My Thoughts on Club Competitions

Cat Humphries Muses on Circuit Judging!

Although (some of) our camera club judges have changed since I started participating in club competitions at Croxley CC over 15 years ago, the discussion surrounding what is the “right” way to judge or run competitions has remained constant. Despite the often-negative comments from my fellow members about comments, scores or sometimes the entire concept of judging, I took the plunge and became a CACC judge back in 2016.

Our experiences inform our opinions and as camera club members we should hear a wide range of different creative voices and approaches. At the time there was only one club judge locally who was both female and under 40. That’s not to say that I felt that the existing pool of mostly male, mostly retired, judges were not doing a good job, far from it, but photography is both a technical skill and an art form. We will all have slightly different opinions because our life experiences affect how we interpret images. What is inspiring to one person may not strike a chord with another, just as with other artforms. Expressing why an image resonates with me or explaining how an image could be improved in an empathetic respectful manner is key to my approach.

Let’s be very honest with each other. The technical & creative execution of the vast majority of camera club competition images will be capable but not exceptional. Seasoned camera club members know a lot about how to control cameras but when comparing a range of photographs on a club night, very few will be a good deal more impactful and creatively successful than the majority.

Distinguishing between these average camera club images can be difficult so judges often give them a very average score of 16. I understand that this can be frustrating but compare it to judging panels for inter-club or international competitions where so often a limited scoring range is used and the judges are effectively choosing to rate the image as “below standard = 2”, “standard = 3”, “above standard = 4” or “exceptional = 5”.

A fair number of images in a regular camera club competition will usually have technical issues or be a poor choice of subject so these will be easily given something in the range of 12-15, with the scores depending on the range of “faults” among those below average images and how severely they affect the judge’s opinion of the image. You may also find an image which has a lot of potential but major faults to be given a very low mark.

Many of the lowest scoring images will never have the potential to be winners but the above average images that don’t achieve the very top scores are usually because of minor faults in technique or creative execution. These are your 17s and 18s. Individual competitions may have a lot of 17s and 18s, or they may be quite scarce. In some competitions I’ll award only a couple of 18s, in others there may be over a dozen if I feel the images have comparable merits.

Then we come to our top scores – 19s and 20s. Images which stand above the rest, creatively and technically. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they would be as highly rated against a different selection of images, but they must be significantly better than the other photos in this competition.

Scoring images between 12 and 20 has its faults, but for an average club competition this format allows the members to understand how each image compares to the rest of the field that night. Some clubs don’t ask for scores as they prefer the judge to pick their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices, but I feel this doesn’t give you an idea of how the rest of the images compare to each other. Picking your “favourite” of the night is often going to come down to personal taste, rather than being able to award several 20s with different styles or themes so this becomes a different type of competition.

So, do we scrap scores altogether? Or have the club members score the images and so have a winner by consensus? Perhaps no more league tables, no more trophies, just a group of people sharing their images and giving each other constructive feedback? Often I wish that camera clubs would be able to live up to this utopian ideal but let’s face it, we all feel good when someone gives us top marks, which is another reason why it’s hard to be impartial with our opinions of judging and judges. Too often our views are clouded by the scores we received, or our own view of someone else’s image that we feel deserved to do better.

Let’s be honest with each other once again. Photography is both a medium of communication and an artform. There are proven techniques we can use to help us tell the story in our images more successfully, improving how we as authors communicate with the viewers of our photos. Good judges help us understand why a successful image resonates with them and explain how different techniques have helped or hindered that success. In turn, listening to their critique enables us to learn how we can make our images more successful in the future, subconsciously absorbing the judges’ comments and referring to them when we are taking and making images in the future.

A range of scores can help to demonstrate how successful a specific image was to a particular judge compared to the other images that were in the same competition. When you think of it in those terms, the score itself is relying on such a specific set of circumstances, it really shouldn’t matter past the end of the club night. Images have many different purposes. Competitions are just one. Images can score low in a competition and still be successful for different reasons.

As camera club members we often take our competitions to heart, complaining that judges are biased for or against a style or technique, that scores are not consistent, or that the judge simply didn’t understand a particular image. Instead, let’s acknowledge that camera club judges are human beings, who have instincts and reactions based on millions of different variables across their lifetimes. Each will see something slightly different in the same image so it’s ok for scores or opinions to differ sometimes.

Our response to viewing or making art is ultimately subjective – that’s the reason why viewing each other’s images can be so compelling and inspiring. If all photographers visiting one area all stood in the same spots and took exactly the same “winning” images, the world would be a very boring place. Capture what inspires you and learn to use the tools to communicate your idea effectively. A low scoring image can often inspire one that works more successfully, both for the author or for the people viewing it.

Be kind to one another, respect each other’s opinions and, most importantly, keep inspiring yourself and each other.

Cat.


Club Night Summary #129

Happy New Year!

A busy week for the club to start the New Year. We had a committee meeting on Tuesday night. The 2nd round of the Rosebowl Inter club Competition on Zoom, hosted by Field end on Wednesday evening and our own first club meeting since before Christmas on Thursday, where we hosted the semi final of the NW fed competition between Watford and Pinner Camera clubs. Quite a start to the Year!

In the Rosebowl competition we faced Princes Risborough, Buckingham and Field end Camera clubs. An enjoyable night, where once again we can be proud of our entries from our talented members. The final result was;

Princes Risborough241 points
Buckingham 249 points
Croxley259 points
Field End265 points
Data curtesy Stuart Craig

This result leaves us in a strong position to progress in the next round, having won the first round and placed second in Wednesdays competition. Thank you to all the authors who had entries chosen to represent our club for their excellent work. Also thanks to Committee members Stuart Craig and David Eckland for their choice of Images selected for this competition. The high scoring Images on the night were;

Sunrise at the KelpiesGordon Calder19 points
Black and WhiteSteve Bailey19 points
The HousekeeperSteve Bailey19 points
Weather BeatenMike Brankin18 points
Leap of FaithAnthony Highet18 points
IntenseAnthony Highet 18 points
Tree Lined PathAmands Culley18 points
Data curtesy Stuart Craig

A great overall team performance! Thank you to those members that managed to tune in to support and enjoy the night. It was good to host the NW fed semi final on our club night, giving us the opportunity to see the standard of photography presented by both Pinner and Watford Camera clubs. It was also Interesting to hear the comments of the nominated experienced judge Chris Palmer, as he unraveled the high standard of Images to award the points.

Congratulations to Watford who were the ultimate winners on the night. It only seems a short time ago that we were in a similar position battling for a place in the final, when we faced Amersham last season.

We now turn our attention to the first trophy competitions of this season in our programme this Thursday. Once again on Zoom, where we will decide the winners of both the Nature and Triptych Cups. Good luck to all that have entered.

Look forward to seeing everyone on Thursday, Steve


Club Night Summary #128

Signing off for 2021

We wish all of members and families a happy Christmas and look forward to a better New year for everyone following so much uncertainty in the world. It has been difficult at club level in finding a meeting formula that works for all.

In order to comply with current guidelines, we have used a mixture of hall and Zoom meetings in the first half of the season and this looks set to continue into the New year. During January all meetings until the 27th will take place on Zoom. We value every members Involvement in club activities and have had a good first section to the season with great competitions both Internal and external, we have also had some great guest speakers on various photography topics. We naturally are missing some workshop activities which Involve working closely together on projects etc. This is an area we are hopeful will be Improved in the coming months.

We have a great second half of the season planned and hope that meetings will not continue to be disrupted for too long into the New year. We would all love to get back to safe meetings in our hall and enjoy progressing with our photography with our like minded inspired members. In the meantime we look forward to seeing everyone on Zoom on Thursday 6th January where we host the NW fed semi final, a great opportunity to view two other clubs (Watford and Pinner CC) battle for a place in the final.

The following week we have our Triptych and Nature competitions a chance to win the first silverware of the season. Competitions that always attract a high level of entrants. A great time over this break to prepare some entries.

Our rearranging Zoom social night was very entertaining with Rod Lacey producing and hosting some great Quizzes once again. The evening was peppered with photography conversation and screen sharing of great Interest to all. Thanks to everyone that attended.

Don’t forget to try and visit Croxley Library over Christmas to view Vanessa’s arranged print exhibition of members prints. Also if you get a chance complete the survey in the newsletter, to have your say on club activities.

Thank you to the Club Committee who’s hard work and support has enabled the Club to continue in unprecedented times by their professional diligence in each of their Individual roles. Thank you to every member who has been Involved so far this season whether on Zoom or in the hall or both, It is really appreciated.

Enjoy the break and look forward to seeing you on Zoom on January 6th Merry Christmas

Steve


Club Night Summary #127

Curves and Three

On Thursday we held our final league competition before the Christmas break. It was a themed print competition with the set subjects being ‘Curves’ and ‘Three’. We had a total of 38 entries with some really excellent examples reflecting the theme. Our visiting judge on the night was Steven Galvin who remarked on the high standard of prints presented. Thank you to everyone who entered the competition and everyone who attended the evening which was very enjoyable despite the conditions, which in our efforts to comply with a safe environment, means an extra jumper to offset our necessary ventilation. It was great to see the ‘physical’ prints being presented to a judge in the hall again!

Thank you to Vanessa Lacey who once again has organised an exhibition showing our work at Croxley Library and promoting our club. Please visit the Library over this week, if you get a chance, to view the prints and appreciate the hard work Vanessa has carried out on behalf of the club.

We recently created a short survey in the newsletter to Identify areas that members could comment on and suggest topics etc that they would like see Included in the programme. The survey will be kept open over the Christmas break, to enable everyone to vote and comment. We appreciate your feedback.

This week instead of our Christmas party scheduled to take place in the hall, we have for safety reasons changed the evening to a ‘Zoom’ night with everyone Invited to tune in from their safe and ‘warm’ homes. The evening on Zoom will have some Quizzes and we Invite anyone who would like to ‘show and tell’ an Image or two, that we can share screens and hear the story behind the shot from the author. Overall a relaxed social evening with lots of chat and the now legendary quizzes hosted by Rod Lacey.

Look forward to seeing everyone on Zoom on Thursday.

Steve


Club Night Summary #126

Croxley Hosts the NW Fed

Last Thursday we hosted the third and final league round of the North West London Federation Inter club competition. Our visiting teams to the ‘Live’ event at the Community centre were Amersham and Hemel Hempstead. The judge for the evening was Martin Patten, who gave well Informed commentary and critique on each Image.

Once again the deserved victors on the night were Amersham. The club that knocked us out of the semi final last year. Hopefully we can avoid them in the draw for next years competition! Although it is the end of the road for us in this external competition we can take great heart from our progress again this year in consistently producing good team results in each round with some of our Images attaining judge awarded stars, along with the points. The final results were;

  • Amersham. 184 points
  • Croxley. 175 points
  • Hemel. 164 points

Thank you to the authors who represented our club with their excellent Images and thanks to everyone who attended this event at the hall. In addition a special thank you to both committee members Stuart Craig and David Eckland for their final selection of the entered Images to suit each competition.

We still have the prestigious ‘Rosebowl’ external competition to compete in, which continues in February 2022.

It’s hard to believe that we are now in December and the world is still in chaos over the Covid 19 and other variants. Thank goodness we are still going strong, although we are being tested by the various conditions that are necessary in hopefully keeping us safe.

Thanks to everyone for continuing their support to the club and producing great Inspirational photography during these difficult times.

See you on Thursday
Steve


Club Night Summary #125

Intimate Landscape Round 2

External club competitions are still very active in our calendar and last week we had a second round tie in the NW fed Inter club competition.  Last season we were semi finalists in this competition and were hoping for further progress in this years challenge.  Unfortunately we have been tied against a very strong club Amersham CC in this years rounds.  Amersham got the better of us in last season’s semi final!

Last week we fielded a strong set of Images for our second round, carefully selected by our external competition team of Stuart Craig and David Eckland from the pool of nominated entries.

The judge was Steven Galvin who remarked on the high standard presented by all three clubs.  At the half way point we were one point ahead of Amersham with some excellent comments about our Images.  Amersham managed to gain the advantage during the second section with some equally strong Images.  The final result was;

  • Amersham – 181 points
  • Croxley – 177 points
  • Hemel Hempstead – 170 points

A very worthy result against strong opposition.  Thanks to everyone who represented our club with their excellent Images .  We now have the final group round this Thursday in our hall.  It would be great to welcome everyone to another enjoyable night of competition.
On our normal Thursday club night we held our Second round of ‘Intimate Landscape’ to enhance the earlier group nominated Images.  Once again great debate in the selection procedure to Identify further potential Images to represent our club in this external competition to be held early next year.
Thanks to all that attended to help debate and select suitable Images in this quite different category.

Vanessa Lacey has once again managed to negotiate with Croxley library to hold an exhibition of our prints representing the club for a week starting 11th December.  Please bring a couple of your prints to Vanessa this Thursday or the following week to enable her to organise the event.

Look forward to seeing everyone on Thursday.
Steve


Club Night Summary #124

Print Show & Tell

It was Inspiring to see and hear the stories behind our Members evening, where we had Invited members to bring along one or two of their favourite prints and give a short presentation on why they were their favourite.  Each author which had brought along prints gave a great Insight into their reasons for selecting the chosen Images.  There were Interesting stories on each print to help the receptive audience understand the background to the prints.

This section of the evening was a bit longer than scheduled, reducing the time available for the planned debate on ‘growing the club’ which was an Interactive open topic.  Thank you to those that raised points on the evening in the limited time.  Although we ran over our allotted time, we clearly could have spent a lot longer on this subject.

Looking forward this week to our next session of ‘Intimate Landscape’ competition, as we get to grips with this quite difficult new topic for external competition entry.  The evening will be led by our external competition Secretary Stuart Craig In our quest to find the Images that will be put forward into the competition.

See everyone on Thursday.
Steve


Club Night Summary #123

Open PDI

Another busy week for the club, with both Internal and external competitions taking part. On Wednesday we took part in the first round of the prestigious ‘Rosebowl’ competition on Zoom. We were pitched against three other Camera clubs to compare our Images with. The judge on the night was Colin Harrison a well seasoned and respected judge for this competition. We fielded a well balanced set of strong Images produced by our talented membership. Every Image from our team scored well and as a result we won this first round of the competition. Alan Rhodes scored 20 for his excellent Image ‘One man and his dog’ In addition, the judge had two star ratings of which this Image was awarded one star. Congratulations Alan! A tremendous team result and well worthy of the convincing victory.

The final results were;

  • Croxley 266 points
  • Stoke Poges 258
  • Hemel Hempstead 256
  • Whitchurch Hill 245

On Thursday we had a league PDI ‘open’ competition in the hall. This was judged by Martin Patten a very good photographer and experienced judge from Watford CC. We had 48 entries offering a wide variety of subjects with some really excellent Images. Thank you to everyone who entered and Congratulations to the higher scoring authors on the night.

We now look forward to this week’s members evening in the hall, where we have Invited everyone to bring along one or two favourites prints and give us a short presentation on why it’s their favourite. For example things like, where taken and why, the emotional connection, Influences, conditions etc. Doesn’t matter what the print scored, if entered into competition, or when produced, it’s just personal to the author to share with the very receptive, appreciative group. If we have time we will also have an open short debate on Improvements to your club. How can we entice/recruit more members and what can we do to ensure all existing valued members are happy with the club.

Look forward to seeing everyone on Thursday

Steve.


Club Night Summary #122

Images with Impact

Our latest guest speaker was professional photographer David Clapp who joined us on Zoom for a very engaging presentation entitled ‘ Images with Impact’ David treated us by showing many of his Images from his extensive collection and gave Interesting stories regarding their locations and conditions. He also gave us a good insight into the world of professional photography by sharing his thoughts and views. A very Interesting and Inspirational night which joins the catalogue of excellent speakers that we have been fortunate to have presenting over Zoom.

Our attention now turns to continuing the PDI league programme and our next ‘open’ Competition this Thursday. We look forward to seeing more excellent Images entered by our talented members as the PDI league starts to take shape.

We also have the first round of the prestigious ‘Rosebowl’ External competition taking part this Wednesday on Zoom, with our opposition being Hemel Hempstead, Stoke Poges and Whitchurch hill Camera clubs. Should be Interesting night!

Also looking forward to our Members night on the 18th November. Following our change of programme, owing to Croxfest being cancelled again and the world is still trying to recover. (Details of the members evening below)

See everyone on Thursday, back in the hall

Steve


Club Night Summary #121

First Print Competition of the Season

It was great to see physical prints again in our first print Competition in nearly two years. We had 36 prints entered for the ‘open’ competition and I was personally stunned by the quality of the entries as they were placed along the walls of the hall, ready for the judge to commence the competition. It is much appreciated the effort that goes into entering a print competition, with the preparation work that is needed. However seeing the end results on Thursday night, I’m sure it made it worth while for everyone, who should be proud of their work.

Rojer weightman was our judge on the night and he applied his vast experience with his critique during the difficult task to awards scores and find the ultimate winners on the night. Thank you to everyone that entered the league competition and to all that attended the evening. There is always a great atmosphere on competition nights with everyone giving each other huge support throughout.

Despite our enthusiasm to show this week’s talk from both the hall and home Zoom, this week’s presentation will only be available on home Zoom, therefore there will be no community centre meeting this week. I’m sure this week’s talk ‘Images with Impact’ presented by David Clapp will be a really entertaining and Inspirational night.

Look forward to seeing everyone on Zoom on Thursday (log in details on our website, if needed).

Steve