External Competition: Rosebowl R2 at Park Street. Judge: Cat Humphries (Croxley CC). 5th December 2019
Rosebowl competitions are always a little bit different. In this case we had 60 images from a total of 4 clubs, each represented by 7 different authors, judged by Cat Humphries, relatively new to Park Street but an excellent judge. (You may well be thinking “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?”) The clubs select the images, and unsurprisingly, the same images can thus turn up in other competitions, and Cat said after the run-through that she had recently judged some of the images seen, but warned US not to assume that the same marks would necessarily be awarded in different company. As she said, many of the images would have been highly successful in-house, but the standard of inter-club competition is another step up.
Cat marking down to 15 and held 13 images back, although with a couple of 19s on the way, and of these picked out 5 images to score 20. Pinner had a beautiful landscape, “The Westfjords” by Clive Maidment, Harrow were represented by a lovely flower study “Spring Pasque Flower” by Dave Martin, and a superbly evocative “Wary Sea Otter with Young” by Julia Wainwright. The other two 20s were both my own, and both monochromes; a portrait, “Ecce”, which won our PDI of the Year last year, and the dancer composite “Shapes”, which didn’t impress the judge when it appeared as a print last year, although has since done quite well in external competitions.
The judge also has to pick two “Starred” images from each round, and they will have their own competition on Championship Day, irrespective of whether the club they come from is in the final, or indeed whether or not that image is selected by the club. I was delighted that “Shapes” was one of her choices, with “Spring Pasque Flower” being the other.
We finished with a very sensible distribution of scores from 16 to 20, but when the scores were added up, we saw that Pinner and Northfields were level on 262, Harrow had managed to squeeze 2 marks ahead on 264, and Park Street were well in front with a total of 276.
Talk - Still Life: Allegory, Vanitas and Memento Mori by Rojer Weightman 28th November 2019
Still life. Just neatly arranged piles of stuff really. Who would have thought there was anymore to it? Well clearly Rojer Weightman did and when he came to us he explained it a great deal. As a bit of background to this enormously likeable fellow, when I started judging, one my first tasks was a visit to his club of Stoke Poges. The entry was split into two grades of ability. Something like general and secondary (new members). In this secondary section there were some really standout images and they topped that list by a mile. Turned out these were new member Rojer’s images. Seems he had been doing this for the last few months so no surprises. The last time I judged at Stoke Poges some six years later Rojer was Programme Secretary, in charge of the computer and topping many of the competitions with his incredible still life pictures. Originally a policeman (well no one’s perfect) then an art teacher, Rojer is now also a CACC judge and of course he has been to us a couple of times in that role aleady.
Just the precise definition of the words in the title of his talk “Allegory, Vanitas and Memento Mori” gave some cause for concern but they are bread and butter to Rojer. He explained some of the heritage of the very ideas of still life dating from the days of the Roman Historian Pliny the Elder, who scorned the very idea as ‘base’ and ‘dead’ because of its lack of human element. He traced the genre through to the Dutch 17th century painters who really brought it to prominence. Before explaining the three styles he talked of the various subjects possible that could be accepted as still life. Flat-lays, images of arrangements shot from straight above down onto a table surface. Simple arrangements with just perhaps three subjects and a single light source, groups of flowers and shells and finally Sumptuous compositions in the style of Caravaggio!
Allegory or allegorical still life pictures were - and still are - used to convey complex ideas through strong symbolism. In many of the paintings and photographs, he showed that strength in the artists imagination was also a big part. I mean what does a violin symbolise to you? Could be beautiful music, could be a screeching racket if someone is practising with it next door!
Vanitas (from which we get the word ‘vanity’ of course) is logically used to convey the emptiness or even meaninglessness of human life, where opulence and the ownership of worldly goods is not everything. Money, particularly the dangers in loving it and even death, were already beginning to show as subject material.
Finally, Memento Mori , or remembering we all have to die sometime, even despite our wealth. That’s what all the skulls and drying orange peel denote.
In the second half we looked more at actual photographs, many of which were Rojer’s. The relief around the room was palpable. He explained some basic tips for taking this style of photograph. Background integrity just as we learnt from John last week. When in doubt keep it simple. If you have numerous elements, do they complement each other in style, shape, colour or even story? Do they perhaps surprise us, but pleasantly? He reminded us that when using natural light, which he recommended, light from the North is usually kinder. Indeed some of his ‘natural’ was actually the Moon as he had a convenient roof light helping his studio. He showed us some photographs of Rembrandt’s studio. Astonishingly light and airy. The students toiled away downstairs in individually lit cubicles but to his credit he didn’t waste space as he and his wife slept in a cupboard another floor down!
He stressed that in still life photography there is no rush, as the subjects are neither charging by the hour nor going anywhere. Camera settings of the magic f11 and ISO 100 are a good starting point, as well as a steady tripod - then the shutter can be open for any length of time necessary (remembering to switch the image stabilisation off first). Indeed, using a neutral density filter to facilitate longer exposures can alter the quality of any light – often slightly de-saturating the image to good effect.
In some ways, photography of this genre can be more difficult than painting, as you can always paint yourself out but despite modern advances in Photoshop there are some things that you still can’t alter, like complex tell-tale reflections in glass ware for instance. As far as subject matter goes, there is no finer place to look than in the kitchen - but try to avoid glass or crockery for the reflection reasons given previously. Of course always remember the composition. He reminded us of the Fibonacci Spiral but I rather liked the tendency of those Danish artist to hang a plate right on the edge of the table at its tipping point to draw our attention to that first, before it fell off, and then develop from it around the scene. (Didn’t Salvador Dali melt his, so they hung off the edge and moved their centre of gravity back? Presumably he too had learned something from the Dutch.)
Thankfully Rojer asked us for questions at the end as I know some were concerned that he was going to ask us questions. So now we all know about ‘Still Life’ and how it should be approached, both as a photographer creating our own but just as importantly as a spectator. However you can forget it all if you like. I can’t. When I go back to Stoke Poges to judge, he is going to show me some of these in competition and now I am going to have to be word perfect as to whether they are Allegorical, Vanity projects of just reminders of death!
Members Evening 21st November 2019
Possibly better entitled the “John Jennings Christmas Lecture”, most of the second of our member’s evenings was taken up with John explaining what is involved when applying for an LRPS and latterly an ARPS distinction. John was able to show us his dancer photographs both in print and projected form. Now it was clear how well such compositions can work as a panel.
He had been advised that a sequence of a dancer in red seemed too repetitive to occupy the four corners of his 15 image ARPS display. (Possibly not so much repetitive as distracting. His more ‘monochromatic’ replacements definitely worked better.) He explained the techniques he uses to capture these multi-exposures and moving shots. Using limited quantities of continuous light and timed separate flashes as the dancers move he can control the final effect creating both blur generally and sharpness where and when it is required. The integrity of the background then becomes crucial because of the continuous light. However little it is, there is enough illumination around to show annoying detail. Some images still had faint folds just visible in a background curtain. John is working around that for future sessions using either plain black backdrops or if still limited to curtains keeping them much further away, deeper and out of focus.
Speaking of ‘curtains’, he explained beautifully the dark art of first and second curtain flash, sometimes referred to as front and rear curtain flash. A moving subject lit only slightly by a continuous source is usually flashed at the start of its passage across the screen. Conversely in 2nd curtain mode it is flashed at the end of its passage across the picture. This latter giving a light trail effect and the former a trail of light out in front of the moving subject. Both techniques being very useful in the situations he was finding himself.
As a by-product of this work John had also discovered ‘auto gain’. A method of electronically reducing the intensity of an image without altering the conventional camera settings. Sort of simply using less electricity - flat battery technology almost. By applying this he (and I suppose eventually we) can avoid over exposing backgrounds such as when we might be shooting fireworks when we want to keep the back-ground jet black and show no detail but also expose the foreground numerous times to capture more than one colourful explosion. Now all that remains is for us to remember all that and find the right button on the camera in the dark and press it!
Clearly John was taking great satisfaction from learning the techniques necessary to capture these multiply exposures in the camera rather than patching them all together later in photo-shop - which would have been so much easier. After all that, he went on to explain that when applying for an ARPS it was necessary to include with the entry of fifteen prints something called a ‘statement of intent’. Here the author has to convince the RPS jury that he has a theme or a message in his presentation. As if the photography wasn’t complicated enough!
After tea I showed a dozen or so of what I considered the most interesting images I had either seen or actually judged in the first half of this season. A few of them had appeared in the XRR Visions event the night before and John Jennings was able to report on how they had scored. Mostly rather poorly, apart from the excellent ‘Best Paw Forward’ from Watford’s Lloyd Moore who had received a 19. This image seemed to produce the greatest response from the club so possibly all judges aren’t so bad.
An enjoyable evening, and once again a good attendance. I am sure I speak for John when I thank those for coming out on such a cold night. The lasting memory for me will always be of John explaining the difference between 1st and 2nd curtain flash by imitating a car crossing the stage in low light and the effects of the light trails so produced. Great! - Now I have learnt something I can use. That ‘auto gain’ however may prove a bit more difficult.
North West Federation Evening. Judge: Mark Buckley-Sharp. 14th November 2019
The North West Federation competition formula allows for a relaxed evening with a mere thirty images to work through. Each round allows three clubs to go head to head with five prints and five PDIs each. The result is taken from the total of their scores from their ten entered photos, these having been selected by each club from a much larger pool which had been submitted well in advance. To improve the anonymity factor, the judges are not disclosed to anyone until all the entries are in. In our case the judge’s name was not known until we turned up and actually saw him!
Hosting this as we did, we had XRR and Field End as competition and they both sent representatives.
The rules stipulate that the prints should all be displayed together before the judge is asked to rule on them. Of course we do this beautifully at every print comp: however, I wonder how the clubs that usually present me (as a judge) with a random heap of prints, usually upside down, rather than a display can get around this rule when their turn comes to host a N.W. Fed. comp? Perhaps they are never asked.
No one judges quite like Mark Buckley-Sharp. OK, I am a bit biased as he was the first competition judge I ever heard (2009) so I may have been indoctrinated easily. However as far as the performance is concerned you have to look long and hard to find anyone to beat it. Despite having been doing this for a very long time he always sounds fresh to the whole idea and enjoying the process enormously. There is never a hint of a ‘formula’ in his delivery and for a judge who must have seen more images than most of us put together that is really something. He sounds like he is coming to each one afresh and with genuine interest. Critical on technicalities certainly, possibly slightly attenuating what could be a greater appreciation of mood, and emotion but usually ending up with the work in the right order – which is what it’s all about.
On previous form, Field End had to be slight favourites and that is how it went, but it was a very close-run thing. PDI’s were first. Mark very much approved of Peter Winter’s “Great crested Grebe and Chick” giving it a useful 20 and a star. Both of Jeremy’s received only 17s. An American mid-west landscape and a close-up portrait of a Gorilla. Terry Day’s “Dark Glasses” portrait received a 17 as well and would possibly have got a point more had it not had such a thick and bold key line. A tip there on key lines from the judge himself. “Don’t do them, but if you have to, make them very fine.” Unfortunately, Mark was not as overwhelmed as previous judges by Chris Gilbert’s “Last One Standing”, a lone poppy in a field subtly softened and imaginatively titled. It could have been another 20 but it only got 18. The difference could have won us the competition. XRR’s PDIs were weaker, with two Andy Sands shots only receiving 18s, but it was the 16 for Mike Newman’s “Descending the Dome” that sunk them, and it wasn’t at all bad.
As predicted, Field End edged ahead despite two modest 17s. Mike Walker’s 19 with his natural history “Roller with Frog” helped Val Walkers’s 20 (and star) with “Preci Impressions” overcome that and they were three points ahead of us at the end of the projected section. Mark’s appreciation of the surreal looking “Preci” would have reassured all that he wasn’t just looking for technical sharpness, which made Chris’s 18 for his poppy all the more of a puzzle.
Second half was for the print entries that had been displayed all evening, giving both us the audience and the judge plenty of time to assimilate their qualities. We were nothing if not consistent in this area. All five of our images received 18s! That’s how you win team competitions! It didn’t quite on this occasion, but it drew us very close. Authors, Chris Gilbert, Pete Winter, Dean Tyler (twice) and David Butler should be congratulated along with our selector. Any one of them could have edged a 20 and won it for us. Thankfully Mark saw all the good points in Dean’s shot of Flatford Mill just didn’t give it quite enough score.
XRR had a poor one with “Rodeo” only 15 which sank them further. As consolation Andy Sand’s “Dark Olive Mayfly” rose to a 20 and was starred so we will still be seeing it in the final. This capture benefitting enormously from the light on the easel which brought out the fine perfection of the creatures elongated tail feathers(?)
Field End held on despite a slightly soft “Bee-eaters” from Mike Walker scoring 16 - ouch - and a possibly over-cropped but effective street photograph from Jeff Haynes, entitled “No Surrender” awarded 17. Their secret weapon was the ‘art’ of Justin Grant. Backed up by Belinda Ewart’s touching “Maternal”, a mother and baby monkey (19), Justin Grant produced a wonderful railway platform shot of a commuter in the pouring rain, possibly unlucky with only an 18. However, his winner was “Into the Woods”, a Little Red Riding Hood scenario, without the wolf but with a mightily eerie forest into which a red-cloaked young lady was venturing with her basket and lamp. Seriously spooky, but still realistic and not overdone which so many such shots are. Clearly the finest image on display, it received the other star. Field End nicked it by two points over us with 91 to our 89, and XRR had 87. Any time it could have gone either way for the two leading clubs, and remember, despite XRR fielding no less than four images by Andy Sands, we still beat them by two points.
To illustrate just where we are going with the judging caper, at the end of the evening Mark and I were congratulating each other on our total agreement over the top print of “Into the Wood”, when he came out with this line, which I shall use, but you may never hear again. “We are judging the skill and intelligence of the author here – the image is just evidence.” Phew – get him!
Rosebowl Competition: Round 1 at Chesham PC, 12th November 2019
Our first round match, hosted by Chesham Photography Club and judged by Rojer Weightman, also included Croxley and Whitchurch Hill (just NW of Reading and nearly 40 miles drive). The evening was enlivened by the projection software kicking out after 18 of the 60 images and refusing to restart. This, combined with the running order differing from the printed scoresheet, made it a little hard to follow the club scores.
Rojer held back 10 images, without commenting on them at all, but commented on and scored the other 50 with marks between 15 and 19.
We had 4 images scoring 18 (my “Shapes”, Peter Winter’s “Jay, Rain Bathing”, Jeremy’s “Forty Winks” and Chris Gilbert’s “Alone”) and another 4 held back. Chris’s “Last One Standing” and my “Ecce” scored 19, Chris’s “Stinking Iris” scored 20, and Dean Tyler’s “Laid Bare” scored 20 and was one of the 2 starred images (the other being “Boy Meets Girl from Croxley).
The overall result was Chesham 245, Croxley 256 and ourselves and Whitchurch Hill level on 267
Members Evening 7th November 2019
Rather a thin turnout for this one. Those that weren’t there missed a very educational look at the work of Cartier-Bresson put together by our new Chairman Terry Day. Terry has long been a fan of this pioneering photographer who died only as recently as 2004. He explained that unlike many other iconic photographers of the time, such as Ansell Adams, Cartier-Bresson, a professional pretty much from the start as there weren’t many photographers around in the early 1900, did not print his own material. However, in many ways he pioneered what we now call ‘street photography’, even though that definition has become somewhat blurred of late if a show later in the evening was anything to go by.
Terry had been very careful with his selection of Cartier-Bresson’s shots, and in so doing gave us a clear insight into the man’s style. Throughout the show it became obvious that he preferred dull days as there were rarely any sharp shadows. Dogs quite often were part of the composition; although often small and tucked away, he clearly had a love for them and they always added to the image when they appeared. He was equally happy to photograph people from behind as well as showing their faces. When faces did appear, he seemed to have an ability to compose the shot to include just the interesting ones and most likely they were all looking towards, if no actually at, the camera. Of course photographers were still rather a novelty a hundred years ago.
We marvelled at his ability to catch the moment and had to constantly remind ourselves of the comparatively modest equipment he had available. On the occasions other photographers were themselves captured on his film they were all seen wrestling with huge tripod-mounted plate set-ups whereas he was using a very compact 35mm unit and hence capturing the ‘decisive moment’ which he became famous for. There would have been no automation, no power drive so no multiple frames from which he could select later, and certainly no photo-shop to tidy them up afterwards. However, to his advantage there was clearly much less clutter on the streets in those days, let alone people or cars. Even the poor air quality worked in his favour to help obscure what could have been fussy backgrounds with layers of mist and fog. The collection that Terry had shown us was an eye opening window not just on photography of the time but the times themselves. Striking documentary street photography, possibly yet to be bettered.
The second half of the evening was reserved for a show of the winning images from the annual and recent “35Awards” international event. This takes in an entry from all over the world, and as might be expected showed us some very technically impressive images. From tens of thousands of entries, (Editor’s note: according to their website 35awards.com, the 2018 competition involved over 391,000 photos entered by 112,000 photographers from 172 countries. In each category, the first stage is for entrants and anyone registered on their site to compare pairs of anonymous photos in each category and choose one to go on to the next stage. This is repeated in several stages to reduce the number of entries for the jury, one person from each of 50 countries, who award a score of 1 to 5 for each image.) what we saw was what the jury had decided were the best handful across a large selection of subjects and categories. No one knows what the criteria were for judging this event however one’s suspicions were aroused when in the ‘Street’ section not one single image of anything resembling a street appeared!
Generally the presentation seemed to be aimed at a general public audience of 16 years old or less, easily impressed by the fantastic, with jumpy thumbnail graphics proceeding each section and no clear explanation of who or what was considered actually the best. Thankfully we were able to attenuate what could have been enormously intrusive background music. The so-called Nude section had been pixelated to death and really didn’t show us anything so why include it? Many of the macro shots were, it has to be said, very impressive but once into the ‘Drone’ section, apart from a couple of images, one in particular of beautiful shadows, it went steeply downhill. No more seals on icebergs please. Boring! A section entitled ‘Mobile’ I expected to be involving quantities of movement. From the photos it was more likely that they meant Mobile as in Phones. Why not say so? Be clearer?
Generally the majority of the images looked over-saturated, gory and if technically perfect, mostly unimaginative tosh. Thank heavens for club photography where you so often show us emotion! Furthermore, long live Cartier-Bresson. Thanks to Terry, we can now appreciate his work even more.
The "People" Cups for Print and Projected Images. Judge Michael Lurie (Pinner CC) 31st October 2019
All judges have their own individual styles. Just a few of them make sure their performance is entertainment as well as a critique. Michael Lurie’s visit to us was a boisterous affair. Former Chairman of Pinner Photographic Club, he has only been judging for a few years; this was his second visit to us. The set subject formula gave him scope to judge both prints and PDIs and the total number of images for the whole evening became a comfortably manageable three dozen.
With the prints filling one display board, Michael started on the PDIs. A slightly weaker one than usual from Chris Gilbert entitled ‘Stock Image’ immediately got an 18, and it looked like we might be heading for a night of unhelpful close scoring. This wasn’t to be the case: he proved to be quite critical particularly with depth of field issues but stressed the importance of originality and more vital than anything, emotion, in a picture. Not just pictures of faces, but some feeling or interplay between characters or even contact with the photographer. David Butler’s group shot ‘No Need for Books’ - taken in a library, but showing people only working on lap-top computers - was strong on story and also received 18 as did Leo Southern’s ‘The Look of Innocence.’ Another 18 went to Sue Anderson’s ‘Completely Absorbed’, a young lady concentrating on her electronic device. A momentary lapse of concentration here, perhaps, when Michael suggested that he did not like it as much as the earlier picture ‘I’m Busy’ (same author, same young lady). Trouble was he had already only given that better one a 16! Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell got into the 19s right away with his ‘Spring Flower, Alban Pilgrimage’. A very happy looking girl in colourful fancy headgear snapped in the summer, at the Celebration of St Alban in the town of the same name.
The four images held back concerned only two authors, Terry Day and Sue Hipperson. Both Terry’s were monochrome and involved food. An Indian in front of this stall ‘Selling Indian Snacks’ was slightly light on food content, the judge thinking the small bowl of something looked like nails, which they did. That got 19. Terry’s other was great double portrait of a couple ‘Enjoying A Snack’. Huge wraps being devoured enthusiastically, great expressions, also 19. So Sue’s two won the day both with 20s and the only thing remaining being for him was to decide between ‘Inconvenient Message’, a man looking down at his phone with a slightly annoyed expression, very clear and simple, and a street capture of an out-of-luck Rastafarian seated in an antique wooden door way entitled ‘No Time Wasters’. Character both in his face and clothing, and a play on words with the motif on his Tesco bag of worldly goods - no time to waste. Michael was even able to identify and itemise the various beverages the ‘tramp’ had on the step beside him. It was this image that he award the first place.
After the break, our judge mentioned he had been taken to task over a mistake he had made. I had explained to him a scoring error he had made with the two Sue Anderson images. Giving two points more (18) to the one he didn’t like as much as the image he had awarded a 16! This can happen in the judging process, more to do with what we say than the points we score. No offence was meant and I know none was taken. Then he took us all by surprise by conducting a show of hands poll on Brexit of all things. Now it takes a brave man to do this! Furthermore it wasn’t just a single showing. No, he wanted to know how we felt back in July 2016 and how we feel now. First, leave/remain opinions from back in 2016 then another show for opinions now. Dangerous stuff. Not even Laura Kuenssberg would have had the courage to do this. Even more spectacularly club members engaged enthusiastically. Michael was convinced by this straw poll that some of us had changed our minds towards the remain position. I wasn’t quite so sure as I think Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell put up both his hands at one point!
After establishing our political credentials so amusingly, all that was left for him to do with give us his impressions of a baker’s dozen prints. One of John’s was first and ‘What am I Doing Here?’ scored 18. This was another shot presumably from the set of images he took of that lady in period dress out in the wilds of North Wales. Sue Hipperson’s ‘The Inspector Arrives’, a seriously smartly dressed character ascending the stairs to an office, scored similarly. Topping those two Jeremy had produced a beautiful study ‘Femme Fatale’ shot in a theatre on a Timeline event which managed 19. Six prints were held back, almost half the entry, and once again involved Sue and Terry but this time joined by John Jennings and Chris Gilbert. Both ‘Fun in the Fountains’, a summer-time snap by Sue Hipperson of a youngster enjoying himself in the pavement fountains at Somerset House which appealed by way of its natural look, and ‘Paul’, a close-up portrait by John Jennings, scored 19.
The remaining three were all awarded 20s. John’s cleverly titled ‘Nearly Naughty Crosses’ was third. Michael did point out that this was possibly less people-y than he would have liked. A studio study of a nude in a quite extraordinary pose - more akin to sculpture. He was impressed by the subtle quality of the arrangement, but most of all the slightly imperfect nature of the symmetry, proving that it could never have simply been two halves of a mirror image or doctored in Photo Shop. Terry Day’s ‘Are You Sure?’ was shot during the recent 24 in 24-hours in St Albans competition, and was coincidentally of Keith, the same market stallholder that Fiona Gurr had captured on the same day to win the event. As it happens this image by Terry was better than Fiona’s, simply because it had another equally engaging face in the composition with a clear connection between them both. A little dark on the stands but it came to life on the easel, much like a pictorial conversation. A beauty which could have won had it not been for Chris Gilbert’s period looking ‘A Touch of Class’. Shot outside Murano’s, a very fancy restaurant in West London, it showed two well-dressed people in discussion, a subtle and light vignette giving the image more of an antique feel. So Chris took the Print Trophy and Sue the PDI.
There might have been a feeling that at times Michael concentrated a little too much on sharpness and depth of field as he was viewing from very near the screen, but at no time did he forget the other vital considerations of ‘people’ photography. Another good night, different again and surely the noisiest yet and in a good way.
Park Street CC Interclub Landscape Competition, 24th October 2019
With a number or our crucial members being either incapacitated or away on holiday the team running this event was a little different to usual. However with our Deputy Chairman Chris Gilbert in charge it went off smoothly. Despite a rather wild night outside every club but one was represented and the judge Micki Aston was able to get going on time. Twelve ‘local’ clubs with six images each produced a large field (72) for her to examine. Quite correctly she reminded us that competition scores are decided on the quality of each image compared with the other images on display. They are not plucked out of the air. A point too often lost on some judges.
She was faced with a quite astonishing array of high quality images to separate and mighty impressed, but not just because she thought she had to be polite. These really were sensational images. Despite this she was still able to sort them and even managed to squeeze in a 14. To give you some idea this was an entirely competent shot of “Sunrise over Sidmouth” from Avril Chandler of Harrow. Trouble was the overall standard was so high her score torpedoed Harrow well below the water line. Such is the fate in close competitions. Micki was particularly good at communicating how she was thinking about each image. A lonely, eerily lit hut in an arctic landscape first appeared a winner then she became worried about light sources from two different directions. “Clearing Storm, Whitesands” by David Harris also appealed at first glance until she spotted the foreground water detail slightly out of focus – a 16 still seemed a bit harsh. It lost High Wycombe the contest! This club’s representative on the evening Alan Jaycock also being unlucky with his shot of Corfe Castle. High Wycombe are unique in having the sensational landscape photographers David and Jan Harris in their number but even that wasn’t quite enough.
Our entries were a little weaker than usual. Terry Day’s “Bletchley Park” only a 15 and an otherwise excellent night shot from Chris Gilbert of the city of London from its iconic tower “Canary View’ was let down by messy inconsistencies in the background dark sky that might well have never been noticed until the image was projected in strong light. She liked Jeremy’s “Stormscape” an impressive cloud picture into which all manner of imagery could be read. Dean Tyler’s “Isolation” was also well received but both only earned 17’s. Dean’s could well have had a point more at least. One of Jeremy’s classic arctic circle depictions “Svalbard Scenery” reminded Micki of a trip or two she had taken there and along with another classic from Dean entitled “Dorset Delight”, a shot of Corfe Castle in the mist both received 18s. That total was simply not going to be enough against a couple of clubs who had already got two each held back. A positive comment at this stage explained how just because a shot may be popular it is wrong to suggest this is somehow a weakness. Every time one has to remind oneself that this image is from a different author and come at it afresh.
Micki Aston’s final 20s included two from Watford, two from Croxley and an image each from High Wycombe, Potters Bars and Harpenden. Only one 16 in the Watford camp sealed the club result. Watford won (108) with another four clubs tying at 2ndone point behind. These were Harpenden, High Wycombe, Tring and Potters Bar. Croxley’s two twenties had been undermined by a 15 and a 16 and they finished 7th.
Of the runners up we have to congratulate Tring in particular on their consistent high standard. Their lowest scores were 17 (even the winning club had a 16) with one held back for a 19. All the other clubs that got to place equal second with 107 points had a 16 amongst them, some of them two. When assembling a club set, just like a panel, one must remember consistency. Eliminate the duff shot – it undermines the final score. This event could have been won by a club that scored no higher than 18 as long as everyone did. There should be a prize for that bearing in mind it’s a club event. A Consistency Cup - it’s an idea.
There had been no argument on the final club scores and by the end of the raffle they were being projected on the screen and Croxley’s Mike Brankin was chosen top individual with his “Natural Power”. This was a stylized image of moving waves around two huge rocks on a sandy beach. I could have gone to any one of the top seven 20’s. Over half the entries featured water and or sea ‘scapes but this year none that could have been considered anything but a landscape. That’s a huge improvement!
John Jennings was able to get full results out to all the clubs the next day and we have already had ‘thanks for a good night’ back from many who competed not just the winners. All the Park Street members that took part can be proud of a job very well done. Personally I was the most impressed with the very slick service provided at the tea interval. This venue lends itself to that aspect and it makes for a very hospitably feeling to the evening. It was also good to see a healthy looking Ken Liversidge and Madeline in attendance as after all Ken had been putting this all together for months before he became ill.
North West Fed: Round 1 Results
Round one of Group D of the NW Fed interclub competition took place at XRR earlier this month, with the second round to be at Field End on Wednesday 30th October and the final one at Park Street on 14th November.
The NW Fed competitions require each club to provide 6 Projected Images and 6 Prints for each round. The judge awards points in the usual way, and the club that scores the largest number of points added up over the three rounds goes forward to the semi-finals, on 30th January. Semi-final winners will face each other at Amersham on Saturday 22nd February.
The judge also selects two PDIs and two Prints from each round - the starred images - which go forward to compete against each other on finals day.
As you can see from the summary below, the three clubs are very close after the first round. XRR had one starred image - Red-tailed Bumblebees Mating by Andy Sands, as did we - Propped Up by Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell. Field End managed to get the other two, Angelic Urchin by Belinda Ewart and To Boldly Go by Neil Jackson.
Thanks and congratulations to Jeremy for selecting and taking the images, and of course for his starred image.
|Club||XRR||Field End||Park Street|
Members Evening 17th October 2019
Chris Gilbert deputising for Leo our incapacitated Chairman had organised to show us three videos and they fitted comfortably into the evening. The first and quite clearly his favourite was the excellent documentary shown a few months ago on National TV. It centred on the work Don McCullin had done in photographing ‘ordinary’ people and situations in and around Britain. Don of course is best known for his dramatic close quarters war photography. His very existence having done so much for photography and now well over 80 but just as lucid as ever! Some of the images went back to his beginnings as a photographer in the 50s. Much of the appeal of the sixty minutes came from Don’s self deprecating presentation and generally down to earth stance on the subject of photography. A fine workshop for all budding street or documentary photographers.
After tea a dissection of three sorts of light useful in landscape photography. The Golden hour, The Blue hour and flat light. The author showed us numerous examples, in some cases with the three lightings applied to the same scene. This was most revealing. The Golden hour being that short period before the sun actually sets and to a lesser extent just after it rises. He appreciated that success at these moments is always dependant on the cloud, if any, being accommodating enough to let through the rays which are at that time practically tangential to the earth’s surface. The directional effect creating all sorts of contrasts not to mention the enhancing orange glow due to the dust in the atmosphere. The Blue hour being the time just before the sun appears and just after it sets which creates altogether different and slightly less dramatic possibilities. Finally simple flat overcast light which has its own unique properties and was not to be discounted. Shame the presenter wasn’t actually there to answer questions. It would have been useful for him to have been able to expand on his ideas. Most educational.
Finally a short series of street photographs from authors various. These were of a very high standard indeed. The overall impression given was that to eliminate as much of the clutter as possible from the image makes it so much more effective. Some were of such super clarity they were almost portraits but still only using out door, if somewhat unusual, lighting situations. Another good night. Thanks to Chris for putting it all together for us.
Print League, Round 2. Judge: Kevin Day (Stoke Poges CC) 10th October 2019
Just when we thought we might have a system developing when a small entry of prints could allow for us to dissect the images in the second half, our judge for our second print night, Kevin Day, had other ideas. He took four or five minutes on each picture! However what he said was analytical comment, never simply a description of the picture we could all see. We learned a lot.
Kevin is unusual as judges go. He is not just a competition photographer but a professional one as well. Despite this he morphs easily into what is necessary when judging at club level. Much of his own work involves imbedding himself into family groups or parties and recording very their personal moments. Few people can do this. However, he is quick to snap back into club judging mode and you would never guess that this is not really his staple diet. A powerful and commanding voice but one that never talks at us, only talks to us.
Instinctively, with the modest entry, he chose to hold back more than a quarter. Although he might have scored a point or two too high, his order was pretty much spot on. Before he dissected those held back he examined the raft of 18s. In Terry Day’s ‘A Bit Crossed Up’ he appreciated the realistic contrast and the speed effects derived from the shadows and tyre marks on the track. The other automotive entry, this time from Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell, ‘Rust in Peace’ depicting an American truck decomposing in the desert, had impact but lost out in depth with overly reduced contrast. Angela’s ‘Kingfisher’ was well received but presumed to be the work of another of our authors he had spotted displayed on the walls of the hall. John Jennings was doing well immediately with his gentle portrait of a lady out in the wilds of Wales - ‘Rain Check’ and David Butler’s excellent ‘Northumbria, Land of Castles’, was looking so much more detailed under the strong easel lights. Possibly slightly overlooked was another of Jeremy’s. ‘Mathematics’ was a strong simple image that might have deserved another point. All the above were 18s.
So of the prints held back for another viewing, Dean Tyler’s ‘Holding On’ portraying limpets on rocks - into which Kevin read the form of a pregnant lady and others read the legs of a naked lady! - received 19 as did Angela McCarty’s ‘In My Sights’, a buzzard about to strike, and John Jennings’ ‘This Way Up’, another from his Tate Modern series. Kevin took some time over this, highlighting many of its endearing aspects that we might have missed. This left no less than five full 20 scores.
Chris Gilbert’s subtly softened ‘Arundel Castle’ was Highly Commended, as was Dean Tyler’s ‘Coniston Flame’, a perfect rendition of the atmosphere on a clear dawn morning over the very well-known Cumbrian beauty spot. The clarity of the middle background raised it way above the norm. for such an image. Quite rightly John Jennings’s moody portrait ‘Miner’s Tea Break’ placed but was still only 3rd. Sympathetic lighting controlling both the look of the figure and the associated sources like the man’s lamp. Chris Gilbert’s ‘Bluebell’ had pleased the judge as much for its mood as for the perfect rendition of a minute fly on one of the blooms. “For the Fly Alone” was Kevin’s remark when he awarded it 2nd. That could have been its title. The winner was ‘Spring Surge, Blue Tidal Pool’ from Dean Tyler again. This was mostly blue water cascading over a breakwater. Kevin clearly recognising the artistry inherent in even thinking that such a subject could make a picture. He was right. Close inspection showed an impressive image but not one that might necessarily have had immediate impact.
Kevin had not only clearly illustrated his appreciation of all genres of photography but throughout encouraged us to try to instil emotion into our pictures, not just technical perfection. He also encouraged us to create images that might stay in the viewers mind. “Do you remember it afterwards?” Worth thinking about when selecting for competition.
When I left, Kevin was still in animated and friendly discussion with various members around the display stands and in no rush to leave despite facing a lengthy journey home. As always it feels he’s a member of the club when he visits us. A most educational night. Top scorers were Dean Tyler with only one point short of a perfect 60 followed by John Jennings and Chris Gilbert with 57s.
Projected Image League, Round 1. Judge: Kathy Chantler (ImageZ) 3rd October 2019
This Park Street season goes on getting better. A healthy entry of nearly fifty projected images for the second round and the return of new judge Kathy Chantler. The selection she was asked to review certainly varied in standard, but it was great to see some existing members entering again, with returnees and new members piling on the pressure with some top class pictures.
For competitions to mean anything there has to be a spread of scores. A very reasonable base line for club competitions is 13 which immediately means those with 16s aren’t all bottom - far too often the case nowadays. Furthermore it highlights the judge’s preferences more clearly. It’s more difficult for the judge – that’s why so few do it – but it creates a more helpful final result with pictures clearly in order from which everyone can learn, having been judged on the standard of the night. Naturally it does depress the general score level slightly but this is acceptable if not taken to extremes. Afterwards Kathy confided that there had very nearly been a 12 so beware.
She was very accurate when choosing to suggest some basic processing improvements on some of the images and quite gentle with her explanations of deficiencies like over saturation, ugly sharp edged cloning, brightness and slightly crooked images. All done with a tact that suggested she genuinely wanted the author get it better next time. Never dictatorial. She also suggested slight vignetting would have helped quite a few and explained that we should always remember to stay in charge of where we want the viewer’s eye to go. Don’t allow bright patches to draw their eye away to the edges and out of the picture.
She held back eight for 18 to 20s but also overlapped a few into the 18s as she went through. Jacqui Taylor’s “Little Owl” and also her “White Tailed Eagle” being two such. Another bird portrait, “Bald Eagle With Something to Say” from Angela McCarty was the third. Below these and with 17s Leo Southern’s excellent “Keeping a kgi” offered an excellent pattern picture with a very clever title twist which sounded baffling until inspection of the image explained it. Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell showed us a projected version of his “Still Waters” that had appeared as a print a couple of weeks before, also receiving a 17, but his equally excellent beach shot “Rock Art” was rather harshly judged down at 15. As was John Jennings’ very accessible and peaceful portrait “Just Em” also with a mere 17.
The eight finalists included an excellent close up from Paul Winslow, across the side of a horses face highlighting the eye, complete with microscopic fly alighting on one eyelash (18). Kath was right with her suggestion that it might have been even stronger if cropped-in slightly. A bold and colourful “Memories of Spring” by Angela McCarty was immediately recognised as a tulip bloom with the centre dead sharp and the red petals forming an interesting softer backdrop (18). Sue Hipperson’s “Happy Daisies” found favour partly because of the supporting second head slightly out of focus in the background also (18).
Chris Gilbert earned a 19 with his technically perfect “Wood Avens Seedhead”. As always, a complex piece of botanical photography benefitting from Chris’s intense but sensitive post-production work. David Butler scored similarly with his very sharp “Arctic Tern and Sand Eel.”
The remaining three were awarded 20s and this included Norman Marshall’s “In Blooming Light”. Now Norman is a regular and consistent entrant in the PDIs and prints and as a result always finishes high up the end of season list. However he admitted that he had never placed in a comp at Park Street before and here he was with this cracking shot of the inside of a bloom and multi layers of very cleverly handled pink and sometimes almost white petals complimenting the centre interest. Very much in the Chris Gilbert style and quality. He was 3rd beaten by the man himself who won with his “Unfurling Fern”. An evolving story of the leaf opening and given a very old English style painterly background. This image, as many had during the night, working even better by way of the author’s ability to draw the eye into the picture by generally darkening the edges. Earlier Kathy had marked the same author way down with a 16 for his “Slimy Encounter” because on that occasion the centre of this otherwise smashing close up snap of a small waterfall was rather devoid of interest and the eye was drawn out to the edges. Chris Gilbert a 16!
Just below Chris in 2nd place was Angel McCarty again, with an action shot of the daring Red Arrows display team, performing their famous head on close-pass manoeuvre. Creamy clouds and smoke trails filing the blank sky effectively as the aeroplanes came frighteningly close to one another at a collision speed of not much short of a thousand miles an hour. Angela, Chris and Jacqui were the highest overall scorers of an entertaining night.
Two Talks: Carys Jones (How I Got the Shot) and Bill Hamilton (Good News, Bad News) 26th September 2019
Two speakers and they fitted comfortably into our evening. Carys Jones started with “Story behind the Shot” focussing on her high quality work in the field of equine photography. Since developing an early interest in both horses and picture taking she had travelled quite a bit and successfully combined the two loves. There was certainly a look of calmness in most of her subjects - she clearly knew how to get the best out of horses. An understanding born from many years in their company, plus of course, the magic ingredient of patience. Not surprisingly there were some of the iconic Camargue creatures and one of these clearly stood out. She had turned adversity into success when faced with a calm, dank and foggy day and had managed to get an excellent shot of a group of them standing stationery in shallow water along with their mounted ‘minder’. Excellent reflections enhanced an already tranquil but powerful image.
Her trips to Iceland had also produced some fine shots, the subjects being possibly even more loveable than their French cousins. She explained that in Iceland what might look to us like ponies are indeed still horses and the locals get upset if you refer to them as anything else. Shorter in stature than a British horse they have particularly thick coats to protect them from the extreme cold and this gives great scope for highlighting fine detail in their manes. Many thousands roam free over the country but each animal is someone’s property.
Then back to the relatively local Outer Hebrides where she had captured a shot of one of the wild white horses that roam a particularly huge stretch of beach. An animal of great character amongst the beach grasses and in front of mountain scenery. It was not surprising to hear that images of hers like this have sold all over the World.
The second half of the evening was a complete surprise. I thought I had heard his name before and of course I had. He was a familiar face on BBC TV News thirty, even forty years ago. How we could ever have afforded him even for only an hour I don’t know. A Scotsman and now quite elderly but still with enormous enthusiasm, Bill Hamilton took us back to his roots in journalism from his first ever job in the 60’s working on the Fife Herald through to his almost single handed rescue of millions of lives in Albania during the 80s. His presentation was entitled Good News, Bad News.
Far sighted enough to keep a photographic record of what appeared to be his entire career he was thus able to illustrate all his numerous stories from around the World. For me he could have gone on all night. He explained to us how primitive it was when he started out with film cameras that ran for only three minutes, phone communications hardly ‘in the pocket’ and developing of cine-film a risky and time consuming business. Far easier now but of course editors and crews today are up against the public who too all have cameras – even movie cameras. Pictures come in practically before anyone knows there has been an incident. But is it always the truth?
He was there reporting the devastating snow fall of the 70’s in north east Scotland when a complete train travelling north out of Inverness was ‘lost’ for a day and many people died in their cars on the coast road having been covered by 20 feet of snow. One man, a Pretty-Polly salesman surviving by drilling a hole up through the snow so he could breathe and then sitting tight or perhaps that should be ‘sitting in tights’ for days waiting for rescue. (The man wrapped himself in the stock he was carrying and hence avoided dying of hypothermia, as had so many.)
Once on the television, Bill was sent to cover some nasty situations. The war in Lebanon, various ghastly earthquakes, the Sudanese civil war, the AIDs outbreak in Africa and in 1982 the Pope’s visit to York. Yes that too. Coinciding with a none too typical heat-wave, the much dehydrated Supreme Pontiff had one heck of a time trying to get around and be seen by the half a million or so people congregated on York race course. Allegedly, his life was pretty much saved by a chilled Polish Beer supplied by the head chef of the forthcoming banquet, who by chance was also Polish.
It was clear that Bill held his work in Albania very close to his heart, and for good reason. He reminded us of what a forgotten country it was and in many ways still is. Back in its Stalinist days the ruler Enver Hoxha had managed to con its population that the West was itching to invade them because they, the Albanians, had the highest standard of living in Europe! So it was easy for him to fund massive concrete fortifications to ‘protect his people’. Enough concrete, it is said, to have built a decent house for every family in the country! During Hoxha’s tenure, thousands of his population died unnecessarily. When Bill got in there in the 80’s he was the first western journalist to expose the plight of the population, particularly the children, left behind in the wake of communism. His ‘on the spot’ broadcasts, night after night, ignited a huge wave of sympathy from his British audience - and soon the World’s - attracting tens of thousands of pounds worth of donations. Quite quickly this caught the attention and help of the Duchess of York with whom he visited the country again and again. Bill was awarded the “Order of Mother Teresa” for his work in Albania, the Country’s highest civilian award.
His demand for the truth, and just as importantly, impartiality, had led him, already a keen footballer to become a referee, a job which he took up quite young and has pursued keenly throughout his professional journalism years, and still does. In closing he appreciated that journalists are currently held in very low regard by the general public, only bankers and estate agents fairing worse. However on the other hand journalism is currently one of the top three most popular professions. Lets us hope that its new recruits will tell the truth like Bill did. Wow…what a night!
Print League, Round 1. Judge: Cat Humphries (Croxley CC) 19th September 2019
It isn’t just the points. That’s too easy. When a judge sets about our work they have to succeed on many levels other than just getting the scores right or even nearly right. They have to convince us, the audience, that not only does their opinion count for something but also that it comes from place of thought and possibly experience that transcends the expected.
So it was, that despite a rather thin night for prints, the excellent work from our visiting judge Cat Humphries, and clear and quick thinking from Chairman Leo halfway through, the night as a whole was a much greater success than it might have been. Twenty-four images suggests that only eight members had entered. Nothing wrong with the standard, but that number was disappointing. However, faced with this our judge did not fall into the trap of padding out the evening by waffling on. She simply despatched each picture in exactly the way she might have had there been a hundred. Clear, kind and incisive observations, and scores that fitted her verbal opinions. Not unlike our judge the week before, Damon Guy, Cat was very aware of the importance of expressions and faces in portraits, and like most female judges, was even critical of skin blemishes where they shouldn’t be. An area where us male judges dare not go! She was quick to notice where the use of a tripod might have helped but equally understanding of the tendency of us all not to bother sometimes. She drew our attention rather cleverly to a mistake many of us make. To not appreciate that the story in your picture might not be so obvious to the viewer as it was to you when you took it. Hence a little more observation and possibly even simplification may sometimes be beneficial. Her delivery was further enhanced not by quick talking but more often by the periods of thoughtful silence.
Straight 19s went to both Chris Gilbert’s beautiful Cranebill Geranium - a home grown bloom given the usual delicate Gilbert treatment, and also to a rather endearing shot of a couple of brown bears entitled ‘Follow my Leader’ by Terry Day. Here Terry had captured both expression and purpose in the animals – not just portraits. Also thanks to helpful lighting there was very good definition on the fur. ‘Horse & Youngster’, also by Terry (18) was similarly blessed, the judge pointing out the way the side lighting had enhanced the rib structure in the foal.
Five prints were held back but before that Cat had already given a 20 to our newest member and last week’s winner Angela McCarty for her perfect capture of a Kingfisher on a branch ‘I Can See You’. The sharpness being complimented by the way the focus on the lichen covered twig on which it momentarily was perching softened as it passed into the background.
Of the held back images, John Jennings’s ‘Rooms with a View’ received a 19. John later explained that it had been taken in the Blavatnik wing of the Tate Modern, out through a window towards those now famous apartments, the residents of which have complained of people watching them from the observation gallery high above. John had arranged to get in before The Tate opened and came equipped with his lady model. Her pose against the window then mimicked rather cleverly the cross bracing on the exterior of the said apartments outside. A thoughtful way of using this window which so many of us have tried to photograph at one time or another. The other 19 went to Jeremy Frazer-Mitchell who had ‘snatched’, with a small pocket camera, a very atmospheric portrait of an artist in St Dunstan’s Church in London. Unusual and effective, although Cat wasn’t entirely happy with a slightly odd effect over the background.
This left two from Dean Tyler: ‘Shingle Tingle’ and ‘Rolling in, Southwold’ were both classic coastal-scapes from our master of the genre, and Angela McCarty’s ‘Ravages of Time’ was an atmospheric interior shot from an old ruined school, featuring a perfectly intact and very impressive mirror, which gave plenty of scope for complicate perspectives to intrigue the viewer. Under questioning later she had to admit that this venue was possibly not entirely open to the public! Cat Humphries awarded them all 20s. For the final order the earlier 20 from the kingfisher shot, also by Angela, had to be considered so we had two authors in this, both with two prints in the running.
Dean won it with ‘Shingle Tingle’, also an excellent title: such touches as this can make a huge difference. Second was Angela’s Kingfisher ‘I Can See You’, and third the other finalist from Dean, ‘Rolling in, Southwold.’
Now all this had taken little more than half the evening, so Leo quickly suggested that as time was available, we could use it for some of the authors to explain their pictures. Jacqui Taylor who had run the contest so far took charge of this magnificently, and her firm enthusiasm meant we were able to glean something about pretty much every picture that had been judged. Cat Humphries gamely staying on and joining in when she could have made it an early night.
It is for this reason that I was able to explain a little more about the images during this report, for instance the information about John’s Tate Modern shot and Angela’s ‘Ravages of Time.’ However other details were also very interesting. Terry Day had snapped his excellent equine portrait mere yards from his front door, and “Follow my Leader”, the picture of the brown bears, this time not by his front door but at a zoo, was still difficult because the creatures refused to wait around long enough for a photographer to capture anything interesting.
Dean’s winner was also taken at Southwold, and he explained how he waits for the wave to recede before following it out. Dean does a lot of photography there – you may have noticed. He’s encouraged by having family in the area, so accommodation is cheap. The St Dunstan’s picture from Jeremy was in his words ‘something of a silk purse made from a sow’s ear’. He might think that - I couldn’t possibly comment. But suffice it to say the considerable filter work that had been applied was most effective and realistic. David Butler explained to us how while in the area he had been past Dunstanburgh Castle numerous times and taken many shots in various light. The silhouette he showed us may have lacked some detail in the shadows but made up for that with delicate rim light around a comfortably positioned sheep in the foreground.
John Jennings explanations were the most enlightening of all. He told us how he had set up the Tate Modern shoot but also explained how he had got both the model in the window and the building behind both in sharp focus. With no public present he was able to rig some flash close to the model then retreat down the hall and use a long lens and small aperture to foreshorten his two elements and even get the very distant building (No1 Blackfriars) that filled the rest of the space, also sharp. Cleverness not obvious immediately. It was one of a series. A work in progress, where he is working on capturing images of people, mostly indoors, but always against appropriate backgrounds that add something to their stories.
For instance, his ‘#MeToo’ jumped to life when he drew our attention to the slightly lurid pose and expression of the piece of background graffiti and how it seemed to pursue the young woman. Furthermore what, to all intense and purposes, appeared to be a well executed but relatively straight forward full length shot of a dancer in action meant more when taking into account the title ‘The Carmen Influence’ and then appreciating that the paper background was actually made up from sheets of the actual score! Could be John musical interests might have made this more obvious to him than either us or the judge, nevertheless it does remind one to look at all the picture and assume nothing.
I can’t remember a print evening when we have been offered so much information in such an entertaining way. Hopefully we will be able to repeat this idea in the future even if not always with all the entry. It should be pointed out however that there is and will never be any compulsion for authors to have to explain their work. We appreciate that standing up and talking even for a short time is not comfortable for everyone and we wouldn’t want to put off potential print entrants because they think that they might have to do this.
Projected Image League, Round 1. Judge: Damon Guy (Marlow CC) 12th September 2019
The first event of the season, and after a slight drop in entries at the end of the last, fingers were crossed. Immediate good news was Angela McCarty joining – more about her later and also hello again to Paul Winslow. Entries were also bolstered by three from Mike Webb and ditto Chairman Leo.
Damon Guy had been invited to do the judging. He has been to us a couple of times before, the last occasion being in December 2018. He was fine then, however he was even better this time. Although a professional photographer and now actually himself in charge of the CACC team governing who judges for us and how they do it, he hasn’t actually been judging that long, so he was either having a blinding day or he has learned much. This was top quality stuff. A lot of talking, absolutely no flannel and many very clever and subtle suggestions from someone who was clearly living it.
We gave him a fair number, nearly forty, slightly over a dozen entrants with our new secretary Seyhan Jones entering for the first time but with only two images. As is usually the case now at Park Street the standard overall was high; even the lowest scored images were entirely presentable which immediately threw up one way in which Damon has honed his craft. He spread the score wider but never unkindly. There is usually room to go down to a couple of 14s and he did. He held back ten.
However before that he scored Terry Day’s “Lady at the Market” an immediate 19. I say immediate: of all the images of the night this one possibly got the longest and closest scrutiny. Damon was very informative with his explanations of what can boost a portrait’s connection with the viewer. Explaining about reading the sitter’s character through their smile lines and appreciating how even folds in their clothing can bring your eyes back to their face. It was a master class in understanding portraiture and a huge help to me personally as I find these images the most difficult to judge. I do hope everyone else was listening as intensely as I. The picture definitely improved as he spoke about it!
From the ten that made the final cut, Chris Gilbert’s ‘Forever Locked’ got an unlucky 18. The now often used subject of padlocks affixed to a chain in some public place maybe wearing thin. Very well seen and crafted however, and Damon appreciated the fact that the chain on which they sat was itself tight. Again, another very subtle observation. However Chris had two more as all his were held back! One of Jacqui Taylor’s natural history shots ‘Little Owl and Owlet’ – very fluffy and at the same time sharp, scored a 19. I still wanted it to be called ‘Little Owl and Even Littler Owl’ but never mind. Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell had created a very striking double take on the Humber bridge. Similar in concept to some of Terry’s of the QE2 bridge, here Jeremy had overlaid the original perspective image from beneath with a mirror image creating both a very strong criss-cross composition, but also one of perfect symmetry. The remaining 19s were Chris’s other two. ‘Gatekeeper’ butterfly which came up early: spectacularly sharp and a perfect rendition of this small insect which we might have expected, so it is here that things got interesting. We are beginning to expect images this good. The equipment is out there, you only have to be a little patient to produce very good pictures in this genre now. But it only got a 19. So when Chris’s next entry came up, “Love-in-a-mist”, I was going down the road of …20 - won it! This didn’t happen, and the argument is important. It was pure perfection of a complex multi-layered bloom, with slightly enhanced light and shade and an ‘old master’ style back-drop. The sort if image that would have enraptured a botanist and been perfect for a textbook on the subject. However as Damon gently pointed out, technically wonderful as it was, would it connect with many observers not in that particular business? Did it connect with him? Did it make him feel anything but respect for the author’s technical ability? These are nebulous areas and even more difficult to verbalise and Damon did it and he had a point. Fine, but only a 19. Wow, now I was paying attention!
The remaining five all got 20s. Sue Hipperson’s “Burnt Orange Daisies” impressed with the very bold orange and green colour palette. It could have benefitted from its simplicity and hence looking especially good as a thumb nail (one trick worth remembering). This effectively tied at 4th with John Jennings’ period piece entitled “Skipping”, the judge complimenting both the capture of the young lady’s apparent concentration, as well as its sharp rendition with just a moving foot to accentuate the action. Here again he entirely ignored the slightly distracting text in a half cut-off notice on the wall behind. He was right. It simply didn’t matter, and in many ways added to the feeling of an impromptu snap, which it clearly wasn’t.
So to the final top three. Another from Sue Hipperson, “Light Work” was 3rd. The light tunnel, found on the subterranean walkway between St Pancras and Kings Cross has become a very popular subject. However the coloured lights are always changing so no two images of it are ever the same. It only takes the right number of people in it at the right moment and wearing the right clothes to make a good picture. Oh – and a lot of patience waiting for them to behave themselves and walk properly. In this case the yellow panel on the far right shone beautifully onto an individuals white shirt to make it too look yellow and bingo – it worked. Damon also reminded us of the appeal of an interesting corner around which we want to be led. Of course this venue has one of those from whichever end you view it.
Then another of Jacqui Taylor’s natural history shots. Dangerous territory, a humming bird. Do you freeze the motion or deliberately allow the wings to blur. Judges usually criticise either. Jackie got it dead right – she did both. Most of the action was frozen and we could clearly see beautiful definition in the feathers with just the tips of the wings blurring to remind us that this was very much an action shot. A worthy second place for “Humming Bird Costa Rica.”
Who is this winner, Angela McCarty? She only joined last week! “Imminent Strike” a perfect title for an unusual capture of a Red Kite just coming out of its stoop. Perfectly sharp, and we were looking down on the bird with foliage in the background, not the usual sky blue or otherwise. Head was tilted towards us, just as if it was checking that the author was getting its ‘good side’, and a light in its eye to keep Damon happy. How could it fail? Once again, a popular subject so it was already having to make up ground, but the angle of the wings made the composition very powerful. Angela had two others in as well, both competent natural history shots, so Jacqui might have competition this year. Somewhat of a dark horse, this lady, originally from New Zealand, was no beginner having been in a camera club a few years before. Great to have her on board and leading this clean sweep of the top three places by ladies.
It was generally agreed that Damon Guy did an excellent job for us on this night, so it is reassuring to know that with his position in the CACC Judge Workshop hierarchy, his style may be being imprinted a little on those future judges coming though.