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.