This little web page has been a source of much discussion – heated and rational – about the judging standards in photographic clubs. We aren’t the only ones, but in our little corner of the world we were a squeaky wheel.
Our web page and the articles (in March 2011 and April 2014) about judging have been used as ammunition in a battle both in South Australia and South America (I kid you not). There are probably others (drop us a line if you did). I’m sure many people have read our blog and nodded or shaken their heads. Felt our pain. Shared in the angst of inadequate judging.
The discussion began due to the frustration many of us felt about the quality of photographic club judges. They seemed mired in the past. The technical aspects were the only thing examined. Trends in modern photography ignored. Were we pursuing art or were we aiming to be good technicians? I confess that I’m one of the instigators of this discussion. I had seen my photography decline as I tried to please a bunch of people that to me seemed locked in a time warp somewhere around 1970. I realised what I was doing and started to climb out of the abyss. It took some time.
The squeaky wheels – not just our little club – started to be heard around the photography clubs in this state. Judges were discussed in both whispers and loudly.
How could we change things? We discussed this many times. The suggestion – change it from within. “No” many of us cried. “Too hard”. “Don’t have the time”. “It’d be a lone voice lost in the wind”.
At the same time, the SAPF executive noticed – and set about reform and change. Training more judges. Getting a broader range of opinions. Keith Seidel and John Hodgson took on the task. SAPF President Alberto Guirelli talked at club meetings around the state about changing the culture. He even became a judge!
Judging schools were revised. Other opinions sought. The SAPF now had more and varied judges. We started to notice something new in the judges that came to our club. We were often told that the scoring was their opinion. That our own opinion of our images counted as much. What? Hang on? What happened to the 1970s technical judge? That rule of thirds guy? They were starting to fade. Technical issues were still considered – but as a method to refine down to what was the best image of the night. Not as the only arbiter of what was a good photography club image.
And then one night last year I was asked to put my own voice into the mix by Keith Seidel after a particularly poor judging effort we had both observed. “Come along to the judging school. Be part of the process.” said Keith. I had to put up or shut up.
So in February this year, 10 of us went along to SAPF head quarters and spent the day learning about how to judge. We went through a range of topics led by Keith, Peter Phillips (who judged one of my first images when I started) and Des Berwick.
We heard about what made a good image – Visual Impact, Composition, Interesting, Purpose, Originality. Oh – and then some technique. But not to exclude the other aspects.
We discussed distractions in an image. Balance was considered. Flat lighting. Things that diluted what could be interesting.
And then the crux of it – judging is relative and not to some pre-conceived standard. Judging should be diplomatic. A good judge should recognise a good image and have an open mind to other image types. Bias should be left outside as should ego. Cliche’s abandoned. Keep up with new trends. Be an active photographer. Understand photographic camera and processing techniques. Be Consistent and Constructive and Entertaining.
Ye Gods! This sounded like our wish list! What had happened? People had listened!
The day progressed with some technical discussions about defining set subjects, handling standard images (pelicans and meerkats!), what is “someone else’s art”, image border sizes, photographic quality (golden means, odds numbers, diagonals etc), plagiarism & copyright, types of paper suiting the image. There was a lot more……
The differences between solo judging and panel judging were discussed. We got to do a panel judging of our own just before lunch – a very sobering exercise.
Then we got into some examples – using stills from television programmes. Yes – some of the best photographic art is in TV and film. The creative use of light, focus, placement, viewpoint, perspective. Look at the great artists such as Turner or any of the impressionists. The history of photographic techniques. Trends from modern photographers like Trent Parke (Australia’s own and only Magnum photographer). Learning from the great photographers of the past and present and why they are great.
More aspects of judging – what to say and what not to say! Get rid of those cliches that add nothing.
We covered country judging too – supporting those who can’t have a judge on site every meeting. (For reference 1/3 of South Australia lives outside of Adelaide and deserve better). I’m pleased to say I’ve signed up to help Jeff Venning and his country judging team.
The day had a lot to take in. I’ve got pages of notes and thoughts and ideas.
To finish we judged ourselves. We’d been asked to send in 10 images which were mixed up and presented to us. We judged each of them and noticed the mix of scores around the room. Some were instant hits, other images divided the scores. In that session the broad church of judging was clearly exposed.
At the end of our day – and it was a long one – Keith announced that he and the others felt we were all ready to go out into the big wide world of club judging. A surprise perhaps, but Keith has been watching and listening to us. At the recent SAPF AGM and Delegates Meeting Keith reported exactly the same thing.
Thanks Keith, Peter and Des – I promise to do my best.
So there you have it – a mea culpa of sorts from me. I’m now a photography club judge. Will I bring a new perspective and more balance? I’m a bit apprehensive – but will give it a go. If you find my judging inadequate let me know. Tell me about what you were trying to achieve. I’m not perfect and have never claimed to be. But I am empathetic – and maybe that will be my saving grace.
The images – 116 incredibly varied photographs.
The judge – David Smith.
The Outcome – BPC members with music in their souls!
About 45 BPC members and visitors attended on a night with colourful and intriguing images of music being performed, danced to, instruments close ups, musicians in action and lots more. Some images obviously came from the archives (a very young Cliff Richard was observed). And some images were so fresh they had titles like Music 1 and Music 2. Mad March in Adelaide supplied a lot of the images from the Clipsal 500, the Adelaide Festival of Arts, the Adelaide Fringe and WOMAD. There was something for everyone! Even beer (well – a picture of beer).
Judge David Smith worked through the images with care despite the large number, giving constructive critique and a fairly large number of 10s in the process. Not that the recipients complained!
- The high quality and creativeness in the novice competition – well done!
- Ron Hassan’s Sunset image
Keep on dancing to the music!
A large audience of 43 members and visitors at our last meeting were present as BPC President, Ashley Hoff, welcomed English visitor Paul Hughes (and North Norfolk Photographic Society member) and his family to our meeting. Paul had earlier contacted the club and offered to show his photographic record of his walk through northern Spain along the renowned pilgrim route known as Camino de Santiago – it is also known as the St James’ Way or the French Way. It commences in the French town of St Jean Pied-de-Port and finishes at famous Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, a journey of about 800 kilometers.
Paul explained that after much research and with the generous encouragement from his wife Kate he decided to do the walk to mark the year of his 70th birthday. The trade off was Kate would visit family in Blackwood South Australia.
The first thing – other than the walk – that Paul mentioned was the need to travel light. He left behind his large SLR and lenses that weighed almost 10kg – his research had indicated that a pack of 7kg was about the limit. Instead he used a smaller Canon Powershot G12 so he could carry clothes and water. In one image he showed us was this travel beaten camera that served him well.
It was not long before everyone was being taken along the walk through Paul’s many photos using landscape and portraits as well as well placed videos of the various characters he came across in the many towns and villages he passed through.
Paul had initially decided to do the first short leg of the journey up to Puene la Reina. But after returning home and much thought he chose to complete the full journey.
The basic but adequate bunk accommodation (including bed bugs) and the camaraderie quickly established between the walkers along the way were experiences obviously enjoyed by Paul. His shots of the Pyrenees landscape to the flat plains known as the bread basket of Spain and the various wine regions along the way were fantastic. The architecture from Roman bridges to modern city buildings, the vast Gothic Cathedral in Burgos and the stain glass in the cathedral at the Leon were outstanding.
During Paul’s presentation we were given an insight into the various cultures and Spanish way of life. This included those in the famous wine lands of Rioja, the streets and people of Pamplona, famous for its bull running festival and culturally rich Leon.
Upon conclusion Paul invited everyone to view the mementos of the trip has referred to during his presentation. Fortunately, he didn’t bring any of the boots he found – often seen abandoned on the walk.
Many members used this opportunity to discuss Paul’s walk with him and to add to the vote of thanks made by Ashley at the conclusion of the presentation.
You can see many of Paul’s photos on Flickr
Blue – it evokes a range of emotions, has a range of meanings and is seen all around us. For some it is sadness or melancholy and for others it is calming and soothing. We relate blue to cooler temperatures. We listen to blues music, and often see it in corporate colours. In some cultures blue means a boys colour (but in others its for girls). It’s the colour of the sky and of water. Blue is often a favourite colour (no Monty Python quotes here) – or not – but that also depends on culture. Many people wear blue clothing (blue jeans!). It is the colour of an utterly insignificant little planet in the outer western spiral arm of the galaxy. Technically, blue is a primary spectral colour, with a wavelength of 450-495nm and RGB value of 0,0,255. Until the advent of modern chemical dyes, it was a difficult colour to reproduce and source from minerals such as lapis lazuli and cobalt or plants such as woad. Early photographic emulsions were overly blue sensitive making colour reproduction difficult which was overcome with the advent of panchromatic films.
But enough of the philosophy and history of blue. How about some photographic representation? There were plenty of people present to see how we could represent blue in our images – 40 members, 3 guests and judge Peter Phillips. On this occasion Peter had 108 images to judge (of which 45 were set subject). Peter seems to be making a habit of visiting our club at the start of the year as a judge – and that may be a good thing as he carefully and efficiently judged the images, giving some very good critique, sharing his insights, and handing out scores. As Peter carefully pointed out at the start, the scores he gave were his opinion – but the most important opinion was that of the photographer responsible for the image. Despite his warning – he did hand out a lot of very good marks (I counted eleven 10s and fifteen 9s – that’s almost 25% of the images). We also shared our usual club banter with the judge (there were a lot of puns and segues) making the night the usual friendly, relaxed affair we all enjoy.
So – how did we go?
Well the usual offenders obtained their expected high scores (and a few lower ones as well), but a few new faces emerged that will threaten the status quo! Jen Williams shook up the competition with the image at left. I’ve been watching Jen’s work on Flickr – and I think other BPC members should not be complacent. This image evoked no comment from Peter other than “10”. Enough said about that.
Gloria Brumfield is showing off her talent too with some great images. Dean Johnson again showed his ability with just one very clever image. David Hope gave us a stark landscape. And Perry Phillips took a punt in the novice section with some unusual images of silica gel (I knew what it was) – I hope we’ll be seeing more from him.
It was also good to see Theo and Ursula Prucha return to the club and get a few high scores in the process.
A dedicated bunch of BPC members took up the challenge again this year. It’s been a fun ride and most of the participants managed the full 31 days.
If you look through our flickr group it looks like Heather, Jen, David, Eric, John, James and I managed to post at least an image a day. Kerry came close, and we had a few images from Gloria, Ann, Helen, Terry, Howard and former member Hilary.
So what did we see? Well first we had a huge variety of images, following of themes, a bit of image manipulation, some of our photographers rediscovering their photographic passion, and a bit of repartee between us in the comments. I’ve picked what I think are the best of each members images and a comment on what they gave us. You may not agree with my choices, but you’ll probably agree it’s been fun and entertaining for the observer.
Sticks and Bits
Let’s start with Heather, who gave us a selection of wildlife, birds, travel photos, Christmas food and drink (love that Quinta Ruban!) and observation. No theme per se, but Heather looks to have had fun. What’s more, Heather didn’t confine herself to her dSLR, but use her iPad and a compact as well. For me, the image above was quintessential Heather – simple and effective imagery.
Figure to ground relationship
Next we had Jen exploring themes of photographic composition, often using simple objects and simple lighting. There were some powerful images in there that merit a serious look – like the 3 rocks and the almost monochrome sea urchin on a black background. Jen has a very good eye for composition – so watch out in this years competition everyone! Jen I think takes out the award for comment discussions. I direct you to one image as an example and you be the judge!
Kerry took part for most of the 31 days (actually, all of them I think, but she didn’t post them all on the BPC flickr page), and seemed to explore a lot of food! Not a problem really, as we all like it, and I was half tempted to visit and inspect the pantry! You’ll have to look at her photo stream to see her images as I can’t embed the images here directly. Never the less check out her Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars and her Dump Trucks to see what I mean.
Father and Son
David worked at giving us an image a day from his secret hideout south of Adelaide (we can’t tell you where or he may have to silence us!). David presented us with an fascinating array of still life, images from the hideout, and garden images, often manipulating the images to add something new. For me, Father and Son, (although not fully representing the body of work) showed us David’s wit and talent. But don’t overlook his artistic work either – Argive Abstract is one not to miss.
Now on to Eric. Never stuck for a word or a witticism, Eric produced some excellent work demonstrating clever manipulation in camera, around the camera, in processing and outside the camera. Check out Friction Grater as an example. That’s comes from lots of practice and experience. But for me, Year End was a stunner that should not be missed.
Hindmarsh Old and New
Our newest club member, John, participated in the process enthusiastically – both as commenter and photographer. Although a long time photographer, he commented to me “This challenge has whetted my appetite for photography again. Until it started my camera would have been lucky to have been out of the house more than once a month or so”. John’s stream of images shows his new enthusiasm with some great images of his favourite architecture (like the one above), but also exploring other ideas like panos (which he does very well – have a look at Base Running),macros and some clever textures. I’m glad you had a good time John and look forward to lots more images from you.
Bus Shelter 2
James again enthusiastically took part in the Challenge, even incorporating a Best of 31 Days commentary on his new Camera Clips page. His images of course show his experimental and strong visual style. The image above is one that is shows a powerful awareness of that style. It has shades of Robert Capa’s “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”. How many of you see beyond the obvious? James of course gave us his bird and insect shots, but I think his abstracts are some of his best images.
Finally, there was me. I spent a bit of time trying different things like only using one prime lens a for week (I succeeded), experimenting with mono treatments of images (like the one above – check out it’s colour cousin), wide angles, abstracts, and memories of lost relatives. It was hard work at times – as work and other things again got in the way. But the capture of a daily image or two to share was very satisfying in the end.
So there you have it – an interesting journey for all of us. Please visit the club Flickr page and see what we’ve done. We’ll probably hold another mid-year just to try something new.