Judging – fighting the battle from within the parapets!
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.
Ok – I’ve been tardy in posting about the last two workshops!
Yes – I’ve been a very bad boy. I should have posted the updates on the last two workshops but other things got in the way! So here we go – complete with YouTube slides for you to read!
The first workshop (held on 15-Mar-2012) about Low Light was prepared and presented by James.
James led us through an array of low light situations – and importantly, got us to try out some of the techniques with our own equipment and the lights turned out in the club rooms. A few of us ventured outside to create ghostly images in the spirit of Darren Siwes whilst others shone torches through wine bottles to paint light, took photos by candlelight and generally had a good time experimenting!
Rather than include images, I’ll just link you to James’ PowerPoint presentation (on YouTube) and wait for the images in the Low light competition later in the year (27-Sep-2012 to be precise)
The second workshop (held on 12-Apr-2012) was meant to be a session on Print Making – but due to unforseen circumstances we had to find a quick presentation.
The night was fairly well attended, with 3 guests – Peter, Trevor (from Noarlunga & Southern Districts Camera Club) and Chris (a long time follower of this blog) – welcome gents!
Fortunately, Matt & I managed to shift our workshop on Selective colour, put yourself into history and image stacking together fast enough for everyone to have a go at these techniques. It looks like the night was a success from the number of stacked and altered perspectives of history that have surfaced on the club’s Flickr page. Anyhow, rather than rehash the methods, check out the slides and see if it helps.
For those in search of references, have a look at the following links:
Selective Colouring – highlights
Swap your face with someone else
Natural light portraits workshop – 16-Feb-2012
What a great evening! Instead of the usual BPC club meeting at the Memorial Hall, Jenny & Mark Pedlar invited us to hold a workshop on Natural Light Portrait Photography at their house. A cloudy start to the day had turned into a lovely clear evening, and more than 15 BPC members attended – most with cameras. We also had 2 prospective member visitors – Howard & Henk, and as an added bonus, Julie & Ray’s grandson Jase, and Jeremy Watson with his model colleague Anna.
Yvonne had been in contact with Jeremy earlier in the year through a UK ex-pat network and had invited him to attend the workshop as he had relevant experience. Jeremy is a professional photographer who also runs workshops and has a passion for portraiture (you can visit his website or his Facebook page), whilst Anna is a full time model who works with Jeremy and others (having done shoots and promotional work around Australia). We were very fortunate to have them with us, as they helped us to learn new (or hone established) skills in portrait photography with our willing (and unwilling 😉 ) models.
Jeremy’s helpful suggestions (such as spot metering, using the light, large apertures, the classic inverted triangle of light, close cropping, directing the model etc) were a valuable lesson. In concert with this information, Anna’s skill at picking whose shutter was flicking helped provide perfect expressions for images of her on a window seat, in a doorway, and in the back garden gave almost instant success for the budding portrait artists. For those not focusing on Anna, Jase also had his fair share of images recorded too. A few surreptitious shots of members were taken as well as one of the President and a visitor 😆 . Club visitor Howard even managed a few images of Anna in doors after the shoot as we had tea & coffee – now that’s thinking about natural light.
Having fired off a stack of images, and our light fading, we retired indoors to have a drink, a nibble and a chat. Jeremy was asked to tell us about his work and answer questions, to which he willingly obliged. The discussion was certainly wide ranging and fascinating, with tips and insights on breaking the (photographic) rules, street shooting, photographing family gatherings, black & white vs colour, introducing grain, composing in camera, landscapes, photographic safaris, wild animals, model agencies, concert and long lens photography, judging, image processing & software and lots more. We were held fascinated and fired questions back and forth as both Jeremy and Anna gave us the benefit of their knowledge and experience.
The evening wound up with a lot of very happy BPC members (I’ve had nothing but good feedback), some great natural light portraits and the knowledge that Jeremy would be back later in the year to judge at one of our competitions to share his experience and enthusiasm.
Thanks to all that attended Anna & Jeremy for their insights, Jase for posing for a bunch of strangers with cameras, Jenny & Mark for hosting (and feeding/watering) the workshop and Yvonne for the inspired invitation of Jeremy. Apologies to those that didn’t get images to me fast enough for inclusion in this post – but I’ve included a selection that represents the evening including some unexpected (and rather good) natural light portraits!
A Morning At The Nelumbo Pond
Ahhh, the serenity. Nothing like a morning walk through the Botanical Gardens. The birds chirping. The wind whistling through the branches. The rapid click of a camera shutter. The desperate cry of a distressed photographer. “Damn Duck Poo….”
Saturday morning saw the first (informal) outing of the year for members of the Blackwood Photographic Club. Matt, Chris, James and Ashley all ventured to a very quiet Adelaide Botanical Gardens, to see whether they could get some worth while photo’s of the Flowering Lotus. I don’t know whether it was the bike race or simply a Saturday morning, but it was blissfully quiet!
Anyhow, you be the judge to see whether they shot anything worthwhile! (Click on the pictures to open them)
If you want to check out some more of our images from the morning, make sure that you check our flickr group – Blackwood Photography Club On Flickr
Don’t forget that if anyone has an idea for an outing, please let any of the committee members know.