had selected a minute piece of one of his water-scapes, which he had actually thought might have been a fault but turned out to be a tiny whirlpool. “Vortex” could just as easily have been the eye of a tropical storm taken from the air (18) and his deliberately induced camera movement shot through a wood, “Autumn Mist” was given only a 17. Ouch! To compensate he was informed by John at this moment that he had now won the overall print championship for the year, so some compensation!
Of the five finalists, two scored 19; “Tigress and Youngster” from Terry Day (Commended) and “Triplet Lily”, another very sensitively handled floral arrangement by Chris Gilbert (Highly Commended). This left three 20s: Julia placed Dean Tyler’s “Laid Bare” 3rd, a winter tree, isolated beautifully in snow and mist, and Terry Day’s “European Bison” 2nd. The winner was a very inventive and striking triptych from Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell, an architectural feature somewhat enigmatically entitled “Q Times 3”.
For the sake of audiences and competitors alike it is vital that judges adopt their own styles, hence injecting some variety into the competition process. Julia’s approach may have strayed a little outside what some feel comfortable with, especially when towards the end we were asked to suggest the winners from the final five. Understandably the audience were somewhat mute.
As for the reduced entries? The recent reduction in print entries is not just confined to our club. Quite a few others are experiencing the same thing and the reason may be the widening gap between the have’s and the have not’s. Authors who are highly able in computer techniques, and we have half a dozen of them at least, are happy, but those that are not so gifted may be feeling the extra effort and cost of printing is not worth while. Perhaps this needs addressing by the CACC.
External Competition: St Albans 8-Way Print Battle 9th April 2019
The annual Print Battle at St Albans CC, this year judged by our old friend Colin Southgate, was once again an evening of excellent photography.
Clubs each enter 8 prints, which must be by 8 different authors, and we were treated to a very wide range with some excellent portrait, landscape and nature photography and some wild cards, one of which was chosen as the Best Print. This was by Lloyd Moore (Watford CC) and was of an adjustable spanner feeding a nut to 3 small open-ended spanners in a nest. If that sounds bizarre, it certainly was, but Lloyd arranged it so cleverly that for all the world it looked like a parent bird feeding its chicks. A brilliant conception faultlessly delivered, and I'm very grateful to Lloyd for permissionto reproduce it here to show just how good it was.
Colin marked from 15 upwards (and of course as he commented most of these would have scored 19 or 20 in their home club competitions) and there were just six 20s from the 64 prints, one of which was Peter WInter's "Jay with Hazelnut". Connie ("Atlantic Ocean, Cuba") and Terry ("Man at the Market") scored 19, and there were not that many of those either, so a good achievement.
As you can see, Watford were comfortably ahead but 3rd to 5th were very close indeed, so congratualtions to the authors and to Jeremy for a good selection.
The club scores were:
Jeremy pointed out that with the requirement for prints from 8 different authors, we are fishing in a rather small pool in the club, as each year we seem to lose one or two print authors. Only 6 authors are taking part in Round 5 of the league this week!
Each year, ImageZ run a print competition/exhibition/salon for members of all the clubs in the CACC. Disappointingly it doesn't seem to appeal to PSCC members very much, which is a pity because it is a good competition, a very good evening's entertainment and education and a good exhibition to visit. Each entrant is allowed to enter 3 prints and at least one of those will be chosen for the exhibition by the selector, who this year was Steve Smith FRPS (Amersham).
The selection is made during the afternoon and when you come into the hall all the selected images are up on the print stands so you can have a good look at them all. The selector then comments on each individual image in the usual way, and at tea break you can have another look at them and this time notice all the points that the judge/selector has drawn your attention to.
This year they awarded a "Best Print" in 4 categories, Nature, Landscape, Portrait and Abstract (they decided which category each print belonged in, not the authors), as well as a couple of Highly Commendeds and two or three Commendeds for each category.
This year the exhibition, which takes place at the Queens Park Art Centre, Aylesbury, from 6th to 17th May. It is of course free to get in, and the little cafe serves tea and cake if you need further incentive to go!
Talk: "What Images Mean" by Rod Bird 4th April 2019
It is fair to say that competition exists in everything to a lesser or greater degree. Camera clubs are no different to any other sport or hobby and neither should they be. Indeed the competitive element does much to cement the whole process and encourage improvement and exploration in techniques. It is, however, never a bad idea to occasionally take a step back and, for a moment at least, re-appraise one’s motivations or in modern camera parlance "return to factory settings" at least for a bit.
It was just such a change of focus that we all experienced last week when Rod Bird came over from the Maidenhead club to give up his talk around the subject of “What Photos Mean.” Rod encouraged us, at least for a moment, to look at photos without the critical eye (tunnel vision?) of the competitor or, possibly worse, the judge!
To illustrate this most cleverly he chose, as his first image, a Victorian painted scene depicting the debate and negotiation between a group organising the wedding of one son to another’s daughter with all the complexities of the dowry and what it entails. Quite a busy scene but made the more intriguing for having had pointed out the body language and expressions of the combatants - a complex little story which once told stayed in the memory. Not that its quality, if judged in the context of modern photography would have stood up to much scrutiny. A very busy scene, an odd orange colour cast, peculiar perspectives, a character on the left far too near the edge and looking out of, not into, the scene and great quantities of the upper part of the picture depicting only the décor of the room. Fourteen…!
However it told a story and a good one. Rod then went on to select one of our very own images to discuss and rather agreeably he had chosen John Jennings' “The Original Selfie” winner from the second PDI event this year. This he ‘read’ most accurately and presumed correctly that the lady in all three depictions was the same one. This, he pointed out, did eliminate the chance of there being any connection between the characters in the conventional way, but this time the connection was technical and through the auspices of the photographer’s imagination and skill.
Unsurprisingly a talk around the meaning of photographs, and not necessarily their pictorial quality, would lead us into Cartier-Bresson and Martin Parr territory, and although Rod avoided the temptation of showing us the iconic ‘stepping over the puddle’ shot he did introduce another similarly styled author, Bert Hardy. A tremendous image of three young lads excitedly following a priest along a grubby, post-WW2 Glaswegian street, with good humoured and innocent expressions on the faces of all four participants. One of many that would have actually pleased the judges as well. In the same vein was another shot of Glasgow, this one of two lads leaping off the kerb against a backdrop of deserted urban decay made more effective by the slightly foggy conditions plus the use of monochrome of course. It told so much and then still managed to create a story and ask questions. Once again showing us that for an image to really stand the test of time it is its documentary qualities rather than its pictorial ones that will most often be the deciding factors. The capture of a moment in time.
Natural history images didn’t escape either, Rod making the point that with the recent advances in camera technology they should be better than they often were. The difference between good and bad was nicely portrayed by his use of a static image of a male lion just after the kill, and a full-on frontal shot, from a low vantage point, of a leopard about to pounce at the photographer. No competition as to which was the most impressive, the one where one felt involved - in danger, possibly, of being the prey. In the same way as a clever image, from Dave Cromack of Leighton Buzzard and New City, captured the moment just before a leopard leaps towards a herd of very concerned looking zebras really captured the tension by putting the viewer in the place of the predator. This image too was in a different class from a view of a creature’s portrait no matter how well defined. The beautiful but traditional Red Kite picture. He showed us one. Technically fine but saying very little.
A portrait of an attractive but somewhat expressionless girl in a studio was compared with a tightly cropped picture of Nick Nolte, the well known America actor looking mildly menacing. One spoke – the other said nothing. This could be where the current fad from judges of wanting to see animals doing something might have come from. Even they have realised pretty-pretty pictures can only get you so far.
There was a brief excursion into one of my favourite areas - the title. He showed us a relatively straight forward photograph of a wooded area with a small pond. “Tree and lake” was neither particularly interesting nor informative. "Wolowanga Forest, New Zealand" made us look much more closely, and somewhere in between, “Ten minutes walk from my Home” told us something else and sparked different emotions like ‘lucky guy for living amongst such surroundings'. All with the same picture! As one listened one began to realise that Rod’s interest in the meaning, the impact and the possible story behind a picture is actually what the good modern judges are beginning to look for more and more, and for the very reasons he mentioned – we have the kit to take technically capable pictures, now we have to think about including a bit of a meaning. Does it involve the viewer, does it tell a story, does it ask a question or does it just say “This is where I have been, wasn’t it pretty?”
Partly by way of Rod’s inventively using one of our own club members picture towards the beginning of the talk there was a very comfortable and non-preachy feeling to this presentation. It flowed seamlessly from image to image and even sometimes back again, but one got a feeling that Rod was still amusing and surprising himself as well as us. All very natural and easy to absorb. We look forward to his return.
Landscape Cups, Prints and Projected Images. Judge: Amanda Wright (Ealing and HH PS) 28th March 2019
Before this evening Dean Tyler had never met Amanda Wright: neither do I believe they had colluded via the telephone in advance of the competition. An observer might have had difficulty appreciating these facts, as a bit of Club history was made here. An author - in this case Dean- scored a 20 for each and every image he entered – a total of 100 points. That is not to suggest he had a poor quality field against which to compete: there were numerous high class entries. As if that was not enough, his three prints came in 1st 2nd and 3rd amongst quite a large group that had been held back and his two PDIs did likewise and cleaned up in the projected section!
So let us discuss the rest. In the projected category, dealt with first, there had been a modest entry but at least it allowed Amanda plenty of time. Eight were held back and it was useful to hear Amanda’s second range of comments. David Butler presented a very intricate and wintery scene “Ribblesdale” which looked even more impressive when viewed close up (18). Chris Gilbert showed us an expansive view of night time London taken from a very privileged viewpoint high in the Canary Wharf building looking West. He admitted to capturing this on his phone when he was there to receive another photographic award earlier this year. He was unlucky to have some slight reflection marks interfere with the sky that may have not been obvious until projected. It lost an otherwise potentially winning image a couple of points - scoring only 18. Dave Hipperson produced another from his recent visit to London showing the Millennium wheel against a stormy sky (19, Commended) and his wife Sue presented a simple, high impact image of a couple of “Olive Trees - Northern Spain" in a recently harvested field (19, Highly Commended). Third place went to another from Chris, this time a very tranquil and atmospheric shot of “Ladybow” resevoir in the winter. This one definitely appealed to Amanda’s preference for the less saturated look - almost monochrome (20). The top two of course were both from Dean Tyler. A great image of “St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall”, with a semi-submerged cobbled causeway leading the eye in to a distant but very sharp silhouette of the island, was second. Top was a minimalistic impression of “The Long Walk Home”. A coastal sand dune topped by a lonely footpath amongst the obligatory long grasses, a scale element was added perfectly by two distant figures. Once again the minimum of colour.
Eight again held back in the prints but this time they represented nearly half the entry although their scores were still spread from 18-20. The two 18s went to John Jennings with his “Craigdarroch” and Terry Days very crunchy “Winter Shadows” snow scene. Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell’s interesting sky-scape entitled “Stormscape” had already been awarded an 18 although Amanda was not entirely convinced of its eligibility. Was it a landscape? David Butler’s “North Yorkshire” scored 19 and was Commended. There were a number of other images that really also failed the brief mostly by way of being too close; there also were some of houses! Chris Gilbert had another from abroad entitled “The Hoodoos Banff”, a really wide vista of a strata enriched mountain (19 and Highly Commended). One other of his also made it into the 20s, “Bolehill Quarry” boasting very dramatic, but still realistic and well controlled ranges of light.
So the top three were all Dean’s. “Rough Waters Southwold” looked very familiar but we know he has a number of shots of this venue. “Nature’s Palette, Flatford” was both a brave idea and an excellent title depicting as it did what was Constable's subject some two hundred years ago. It slipped in under the wire somewhat, as the building was quite large in the picture, but the 'scapy atmosphere that the light, the mists and the vegetation created was quite magnificent. His winner "Porth Dafarch, Anglesey", a fairly conventional inlet, won by virtue of the very sympathetic treatment, technical excellence and sharpness, with just the right amount of movement in the water. I think I might have given it to Flatford, if only for the bravery of entering a picture with a lot of building in it into a landscape comp, and certainly, like Chris‘s “Canary Warf” a view I had never seen before.
Amanda had obviously been aware of a number of images that clearly were not landscapes in any sense of the word and possibly she was a little too kind to them. Quality of shots throughout however was consistently pretty high and Amanda’s judging although traditional was technically correct, consistent and above all enthusiastic. She sounded like she was enjoying all our images.
Those present will long remember this night and so they should. Dean Tyler produces an enormous number of distinctive landscapes each year. Often he wins against non-landscape subjects in open competition, which is doubly difficult as the genre does not seem to be that popular with most judges. Tonight he was in his element and showed himself to be the absolute master of the understated and natural-looking photographic creation, invariably these were well taken photographs by way of both experience and patience with the light. Furthermore, throughout it all he retains a demeanour that suggests he is almost surprised by the result and attendant success. A pleasure to witness the finest form of competition photography making a clean sweep.
Projected Image League, Round 5. Judge Micki Aston CPAGB MIoJ (Windsor PS) 21st March 2019
Micki Aston, our judge for the last of Park Street’s PDI League rounds has a reputation. This reputation is of a no-nonsense attitude based on her firm belief in how judging should be done, allied to twenty years or more of experience of doing it. However it had been her first visit back to Park Street for quite a time. Your reporter here takes all the blame having booked her as he has long been an admirer of her technique since she encouraged him to become a judge himself. She introduced herself as being an enthusiast of the photographic image having come through many years of conventional darkroom techniques. Throughout, her sympathetic tone was very much based on enjoyment and encouragement rather than sour criticism. Furthermore she admitted she did not do a great deal of work on images in the computer preferring to get it as right as possible in the camera. These are certainly traits of those steeped in film photography and when judges voice them they will always encourage those of us who still have limited skills in the computer. Very helpful.
Still not nearly as many individual entries as we are capable of, at least it allowed her enough time to examine the images in detail and in numerous cases make positive suggestions for improvement ranging from the fairly obvious up to some very subtle ideas, including how using or reducing to monochrome can enhance many pictures particularly those with fussy colour.
After having been perhaps a little too effusive she found herself with no less than sixteen images held back at the end. No problems with time considerations of course, it was just that having scored up to and including 18, this group, representing almost a half of the entry, then all had to be squeezed into the 19-20s. However they were clearly the best images and she had, as promised, scored over a useful range, dropping quite a few of the weaker shots into the 13, 14 & 15s. However there had also been some very strong 18s, of which Terry Day’s excellent “Checking the Price” stood out mainly, for the quizzical expression on one of the subject’s faces as well as the clever composition which invited you in to the situation.
So this second section of the contest involved sixteen images, half of which received 19s. They were the two excellent “Crane Fly” and “Friendly Fox” pictures from Rosemary Wenzerul, “Lions Feeding” and “Cheetahs on The Move” by Jacqui Taylor, “For Joy” by John Jennings, “More London” by David Butler, and a very precise “Robin” from Fiona Gurr with every feather detail captured and finally Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell’s unusual “Desert Hare, Death Valley”, shot from behind but made by the wonderful bulging eye still visible on the side of its head.
The remaining eight now had to score 20s. Those that didn’t place in the top three were all awarded Highly Commended. “Stinking Iris Seedhead” from Chris Gilbert exhibiting much of the imaginative flair that Gerald Scarfe had applied to his botanical developments when asked to contribute to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” tour and subsequent film back in 1983. Chris’s “The Tannery” also impressed if only with the inviting warm colour to the whole scene. Jacqui Taylor’s “Heron and Fish” was quite simply perfect in both composition and technique. Her continued improvement in this natural history genre wrapped up the year’s PDI award for her - four points clear of JF-M – well done Jacqui. Then “Late Winter over the Thames” captured a really 1930s feel – bleak, cold and foggy. What was David Butler doing out on a morning like that? It certainly appealed to our judge who made it abundantly clear that how an image ‘hit her’ straight off was very important. The emotion both in it and what it engendered in her was far more important than nit picking over rules of thirds and so forth.
This left us three and you can see why it gets a bit difficult for me at this stage. Third placed was another excellent natural history ‘snap’ from Jeremy with "Forty Winks", a very close up on the face of a sleeping gorilla. Micki was particularly impressed with the near human elements in this. Chris Gilbert concluded a clean 60 point score with his third image of the night obtaining a 20 . It was an atmospheric and sympathetic impression of a single poppy head linked with a simply perfect title “Last One Standing”. The judge quite rightly suggested that Chris send it up to the British Legion forthwith. This was 2nd.
The winning image “Taking a Break” was clearly the type Micki enjoys. The author had spotted a couple of legs protruding and absolutely still, from an armchair in a gallery, then waited with a slow shutter for an interesting individual to walk through the scene and contrast their blur with the seated one’s sharpness. He waited for some time. I know because it was me. The Olympus OMD E-M1 MkII as well as facilitating photo-stacking perhaps more importantly allows the taking of hand held images down to 2 or 3 seconds and still pin sharp! Incredibly useful when attempting such ‘street’ photography shots. To have a camera that weighs about half as much as a top of the range DSLR also helps. The World has changed – again!
CACC Chamionship Day March 17th 2019
One of the annual highlights of the Chilterns Association of Camera Clubs (CACC) is Championship Day when three separate competitions are held, one after the other. The first, confusingly named The Chilterns Hundred, is for any individual member of any camera club in the CACC. You can only enter one (projected) image, which you do via your club, so the 197 images represented 197 people, 9 of whom were from Park Street. The second competition is for prints, and each club can enter 15. Similarly in the last competition, each club enters 15 projected images.
"Scoring" is somewhat different to normal club approaches. There are three distinguished judges who can give each image 2, 3, 4 or 5, and the three marks are then added together to make a total. In the two club competitions, the club total is immediately derived from these scores. A selection of the top scoring images is then presented to the judges for them to choose the individual award winners, which they do on the basis of mutual agreement. Scoring this year was pretty stingy: for example in the Chiltern Hundreds there was a single 15, two 14s and two 13s, but six 6s, so the judges looked again at all the 12s or more, eliminating and holding back as they went through the new set before deciding on their awards.
One of the peculiarities of this approach is that your score does not guarantee an equivalent award, so although the single 15 won the gold and the silver went to one of the 14s, the bronze went to a 13 and the three ribbons went to the other 14 (which in fact was my own "Shapes") and two of the 12s, the other 13 getting nothing.
|Lines In A Book||Connie Fitzgerald||11|
|A Cold Morning||Chris Gilbert||10|
|Caiman And A Catfish||Jacqui Taylor||10|
|Laid Bare||Dean Tyler||10|
|Stephen And Bob||Sue Hipperson||10|
|Youngest Contender For The Voice||N R Marshall||9|
|Hat And Hands||Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell||8|
|Luminaire London 2018||Terry Day||8|| |
The club's results in the print competition (=10th) and projected (=17th) were disappointing, but the fact is that this method of scoring is so different to the normal club method that I am not sure much weight can be attached. There were certainly plenty of surprises and sharp intakes of breath from around the room, mostly for low scores, such as a national award-winning image by Harpenden's Peter Stevens, part of his successful FRPS panel, which scored 7.
|Jay With Hazelnut||Peter Winter||13|
|Sea Storm||Connie Fitzgerald||12|
|Wren Singing||Peter Winter||11|
|Common Green Capsid||Chris Gilbert||10|
|Man At The Market||Terry Day||10|
|Wild Carrot Seedhead||Chris Gilbert||10|
|Late In The Day||David Butler||9|
|Red Squirrel||Peter Winter||9|
|Southwold Stillness||Dean Tyler||9|
|The Storyteller||John Jennings||9|
|Alive and Kicking||John Jennings||8|
|Don't Mess With Me||John Jennings||8|
|Dunwich Friary||Dean Tyler||7|
|Malachite Kingfisher||Jacqui Taylor||12|
|Total Eclipse||Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell||11|
|Dying Swan||John Jennings||10|
|The Sentinel||Dean Tyler||10|
|Porth Nanven||Dean Tyler||9|
|Thames Barrier From South Bank||Terry Day||9|
|Along The Ridgeway||Dean Tyler||8|
|Cei Ballast Island, Porthmadog||Connie Fitzgerald||8|
|Red Squirrel||Connie Fitzgerald||7|
|Winter Solstice||Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell||7|
Nevertheless it is a unique opportunity to view almost 600 of the best images in the area, and that is something well worth taking advantage of. Full results are on the CACC website, together with galleries of the top club entries and the full Chiltern Hundreds entry.
Talks by Members: 28th February 2019
We didn't have to wait long for the second half of Terry's talk on street photography, but it would have been well worth the wait if there had been one. This evening Terry concentrated on a number of mini-projects he had set himself, having discussed his camera settings and general approach last time.
These projects divided neatly into two halves, the first with a 35mm prime lens, the second with an 85mm, and the differences were very striking and not perhaps what would have been expected. The 35mm generally includes more of the surrounding scene, gives a greater depth of field but does require the photographer to get much closer to anyone they want to be a main subject. Terry's work around for this is to take the photos from waist level without really aiming or focusing. This of course results in some strange angles, but it is a great viewpoint. The wide-angle of the lens also results in some distortion, so although Photoshop allows the verticals to be made vertical this may not be true of the entire image.
On the other hand, the 85mm, with its narrower field of view and shallower depth of field, picks out the subject and makes them stand out from the background. It is less tolerant of inaccurate aiming so really has to be shot from eye level, but the greater distance from the subject makes this a more comfortable exercise. It was very noticeable but perhaps counter-intuitive that most of the people in the 35mm shots were walking away or looking elsewhere, while those taken with the 85mm were generally walking towards the camera and sometimes even looking straight at it.
Terry's projects included Hampstead, St Albans, Borehamwood and Radlett, Borough Market and Kensington and showed a good variety of subjects, and it was interesting to compare the images in black and white with those in colour. It is fair to say that most of us will have gained a lot more understanding of the genre without the expenditure of any shoe-leather thanks to Terry's interesting and enjoyable talks, and he left us with the advice to take photographs for ourselves, not to try and please the judge.
After tea, we had a fascinating talk by David Butler about some of his work at The BRE Group, formerly the Building Research Establishment. He first told us of the work done on the Abu Dhabi Louvre, an impressive structure designed to act as an extension of the famous Paris museum and gallery. When invited to lend priceless works of art, the French were not surprisingly worried about the environmental conditions they would be kept in, so BRE were commissioned to build a 10m cube mock-up of one of the galleries, complete with a representation of a display case, install equivalent air-conditioning to the real gallery and then assault it with simulation of the heat and humidity expected. The immensely detailed measurements taken showed that the exhibits would be safe.
David them moved on to tell us a bit about the thermal imaging work they do, which can provide visual indications of the temperature and emissivity of different surfaces. David showed us a faulty under-floor heating system, studies of the effectiveness of air-conditioning units and the discovery of missing roof insulation in a bedroom.
One interesting story concerned a test on a wall waterproofing product. Two areas of a wall were identified, one treated the other not, and both areas were subjected to a fine water spray to simulate heavy rainfall. Unsurprisingly the untreated section showed some evidence of water on the inside, and this was confirmed by the difference in wall temperature after the test. What was surprising was the clear difference still evident 13 days after the spraying, and David said that it was still unequal a full month after the test.
It is always interesting to see how our colleagues work and play, and grateful thanks are due to both.
Wildlife Cups, Prints and Projected Images. Judge: Andy Sands 7th March 2019
When Andy Sands comes to Park Street to judge our wildlife competition we get much more than simply a photographic critique. It quickly becomes a master class in natural history via his observations and anecdotes sparked by our images. With both print and projected pictures on show - a combination that is becoming increasingly popular with most clubs now - the numbers, just short of sixty, formed a very comfortable base for an informative evening. Possibly spurred on by the offer of a trophy for the winner in each category, the number of club members attending was also encouraging but not unusual for any night with Andy.
Four PDI entries were held back, but before that some which scored 19 straight off are worth examining. Fiona Gurr’s excellent “Blue Jay” Chris Gilbert’s capture of a Starling shaking it’s feathers entitled “After the Bath” and Jacqui Taylor’s “Nuthatch” stood out but Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell’s “Thinking (of) outside the box.” told a little story. Jeremy had cleverly turned adversity into advantage in his photo of a caged big cat by sowing the seed into the viewer’s mind that the beautiful beast was longing for escape. The thick wire netting through which he wistfully looked (that’s the cat, not Jeremy) being just sufficiently out of focus to be unintrusive, but still make the point and secure the atmosphere. Furthermore the author had ensured that the cat’s eyes were un-obscured and comfortably positioned in the frame. Andy’s immediate grasp of the little bit extra that this composition gave us better explained his judging in other parts of the competition, when he clearly needed a little bit more story or more happening than simply an animal portrait.
From the four excellent images called up for a second viewing, all of which received 20s, Connie Fitzgerald’s feeding Robins entitled “Pre-nuptial Robins”, thereby showing us Connie’s understanding of Robin behaviour, a point not missed by Andy, was 4th and Highly Commended. “Calocoris Roseomaculatis” from Chris Gilbert, a super clear straight-down shot of an interesting but unintimidating bug was 3rd. Runner-up was another from Jeremy, “Down in The Woods Today”, a fine portrait of a brown bear framed between a pair of curving trees - splendid. The winner, Peter Winter’s “Life and Death”, obviously appealed to Andy because of both its rarity and the story it told. A rather busy shot of a huge collection of African bird species feeding on the carcass of a dead elephant. It was real wildlife. Possibly not the prettiest picture there but definitely real wildlife.
The second half of the evening dealt with the prints and like the projected images, although fewer in number, the standard was equally high and very even. Peter Winter’s “Green Woodpecker” shot of the adult bird feeding its chick from outside the nest was the stand-out 19, however Andy held three back and scored them all 20. These were, in reverse order, “Poised For Landing”, again from Peter. A photo of a Little Owl caught just a millisecond before it alighted on a post. Then Peter again at 2nd with his “Tree Creeper”, ensuring that his points total for his three prints was only one short of the maximum! Connie Fitzgerald’s “Honey Bee” had stood out from the start and Andy was dead right when he recognised the sympathetic lighting accentuating the insect's round body and clarity of it against an attractively diffused background that included some traces of colour from the plant on which it was about to alight. This picture looked very much like one of the set which recently gained her a CPAGB.
It has to be said that, once again this was rather tight judging with no images scoring less than 16 when there was clearly scope to spread them out a little more. However no one could disagree much with the final order especially the top ones. The winning images were clearly the best and when Andy comes to us there is so much more to the evening than simply the scores. He enters into the spirit of it and always takes us with him. The pictures matter and he explains why. What is there not to like?
Talks by Members: 28th February 2019
We were very well entertained by two very different talks by our very own members this evening. First to go was Dave Hipperson, talking about judging. There are a few well-worn jokes made by and/or about judges, but the fact is that we choose to compete and therefore we need judges. I think it is interesting that in a small region like the CACC there is a lot of consistency among the judges in terms of what they are looking for (some find it, others just look ...), and I feel that imposes itself on the images they are shown: after all, who wants to persist in showing an image that every judge deems has the same "faults". This is markedly different from normal commercial practice, such as wedding photography, and Dave also demonstrated this very well with his caustic comments on some of the award winning images in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
In fact, the purpose of the talk was to encourage new judges - or rather to discourage people who were a bit interested but not dedicated to becoming judges, and indeed Dave's view of the judges' training course was that it is there for the purpose of eliminating the unsuitable rather than enlightening those who will anyway make the grade. Mind you, hearing Dave's description of trying to pick both the worst and the best images on a single run-through of up to 90 images would be enough to discourage most potential judges. I do very much subscribe to his view that when the first image is notably weak and yet scores 17, you are in for a disappointing evening.
In his closing remarks, Dave expressed disquiet about the future direction of judging in the CACC, where there is a move to treat photographs as art, with an emphasis on marking the quality of the content rather than just the "spelling and grammar". This of course will make it less "objective", but if all else fails we can resort to his exhortation: "Bugger the Judge!"
The second half of the evening was devoted to Part 1 of Terry's talk on Street Photography. Terry has his own unmistakable style in street photography, as he does in landscape, and it was great to see so many examples of his work, many of which we had previously seen but not always in the form he now showed us. Unlike some, Terry likes to keep the colour unless it is causing too much of a distraction, and he prefers images where there is more than one thing going on.
Among many pieces of good advice for newcomers to this type of photography, Terry recommended setting your camera on manual with a shutter speed of say 1/125th and an aperture of f/8 to f/11, and setting the ISO to automatic. He favours a 24-70mm lens (on full frame camera) but pointed out that many street photographers prefer the less obtrusive look of a prime lens, often 35mm or 50mm. You are generally entitled to take photographs from a public place and no one has the legal right to make you delete something you have taken, but of course it might not be the masterpiece we all strive for, so just agreeing to do so might be the most pragmatic response. If instead you ask for permission before you shoot, you may find that you end up taking family snapshots instead of gritty realism, so Terry's general rule is to carry the camera at waist height until you want to shoot, then bring it swiftly to your eye and back down before anyone has time to notice.
Streets offer unlimited opportunities, day or night and in any weather: the best advice is to keep shooting!
Print League, Round 4. Judge Alan Colegrave ARPS (Harrow CC) 21st February 2019
Entry numbers will always fluctuate and no judge minds the occasional quiet night as it allows them to tell more of their stories. Perhaps it was lucky therefore that we had chosen Alan Colgrave to officiate at the fourth round of our print league. There were only eighteen images which equates to a mere six contestants.
Alan is much travelled and thinks nothing of back packing around the wildest parts of the planet in the interest of his photography and video making. Technically very able too as when talking to him after the show and bemoaning the weaknesses inherent in our various sat. nav. systems so vital to ensuring we get to our judging destinations on time, he confided that he had used one for quite a while and had actually built his first one!
The images we showed him made up in quality what they may have lost numerically. It is usual that scoring is slightly higher when prints are involved as judges instinctively tend to be kind appreciating that much more work has been involved in the presentation than for a PDI. However as is becoming more often the case, and is particularly evident with a small entry, scores did stop a bit high when a number of the lesser images should really have received substantially less than 16s.
The five Alan held back were right enough however. Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell’s “There’s a Girl in My Glass” receiving an 18. What looked at first glance as probably being a composite was in the opinion of the judge quite likely to have been a single shot as some subtle tonal differences would in his opinion have been very difficult to fake. This attention to detail was typical of Alan during the evening and he mentioned quite a few interesting things in the images that may have passed us by. Explaining how there was often detail to be found in the blacks and also subtle ways of cloning with reduced opacity to hide blown out areas. Of the remaining four, Dean Tyler’s “Bands of Blue” received 19, an impressive and clean shot out to sea – typical Tyler style. The remaining three were 20s and quite rightly.
Interestingly Chris Gilbert’s “Castle Coombe” had appealed to Alan right away even though outwardly looking rather flat but well taken. This was 3rd. Another of Chris’s, the quite wonderful “Alone”, a shot of a woman in Muslin-style clothes with covered head had tremendous character. Despite the individual facing slightly away and even out of the picture the beautiful back ground colours made it a great image. A perfect example of how the handling of light and texture, second nature to people so adept in the computer as Chris, can create a strong composition from quite straightforward picture. It would have been very interesting to have learnt a little about the work that had gone into this but the author was absent. Topping the lot was therefore another of Dean Tyler’s – this time a dawn image of Corfe Castle entitled “Dorset Delight”. This brought Dean’s total for the evening up to an impressive 57 the same as Chris. A very good evening for both of them.
Rosebowl Round 3 at Park Street. Judge: Chris Drury (St Albans CC) 14th February 2019
Rosebowl evenings are always interesting as we get to see the work of other clubs and meet some of their members - except on this occasion none felt able to make the arduous trip to Park Street, more understandable for Wantage and Abingdon than Chesham, one might think.
It seemed early on as if Abingdon were going to wipe the floor as 3 of their first 4 images were held back, but it became apparent that judge Chris Drury was using a variation of the Enigma code to fool watchers as to his intentions. He held back no less than 17 of the 60 images, which I personally think is a sensible way to refine the top order and ensure marking is consistent. However, on first pass he also awarded 13 images with 18 marks, 2 with 19 and 3 with 20, so we were more than curious to see where he would go from there.
In the event, 5 of the held back images were awarded 18, no less than 8 scored 19 and a further 4 got the maximum of 20. Perhaps surprisingly, the two "starred images" came from this group rather than the ones that had been awarded 20 on first sight. They were "Sunrise Eastbourne Pier" by Maria Walker (Wantage) and my own "Alive and Kicking".
The final analysis of club scores took a little while, understandably, and my totals differ by one point from those arrived at on the night, although making no difference to the final result, which was a win for Wantage by 1 or 2 marks from Park Street followed by Chesham and finally Abingdon.
Full score sheet is here
Dave’s Documentary Night. Judge/Compère Dave Hipperson and Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell. 7th February 2019.
In a slight departure from the normal competition, Dave invites members to submit a documentary based series of images. This year the subject was of club member’s own choosing. Additionally they were asked to submit a couple of images each depicting a film title.
We started with the documentaries. There were five and they tended to feature places, activities and situations; however the real object of this exercise was more to pictorially illustrate an issue. To that end Barbara Nowell did well with her photographic essay on the demise of the local Butterfly World in favour of yet another housing estate! Her images were topped off with the very emotive shut gates and closed sign clearly making her point perfectly. However Terry Day’s photo quality shone out through his series on Borough Market. It included a couple of really strong portrait style interactions which would have held up well in an open competition, and his series topped the list. Rosemary Wenzerul had produced a series on a spider entrapping a snail of all things, the five shots working particularly well when viewed as a series. Two or three of Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell’s images from the annual St Albans pageant also had great impact, the huge puppets dwarfing the human visitors. Chris Gilbert introduced us to a typical day at Chelsea Football Club. His enthusiasm for his team clearly shining through with two of his images taken inside the ground giving us much more of a feel of what actually goes on at a Premier League football match than ever the television can do.
As expected the invitation to illustrate a film title drew even more entries. Here it has to be said that Jeremy on the computer and doing a Richard Osman impersonation added enormously to both the drama and the slickness of the presentation thanks to his scoring system. I judged the photographic quality 0 -15 then he added a potential 5 points if I could recognise the title immediately and less if I needed to ask the audience and even fewer if even they to could not guess it.
From the fourteen I was delighted to be able to name five straight away. They were "Clockwork Orange", "The Dambusters", "Silence of the Lambs", "Taxi Driver", and "The 39 Steps". A few more were recognised by the audience after some discussion. These included "The Odd Couple", "Star Wars" and "Reservoir Dogs".
It was Chris Anderson that produced the winning and beautiful "Clockwork Orange" image, a bowl of oranges with a winding key in the top one (20). For ingenuity and straightforwardness Rosemary Wenzerul’s "39 Steps" was equally valid (16): she had a shot of 13 steps, so converted it to a triptych. Even I could guess it – thanks Rosemary! However, pictorially it didn’t quite match up to Jeremy’s ‘Dambusters’ (19), a shot of an impressive structure in flood with a genuine large RAF craft overflying it. Not quite a Lancaster but still all in a single shot. Third went to a highly stylised portrait taken by Sue Hipperson of Chris Gilbert and Terry Day during our Christmas party “Odd Couple” (17). The judge, who promised he had no idea his wife had even entered, was particularly taken with the treatment which seemed to solarize the image, once again going to show how dangerous it is for judges ever to presume they know how you did it 'cos he was wrong. In fact it was highly grainy simply because there had been very limited light and the author had had to push it about in all manner of directions to create any sort of picture! I still think it looked great.
So Jeremy’s other entry “Star Wars” - wild looking man with light sabre, Sue Anderson’s “Silence of the Lambs” – two lambs sitting silently, Terry Day's “Taxi Driver” - front view of taxi with driver and of course Rosemary’s “39 Steps” all tied at 4th with 16.
The Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell's technique of apportioning scores for the various degrees of recognition, complete with our two joint chair persons acting as adjudicators, was inspired ‘on the hoof’ thinking and made the entire procedure run smoothly and look almost fair. For future reference the film title part of this event would be best approached by thinking of a clear and well known title and then taking a picture to illustrate it. After all we are trying to promote photography here. Many of the entries were existing images with a possible title hung on them - one in particular of a pack of dogs being exercise by a lake by Sue Anderson and resplendent under the title “Reservoir Dogs” was a tough one to guess although someone did. On the other hand Sue’s husband had produced a very strong still life depicting a dictionary, a compass, a railway guide, and a book in a foreign language. It certainly was “Lost in Translation”. Lots of points for the image but no one could guess it – not a well enough known film although an excellent one.
The documentaries are still a little bit too illustrative without quite enough narrative. Barbara had a beef about the Butterfly Farm and it showed. This is what we want more of. It’s difficult to get the whole message over just in pictures but that’s the point. No one said it would be easy.
Finally if anyone had wondered why Dave was sounding to all the world like he had just run 100 meters it was his recent and still only partial recovery from a very nasty bout of flu. He thanks you for your entries and your patience.
Projected Image League, Round 4. Judge Peter Prosser APAGB (Harrow CC) 31st January 2019
It's always a pleasure to welcome Peter Prosser to judge our images, but the threat of severe weather cut the numbers attending a little thin. That was perhaps more understandable than the rather short list of entries, only 36, which was very disappointing. It did mean that Leo could take the sensible decision to run straight through without a tea break and have an early night before the forecast snow arrived.
Peter marked from 20 to 13 and whilst all judging is personal and subjective, I felt that he explained his reasons for each mark very clearly. He held back almost a third, without giving anything higher than 17 so the real competition began. Rosemary's clever "Buzzing Around", Connie's "Flock" and Sue Hipperson's "Being Photographed From Above" all scored 18. Jacqui's "Red Squirrel" and "Lions, Kenya" both scored 19, as did Terry's "Street in Rochester" and Dave Hipperson's clever pattern picture "Out of Intu".
That left four images which collected the maximum score, but of course we needed a finishing order, so there was a little more work to be done. Jeremy's "Propped Up" was highly commended with particular praise for the comfortable posing of the hands, and his very atmospheric monochrome "Homeward Bound" was 3rd. In 2nd place was Connie's "Carmie Bee Eaters", and Peter commented that these are not so unusual on the circuit but he particularly enjoyed the balanced composition of the three birds. This left John's portrait of "Em Theresa" to collect the glory, although Chris Gilbert and Graham Hutchinson were also winners: their tea duty was cancelled!
Creative Cups, Prints and Projected Images. Judge: Sarah Sands 24th January 2019
The Creative Cups evening is one of my highlights of the club year, when we bring in a judge who has a serious track record as an artist as well as in photography. I always learn a lot from her comments, and not just on my own images, and I think that we have developed as a club since we started running this competition. Certainly Sarah said that she was highly impressed by the standard, although the entries were not quite as numerous as one might have hoped.
She tackled Projected Images first, with a field of 30 to look at and enjoy. 10 images were held back, and an eleventh, "Cosmos" by Chris Gilbert, was awarded an immediate 20. Rosemary's "White Dahlia Impression", Jeremy's "Midnight Garden" and Norman's "Star Formation" each collected 19, with John's "Flaming Flour" and "Seeing Hands", Norman's "Pattern in the Soil", Terry's "Mist" and Sue Hipperson's "Turmoil" got 20, as did Chris's other two entries "Deconstructed" and "Formation".
After a good measure of agonising, Sarah awarded a Highly Commended to "Deconstructed", and placed "Mist" 3rd, "Formation" 2nd and "Seeing Hands" in 1st place. A restorative cup of tea was called for while the scenery was changed over for the print section where the competition, if anything, was even closer.
With 16 prints on show (sadly Sue couldn't get her printer to cooperate so we had lost one of her entries), Sarah worked her way steadily through, holding back 5 as well as awarding immediate 20s to Chris's "Refractive Glass" and Jeremy's "Truth and Beauty (and other Highlights of Physics)". On studying the Hold-backs, Sarah concluded that they all deserved no less than 20 also. Much as this was no doubt appreciated by the respective authors, it gave Sarah no easy task to decide the places!
John's "Floor Exercises", David's "Kaleidoscope Manhattan" and Jeremy's "Truth and Beauty" went no further. Sue's colourful "Lights of Montmartre" was Highly Commended, Chris's "Onion Basket" was 3rd, John's "Fan Dancer" was 2nd and Chris took 1st place with "Refractive Glasses".
Those of you paying close attention will now have realised that all 5 of Chris's entries scored 20 and he was award a Highly Commended, a 3rd, a 2nd and a 1st, a superb and very well-deserved result.
Print League, Round 3. Judge Paul Burwood (Field End CC) 10th January 2019
It is a rare occasion, possibly unique, when an image quite clearly is the winner of the night long before the judge has pontificated. So it was at the 3rd Print round when Dean Tyler’s print "Together Alone" was put up on the display boards. Only occasionally does one see an image of this quality. Perfection both from close up and possibly even more so from the back of the room. Wonderful light – no actually a rather dull day, colossal amounts of complex work in photo shop, no pretty much as it came out of the camera. What a huge encouragement for us all to shoot more landscape but more of this anon.
Paul Burwood was a new judge to us. In fact he is a new judge to pretty much everyone having only started in earnest at the beginning of 2018. Could be he was a tiny bit nervous and stiff however the finished result – i.e. the points and the positions no one could argue with and he certainly did come over with a few nice observations including the idea of using a lower shutter speed on David Butler’s Lowry-esque image of the concourse at Waterloo station. This would, he thought, have blurred most of the action and left the few individuals that might have been stationery watching the departure board, sharp by contrast.
He had a relatively small entry of thirty two prints to deal with and his technique of running through them scoring 17 down to a sensible 14 and holding back the rest - nearly half the entry - worked well. In effect this created a second round where we could all see them again. John Jennings' "Marilyn" was the only entry to escape this, being awarded an 18 on the first run through. Thirteen others came up for a second inspection. Jeremy’s "Burnt and Battered" Brighton Pier and his "Trees Trapped in Travertine", a material Paul knew and I had never heard of, Chris Gilbert’s "Flam, Norway", and David Butler’s shot straight up the outside of "One World Trade Centre" all received 18s as did John Jennings rather saucy but attractive "Oops" along with Peter Winter’s different sort of bird "Spoonbill."
So far so good. With the remaining seven prints all displayed together on the top of the right hand stand we quickly realised that all three of Dean Tyler’s were still in the running! Even more interesting after three others were eliminated with19s, once again Peter Winter and his "Leopard", Connie Fitzgerald’s very cleanly captured "Summer Bee", and "Money Plant Flowers" from Chris Gilbert, a subtle rendition of a very rarely seen bloom on one of our most popular indoor plants.
This left four images and only one of them wasn’t Dean’s. This was an atmospheric townscape of a colourful village on Portugal’s part of the Douro River "Along the Douro River" which Chris Gilbert had snapped whilst actually sailing past it. It and the other three from Dean were all awarded 20s. So Dean Tyler had scored a maximum of 60 points which is not something done very often: the question was would he also finish up with the top three places?
It didn’t quite happen. His "Surf Cycle" receding wave beach shot was pipped by Chris’s "Douro". However all evening the magnificent "Together Alone" had sat on the stand defying anyone to even come close. It is an incredible image taken over a lake on a dull day with a single tree in leaf curving through the foreground, filling the sky, but not overlapping the hills on either side. A lone white swan floats majestically bang on the third on the right. Especially from some way back there is a overwhelming sense that one’s eye is being drawn to a pinpoint in the centre where horizon, hill sides and tree all coincide. There couldn’t have been a person in the room that did not agree that this was the picture of the night with Dean’s "Winter Silhouettes" being 2nd.
A fine and dramatic finish and I said at the start strong encouragement to the landscape photographer that lurks in us all.
The John Woodworth Trophy. Judge Alan Taberer (ImageZ) 3rd January 2019
The first evening back after Christmas was a departure and judging from the copious quantities of images entered, a popular one. It was a clever and interesting formula as well as a highly appropriate commemoration for one of our most popular members John Woodworth from whom we were separated last year.
Each individual was allowed their usual three PDI entries but one had to be a Landscape, one had to be of People or a Portrait and one had to be a Monochrome. The event attracted fifty three images (short of the fifty four as one author had only entered two). The competition was split into three sections with all the scores being added up at the end to decide a winner. Alan Taberer who had helped us out earlier in the year with a short notice booking when a judge fell ill, had been booked for this for some time. I had asked him deliberately as I felt he had the flexibility to be able to handle this slightly unconventional arrangement and some presence befitting of an important occasion.
John had been lost not long ago and was universally popular and is genuinely missed. The idea for the subjects came from examining his favourite categories. These three seemed to emerge through his very all-round canon of work.
Right away Alan set the correct benchmark for score range by awarding an image which didn’t really comply with the landscape definition a 13. However the author should not be chastised too harshly as a shot of a large house in twilight illuminated by thousands of Christmas lights was most seasonal. There was also to be another 13 later. Happily this meant that people that got 15, and there were quite a few, were nowhere near bottom as indeed it should be. He maintained this steady hand right through the evening too. No kink in the scores after the tea break which is so often the case
In the Landscape section Jacqui Taylor, David Butler, Sue Anderson and Fiona Gurr’s entries were held back. Fiona’s great elongated and informative shot, thanks to the foreground detail, of the “Golden Gate Bridge” was awarded 18, David Butler’s “New England Light House” a 19 as was Sue Anderson’s very clean “Brisbane” cityscape. Winner of this section was then Jacqui Taylor’s “Cappodocia”. A popular angle on these iconic Turkish cave dwellings. The judge was not aware that the caves were inhabited until a voice from the audience, a first time visitor to the club, Seyhan Jones, piped up gently. Turned out she was actually Turkish and knew this area well. Good interruption, hope she joins.
The second section was devoted to Monochrome. Four held back this time. A very inventive close up shot of a roof detail “Lead flashing” by Barbara Novell scored 18. Terry Day’s “Peaceful Summer’s Day” a shot with a very comfortable country feel benefitting from some of Terry’s ‘magic fluence’ a 19. Also a19 for Connie Fitzgerald’s wittily captioned “Lines in a Book”. A photograph of the edges of a collection of open hard bound volumes. You don’t have to go to the other side of the World to take pictures like this – many are waiting for you in your living room. Top of the shop on this occasion was Graham Hutchinson’s captivating portrait of “Tony” Such a startled expression and with all the details sharp in every bit of his impressive white beard. Cleary the best Monochrome.
There were a number of previously seen portrait type shots evident in the People section. “Bejeweled” by Chris Gilbert and “Cigar Lady” from Fiona Gurr both excellent and received 18s. Chris Anderson produced a intriguing mirror shot “Selfies”. He was clearly in it as was his wife Sue. The important thing was that he had removed some of the edges to the various distorting mirrors so the picture asked the viewer to examine more closely. Very Alice Through The Looking Glass and a 17. Of the three Alan held back, two used graffiti or poster backgrounds to heighten their effect. Sue Anderson (again) capturing an individual passing a complex array of graffiti/posters all of which demanded attention. She scored a 19. Sue Hipperson and Connie Fitzgerald both were awarded 20s. Connie’s image of a group of people negotiating three different sets of revolving doors improved still further by a soft surreal treatment. Sue Hipperson had managed to catch an entertainingly dressed fellow below a poster of Bob Dylan looking slightly disapprovingly at him. A case of the poster looking at the person.
When scores from the three categories were totalled, done speedily by Jeremy, Connie had won with 56, Sue Anderson a close second 54 and a four way tie for 3rd between Graham Hutchinson, Sue Hipperson, Chris Gilbert and Jacqui Taylor all with 52.
The very attractive John Woodworth Trophy was duly awarded by his wife who then gave a genuine sounding speech that explained to us how John had been very taken up with photography but she had never realised quite why and how much fun a club evening could be. She was going straight home to put batteries in her camera! Result I think and a great way to cap the celebration of the life and works of such an excellent fellow as John. Although we will never have anyone like him again his event will doubtless be much enjoyed for years to come.
Christmas Social 13 December 2018
An excellent, and well-attended, social! Many thanks to Barbara, Martin and Chris for all their hard work in organising it, and to the Sunshine Ukulele Band for the musical entertainment.
Happy Christmas everyone!
Projected Image League, Round 3. Judge Damon Guy (Marlow CC) 6th December 2018
With both our joint chairmen unwell it was left to the old team of Rod and Maggie Fricker to step in and host our third PDI round. No one would have guessed they didn’t do this every week it was such a comfortable and seamless performance.
Norman Marshall should be mentioned immediately: having submitted images for almost everything this year, he had his best ever PDI result with a 17 for his “In Bloom” and a 19 for “Water Lilies” after it was held back. We can always expect a wide variety of images from Norman, an enthusiastic photographer, even though we might draw a veil over his slightly less successful “Acrobatic Partridge”!
With an entry of more than forty there was scope to extend the scores down to 12 or 13. As it was, a dozen or so were grouped in the 15-16 range and none lower. With so little separation authors get poor perspective on how they rate amongst their peers, which after all is what competition is supposed to be about. The lower places are just as important, if not more so, than the top handful of winners. There wasn’t just a handful of them either: no less than a dozen were held back. After low scoring at the start including Chris Gilbert’s excellent “Flambeau” squeezing only a 17, we wondered what was coming.
There would obviously have to be many19s and 20s but to be fair I thought Damon was spot on with his top three and their order. However before that there were eight 19s. "Allium” and “The Departed” from Connie Fitzgerald, “Red Kite” by Fiona Gurr, the aforementioned “Water Lilies” from Norman, and the excellent “Tiger Ranthambore” from Jacqui Taylor (made all the more moving by the inclusion of the animal’s wet and upturned paw) were joined by an atmospheric storm-lit landscape, “Rain Approaching” from Barbara Nowell and Chris's third entry “Dew Covered Clematis” looking much like an elaborate item of priceless jewellery.
So from his selection of five 20s, Damon Guy left John Jennings’ “In the Mirror” portrait and another one from Chris “Sea Shell Medley” tying at 4th. Third was Dean Tyler’s “Isolation”, a study of the island in Derwent Water taken from the beach at Keswick, John came second with a wonderful portrait of a lady trumpet player “Melody” and the winner was a clever street shot by Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell of the new BBC Building highlighting the complementary blues and oranges of the lighting further enhanced, as is usually the case, by the wet paving. “Auntie” was a stand-out shot which the author had either tilted slightly or left tilted. Whichever, it was a very brave move to show it thus, but one which definitely worked and could have been that tiny extra component that gave him the win.
So as mentioned at the start the order of the top images was perfectly acceptable but a wider spread would illustrate the tangible difference in quality and hence better help the authors. It’s what improves the breed.
NW Fed Round 3 at Harrow. Judge: Amanda Wright (Ealing & HH PS) 4th December 2018
Unfortunately we did not manage to progress to the semi-final of the NW Fed this year. As a consolation though, we did collect a couple more stars last night, with Peter Winter’s print “Jay with Hazel Nut” and Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell's PDI “Hat and Hands”.Results
|Park Street||Harrow||Hemel Hempstead|
|Total for Round 3||177||186||173|
|Totals after 3 Rounds||576||581||558|
Full results here
NW Fed Round 2 at Park Street. Judge: Cat Humphries (Croxley CC) 29th November 2018
Another new judge for us and another very enjoyable night. We were ranged against Harrow and Hemel Hempstead in the third event in the first round for a place in the semi finals. It was good to see Harrow represented by the Julia Wainwright and her husband. Those that attended the Visions event the week before will recall Julia scoring two 20s and a 19 and still not winning, being pipped in the tie break by Teresa Hehir. It was also more than fortunate Julia came along as she brought Hemel Hempstead’s prints!
We had none of us heard Cat Humphries judge before. She has been on the circuit for little more than a year. From the start it was clear that she could do the job. Very knowledgeable and enthusiastic without ever being dogmatic or bossy.
It was expected the final result would be close. Park Street was very consistent in the PDIs whereas Harrow had an unlucky 15 ('Sweet Chestnut' by Judith Gimber) which might have deserved better, but compensated with two twenties. Hemel Hempstead on the other hand struggled a bit with their best only a 19 ('Isis' by John Humphries) and then an early 15 ('Allium Buds' by Ian Shaw). Ian used to judge for us: the reason we have not seen him of late is that following minor eye surgery, although he can see photographs fine, he doesn’t feel confident driving in the dark – a pity.) Hemel also scored two 16s which let them down.
Of the top projected images Harrow’s very talented Dave Martin impressed Cat with his ‘Resting Chalkhill Blues’ butterflies (19) and highly artistic ‘Spring Pasque Flower’ (20). Julia Wainwright backing this with her ‘Juvenile Avocet with Flies’ another 20. The judge here was so right to explain the importance of the title. The proliferation of small back dots could have been mistaken for specks on the sensor and it’s always worth making sure judges knows what they are looking at! The only other PDi held back was the already mentioned ‘Iris’ by Hemel Hempstead’s John Humphrey (19). At the end of the first half (the PDIs) Harrow and ourselves were close at 91 and 88 respectively but Hemel well off the pace with 83 total.
After tea the prints and almost the reverse. Hemel had three of their five held back! Two from Harrow were also held back. For us Chris Gilbert scored an immediate 20 with his ‘Wild Carrot Seed Head’. Although generally scoring slightly higher the prints collected fewer 20s and Harrow slipped away a bit at this stage. Achieving two 20s 'Frozen in Flight’ by Avril Candler – a sensational capture of a humming bird and 'Wild Fox of Zandvoort' by Julia Wainwright they also had two 16s – bottom score for a print on this night. More consistency again from us with the previously mention 20 by Chris Gilbert aided by 'Wren Singing' by Peter Winter (19) 'Man at the Market' by Terry Day (18) supported by a couple of 17s from John & Connie. Very solid, well done the selector. I was discussing this scoring business with Peter Prosser not long ago and we worked out if you could go through life achieving only 17s you would win a whole lot of comps not to mention annual leagues.
However Hemel were not finished. Their prints did best of all. 'Artemis Fauna' a most tasteful artistic nude from Rob Harley scoring their only 20 but backed up by another from him, an imaginative silhouette taken at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club and John Humphrey’s strong if somewhat bleached-out 'London Skyline.' They both collected 19. 'Wave', once again from John Humphrey, was scored an 18. A very big total of 92.
That round went to Hemel Hempstead by a point over us, with Harrow two points lower. All very close. The final scores equated to a slim victory for Harrow with 180, Park Street 179 and Hemel Hempstead 175. Possibly the star of the show being our judge Cat Humphries, who simply could not have done it better.Results
|Park Street||Harrow||Hemel Hempstead|
|Total for Round 2||179||180||175|
|Totals after 2 Rounds||399||395||385|
Full results here
Talk: ‘Stay longer - See more’ by Steve Brabner 22nd November 2018
Steve had been to our club before but not for quite a time. On that last occasion he had given a talk about his exploits on his trusty Harley Davidson. This he explained had now gone but his trips are none the less just as interesting. He had realised how useful it was when contemplating a photographic study of an area to take ones time and not rush it. This talk focused on two one month long trips. One to New York and the other to French Polynesia or Tahiti as it’s major island is more commonly known.
For New York, a city he clearly loved and had indeed lived in for a short while back in the ‘90s, he and his wife booked an apartment for a month, an idea he thoroughly recommends. They then explored the lesser know areas deliberately avoiding Times Square simply because it is always full of tourists! With the use of the occasional map Steve was able to teach us a great deal about the geography and where exactly all these iconic buildings actually stood relative to one another. We all must have thought we had known a bit about this city but I for one learned more from Steve in less than an hour than I ever knew before.
His interesting observation about the acoustics for instance. All that concrete and brick creating canyons for the sounds – already considerable – to echo and reverberate and become even more intense. All part of the city experience that Steve and his wife have grown to love. He was also quick to defend any idea that NY was in anyway dangerous to the visitor. He saw no evidence for this and at all times felt comfortable walking around day or night.
Photographically, as well as the great pictures, from and of, tall buildings various and atmospheric images of behind the scenes city life Steve had managed a wonderful shot of the Manhattan skyline from the craft that takes trips around the island – as it is indeed an island. Long exposures not easy from moving boats as we know. He admitted he took quite few before finalising on this best one to show us. A unique perspective on a city we all now know better and are more likely to visit as a consequence. However the evening was anything but over.
The second half might in some ways have been still more stunning. A few years ago he had splashed out on a month long trip to the French Polynesian Islands. Having been a colony of the French for so long the majority of the tourists that there were, were indeed French. Everyone else spoke perfect English but not the tourists! Tahiti was the first stop after a seven hour flight from the west coast of the United States. Staying in some first class luxury beach side cottages they explored both this island but also Mo’orea close by to the north west – just a short boat trip. Further time was spent on the more popular tourist island of Bora Bora where the first of the geologically marvellous circular barrier reefs were to be seen. Bora Bora is the site of a long since dead and collapsed volcano. The circular land part of it being what was left of the rim – just a few meters above the sea. The reef protecting it being some kilometre or so further out in the Pacific Ocean. Many such features are the norm. in this part of the world. Indeed on a detailed map the area looks much like a collection of lakes within the Ocean rather than islands at all. However Bora Bora is unique in having it’s granite core still prominent in the very centre of the lagoon. Hence the accommodations, many that stand in the lagoon itself, facing inward towards the best scenery. The silver white beaches giving shallow light blue water in all directions.
Here they were able to swim from their accommodation and thanks to some glass flooring to the cabin, look straight down into the water from indoors. Having mentioned that they were celebrating their wedding anniversary, paid off handsomely when a slight booking glitch on exactly what ‘hut’ they were to have meant that the management felt obliged to compensate them with free evening meals for their entire stay. This was a tidy sum bearing in mind a typical meal at that time of day would be in the region of £90 for two!
After a week’s stay there and a short trip to see Huahine-Iti to the east they travelled a few hours by air to the Ranagiroa Atoll in the north east. The largest of a group of six or seven such atolls in that area. An incredible circular strip of land containing a lagoon some 70 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide. Once again the entire system being protected by a barrier reef which gave a unique perspective for photographs. Many of these Steve took had been given a narrow white border. Inside this, the foreground landscape was separated from the distance and the sky by what on first glance looked like another similar white line drawn across the image on the third. However on closer inspection this line was natural - formed by the white breaking waves on the distant barrier reef! A most striking presentation and quite contrary to convention.
Their stay on Ranagiroa was centred on Avatoru in the North but whilst there they were taken by very fast boat to Pink Sands at Moto Tevaron in the South, the other end of the atoll. This necessitated being at full speed in a small open skiff for something like an hour and a half and of course this stretch of water, enclosed though it is, was still large enough to get quite choppy. The ride was exhilarating especially when the pirate like captain and his mate explained how shallow the water and how hard and sharp the coral they were skimming over was! Steve still reckoned this destination was the closest to what he would consider to be his idyllic Pacific island retreat.
At a narrow spot where the open Pacific could get through a small gap in the reef they held surfing competitions. Judges and photographers alike we able to stand on dry land but still very close to the huge rolling breakers. One of Steve’s pictures looked to all the world as if he had been out there on a board with them he was so close to the action.
It had been a delightful travelogue accompanied by sensation images. Plenty of questions after the talk but the two that were really eating away at the audience but out of politeness were not asked were:- How a man that appeared to be in his 50s could possibly have been celebrating his 40th Wedding anniversary a few years ago? Had he got married at 10? And, just how much did the Tahiti trip cost? Well the fact is that that ‘young’ guy is 67! And the French Polynesian trip would have cost the best part of £15,000 even a few years ago! Steve is quick to point out that they did go for the most luxurious options. It can be done much cheaper.
Steve has another presentation entitled Taking and Making Images – his journey through photography since the 70s. I for one will be looking forward to hearing that. A very enjoyable and informative night – it felt I had actually been there.
XRR Visions 21st November 2018
XRR Camera Club has run Visions for 34 years, and I think it remains a unique competition in the Chilterns Federation. Entry is open to individuals who upload 3 PDIs, but then clubs can select 3 members who have entered to represent the club. This year 113 people entered, and the format for the evening is designed to cater for such numbers. Each of your entries goes into a separate round, with the entrant nominating one image for the 3rd "tiebreaker" round. The judge scores the first two rounds in advance and they are shown as AVs, each image coming up followed by title, author and score. Round 3 is judged "live" with commentary in the usual way, albeit somewhat faster than we are used to!
This year's judge was Paul Radden LRPS DPAGB EFIAP PSA2*and scores ranged from 12 to 20 with a quite impressive distribution of the number of images with each of the scores. However, it must be said that over half of the 20s were wildlife (same with the 19s) and so-called creative images didn't get much support.
Park Street entrants were Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell, Jacqui Taylor and John Jennings (chosen as the club team), Dave and Sue Hipperson and Connie Fitzgerald. Park Street team came a very respectable 6th of 16 clubs with 152. Amersham won on tiebreak, with Harrow and Maidenhead also scoring 158. We beat, amongst others, Harpenden, Watford and New City, so a very decent result. Jeremy was joint 14th, our leading individual.
As ever, this is a great opportunity to see a good number of our fellow photographers and their images and hats off to XRR for running it.
People Cups - Judge: Michael Lurie (Pinner CC) 15 November 2018
Another new judge for us, Michael Lurie, until recently the Chairman of Pinner Camera Club and judging for only a short while. However the impression he gave was of someone confident in both photography and critiquing. With a relaxed manner, a pleasant demeanour and a friendly delivery this was clearly going to be a comfortable evening.
It was our annual ‘People’ competition. Slightly less well entered numerically than of late and it has to be said the general standard was not quite up to our usual level either. With both prints and projected pictures to examine, thirty projected and fourteen prints, the workload was perfect for someone who clearly had plenty to say. After all this is still far more than at a typical North West Fed. elimination round where we see only thirty six, eighteen of each, prints and projected.
Of the PDIs Michael held back seven. However during the judging he had already awarded an 18 to John Jennings’ ‘Nikki’s Hat’. Then a slight fluff on behalf of us the organisation. The tea break was called before Michael was able to finalise the winners from the finalists. This meant that some dramatic momentum was lost but much worse than that the thumbnails were left projected and above them the authors' names! Oh please don’t do this. To be fair we judges have a way of automatically shutting out this sort of information and most of the time the authors' names will not be known to us personally anyway. The problem is that if they are, then we do, with all the will in the world, tend to compensate in the other direction. Almost as bad.
Anyway Michael was well on top of all this and after tea zipped through the thumbnails. Fiona Gurr’s ‘Boardwalk’- visitors streaming across a man made walkway in Yellowstone - received an 18, as did Sue Hipperson’s ‘A Tip of the Cap’, a picture taken at a recent ‘studio’ session night. He was right about the rather assertive right hand. Rosemary Wenzerul scored a 19 with her ‘Taking a Break’.
This left him with three, which he awarded 20s. They came up on the screen with the author’s names again. That really was a pity – it mattered much more now. Sue Hipperson’s ‘Too Much Partying’ a very young lad asleep on a couch still grasping the evil beverage that had done him all the damage was 3rd. No Photoshop, just Physical-Shop: she put the bottle in his hand while he was unconscious. Talk about planting evidence! Dave Hipperson’s simple out-door, natural but diffused winter light shot of his friend Spencer was 2nd, Spencer being one of those people of whom it is practically impossible to get a bad portrait. Quite properly however John Jennings' lovely ‘Ecce’ studio shot stole the show to win the Projected trophy.
Still plenty of time for the prints. Five were held back, Chris Gilbert’s delicate 'Tarrot Reader' scoring 19 as did Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell’s ‘Byzantine Fashion’. In third place was once again John Jennings, this time with an atmospheric and well composed ‘Drinking Alone’, a simple image that said so much. Then in 2nd place Terry Day’s very sharp ‘Having a Break’ street shot. Once again John topped the list with another one of his multiple flash/long exposures, in this case 8 seconds, of a dancer leaping on stage.
OK so your reporter was 2nd, his wife Sue was 3rd so the judge must be alright. Actually that is not how it is. To obtain a fair final result many things are involved, the score allocated to the first image being one of them. It sets the level for the entire contest. Michael got this right, (judging mine down to a 16 – absolutely right for the standard on the night). Then he was able to see that there was a wide spread of quality in the projected contest and scored down to 13. Actually Leo’s ‘Projecting My Thoughts’ would probably have not had my vote for the last place there but at least there was a last place. At the previous event we had no less than ten people tied at the bottom. Not helpful. Michael was quite firm with his opinions but explained them clearly and was happy to differentiate between images he didn’t like because of their content and images that were poorly composed, taken or badly presented. This is much more difficult to do ‘on the hoof’ than it might appear. Agreed he did occasionally stray into suggestions about pixilation and sharpening that were probably best left un-said as they didn’t exist, but as a judge with only a year or two of experience I would think he is on course for being one of our very best.
Print League, Round 2. Judge: Rojer Weightman (Stoke Poges) 8th November 2018
After a rather short notice cancellation by the original judge booked for this night - Colin Southgate - we were fortunate to obtain the services of Rojer Weightman. Rojer came from the Stoke Poges club, the same one as Kevin Day. However unlike Kevin he is relatively new to judging having been at it now for only 18 months or so. Along with Kevin he is one of the leading lights at Stoke Poges specializing mainly in still life. However you could not have guessed his preference from his approach to our prints.
We could show him only 24. That’s a mere eight contestants from a club of over 40 members. Rojer then compensated nicely by taking each entry at leisure and diverting occasionally into some interesting stories not the least of which was of when he spent a good few weeks in Antarctic without a camera (!) counting penguins. Sensibly he held a good many back (seven) for a chance to have another think about them.
Peter Winter’s ‘Pair of Little Owls’ got an 18 straight off and he was right when he thought that looking quickly at the image, excellent in detail though it was, one could be forgiven for thinking for a moment that it was one rather squashed owl. Very cute none the less. ‘Port Nanven Mono’ from Dean Tyler also got 18. Rojer admired the high quality but suggested that the idea was not so new. The 19s were Terry Day’s ‘Luminaire London 2018’ an excellent capture over wet paving of one of the more impressive installations from this Spring’s lighting shows in London. The other two both belonged to Jeremy. ‘Svalbard Scenery’ a well composed and eerily lit shot of the famous polar area of Norway well inside the Arctic circle. Indeed the most northerly inhabited place on earth. Chilly! Then staying with the icy feel ‘A Boy’s Own Adventure’ also by Jeremy which gave Rojer much more trouble. This turned out to be a photograph of a diorama in a Norwegian museum of an arctic adventure of theirs over the North Pole some centuries ago. Everyone was relieved to discover that Jeremy just could have been old enough to have actually been there. The finished work looked most convincing having none of the usually disadvantages inherent in model photography.
John Jennings had again strived to explain his technique with the title ‘1 Click & 3 pops.’ But I am still not sure whether Rojer got it immediately. His comment that the outer dancers were obviously not mirror images of each other suggested his understanding was not perfect. To explain. One dancer - long exposure. John flashes, in the polite sense of course, three times, throughout a complex dancing manoeuvre so three figures appear in the one picture. He’s done it before. We understand but some judges don’t quite because after all they only have a limited time. However Rojer rose above his possible confusion and enjoyed the image. It came 3rd with a 20. Chris Gilbert produced a powerful effect with strong light through a multi facetted paperweight. The impact being increased by the choice of a finely chequered material on which it was standing. ‘Paper Weight’ – another 20 and 2nd place.
The winner was the impressive ‘Stripped Back to Basics’ by Dean Tyler. This was a clever composition of a winter tree against a snow landscape but with just enough extra detail to give context despite the huge amount of ‘negative’ white snow space in the foreground. Very brave and definitely the correct crop despite there being almost no detail in that foreground snow! A worthy winner but it was close between the top three.
The quality was high and that somewhat mitigates for Rojer’s rather close marking. There certainly was differentiation to be had between the 10 prints that scored 16 and came equal bottom. Rojer was possibly treading a bit too gently. Wonderful to have so many of the club present however – the highest attendance for a long time.
Members Evening 1st November 2018
What have: Neutral Density, Lions and Tigers, charter flights around Bricket Wood and precision water splashes got in common? The answer is that they formed the subjects of the four excellent, and very different, presentations by club members last night.
Dean Tyler opened the evening with a clear explanation of the use of neutral density filters, both graduated and plain. Grads come in different strengths and with sharper or softer graduation, the plain filters come as Little Stopper, Big Stopper and Super Stopper with an effective strength of 5, 10 and 15 stops respectively. Since each stop doubles the required shutter opening duration, if you start with an un-filtered shutter speed of 1/60th second, the Little Stopper takes that to 1/2 second, the Big Stopper to 17 seconds and the Super Stopper to 9 minutes. In lower light needing a 1 second exposure, the Super Stopper takes this to over 9 hours! It is the intelligent use of these filters that enable Dean to produce the beautiful effects in clouds and waves we are so familiar with.
Jacqui Taylor followed with 3 of the most impressive sets of safari pictures I have seen in a long while. The first set were from a 10 day stay in the Masai Mara with countless beautiful images of lions, leopards and cheetahs, elephant, rhino, hippopotamus, zebra and wildebeest, with more than a sprinkling of beautiful birds. We then moved to Ranthambore National Park, a vast wildlife reserve in Rajasthan, northern India. It is a former royal hunting ground and home to tigers, leopards and marsh crocodiles, again superbly documented by Jacqui. Then it was back to Africa, this time to Laikipia, Kenya where we were once again treated to stunning images (Jacqui is on first name terms with a rhino called Wai Wai).
After tea, it was a compete change: instead of roaming the world, David Butler described how groups of volunteers were treated to flights that never left the ground in Bricket Wood. He described 4 instances from his job of environmental testing at BRE (formerly Building Research), the first of which involved bringing part of an Airbus 300 wide-body airliner round the M25 and hiding it in a shed, entertaining the crew and passengers with a flight simulator and projected images of passing clouds while measuring their reaction to a variety of carefully controlled temperatures and humidity. The ruse was even taken as far as fitting noise and vibration creators in the structure! After this, the sight of an underground train carriage replacing the jet seemed almost normal, even with a partial population of mannequins. Job No. 3 was to validate the concept of using a stack of rocks - yes really - to help maintain more even temperatures in the National Library of Israel. Finally, who knew that trader desks in the City of London have to be water cooled, although David tactfully suggested that this was due to the enormous amount of electronics involved rather than the over-excitability of the traders.
Last but by no means least, Ron Brown described his new toy, a "Miops Smartphone Controllable Water Drop Kit with Mounting Holder", with yet another set of beautiful and very different pictures. There is plenty of science behind this, the Worthington jet effect is in itself remarkable, and there is endless scope for experimentation with the addition of detergent, food colouring, milk and xanthan gum, not to mentioned coloured gels, different backgrounds and of course, infinite variations in drop size and timing. One source of inspiration is Corrie White, and to understand why, take a look at her website ,
To sum up, a very varied and fascinating evening, and our grateful thanks are due to the 4 speakers and to Leo for organising it.
Talk "London Light, London Life" by Chris Shepherd 25 October 2018
Chris had been to us before, a year or so ago. On that occasion he enlighten us as to how really good images could be found quite close to home if you looked hard enough. This time his talk explored the possibilities of taking pictures in central London. This was an appealing subject for most of us as we all do some of that from time to time. Long ago he had realised that if he was to improve his photography he would have to do a lot more of it. However there were only so many hours in the day so he set about utilising one of them in particular. His lunch hour. Working as he does in the city of London he was ideally placed to experiment with his camera everyday and on interesting subjects. He showed us the results.
Of course many of his images featured the grand architecture found in the area. Venues new, old, over and even under ground but just as much, he showed us the potential of tiny details which might be missed. He was also of the opinion that every picture doesn’t always have to be a competition winner, reminding us that the images that we hold in the highest regard now, such as those of Cartier-Bresson and so forth, were never taken for the benefit of a judge. They were record shots for the author himself! A principal always worth remembering whatever you are taking.
He explained a few pieces of equipment he enjoys using including the rather quirky lens baby attachment which allows one to focus on a small area in an image to give an extreme depth of field effect but in a more controllable way. He too has realised the benefit of the new and highly compact camera systems on the market and always carries something which will easily fit into a pocket and hence becomes less obtrusive both to shy members of the public and the often present security guards.
On this subject he was quite right when he explained the limit of their authority. This extends to the edges of their (private) property but no further. This may be a few yards out from a building depending on how it is structured but there are usually tell-tale signs like lines or studs in the road or overhanging balconies and such. (Remember those alfresco dining areas are almost always the property of the adjacent restaurant. You can be asked to desist there too.)
Up at the top of the Heron Tower - one of his favourite vantage points - the unwritten rule is that you can snap away as long as you have bought a drink. He warned that drink prices are pretty much as sky high as the building but thought it was still worth it. It still works out cheaper and less formal (no booking) than the Shard and without the annoying slopping glass to shoot through as the Heron Tower has a free open to the air viewing platform. He was also a fan of a similar facility on the new building attached to the Tate Modern. (I too can confirm that this is well worth a visit.) Twenty or so stories high, 360 degree views and no charge at all plus the attractions of the basement in the same building. Just as useful for photography but for entirely different reasons.
Bearing in mind his theme, a subject that had infinite possibilities, it was astonishing that Chris could time his presentation so accurately. One of those evenings so captivating you never looked at the clock. He ended just short enough of 10pm to allow a few questions. Those that were there are already looking forward to his next visit. Don’t miss it.
NW Fed at Hemel Hempstead. Judge Lloyd Moore CPAGB BPE1 (Watford CC) - 22nd October 2018
Good News! We stated our NW Fed season with a resounding win over Hemel Hempstead (our hosts) and Harrow. If I'm not mistaken, the scores were Hemel 209, Harrow 201, Park Street 220. Harrow had a starred image in the PDI section, another of Julia Wainwright's wonderful safari images, this time of 2 Cheetah cubs play-fighting, and Rob Harley had a lovely nude print similarly rewarded for Hemel. Park Street took the other two starred images (which thus qualify automatically for finals day) with Peter Winter's fine print "Jay Rain-Bathing" and Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell's Dead Horse Point Panorama, which glowed beautifully in the morning light in his PDI.
LLoyd Moore took us through the images with confidence and skill, and I hope we shall see him at Park Street next year. One decision was a little controversial: he identified Connie's lovely image of 3 Amazon Tree Frogs as a studio shot (he spotted the catch-light reflections of the studio lights in their eyes) and marked it rather harshly down accordingly on the assumption that it was a commercial set-up. The problem I have with this is that he really doesn't know - and could not possibly know - whether any of the others were set up for the photographers. Come to that, he doesn't know whether Connie, inspired by Andy Sands, bred her own frogs and built her own set to photograph them in. It is a dangerous way to go, however understandable.
Our full results:
|Jay Rain-Bathing||Peter Winter||Held||20||Starred|
|Dunwich Priory||Dean Tyler||18|
|The Storyteller||John Jennings||Held||18|
|Cold Morning||Chris Gilbert||18|
|Red Squirrel||Peter Winter||Held||19|
|Porth Nanven||Dean Tyler||Held||19|
|Blue Zoom||John Jennings||Held||19|
|Amazon Tree Frogs||Connie Fitzgerald||15|
|Apple Music||Sue Hipperson||17|
|I Have My Eye on You||Terry Day||18|
|Dead Horse Point Panorama||Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell||Held||20||Starred|
2018 Interclub Landscape Competition. Judge Kevin Day (Stoke Poges) - 18th October
Once again we were treated to an exceptional set of landscape photographs, and a most enjoyable analysis and judging by Kevin Day. Having been somewhat frustrated in the past by images which did not comply with the definition which we send out to each invited club, and which was read to the audience by Chairman Miranda Steward, it was good to see that Kevin took this duty seriously and was consistent in his identification of non-compliant images. These got firmly marked down, though Kevin was at pains to point out that some of them would have been real contenders in an open competition.
Thirteen images were held back, all scoring 19 or 20, and then the 20s were considered again for selection of the Best Image, which was awarded to the beautiful "Wave at Landeyjahofn" by Chris Potter of Northfields. This image, and the other 20's, can be seen here.
|Place||Author and Club||Title|
|1||Chris Potter , Northfields CC||Wave at Landeyjahofn|
|2=||Raymond Denis , Northfields CC||Pamir Mountains|
|2=||Graham Adamson , Potters Bar PS||Scalpay Light House|
|2=||Mark Burstow , Tring CC||Ghosts on the Beach|
|2=||Martin Patten, Watford CC||Frozen New York|
|2=||Stuart Brocklebank , XRR PS||Teesdale|
|3=||St Albans CC||106|
|12||Potters Bar PS||98|
Full score sheet here
Projected Image League, Round 2. Judge Kathy Chantler ARPS (ImageZ) 10th October 2018
It’s always interesting to have a judge come to us who has not been before. All the more so when they are relatively new to the job. We left our second PDI round in the hands of Kathy Chantler: Kathy, an ARPS, is also Chairman of the ImageZ club but has only been judging a year or so.
The evening was a great success not just from the point of view of the final result but the entire tone of the proceedings. Much in the same way that Kevin Day seems to fit into our club when he visits, so did Kathy. Positive, informative, accurate, observant and often amusing she worked through the forty or so images without a trace of negative in her comments. Indeed she admitted to me that she rather dislikes giving very low scores in case they discourage a newcomer. To that end the final list might have been a little tight with nothing dropping below 15, but the best shots at the top end were unarguable.
Throughout the evening she held back everything that was going to get an 18 or above, apart from "The Fall" by John Jennings and David Butler’s "Old Boats". They both got 18 straight away. This left her ten images to deal with. After a little jiggery-pokery Jeremy was able to show us them all as thumbnails. (Take it from me this is a very helpful facility for the judge when they are making their final selections and quite the fairest way for the competitors too. Not all clubs can do it.)
Connie’s smashing close up of a lions open mouth "Big Yawn" was anything but boring and received an 18 as did Fiona’s shot from on high "Crossroads". Chris Gilbert’s stylish and well titled architectural image enlivening by the suspended window cleaners "Semi-detached" also received an 18 as did Dave Hipperson’s close up on a rusting boat entitled "Hawsers". This somewhat mysteriously also received a commendation which must have vexed the authors of the next two images which received 19s! They were Jeremy’s "East Gill Force" a beautifully handled waterfall shot, and Sue Hipperson’s floral close-up "Geranium Burst." Jacqui Taylor’s "Five Male Cheetah Coalition" (very sharp) was effectively 4th with an HC attached to the 19. In third place Connie again, this time with a natural history close front view of a "Skipper" butterfly also 19. The top two were both 20s, Jacqui once again, with her "Long Eared Owl" the bird blending seamlessly into the top of the post on which it was standing. A rear shot but with the cooperative creature having turned its head 180 degrees to face the camera just at the right moment!
The winning image was really the stand-out of the night. Entitled "The Original Selfie" it portrayed a lady artist at work on a portrait of an attractive woman. We could see both the developing painting and the model clearly until one realised it was the same lady doing the painting as sitting for it. Beautifully executed technically and thanks to John Jennings' choice of model a most attractive scenario altogether. Not just this night’s winner but one of the most accomplished images we have been shown this year.
However overall score award for the evening went to Jacqui Taylor dropping only 4 points, three of them on her "Red Eyed Tree Frog" followed by John Jennings impressive best two let down slightly by his cleverly titled "Follow the Monet" which only received a 16. Kathy Chantler had done a first class job and doubtless we will be seeing her return to Park Street in due course.
Print League, Round 1. Judge Mark Buckley-Sharp ARPS CPAGB APAGB (Harrow) 27th September 2018
Our new "joint" Chairman Miranda Steward reminded us even before this competition began that she was looking for club members that might be able to take on judging roles. In his usual professional way our judge for the evening Mark Buckley-Sharp (Chairman of the CACC and actually responsible for selecting judges to work in our association) quickly picked up on this and gave us a concise explanation of what a judge needs to be and be able to do. His little talk was a master class in itself. The element making the most impact, apart from the importance of keeping the audience interested and in some case actually awake, was that a judge is there to put the images in order. Sometimes with PDIs this might involve him having to hold in his mind upwards of 70 projected images from a run through so he can remember their relative merit when they appear in front of him for scores. You try it!
However tonight he had less pressure. We presented him with only two dozen printed images and therefore he was able to give each a very fair crack on the whip. In judging circles Mark is often considered to be rather over technical in his critiques. If I had ever thought this then tonight would have gone a long way to dispelling the suggestion. What he most certainly is, is very perceptive and more importantly, able to verbalise those observations clearly and often with a perfectly balanced degree of humour. The cases in point on this night including two images from Terry Day that he quickly recognised as from the same author – in itself a difficult and often dangerous undertaking as one can so easily be wrong. Mark was not wrong. He was not quite comfortable nor happy with the effects Terry had applied to two of his images. We of course know Terry’s style well and have become accustomed to it and enjoy it. However there was no dismissal with a comment such as “I don’t like these sort of effects.” On the contrary, although Mark admitted to not having seen this technique before he was happy to make some suggestions as to improvements but most importantly of all actively encouraged the author to continue perfecting the style without using that dismissive phrase of “a work in progress.” A 17 and 18 resulted. Similarly he spotted a connection between two of Chris Gilbert’s pictures. A Cotswold Village and a very striking local tree “Reaching Out”. Chris had applied a gentle somewhat Wenzerulian squiggle effect to these two. They looked great but Mark thought they may have looked even better without the filter. However he was quite happy when viewing them from a little more distance. Chris scored an 18 &19 and better was to come!
Mark had another diplomatic trick up his sleeve too. Unlike so many of us judges that are too quick to suggest alternative crops he was at pains to point out that he wanted to enjoy the images chosen at the crop that the author wanted to show us. Then he judged it on those terms. All along one got the impression that here was someone thinking and thinking hard and doing it on our behalf. Not just ticking off the boxes and going through the motions.
He held back five. These included the very first print he had been shown. Chris Gilbert’s “Wallflower”. He explained at the time that it was important that he was careful to set the level right at the beginning otherwise following images may suffer. Dean Tyler had submitted three great landscapes. Another perspective on Southwold Pier was awarded a mere 18 but his ‘Hard and Soft” and “The Outcast’ were both held back. As were Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell’s “Longyearbyen” and Peter Winters’ “Jay”.
Earlier, Peter’s extraordinary shot of four feeding “Young Squirrels” had been dismissed with a 16! This was perfection both technically and naturally. Here was where our judge might have let his personal preferences rule his head. He is a known hater of squirrels (as am I). I am sure he was trying to be impartial but it didn’t happen. This super sharp shot was worth much more than a 16. Another of Peter’s his “Young Starlings” showed us three squabbling birds beautifully backlit and was looking like it could have been a winner until both Mark and presumably all of us too realised that the high intensity light on the easel was showing up a deficiency. There were a couple of distant but too distinct patches of bright light distracting us above the shoulders of the central bird. He was right. The more you looked the greater intrusion they became. Such a pity. Only an18.
So from those held back Peter Winter scored a 19 with his perfectly sharp feeding “Jay” with equally clear prey and interesting colour as did Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell with his “Longyearbyen”. This was a striking image of a line of Polar dwellings enhanced by the wind blown snow and the general feeling of isolation. Great subtle colours too. It could so easily have won. Dean Tyler’s “The Outcast” a magical impression of a wintery lone tree was third of the 20s. Second was another of Dean’s, this time “Hard & Soft”, an interesting beach study of beach rocks and water that could have just as easily been animal or even man made. Finally the winner was that very first print Mark had been shown – Chris Gilbert’s “Wallflower”. Thus illustrating perfectly how important it is for the judge to go carefully at the start even to the extent of holding back images genuinely for another look and not just for dramatic effect. My advice would be to try to put something in next time Mark comes to judge particularly if you haven’t entered before. You will be assured of getting a fair hearing and you will learn a lot.
Talk by Andy Sands 22nd September 2018
Andy Sands has an uncanny knack of being able to disseminate technical, botanical information to an audience in such a way as to ensure that they go away having learned something new every time. His delivery is so confident and his recall of the names of the species he shows us so accurate that at times it borders on the astonishing. Live, unscripted and word perfect! This night his two part presentation brought us an extended talk on Trees and Woodland and in the second half diverted to his more familiar birds and insects.
We learned much about ancient woodland and how to recognise it. The small leafed Lime tree for instance. If that’s growing then it’s probably ancient woodland you are standing in. He went on to explain how he had been duped by his parents, when, as a child walking in the woods, had been told that the mysterious deep hollows in the ground were craters from German bombs. He wondered why the Germans had been so keen to destroy our woodland eventually discovering that these depressions were actually ancient saw pits where the men tending the trees back in the middle ages would saw up logs longitudinally and needed a pit so that one man could saw from the top and another from the bottom, hanging on the other end of the saw. Furthermore those intriguing banks of earth a yard or so high which we so often see with old trees growing from them were the original boundaries of ancient woodland. I had always thought that they were abandoned Stone Age fortifications!
His explanations of the art of coppicing revealed that such regular human control, sadly much less in evidence now, encouraged all manner of growth both arboreal and animal. The habit of fencing off coppiced areas rendered them safer for certain ground nesting birds like the Woodcock and also deterred animals such as deer and even sheep from eating the new shoots. He managed to show us the camouflage effect that a Woodcock can induce when incubating its eggs and chicks. A classic case of a photograph of leaf litter on the ground until you realised you could see one single tiny eye right in the centre of the picture. Heaven knows how Andy found it. His explanations also ranged across methods of pollination that allowed him to show us some of his legendary insect shots. He explained how some species of woodland arrange their male and female components in such a way such that the lightest of breezes can do the job but also leapt to the defence of the universally hated mosquito explaining that it was the only insect that pollinates the cocoa plant and without it we would have no chocolate.
The second half of his talk concerned his recent exploits. Some sensational images of a Skylark in flight and a hunting bird nesting in a stone wall right adjacent to a tiny road deep in the country. The difficulty he had had getting a comfortable hide position for this latter had been considerable and he had asked the farmer of an adjacent field just the other side of the road if he could set up his gear there. No problem until the cattle in the field became inquisitive and wanted to join in and help. The farmer was once again most accommodating and moved them somewhere else. Many and varied features on the new super light weight Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mk2 camera array he was using had allowed very rapid deployment to capture the Skylark, photo stacking to enhance pictures of butterflies and insects and in this nesting case he remembered there was a video facility. Andy was thus able to show us a short clip of the parent bird feeding its chicks in real close up.
At another time he had been assisted by a grouse moor warden that he knows well to locate a Merlin nest in the North of England. (Andy has permission to photograph these birds on their nest – they are very rare.) The warden explained the nest was easy to find just off a road on the top of the moor. The road turned out to be terrifyingly steep and hardly a track. Even his 4x4 grounded occasionally on the hazardous ascent of some 6 miles to the parking spot! Furthermore by ‘close’ the warden meant a further 2 ½ mile walk over peat bog! Andy had to go a number of times and erect a hide then move it slightly closer day by day. After a week he got some magnificent shots of the chicks and also the adult bird close by. He was about to get the ‘money shot’ of the bird feeding the chicks when on the final day he retuned to find no action. An empty nest and a dead Merlin lying beside it. It and its family having been predated by a stoat. Andy pulled no punches with the shot of the dead bird. Ouch - tough stuff! Then he lightened the atmosphere beautifully as only Andy could, by explaining that as he wished to waste nothing (and after there had been a full enquiry into the bird’s death and everyone was satisfied as to the cause he and the warden set to to trap the guilty party which they did successfully) Andy knowing of an accomplished taxidermist in the area arranged to have this beautiful bird re-built. At the time of writing this Sarah doesn’t know that her house is about to be gifted a stuffed, even though doubtlessly wonderful, Merlin!
Another highly professional performance by Andy. When it ended I presumed he had finished early as I had lost track of time entirely. I looked at my watch and it was exactly 10pm! A new visitor to the club and potential member was heard to mutter something about … “it all being better than David Attenborough” as he left. Thanks again Andy.
Projected Image League, Round 1. Judge Alan Taberer (ImageZ) 13th September 2018
The first competition night of the year but hardly a huge entry - only sixteen authors represented from a club of more than forty. General standard of the images was fine however and they covered a wide diversity of subjects as always. Our judge for the night, Alan Taberer, had stood in quite late in the day when our original booking Allan Thompson became impossible to contact. At the time of writing we are still unclear of what has happened to him but in the advent of any catastrophic circumstances we wish him the very best.
As we are all too well aware judges tastes vary and from the scoring it was clear that Alan has some suspicion with over-worked effects and prefers the cleanly executed original shot and with a preference for wildlife. Judges favourite subjects should not be obvious to the audience but it is very difficult to be completely impartial. During the evening he did mention that he thought everyone should try judging just to appreciate these problems and pitfalls even though I am sure few of us could every measure up to his sensationally clear delivery style. He certainly made a great competition of it by maintaining both a wide scoring range and an informative and often amusing commentary. He was most observant and always accentuated the positive leaving any criticisms as very minor issues.
With scoring down to 13 and nearly half the entry in the 15-16s to score 17 or over was quite an achievement. He held six images back. Of these Miranda Steward’s very close-up crocodile shot ‘A Close Encounter’ and Dave Hipperson’s ‘Two Doors Down’ received 18s. Terry Day’s unusual monochrome street image ‘Three Legs are Better Than One, or Two’ was awarded 19 leaving the remaining three all with 20s. These were 3rd - Rosemary Wenzerul’s ‘My Cold Wet Nose’ a very sharp close-up of a dog’s nose and muzzle that exuded character even without an eye in the picture! Then 2nd Jacqui Taylor’s action image of a squabbling group of ‘Wild Dogs.’ The winning shot being a very tightly cropped and splendidly sharp outdoor monochrome portrait by Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell of an English infantryman from the Waterloo period appropriately entitled ‘Death To The French.’
Continuing the military theme some images that should be mentioned in despatches and that possibly went somewhat un-rewarded included a most creative and thought provoking composite from our Joint Chairman Leo Southern ‘Fight for Freedom’ which I hope we will be seeing again. Barbara Nowell’s ‘Children’s Help Needed’. A line of brightly coloured kids wheelbarrows and watering cans – well seen and needing only a few tiny tweaks to have been a winner and right at the end of the evening Fiona Gurr’s excellent ‘Big Waterfall, Tiny People.’ A towering waterfall rendered all the more impressive by the inclusion of a scattering of brightly dressed but minute tourists to give a scale to the image. Rosemary gave her close-up of a cactus the familiar "Wenzerul Wiggle" treatment often so effective on her landscapes. Particularly clever here as I don't think the judge realised it had been worked on, surely the sign of a gifted technician.
The final score sheet attests to the fact that nearly everyone feels they have to enter three images. Not doing so has of course a bearing on the final league positions at the end of the year but when these are published it is also made clear how many pictures any one author has entered. It should not be thought of as mandatory to always have to enter three. There are many club members – actually over half of you – that have very interesting photographs in their collections and on their phones that we never see. My vision of the perfect club night would be not so much the number of images shown but to see forty authors represented. It’s not just about competition and you all know that no one ever laughs and we don’t use judges that are rude. Give it a go.
Opening Night: Holiday Snaps 6th September 2018
Considering we were still actually in the holiday period for the age demographic of most members, we had a good attendance at our annual Holiday Snaps night. Dave Hipperson frightened everyone by standing up at the start and explaining (for the few that hadn’t been at the AGM a couple of months previous) that the club was now under new management. Thankfully not his! He and Sue had however taken over the job of Programme Sec. and to this end circulated a small survey asking for feedback on judge popularity. Thanks to the enthusiastic take-up on this it has provided invaluable information. In the absence of Miranda Steward, Joint Chairman Leo Southern handled the rest of the evening. For a man that had professed to have little experience of public speaking he made a perfectly adequate job of it including the most difficult bit – the half time break refreshment order. He also reminded us that it would help if a few more people came along a little before time to help with assembling equipment and putting out the chairs as well as staying behind at the end to tidy up. He went on to explain that Miranda was positively looking for people that would like a crack at judging. Feel free to approach either her or Dave H on this.
With Jeremy at the controls of the computer we were then treated to many and various holiday images from numerous club members. Barbara had discovered Peregrine Falcons nesting on the spire of Norwich Cathedral – a tricky subject. Rod Fricker had a huge array of interesting images from his recent visit to Macedonia. The country is itself somewhat of an enigma being currently in territorial conflict with it’s southern neighbour Greece and squeezed between the northern part of that country and Serbia and Bulgaria. Much of Rod & Maggie’s activities centred on Skopje the capital in the north and thanks to his knowledgeable and enthusiastic commentary Rod’s sixty or so images gave us a feel for various aspects of this rather undiscovered country. This included learning that they are using red double-decker buses bought from the UK and in Rods pictures they looked perfectly at home and rather reassuring.
Jacqui presented us with a varied collection of natural history pictures from Africa of which the stand out shots were very definitely of giraffes many of which she had captured performing the most extraordinary antics in the name of play fighting plus some very evocative images of the same animals at rest, often attractively reflected in pools of water. Clearly the Giraffe is an under-rated subject for photography
Terry had submitted a collection of montages made up from pictures taken at motor races he had visited during the Summer. This encouraged mostly the male members of the audience to attempt recognising various antique marques and argue about who was right! With no one present to say one way or the other, as the author was, on this night, still recovering from eye surgery, the dispute remained unresolved.
Jeremy showed us some striking images he had taken from the 'Celebration of St Alban'. Huge-headed colourful puppets commemorating the Roman execution of St Alban in the seventh century, paraded the streets up to the Cathedral where the deed had taken place. Indeed the cathedral was built to commemorate this very execution as soon as the Romans under Emperor Constantine had retreated.
Jeremy filled the rest of the evening successfully with a foretaste of the images from which he was selecting Rose Bowl entries. First comp night is next week Open PDIs and it is entirely possible, for various reasons, that we may have two judges – but I hope not. Oh, I so hope not!