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Shades of purple – 27-Mar-2014

Graham Brice - Mad! - Set (Projected)Another competition – and this time returning to a favourite theme – colours! We’ve had Yellow. We’ve had Red. This time Purple.

Our judge for the night, Peter Phillips, steadily and constructively worked through the 98 images. Despite his best efforts to pick the best of the night, he still managed to hand out nine top scores of 10.

If I may jump on my old hobby horse of judging, Peter’s effort is what photography clubs seek in judges – a balanced, constructive, positive experience where both new and old members can learn something. He firstly explained that the opinions he gave were his subjective view – and that if the photographer thought it was better than the mark he gave then they were also correct. Peter gave criticism when it was due, managing to give the appropriate level of feedback to both enlighten and entertain. The high scoring images were also given critique that explained how they scored the points. As a bonus, Peter finished in about 90 minutes – giving us time to discuss the images with each other. Thank you Peter – we truly appreciated your work.

The images were again of a high standard – with some interesting takes on The Colour Purple, including James Allen’s effort in showing the purple sheen in bird feathers, the details in many a purple flower, purple furniture and furnishings, people in purple, along with assorted purple fruits (Ray Goulter’s Pashing Fruit was a nice tongue in cheek image). The Open competition also produced some great images, including new member Howard Seaman’s Diptera – a great macro of a fly. Gloria Brumfield also ventured into competition and pulled off two 9′s and a 10 in the Album prints (they’re in our Top Prints page) – well done! It was also a pleasure to see Ashley Hoff return to competition with More Like a Hurricane.

So all in all, a good night of purple passions, with a fine sprinkling of ideas in both open and set subjects. Check out the Top Digital and Top Print pages to have a good look at our top scorers.

Keep it up – I can see we are going to go through a purple patch at BPC! Its going to be a fun year!

Chris ;)

The April 2013 CameraClips – revisiting the judging discussion

The latest edition of Camera Clips was sent out to club members today by James. Once again, a good selection of interesting articles from club members – well done James for putting together a collection of really useful articles on composition.

Two articles really caught my eye about that hoary old chestnut – photographic judging. Many of you know what I think about it, and to be fair, SAPF President Alberto Guirelli is working with the SAPF committee to change the culture. However, the following articles from James Allan and Mark Pedlar will make you think some more and refresh the discussion.

Learning a better way to Look at Photographs

Ascribing Merit – James Allan

I have learnt a lot from attending Photo club competitions.  There seems to be a set of rules that will help you to do well.  To name a few things, I have learned that:

  1. The Horizon should always be straight
  2. We should see the front of the person not their back, and preferably they should be looking at the camera to engage the viewer
  3. A moving subject should move from left to right and that
  4. There should be space in front in order for them to move into
  5. The subject should be offset onto the thirds
  6. You should not cut off the top of the persons head,  (or their feet)
  7. It should be sharp throughout
  8. You should not have burnt out highlights – and no bright spots on the edge of the picture
  9. You should not depict 2 or 4 subjects, in fact any even number – or any number over 10

These statements appear to be emphatic and should not be broken.  In fact I have been told that it is OK for me to alter my image with Photoshop if it means that I can eliminate one of these faults from my image.

NOTE: All images below are the copyright of the original author and only reproduced to demonstrate the authors points about judging

National Geographic Peoples Choice - ModelNow have a look at this monochrome portrait.  This picture was entered into an International Photo Competition with National Geographic magazine.   It has flat lighting with little modelling of the features.  The top of the head is chopped off.  The corners of the image have a harsh distracting vignette.  The model is looking level and straight into the lens without emotion or gesture.  She could have been instructed to look more appealing in this stark picture.  Technically it could have been done in a photo booth.  It won the people’s choice award.

This is what the judges wrote about this image.

This enigmatic shot is “timeless—it has a beautiful simplicity with no pretense,” says Monica Corcoran, senior photo producer at National Geographic Digital Media. “I keep looking at the portrait and wondering about this woman,” says freelance photojournalist Tyrone Turner. For National Geographic magazine senior photo editor Susan Welchman, “the ambiguous, mysterious style also frees the viewer from knowing when or what time period it was shot. Or is it a painting? All unknowns release the viewer from facts and encourage interpretation.”

National Geographic - Honorable Mention Beijing DogOr look at this photograph of a dog which was also entered into the same competition.  The dog is dead centre in this picture.  It is lost in the pattern of the façade and does not stand out at all.  There is a near perfect reflection of the scene which competes for the eye of the viewer.  One is confused as to whether to look up or look down.  Perhaps the photographer should have cropped either the scene or the reflection to reduce ambiguity and give a greater sense of balance or harmony.  In this case the picture was awarded an honourable mention.

This is what the judge had to say for the picture:

At Hok Tjing Bio, a Chinese Temple in Palembang South Sumatra, Indonesia, the photographer has framed the shot at a precise moment, with the reflection, and the position of the passing dog in the middle of the tiger pictorial on the temple’s wall.

Despite all that I have learned about breaking up symmetry, this  judge applauds the effort to portray and reinforce the symmetry of this image.

National Geographic - Honorable Mention - Cuban FireworksOr how about this picture of some Cuban kids letting off fireworks.  The horizon is not straight.  The characters are moving out of the frame of the picture without there being room for them to move into.  Two of the figures have been amputated by the frame of the picture.  The largest of the three figures is entirely blurred.  It however also received an honourable mention.

The caption reads, The picture was shot at San Juan de los Remedios, Cuba, during a local celebration called “Las Parrandas” in which the highlight is fireworks. Here children light the fireworks and escape.

National Geographic - Winner - Fair Ground CarouselLastly this image of a fair ground.  Again the horizon is crooked, the main subject, the carousel is entirely blurred.  There is a very bright highlight in the sun competing for attention with the subject.  This one however was the winner of this section of the competition.

And the Judges’ comments:

The transporting quality of this photo “conjures up childhood,” says National Geographic senior photo editor Elizabeth Krist. Adds freelance photojournalist Maggie Steber: “The photographer took something we have seen a lot and managed to frame it in a setting that is unexpected. It is very cinematic and creates a scene and an opening. What will happen next?”

What I have learned at photo club seems to be at odds with the way the National Geographic judges have been assessing their images.  What were the judges thinking of?  Haven’t they heard of the rules of composition?  Didn’t they attend a photo club?  What is going on?

There seems to be a difference in the way we are looking at the images.  My initial comments for each image are based on a set of empiric rules.  They have been told to me week after week as I attend the various competitions.  The National Geographic judges however allude to their emotional reactions to the image.   They seem unperturbed by the transgression of the rules, as long as the picture finds a resonance, or emotional quality.  As Mark Pedlar puts it – the image has impact.

I am reminded by Arthur Farmer, a life member of our club who loved to quote Ansell Adams – “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”

Perhaps we should not think of these photo club statements as emphatic rules, but as techniques of composition.  Let me give an analogy.   Although a polarising filter has a pleasing effect it is not mandatory that you should always use one in every photograph.  Sometimes the polariser can really look awful.

Likewise there is no rule that says that your horizon must always be straight.  In the 2 photographs above the uneven horizon creates a sense of movement and drama in the picture.  In each case a straight horizon would ruin the effect.  Conversely, the horizon is better straight when you intend a sense of balance or calm.

So how do the National Geographic judges ascribe merit if there are no rules?  This is perhaps the easiest and hardest part to grasp.  It seems they ascribe merit by their emotional response.  That seems arbitrary and subjective.  Not so.  The photographer has a vision they wish to convey.  The good images are more successful in swaying the opinion of the judge, better at showing that vision.   In fact the set of compositional rules is more arbitrary as it instantly dismisses quite a large number of images.  Images that may win International competitions, images that might thrill and excite us.

To sum up, I believe that we need to look at pictures differently.   We need a different set of spectacles.  It is not about adherence to a dozen rules or guiding principles.  I think that is an old prescription that served us well when we were starting to learn the ropes of photography.  Now it is time to take off that pair of glasses and look for that inner response that the image creates.  What is the photographer’s vision and did they convey it well?  We need to relook at the pictures with a better prescription, and I think we will begin to see things that we didn’t see before.  I believe we will find more enjoyment in our photography.

James Allan

James top tips for creative composition

Don’t show the whole thing.
Leave the picture unfinished – let the viewer complete the story (in their head)

Isolate the essence.
Why did you like the scene? What is the essence? Isolate it. Leave out the rest – just photograph the key ingredient.

Don’t over indulge the subject.
Think of the subject/object as a spoilt child. Concentrate on the pattern, the colour, the texture, the subject will make its own way into the picture (don’t be obvious – be subtle)

Look for movement.
Movement engages. Freeze it or blur it – it doesn’t matter. Curves and diagonals create movement. Crooked horizons. The centre is balance, the edge is movement. Look for movement in the picture.

Do it again
Do it different. Nothing wrong with going back over old territory. Often the second time is better. (Don’t try to be better – just try to be different)

Follow the light.
It can transform the subject. Photograph where it shines, where it leads y our eye, where it casts a shadow. Keep walking around until the light lets you in.

Don’t over think.
The concept is usually wrong. Take what you see, not what you want to see.

Work with space.
What does this object need? A town house needs to be cramped. A manor house needs an estate around it. Try it different ways. The Japanese also look at the space between objects. Should objects be separate, should they touch or even overlap?

Do the unexpected.
It’s always better.

Mimicry is king.
Look at photos you like. Watch what others do. Suppress your instincts and do it their way . (It will never be their picture if you take it).

Don’t wait for perfection.
Take the shot anyway. Learn to tolerate blemishes. Mistakes can be miracles and save us from conformity.

Look for lines
Lines will connect objects and make them interact. There are real lines (eg fences) and  interrupted lines (eg a row of soldiers) and imaginary lines (eg gaze of a person or direction of a car). Parallel lines are balanced, curved lines create movement and are dynamic, converging lines give depth, while crossed lines clash and create conflict. All are good.

10 Common Criticisms at Photoclub competitions

  1. The Horizon should always be straight
  2. We should see the front of the person not their back, and preferably they should be looking at the camera to engage the viewer
  3. A moving subject should move from left to right and that
  4. There should be space in front in order for them to move into
  5. The subject should be offset onto the thirds
  6. You should not cut off the top of the persons head, (nor their feet)
  7. It should be sharp throughout
  8. You should not have burnt out highlights – and no bright spots on the edge of the picture.
  9. You should not depict 2 or 4 subjects, in fact any even number – or any number over 10
  10. Symmetry does not make a good photograph. Try and unbalance or disrupt Symmetry (for instance reflections

A JUDGE’S PERSPECTIVE – Mark Pedlar

Over a quarter of a century as a camera club member in Adelaide I’ve had most of James’ ten points levelled at my images. The thing is that they all contain grains of truth. They simply aren’t and should never be used as rules.

Our word horizontal, meaning flat, takes its name from the horizon which we all assume to be level. If you are shooting traditional representative seascape you will probably have the greatest impact on your viewers if the horizon is flat. In James’ carousel image the tilted horizon adds to the impact. It is often the case that we find images with a subject offset from the centre more pleasing than those where the subject is dead central. We don’t need to go through all ten; the point is that all can be guides to beginners in photography when they are designing their images. Similarly, the ‘rules’ of composition are guides. You don’t necessarily need an ‘S’ shaped composition, or a triangular one. Diagonals can be pleasing. The point again is that these are guides.

I have talked at several camera clubs about IMPACT in images. In this I’ve used some of the images from Henri Cartier–Bresson world acclaimed as an outstanding photographer. In these many of the human subjects have limbs or parts of limbs amputated by the frame. Yet these are lauded as photographic high art. So the rules don’t always apply.

You should never be hide-bound by the rules but it helps to know the tips at the outset.

So, why do so many judges appear to place such importance on rules?

Tonight I’ll stand in front of 20 – 40 photographers in a suburban club and judge 100-120 of their images. I’ll judge each of the images out of 10 for their artistic merit. This merit will be a combination of MY OPINION of the composition, technical merit, subject material, lighting viewer impact etc. I shall also give a brief critique of each image. For those lower scoring images the objective is to provide a few tips for demonstrating greater artistic merit next time.

At this stage many judges tend to need to justify the score they are about to give. I am about to score 4 out of 10. The author deserves some reason why their image scored so low. It is easy then to fall back on James’ 10 points to show what was missing in that image. That sounds like a cop-out, it isn’t but it can happen.

The National Geographic judges were not required to give each author both a score and a critique of their image along with a similar critique of all the other entries. However, they did pick the best even though these broke the so called rules.

I believe the very system of club judging can mitigate in favour of the tendency to fall back on a formula. As a result club members become acclimatised to presenting images which follow the rules. Further, since judges are drawn in large part from long term club members they can bring with them the culture of these ‘rules’.

Look at the images produced by Uni SA undergraduate. They bear little resemblance to those seen in club competition. Many are far more adventurous.

More significantly, several club members took part in a 31 day challenge over the Christmas break. Some of these images were shown at the club’s first meeting of this year. Many were stunning! Several showed originality, excitement and adventure which doesn’t seem to re-surface in club competitions. We have a wealth of unobserved talent out there. Why is it we do not see some of these images in regular club competitions?

So, take photos for yourself not for a judge.

Keep the ten tips in the back of your mind, they can be helpful.
Whatever the judge says, theirs is only one person’s opinion.
Show the club your best work.

Mark Pedlar

There you have it – a very effective discussion about the difficulties of shooting for yourself and what the rest of the real world is doing.

As for those rules, to paraphrase a famous pirate movie – “the judges rules is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules”.

So go out, take photos, enjoy your passion, but don’t be limited by the amateur photography world and their judges.

Chris ;)

Found! February 13th 2014

Steve Wallace_Links from the Past_Set

Steve Wallace_Links from the Past_Set

On February 13th we found ourselves viewing Found Objects, although not a huge number, as only around a quarter of the prints were in the Set Subject category.  James Allan led the way with a number images of shed animal skins of varying types.  In Projected images the breakdown between Set and Open was roughly 50/50.  It was great to see a total of 18 members represented in our first competition for the year.  Congratulations to Alberto Giurelli who threw down the challenge in his new club, receiving three of the four 10′s that were awarded for the night! Well done to Chris Schultz for bagging the other one!

Our judge Vicki Easom, from Port Adelaide Club, took a consistent and quite positive approach,  giving a few tips along the way.  Thanks for your efforts Vicki!

The range of genres and styles certainly made interesting viewing and some members are showing real creativity in their handling and processing of images.  It looks like we’re in for a challenging and inspirational year!

To see the Top Scoring Images visit our Top Digital and Top Print pages.

Here’s to an exciting and productive 2014!

Cheers

Helen :)

We are back at the Coventry Library in Stirling!

Thirteen photographers from BPC are showing 31 images at the Coventry Library – our 3rd outing at this great venue!

For those that haven’t been, we have been exhibiting a selection of images from the club at the Coventry Library for the last few years with the help of Kelly Morris (Community Programmes officer at the library) . The exhibition runs from 23-Dec-2013 to 19-Jan-2014. Thanks again Kelly – we appreciate the support the library and the Adelaide Hills Council give us.

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I’m proud to say the club membership hasn’t let us down. A small group of us spent Saturday afternoon hanging prints (and cleaning up one of the stands). Thanks to Helen for artistic direction, and to Heather (and Reg), Mark & Jenny, John, Ray, Graham, Jo & Ken for their help on the day. If you want to know whats on show, you can have a look at the catalogue (along with a Presidential blurb) if you are so inclined.

This is a great opportunity to see some of our best images from a range of photographers in a completely non-competitive setting (and maybe attract some new members). We again have a great mix of images – some of the same old faces, but a few new ones too.  This has to be one of our best shows yet – a wide range of images from landscape, wildlife, nature, human form and even abstract as well as mono, colour and interestingly metal prints.

Tell your friends about it and go have a look at what we get up to on Thursday nights (and any other time a camera is in our hands). The library hours over the next month are below.

Opening hours:

Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10am – 6pm
Thursday 10am – 8pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday 1pm – 5pm

CLOSED:

from 12 noon on Christmas Eve 24 Dec
Public Holidays Christmas Day – 25 Dec, Proclamation Day – 26 Dec, New Years Day -1 Jan.

Finally, on behalf of the committee and Club President Ashley Hoff we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Hope Santa brings you those photographic goodies you want!

See you at the library or at a club meeting soon!

Cheers

Chris ;)

31 Day Challenge – again!

Yes – its back! The 31 Day Challenge is back and its going strong! In case you haven’t been to our Flickr page (or not been looking at the feed on this web page), we are having a challenge to post an image a day (from that day) over December. No prizes, but its a challenge to capture an image after a long day at the wage mine (or whatever occupies your time). To quote Ashley:

“Can you do it? Have you got what it takes? Can you take and post 1 photo per day for a whole month?

The idea is simple:

  • For each day of December, take photographs each day
  • On each and every day, post your favourite photograph of the day to this group
  • To help each other follow what we are photographing, make sure you include the words “BPC 31 Day Challenge” either in the name or in the description. It can also help if you put in what day you are doing!
  • Make sure you check back regularly and comment on your fellow club members photographs

You can also make it a bit more challenging if you like. How about considering a theme? Or even considering limiting yourself to a specific piece of equipment or lens for the period?

Don’t panic if you miss a day, or cannot post every day – this is not a competition, its just a bit of fun. Try and catch up as soon as you can.

So, who’s in?”

This is very challenging intellectually – but it does make you think about finding new things. The first time we did this I spent a month photographing windows. Tricky! But as the month progressed I found lots of new ways to see windows and got some (what I thought) were good images. And it can provide some images for competition too. This time I’m sticking with closeup & macro. I think I’m pushing myself – you be the judge (oops – that word again!).

Here’s a suggestion – use some of the competition subjects for next year as a theme and shoot a few days worth for that theme (do it continually so you keep evolving ideas on that theme). Pop them on the Flickr page and see what feedback you get. You never know – it could be the next Annual Exhibition winner!

Oh – and if you Google “31 Days photo challenges” or “photo a day” you’ll get more ideas to fire your imagination.

Don’t be shy – give it a go! And don’t worry if your late to the party.

Chris ;)

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