What makes a great photograph? An age old question and one that is in continual debate. It’s a bit like naming your all time favourite music tune, it’s very difficult, because it depends on your mood at the time of choosing. Emotion often plays a part in a great photography Image and is regularly mentioned by competition judges when they say they are looking for an emotional connection or for the picture to tell a visual story. Of course technical ability and presentation are also key elements in the process. I guess finding the perfect formula is what keeps our quest of Improvement fresh and gives us all the Inspiration to keep producing new Images.
New Inspired Images were very much in evidence at our latest PDI league competitions with 70 Images entered into our set subjects of ‘Lines’ and ‘Creative/ Experimental’. Once again our talented and creative membership let loose with a variety of diverse images which met the subject criteria. Some outstanding Images were produced and within the higher scoring Images awarded by visiting Judge Alan Colegrave was 20 points scored by our very talented Gordon Calder for his excellent Images in both competitions.
Thank you to everyone who entered the competitions, making it a really enjoyable night and congratulations to the higher scoring authors on the night. This was the penultimate PDI league competitions, further adding to the nights Interest of points accrual within the leagues.
Martin Patten kindly provided a handout with all the slides and images he showed us in his inspirational Improving Your Photography talk. Head over to the recordings section of the Members Area to find the download link.
If you’re going into any of the shops, eateries and estate agents in Chorleywood be sure to pick up a copy of Chorleywood Magazine’s February 2021 Special Edition. It features images of some of the socially distant events covered by our very own Cat Humphries. In
between lockdowns Cat was able to photograph two West End stars performing a Back Garden Busk, she met The Audacious Mr Astley and had A Slice of Saturday Night at Watford Fringe, and finally ended the year chasing a panto dame and a London Bus around the streets of Chorleywood. Hopefully as lockdown restrictions are lifted, she’ll be able to go back to being the resident photographer for Rickmansworth Players and represent us at the return of Croxley Revels later in the year.
I recently saw an article on sunsets, by the end of this month the sun won’t set until 5.40pm and by the end of March it will be 7.40pm and by the end of April 8.30pm! A good Indicator there are brighter days ahead. As the pandemic is brought under control through the vaccine being given to more people, hopefully we will soon be returning to normality and we can again pursue our great and creative love of photography more freely.
On our Thursday club meeting night On Zoom we welcomed guest speaker Martin Patten to give us a talk entitled ‘Improving your Photography’. Martin is a very accomplished award winning photographer, is the Chairman of the CACC and also judges competitions for Camera clubs. He gave a very Informative presentation covering an extensive range of techniques and tips on Improving our photography. His talk was also peppered with some of his excellent Images. He emphasised the Importance of ‘Seeing, thinking and taking’ throughout his presentation.
Overall a very enjoyable and Inspiring evening with plenty of Information to consider and help us all further Improve our photography art.
On Thursday 4th March, Cat will be leading a workshop on image analysis. Photography is both an art and a science so we’ll be exploring what to look for when critiquing images, along with our emotional connection and reactions to photographs. This will be an interactive evening where we will all become judges, analysing and scoring images online during the Zoom session and reviewing the results using Menti.com.
Cat has provided a large set of images for you to practice analysing and scoring. You can use these either before or during the workshop. A useful checklist has also been provided to help you be objective. These materials can be found in the members area of the website now.
Then in March we’ll be running our first Peer Review competition so we can use the judging techniques we have learnt. The peer review competition is now open in PhotoEntry for members to submit images they would like reviewed. This will close on Sunday March 7th and the submitted images will be published in a private gallery for members to judge using Google forms. Judging will then close on Sunday 14th March and the results revealed on the 18th.
Summary of the time line below.
George and Cat (but mainly Cat)
Peer review competition open in PhotoEntry
Critique workshop materials available in Members Area
Critique workshop evening
Peer review competition close on PhotoEntry and online judging opens
This week marks Steve’s hundredth blog post as Chair of the club. Looking back through my inbox I found that this year will be his 10th anniversary of joining us so it seems like an appropriate time for us to say a few words of thanks.
Way back in the mists of time, when we could all meet in the hall on Thursdays AND some Wednesdays – but importantly before we started to enjoy Vanessa’s legendary cakes…. it was a dark time. Then some sunlight appeared through the clouds as Steve arrived at the community centre as a fresh faced, nervous but keen photographer. We took him under our wing, introduced him to studio portraiture and encouraged him to trust his very capable photographic instincts.
Helped by an eye for a good image, the “usual” processing techniques and a selection of interesting hats, we saw Steve rise up the league tables to become our own “David” Bailey, before twisting his arm to elect him to the committee in April 2016 as Vice Chairman.
Since 2017 Steve has been a fantastic figurehead for the club, supporting members both new & old and encouraging all of us to improve our photography. His vision has led us through the challenges of lockdown with virtual club meetings all through the past year, and recently we even reached the dizzy heights of the North West Federation of London Clubs Semi Final. (Just 1 point behind Amersham in the PDI section – who’d have thought it! Thanks Martin!)
I can honestly say that Steve is the embodiment of our club’s reputation for being “The Friendly Club”, even if he has made me cry on occasion, and it is with great thanks that we congratulate him on these milestones and give him a virtual round of applause!
Photography can document and creatively capture so many different subjects and views on the world. The vast majority of the photos we take will not be “winning images”, particularly as we’re taking more images now than ever before in human history.
We’ve all had disappointing results on competition nights where a judge hasn’t understood our image, or simply didn’t like it, but does this mean we should cast aside photos that don’t do well in competitions? Should we feel that they are somehow failures in our photographic journeys to the nirvana of imaging success? Definitely not!
Here’s a few ways for images that wouldn’t necessarily be “winners” to bring a little joy to our lives.
A common phrase a few years ago among camera club judges was that an image was “just” a record shot. Images documenting everyday life or local places sometimes only find their importance at a later date. You may need to know more of the story behind them to know their significance, or they need to be part of a bigger photo-essay to be effective.
Back in the 90s I spent a few afternoons wandering around the streets of my hometown documenting the buildings and the people. None of those images would have won a competition but looking at them now I have a glimpse into another world – people’s homes that have been demolished, a retired man outside a working men’s club that’s now the home of a glass-ceilinged shopping centre and skate-boarding teenagers long since grown up.
Who knows what social history we may capture today and then look back on in the future with different eyes?
Portraits of Friends and Family (and dogs and cats and rabbits…)
Your emotional attachment to people and animals you love is always going to give some photos a greater meaning. Learning to separate our emotions and experiences when we’re selecting images for competitions can be difficult and knowing how others will view our images can be almost impossible! Enjoy capturing the memories for yourself and others, just because it doesn’t have emotional value for a judge, doesn’t mean it’s not successful for you.
We’re not all brave enough to approach strangers in the street like Instagramer Alex Stemplewski, but giving a great image to someone you don’t know very well can be a huge gift to their self-confidence and a boost to your own wellbeing.
Projects and RPS Distinctions
Like social documentary images, some of the most creative imagery doesn’t work as a single image. Committing to a photographic project can open your eyes to documenting a subject from different points of view. Trying the same photographic style or treatment on different subjects can help you see what works and what can be improved.
Online communities like Blipfoto encourage you to try and take an image every day, while working to gain photographic distinctions from the Royal Photographic Society can give you a sense of purpose. Whether it be the entry-level LRPS that challenges you to achieve a level of technical standards and create a harmonious panel of images to show your skills, or the next step up to the ARPS where you can explore the creative possibilities on a single theme. Many images that would not be “winners” on their own take on bigger meaning as part of a panel. Just as the opposite can also be true – three winners don’t necessarily make a successful triptych.
The Joy of Taking and Making an Image
Let’s not forget that sometimes the best part of photography is the challenge of taking the image or processing it afterwards – no matter what the end result is. Over Christmas I spent three hours in the near dark squirting a syringe of water at some fruit I’d balanced on cocktail sticks while using a remote trigger on a studio flash to hopefully capture the right moment. I then spent another three hours editing together a stack of 17 layers in Photoshop to merge together all the different splashes and remove the supports.
What I was aiming for was to get the fruit floating impossibly in mid-air while the water drops made it look mouth-wateringly tasty. The result…positively underwhelming! It definitely won’t be making it into our “creative or experimental techniques” competition later this month. Would I do it again? Absolutely! I learnt lots from the process and had so much fun splashing about in the dark, even if I did soak half the kitchen and end up an hour late for dinner. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what comes out of the camera if you’ve had fun doing it.
I would like to to mark the 100th club night summary with a special thanks to Steve for all the effort he puts into making the club a success, from the work he does on the committee, to running the Zoom sessions and indeed writing such warm and inclusive summaries for us all to read. Well done Steve! – George
Rod, our Treasurer also adds: our Chairman has written 100 continuous weekly updates for our Newsletter and Website reflecting on our activities and deserves a big “thank you” for the encouragement contained in his weekly notes. Well done Steve – keep it up.
Now back to Steve…
One of the great things with ‘open’ competitions is seeing and enjoying the diverse nature of the entries, with everything being covered, Including landscape, portrait, macro and nature.
Our latest league print ‘open’ competition certainly provided all of the above, with some excellent Images on show for visiting Judge Rojer Weightman, who had the difficult task of critique and awarding points on the night. There were 48 Images entered in the competition.
It’s very rare for someone to gain two Images scoring 20 points in a competition, but our club Secretary Denise Noverre achieved just that, with her two outstanding floral Images.
The competition was naturally shown as a PDI through Zoom, but the judge took into account with his marking the qualities which would also make the Images good prints.
Thank you to everyone who took part and congratulations to Denise and the other high scoring authors on the night. Once again an enjoyable evening where we maintained our high standard of competition entries, through the creative and Inspiring Images presented by our talented members.
Our own Cat Humphries muses on monochrome photography…
This week I was invited to judge a monochrome competition at one of the local camera clubs. Being asked to comment on images is always and honour and so I decided that I should do a bit of homework in advance of the competition to make sure I was up to the task.
The club chairman had given the advice for their members to “feel free to experiment, not only with black and white images, but also sepia, cyanotype or shades of any other colour.” This echoes our own club’s rules on the Andrews Cup for prints, so I was in familiar territory.
Looking back through my own competition entries I initially thought “I don’t really do monochrome” but then I realised that although my camera club images are usually in colour, I’ve been producing mono conversions for theatre rehearsals since the 90s. Removing any problematic chroma noise in low light shots and toning down the often-colourful notice boards in community centres and rehearsal rooms.
As Stewie Griffin will tell you “Ooh you took a black and white picture of a lawn chair” and you think you’re an artist! Well, the 17-year-old me certainly thought so, and she had the film enlarger to prove it. Maybe the winter lockdown is the perfect time to look through the archives and see if a monochrome conversion can bring some life to my other images?
Monochrome has been used since the dawn of photography and since the young upstart of colour came along, mono has been used by authors to distance their subject from the “real world” we see around us. Presenting the viewer with an image where form, texture and pattern take centre stage. It’s probably most well-known for street photography or photojournalism, but it can be used to great effect on almost any subject.
The grand master of the monochrome landscape Ansel Adams’ once said that “the negative is similar to a musician’s score, and the print to the performance of that score. The negative comes to life only when ‘performed’ as a print”. Not averse to the odd bit of dodging and burning myself, the equivalent today is the Raw colour image file being interpreted as a black and white photograph. As authors we can choose how we process monochrome images to produce our own unique view on the world.
Using Photoshop or Lightroom to adjust the lightness of a colour in a monochrome image can help us darken blue skies, change the tones in a grassy landscape, or lighten the red on a stop sign. If we need more help as a starting point we can use presets or specialist plug-ins like Nik Silver Efex that have a range of conversions to try on our images, fine-tuning them to our own tastes. The 2012 version of the Nik Collection is available to download from the DXO website for free and there are tons of freely available Lightroom presets like these from On1 (https://www.on1.com/free/lightroom-presets/), so it’s easy to give it a try.
How have I got on with my experiments in mono? You’ll have to wait for the next few club competitions and see.
Our journey in this years external Rosebowl competition finished last week with us contesting the third round against Imagez, Ealing and Pinner Camera clubs. Once again we fielded a strong selection from our talented membership, but unfortunately we couldn’t quite get the points we needed. Cat Humphries was our star of the night scoring 2 x 19s with her held back Images. We also got 18s from George Purchase, Mike Brankin, Stuart Craig and Steve Bailey Congratulations to Imagez who won on the night.
We gained valuable experience from the competition and it was a great opportunity to compare our Images with other clubs.
Thanks again to external competition Secretary Stuart Craig for his final selection for each round, taken from the committee chosen pool of Images representing our club.
We now look forward to next years external competitions to build on our success of this season, where we reached the semi final of the NW fed competition. A tremendous achievement. At our Workshop last week we got the chance to have a look at some of the high scoring Images so far this season. A nice Informal Interactive evening which is highly suitable for the Zoom meetings. Authors gave an Insight into some of their excellent Images, sharing detail of their thought process and other Information.
A very enjoyable night, filled with good humour and plenty of photography conversation.