The Station Master of Nast Hyde Halt visits Park Street CC: A Talk by Mike Izzard. 5th March 2020
The Alban Way was, up until quite recently, completely unknown to me. I discovered it last Summer when searching locations during the St Albans 24 pictures in 24 hours photo-competition. I was looking for Roman centurions: it turned out to be a cycle path! Still steeped in history of course, but just not quite that far back. Quickly it was obvious that a disused railway line was now an invitingly flat, tarmac cycling surface. It conveniently joins St Albans with Hatfield some seven miles to the North East so an attractive and safe commuter route for cyclists.
Mike Izzard thought so and used it daily as his route to and from work with the Post Office in St Albans from his home near Hatfield. Originally the railway line ran from St Albans Abbey station terminus to Hatfield station and was very busy with trains in the Victorian period when St Albans residents could only get down to London via Hatfield and therefore now had access to it. All shut down in the mid-sixties by Beeching. Running out from St Albans the stations along the line included London Road which can still be found a little behind the Odyssey cinema on the road of the same name. The Salvation Army had a ‘halt’ which also serviced Sanders Ltd., who specialised in Orchid production. The Hill End station supplied Herts. County Mental Hospital. An establishment which is now thankfully shut and converted into apartments. The hospital had a rather unfortunate history losing more than a thousand patients in just the first few years of its operation. That losing being in the dying sense not simply being unable to find them!
Smallford Station comes up next – that is in the Colney Heath area, then the awkwardly named Nast Hyde Halt, servicing Nast Hyde House which was used as a much more successful Military Hospital up until and end of the Second World War. The line, still a cycle path, carries on through the suburbs of Hatfield passing what was once the Lemsford Road Halt station which used to handle staff and deliveries to De Havilland’s, then onto Hatfield.
Mike went through this history of the line with a lot of vintage photographs – always good to see how minimum human interaction improves an image! However, his personal involvement with all this was much more interesting. His routine cycle trip to and from work exposed him to the condition of this route and highlighted the importance of preserving its past. The Nast Hyde Halt or rather the remains of it appealed to him particularly. Each time he cycled past he stopped and spent a little time tidying it up a bit.
This grew. In no time he had shovels and trowels hidden in the encroaching undergrowth so he could do more each time he pasted. Little by little the remnants of a platform started to emerge. The ivy was cut back and the sides of the path were widened to where they should have been. Now his show really came to life with progress photographs that none on us could have been expecting. He added a signal which he had built himself, repaired the glasses on it each time the yobs broke them and then befriended the culprits so that they stopped focusing on damaging his stuff. He rebuilt the fence behind what would have been the platform, cut the ivy back further to enable the planting of a few trees and shrubs where the platform would have been and laid bark chippings. He thought of approaching the Council but sensibly didn’t, realising that they would have only delayed his efforts with red-tape. He just carried on but was being spotted by more and more of those passing pedestrians so started to get publicity and assistance.
He did approach the Council but only to see if he could use the large and empty planters on the Comet roundabout. He got the OK and now four of them adorn the platform and its surrounds. Some old sleepers rescued from places in the area where they were doing nothing were used to reinforce the sides of the platform and to construct a more inviting entrance into the adjacent grass field children’s play area. He produced and erected a station sign, hung baskets of flowers, installed bat and bird boxes and finally repaired the brickwork at the side of the platform so that he could re-instate the iconic and oh-so-necessary white line along its edge. Numerous celebratory events have been held at ‘his’ station since including many of the members of the Council. Indeed they have given him an award for his efforts.
He approached the organisers of the Nene Valley Railway in an attempt to purchase a few yards of track so that he could further enhance the stop. The man he spoke to just happened to know his Nast Hyde Halt as he had lived there and played on that very platform as a child! The 30 feet of track came free of charge! He added a traditional sack barrow with its load as well as three beautiful milk churns in just the same livery as they might have had a hundred years ago except that now they had to be filled with concrete to dissuade the light fingered.
During his research he had discovered that a young lady in the Victorian period who had fallen pregnant to her errant lover, had thrown herself under a train at this point on the line. He unearthed her name, and eventually found her grave quite close by and was able to pass this information on to her descendants who had never known where she had been buried. The final gem in Mike’s story came with the revelation – and it had to be prompted by Maggie Fricker (both she and Rod had had a hand in helping Mike assemble this talk) – that he had made an astonishing find. When adding to the collection of daffodil bulbs he had planted along the front of the platform he was surprised to dig up a ladies handbag. The contents, that included a very old fashioned big flexible Access card, suggested that it was all quite old. Indeed it was. It had been there for forty years! Via the wonders of the modern electronic media Mike was able to re-unite the bag complete with card and cash with its owner within 24 hours of his finding it. She was delighted. It had always been her favourite handbag even though it was now not in quite the same pristine condition as when it had been snatched from her in St Albans nearly half a century ago.
Mike’s talk had simply got better and better which was even the more amazing when one realised that this was the first time he had given it. Hence it over running a bit but I doubt anyone was looking at their watches. His example in all this was possibly even more important than the content. He had bothered to care a bit about a piece of public space. The result is this. All of us could learn, even on a reduced scale. Just leave a place we have visited in a slightly better condition than when we arrived. Imagine what the world would be like if every living person did that from tomorrow on. And it would take them no time at all. Then people like Mike wouldn’t have the impossible burden of doing it all for us. Thanks Mike.
Print League, Round 4. Judge: Chris Sargeant (Chesham CC) 27th February 2020
It was good to see such a consistently high standard at this, our 4th print competition of the year. Granted the entries were not enormous, but an interesting selection of subjects and ideas greeted our judge. Chris Sargeant has been to Park Street before, but not for quite a long time. I can’t imagine why we have been overlooking him, as he felt right, particularly in the range of scores and his sensible and non-fussy critiques. There were times that we as the audience may have become a bit vocal and boisterous, however he has since confirmed that he very much enjoyed himself. It certainly appeared that way at the time.
He held back five, which seemed about right for an entry of 27. However, others which may have been a bit unlucky included Angela McCarty’s “Green Tree Frog” and John Jennings’ “Fall-Side Fashion”, both of which only received 16s and were definitely of a higher quality than a number of others with the same score. When he turned his attention to the held-back images, it was interesting to note that he did not restrict himself to the usual 19s and 20s, but also scored some 18s. This reminded us that of course the judge often holds back an image for the sole purpose of seeing it again before apportioning scores, rather than to suggest it is a leader in someway.
Norman Marshall’s “All in a Circle” was one such, another play on the theme of the coloured pencils idea. We have seen it before, but it was well executed. Jeremy’s “Map of Brazil”, which we have actually seen before, but projected, was favoured because of the interesting cloudscape in the background. Both these received 18s. As did, at first look, Dean Tyler’s “Suffolk Shore”, Chris Gilbert’s “Looking Above EC3”, a great architectural shot reminding us of the possibilities if you only look up in tall cities. Finally a ‘street’ shot from David Butler of three fellows in descending order of height striding “Off To the Winter Lights” through a tunnel in the region of Canary Wharf. Strong composition, a great capture of the moment in time and additionally plenty of interest between the three with no other persons distracting. It could have easily have placed higher.
So returning to the finalists. Angela’s “Gelada Leader” received the only 19 and was 3rd. Chris particularly enjoyed the expression of the animal and also commented that it looked a bit like he was wearing a fleece a couple of sizes too small – which indeed it did. David Butler got in the money with an excellent profile “Red Squirrel Feasting”, a shot taken in USA. This was 2nd. The winner, and it had sort of felt like it was going to be, right from the start, was an imaginative shadow image from Paul Winslow of three forks leaning up against a white surface, which itself seemed to have some interesting texture. It was cleverly conceived and offered enough variety in the shadow parts to keep you thinking. A worthy winner from a member that does little or no post-production work on his pictures. Top total scorer of the night was David Butler with 55.
Projected Image League, Round 4. Judge: Rojer Weightman (Stoke Poges CC) 20th February 2020
There is something especially exciting about a PDI event. We have seen the titles but not the images. When they come up on the run-through they are a suprise to everyone, not least the judge. In his position he has to concentrate on what is being put before him. In these few seconds he has to take a lot in and start getting the images into some sort of order in his mind. Well hopefully he does! Holding back a few as he judges takes away a bit of the strain, certainly for the fate of the top images.
Rojer used this technique of holding back half a dozen or so as he went through and commenting on them later. They were undoubtedly the best of the bunch. Ok: but its still then easy to forget to explain their strong points when they do come up for the second viewing. He did pretty well on this. What perhaps didn’t go so well was the scoring range for the rest of the field.
It doesn’t teach authors much, or encourage them to have another go if they are all scored 15-16 and placed effectively equal last This is particularly so when clearly there were a number of images that, when compared with best (and that is what the judge is there to do: compare all with the best of the night) did not measure up to being more than an 11 or 12.
Unlucky, but sensibly scored (18s) included Chris Gilbert’s shot of the converted Battersea Power Station “London Icon” complete with late evening sky highlighting wonderful reflections on the rails and the tops of the cranes picked out by their warning lights. David Butler showed us another of his mushroom images, “Fairy Bells”, lit to make the heads seem almost translucent. Jacqui Taylor produced a highly coloured “King Vulture” and Jeremy had captured a dog-fight between a Spitfire and Messerschmitt, “Damn You Fritz”, with good lighting throughout. Another of David Butlers, “Façade”, a shot vertically up an interesting, glass-clad building was held back and received 19. An almost traditionally handled, for Dean, long exposure shot of Cobbald’s Point grabbed a 20 for him and was highly commended. Terry Day got on the podium with a really atmospheric, street-style shot of a character eating his sandwich, “Having a Quiet Nosh”. Another 20, and resplendent inside its beautifully intricate border, a floral work entitled “Forget-Me-Not” by Chris Gilbert was 2nd. The judge was right to remark how this could have simply been a photograph of an existing illustration. He didn’t think it was and he was right of course, although it’s a thought when producing work like this. There may be a moment when one can go too far. Try not to confuse the judge.
There could be no confusion about the winning image. Jacqui Taylor had caught an extraordinary moment of a Pelican landing. Sharp throughout and perfectly posed, head down and wings forward showing all the feathers and subtle colours. The inclusion of a little scrap of distant land in the bottom right making it feel all the more real and close. A superb natural history shot that would have stood up very well amongst any of the World Wildlife of the Year Photograph entries that I have seen this year. In fact it could have won it. Jacqui remains one point ahead of Chris Gilbert in the PDI league.
Rosebowl Round 3 at Marlow CC - 18th Feb 2020. Judge Roger McCallum
The 3rd round of this year’s Rosebowl competition finishes this week, and we were hosted by Marlow CC and joined by Princes Risborough and Witney. The results are attached here but in summary, we had a very good evening and won convincingly, with Marlow in 2nd place and the other two clubs sharing 3rd=.
This means, I believe, that we will be in the final, which takes place at Amersham on Sunday 19th April. In the preliminary rounds, 15 images are submitted by each club, but in the finals, which are contested by the top 12 clubs from the preliminary rounds, only 8 images are allowed, with a maximum of 2 per author.
The "Creative" Cups for Print and Projected Images. Judge Sarah Sands. 6th February 2020
The annual visit of Sarah Sands to judge our Creative images is a real treat. Of course, there is never a right answer – a visit to any art gallery will show you that – but Sarah approaches our images with the eye of an artist. What is more, she is able to describe what she feels about the image, and better still, how the image has conveyed that feeling to her. Of course, this is highly subjective, and you almost feel that the same images in a different sequence might be scored differently. For me, though, I think that she helps us to produce images which are not necessarily completely abstract, but which convey feelings or emotions.
As always, we had the Projected images up first, as usual the larger number of entries, and a very wide range of subject material and treatments. There could only have been one winner, though, with Chris Gilbert’s outstanding image “The Weird Dream” revealing more and more components the longer you looked at it. Runner-up was “The Deep”, a snapshot I took on a mobile phone. Third place went to “In A Spin”, Sue Hipperson in the first of three of her images which showed how the apparently simple addition of a rainbow/spectrum could be so creative and so different. Jeremy’s attempt to pervert the course of justice with his “Subliminal Spaghetti” and Chris Gilbert’s “Garlic” were Highly Commended.
After the tea break, we asked Sarah to pick a winner from a small but select field of 15 prints, and Sue Hipperson posed the tricky problem of which of her two prints would be relegated to second place. In the end, “What Lies Beyond” took precedence over “Dreamy”. My own image “Hearts and Flowers” came third, and David Butler’s fascinating “Absorbed by Light” was Highly Commended.
Talk: The Journey After ABPE by Chris Forster. 23 January 2020
A good number of members turned out on a rather murky January evening to hear a fascinating talk by Chris Forster, describing how, having achieved ABPE in 2006, how did he get to FBPE?
There are currently 17 British Photographic Exhibitions, (BPEs), each run by a camera club or a group of clubs, under the patronage of the PAGB (Photographic Association of Great Britain). Each Exhibition has a small number of classes, such as Nature, Colour, Mono, Creative, Portrait or Landscape. All except one have PDI classes, two have prints as well, one is print (and monochrome) only. The rules must be approved by the PAGB to gain their patronage, but within limits everything can be chosen by the organising club.
Southport 2020, for example, has 6 classes with up to four entries allowed in each. In this case, the classes are the same in prints and PDI, Open Colour, Open Monochrome and Nature. Alongside these they run classes for prints and PDIs Southport Photographic Society members. There are 3 highly experienced selectors for each class, invited by the organisers, and in this case the selectors for Open Mono and Colour are different from those for Nature. There are over a 100 Medals, Ribbons and Certificates to be won across these classes. In 2019 there were 838 prints and 3677 PDIs entered.
The selectors sit next to each other, and the images are placed or projected in front of them, and the title read out. Each selector has a keypad with 4 buttons on, which are numbered 2 to 5 but in effect they mean “no”, “maybe”, “yes” and “possible award winner”. There is no discussion, there is no audience and the images are shown only for as long as it takes the 3 selectors to press a button, a matter of a few seconds.
The selectors scores are aggregated, giving totals of 6 to 15, and the organisers will then choose an acceptance score for each class which will include between about 15% and 20% of the entry. Ideally this score will be 12, but it may range between 11 and 13. They then choose the award-winning entries for each class, typically from a pool of accepted images with at least one selector’s score of 5.
Each entrant receives a “scorecard” with the score for each image, and whether it has been Accepted or even won an award. The scores are of no further relevance, except to help the entrant choose their entry for future use. (The rules will usually say that no image that has ever been Accepted in that particular Exhibition may be entered there again, but sometimes a little judicious editing may make a rejected image succeed next year).
When someone has received 25 Acceptances, they may apply for an award of a BPE Crown, which means they are entitled to use the letters BPE* after their name. With 50 Acceptances, they may apply for BPE2*, 100 for 3*, 200 for 4* and 300 Acceptances to earn the right to use top Crown award of BPE5* after their name.
Those who already hold a BPE5* award may apply for an Associateship when they have achieved a further 100 Acceptances in BPEs as well as 20 awards using at least 10 different pieces of work since gaining the BPE5*.
This is where Chris’s story started, having achieved his ABPE in 2006, he decided to go for his FBPE. After all, with all that solid experience, it surely couldn’t be so hard to meet the requirements for a Fellowship –
“A further 100 acceptances in member exhibitions and, since gaining your ABPE, 30 awards using at least 15 different pieces of work. These awarded pictures must not have gained awards previously or been used for your ABPE application.”
Chris told his story in a very clear manner, explaining where he took his photographs, and what he was trying to communicate in each image. Like most of us, he found that reality wasn’t always quite so neat, but he found that he could often realise his concepts by judicious editing and combination of photos. Sometimes the real thing was just a bit too ordinary! Something that a camera club judge might be expected to throw his hands up at could be just the thing to catch the eye in these rather different circumstances.
He took us on trips to Egypt, to the Far East, to steam railways in England, each time showing the (to him) slightly disappointing results out of his camera, and then the resulting competition pieces. For each Exhibition he showed us a page showing a thumbnail of each entry, and then showed us the scores and awards. At the bottom of the page was a scoreboard keeping track of the number of acceptances and also the awards and number of different images awarded. It was fascinating to watch the numbers slowly increasing, amid the disappointments of favourite images not scoring well and so on.
Of course, eventually he succeeded, but he passed the 100 Acceptances since ABPE relatively easily, and it was the struggle to win enough awards with enough different images that had us on the edge of our seats.
Personally, I found it very encouraging that even with Chris’s experience and ability, he sometimes found it as hard to get acceptances as I do! It can be disheartening when you see others powering ahead when you feel you are becalmed, but clearly fashions change, and the use of filters, or HDR for example, lose their impact quite quickly.
It was a fascinating talk, and if you haven’t yet explored the world of BPEs, here is a link to the organisation’s website.
Projected Image League, Round 3. Judge: Micki Aston MCIoJ, CPAGB (Windsor PS) 9th January 2020
The first competition after the Christmas break showed a slight increase in PDI entries over recent events. Micki Aston judged, and she had been to the club last season, and also did a fine job at our Interclub Landscape in the Autumn.
She has considerable experience, having been judging more than 20 years during which time she has travelled widely – actually, pretty much everywhere. Although reducing her output of ‘projects’ now, she is about to take on the not inconsiderable task of Chairmanship of the CACC. When in that post, and closely assisted by others you know, like Martin Patten, Peter Prosser and Damon Guy, she hopes to further improve both the performance and usefulness of judges coming through the Workshop system, and also help clubs better appreciate what they to can do to get the most out of this specialist but small pool of talent. We wish her well with that crusade.
For tonight, however, she just had 45 of our images to deal with. There was a wide range of quality and she reflected this accurately by scoring down to 13. If anything, we see more and more of the simple technical aspects of photography pretty well mastered now. This is as expected, bearing in mind the equipment we have at our disposal. What we still need to develop more is composition, lighting and possibly message. She was firm and effective at pointing out deficiencies in these areas, but always with sensitivity and good humour.
She held back almost a quarter of the entry, which was pretty much ideal as there was still plenty of time to look at and discuss the finalists again. The standouts from those that didn’t get a second look included: an aerial view of the Namibian desert, “Sculptured Sand” from Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell, as well as another of his landscapes, “Yosemite Smoke”, a very well seen image of fungi, “Fairy Forest” from David Butler, paired up neatly with another of David’s from his recent Boston visit entitled “Boston Classics”, an immaculately maintained 50’s American sedan, parked in front of some equally charming town residences. All the above were 18s and there were also a couple more at this level.
When the thumbnails came up of the ten finalists, Micki was right in her observation that they would have made a fine panel. Perhaps, though, there was still a greater gradation across them than merely two points. Despite this, only Terry Day’s “Conversation at the Market” was “dropped” with a 19, the remainder getting full scores, which meant that Jacqui Taylor’s efforts for the evening had won her 60 points, “Gentle Persuasion”, “Staying Safe”, and “Catching the Rays” (a low, rim-lit portrait of a lion in the wild) all receiving 20s. Angela McCarty scored similarly once again with wildlife. “Red Deer”, a really cracking, head-on capture of a senior animal, was bettered only by the last image of the night, “Kestrel”, and from the compliments Micki showered upon it, mainly concerning the exquisite colours and hues, could so easily have won. Angela’s third entry, a very different sort of bird, a fighter jet, received only 17. Actually this was so unusual and imaginative and from such a novel angle that she was unlucky to have not also been awarded a perfect score.
The rest of the action was divided between Chris Gilbert and Dean Tyler. A beautify study of a bloom against perfect backdrop, “Corncockle” was a 20, as was his “Squashes”, similarly treated, which placed 2nd (Chris should really think about a book of these horticultural images at which he is clearly a master). Dean Tyler’s “Sizewell” long-exposure, seaside shot was 3rd, and his “Out to Sea” image took first place.
It was very telling to note that this picture, depicting softly receding water, was mighty similar in theme to the image that she had given 1st place to at our Interclub landscape event. Rarely do I suggest that judges might be showing preferences, particularly judges with such pedigrees as Micki (although it’s hardly a criticism, we are after all human - yes, even judges!) Seascapes, Natural History and a penchant for Monochrome, or certainly the clever use of monochrome, stood out on this night for sure. Her remarks about some of our images probably being improved by black and white treatment, were spot on, and decidedly useful. These signs may be useful to bear in mind on her next visit. On the other hand she was quick to be firm with landscapes that didn’t connect. Even Dean Tyler had a 16 with “Standing Strong”, again a long exposure but this time perhaps a little too minimalist, and of course there was Jeremy’s “Swaledale Awakening”, also with a 16! Should these have both scored on the same level as Chris Andersons “Conwy Harbour” which as it happened (no one noticed) was actually Caernarfon Harbour?
However, above all, her critique was always lucid, and clear as exactly to what she might have objected, rather than simply brushing the image aside. To that end, some of our lowest-scored entries were fine examples of her observational ability. Indeed, she talked for longest when reviewing them, encouraging and correcting those at the bottom of the scoresheet. The very thing every judge should be doing.
The John Woodworth Trophy. Judge: Martin Patten DPAGB, BPE3* (Watford CC). 12th December 2019
“We don’t take enough photographs, neither do we get up early enough!” These were the parting shots from the judge at our last competition before Christmas, the John Woodworth Trophy. Behind the scenes some of us had been paddling like the proverbial serene swan. A few days earlier Les Spitz had been struck down with flu but thankfully Mark Buckley-Sharp had stepped in. In quite what he had stepped I don’t know, but whatever it was it also laid him low. So, twenty-four hours before the competition, again we had no judge. Like a knight in shining armour, Martin Patten of Watford came to our rescue and even he had a cold! Miraculously we had finished up with one of the very best of the new guard of judges – John Woodworth would have certainly approved.
The format requires three images from each competitor, one landscape, one monochrome, and one of people. Only eleven of us submitted so not a huge job for Martin but that allowed him to delve a little deeper into the material. His first section was Landscape and he really wasn’t very happy with these. Terry Day’s slightly surreal Margate Beach shot - good title; “Turner’s Light” - appeared possibly slightly overdone when it was the light quality that might have been better accentuated (18). Sue Anderson’s panorama of “Low Tide at St Ives” sat well with him, and he clearly appreciated the difficulties of producing a convincing wide image of this sort (19). Quite correctly he singled out Jeremy Fraser Mitchell’s “Summer Storm, Alpe di Suisi” - as the top image in this category and awarded it the 20. Jeremy had captured a striking moment when the low sun caught distant peaks while the clouds gathered and the rainbow shone through. The more Jeremy practises the luckier he gets with the light!
The monochrome section and Chris Gilbert’s “Corfe Castle” received a startlingly low (16). Martin thought it too flat. However there were three eighteens. Norman Marshall’s “Patterns in the Soil”, Jacqui Taylors “Friends”, an elephant close up and John Jennings’ “Family Day Out”, a great street shot of a selfie-taking moment. Smiling family, rather stern father. Personally it would have been at least a nineteen. The two 20s were David Butler’s Canadian “Cape Neddick Light” and once again one of Jeremy’s, this time “Pot and Hands”. Remember the BBC TV’s “Interlude” from the 50’s, then this was a still version. Nice trick would have been to show a video - I mean he is in charge of the computer!
Finally portraits, or rather People which is the rule definition. Wider and offering so much more scope. “Hartema” from Jacqui Taylor was actually a portrait and a really cleanly defined one. Well weathered, dark-skinned guy nicely captured in low warm light (18). Once again no19s: perhaps one of the four 20s should have been. Chris Gilbert’s “Harmony” maybe? David Butler’s “Dementia” was a so-so image pictorially, but the longer it was on the screen the more you began to feel its message. Actually it was disturbingly powerful. Similarly, “Glad You Know What It Means” from John Jennings, a shot of a couple pointing out menu options outside a restaurant in China Town. A great story benefitting from some sensational lighting on the two lead figures. Martin’s suggestion of an alternative title of something like “Look they’ve Got Crispy Duck” was spot on.
Once again another from JF-M grabbed a top spot. His slaloming action shot “White Water” awarded (20) despite Martin having preferred it to have been it cropped a bit tighter. It won out by way of detail in the white water and facial expression on the sportsman. Quite right. Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell had closed it down with no less than three 20’s and now holds the much-coveted John Woodworth Trophy for the coming year.
There had been an over-arching theme to Martin Patten’s critique. Very firm, highly critical but nevertheless amusing and light in such a way as to get the message across so very well. Furthermore he seemed happy with a certain amount of banter between himself and our members. Both sides sounded comfortable with this. He is an accomplished photographer with many recently acquired credentials to his name. However, he doesn’t “lord it” as so many in his position might be tempted to do. Believe you me, this is a man that as well as having great enthusiasm for photography has, in equal measure, an understanding of what it means to be and is required of, a judge. What an encouraging way to end the year!
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.