2015 11 - Competition Two

15th November 2015
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
12th November 2015
Images by Jayne Mair, Des Lloyd, Geoff Stoddart, Alistair Macdonald, Joyce Bell & Ben Searson

Competition No. 2

We have already reached the second competition of the year and are enjoying seeing the work our members have been doing over the summer months. The first two competitions have no set theme and so there is a wide variety of subject matter for the judge to analyse. There was a good entry for all three classes in the competition and a very good attendance to hear judge Peter Cheetham's comments.

Peter introduced himself, saying he is a black and white film photographer. The first class of the night was the colour prints. Peter was not the highest scoring judge we have had, but he was consistent in his comments. We will all be paying more attention to our backgrounds after tonight. Last week we heard how the background makes up on average 80% of the image, but receives a small percentage of the attention. Peter certainly directed more than 50% of his comments to the background and outer margins of the images, giving everyone something to think about.

Peter's particular issue was with over bright areas in the parts of the image away from the main subject, which he said took the eye away from the subject. He suggested that there was always an issue when shooting among trees as light comes in at the top through the thinner upper branches and suggested seeking a higher vantage point. We have previously been advised to crop off the sky when shooting in woodland. It is possible to tone down light areas on the computer and it may also be possible to frame the image to avoid bright areas or to crop the image afterwards. In a few cases there was insufficient light and Peter suggested either fill in flash to bring out the features or a reflector to direct light back up to the focal point - often the face of the subject.

Several images during the evening received comments about a different crop producing a stronger image. There were small distractions in some which could easily have been cropped out, while for others a small adjustment to the shooting angle would have eliminated the distraction. Removing the top and bottom of the image to create a letterbox format would have improved some images.

Peter commented on the cropping decision made at the point of capture, especially with a busy subject. Both an array of ceramic poppies and a selection of colourful pottery had no obvious natural boundary to the image, so the photographers had needed to make a decision on where to focus and where to place their boundaries. It was interesting to hear Peter's thoughts on how these decisions should be made.

Sharp focussing was a common theme. Most submissions were sharp in areas which appeared to have been deliberately selected, but Peter felt that they should have been sharper over a greater part of the image. Several insects, flowers and a dandelion clock received this comment. We have been learning about how a low f-stop will soften the background, but it appears that some of us have taken this a bit too far and now need to experiment with the intermediate focussing range needed by different subjects.

The second class of the night was for monochrome prints - real photographs as Peter described them. Most people would have taken a colour image and converted it to monochrome for this class, although a couple of images appeared to be taken in infra-red, which gives a black and white result. In addition to the same comments previously made about the colour class, Peter was keen that the picture was well printed, with a sufficiently high contrast level, well managed blacks and highlights and no sign of a colour cast creeping into the image. Surprisingly he commented that two of the natural images would have been more appropriately recorded in colour. We have previously been told that to be judged as a Natural History image, nothing can be changed. Peter suggested that this could be interpreted to mean that a colour image had been changed by rendering it black and white. There does not appear to be an official direction on this.

Peter remarked that giving a natural subject a narrative rather than biological title takes it out of the Natural History into the Pictorial category, although in the club we do not have separate categories for these images. He felt some people could have used this to improve their backgrounds when submitting a natural subject as a pictorial entry. He also advised 'gardening' where possible, to remove distracting material in the image such as stray blades of grass or leaves.

The digitally projected images (DPIs) were shown in their full beauty with our new projector. In this class colour and monochrome compete side by side. They attracted similar comments to the printed images, but being projected does draw attention to areas which are not sharp as they are shown so much larger. Peter encouraged us to aim for images with punch, to consider the position of the subject in the frame and not to overfill the frame while creating a harmonious background without distractions. We certainly have plenty to work on in the future.

Jayne Mair is to be particularly congratulated on winning both print classes with her images of the last Vulcan and a 'very comfortable' portrait. Geoff Stoddart won the DPI class with his 'Pine Marten Drinking'. All three winning entries scored 19 points.

Colour Print
1 Jayne Mair 2 Des Lloyd 3 Russell Nye and Alistair MacDonald
Mono Print
1 Jayne Mair 2 Joyce Bell 3 Des Lloyd
1 Geoff Stoddart 2 Ben Searson 3 Des Lloyd

Next week we will be hosting our annual competition with Worksop and soon afterwards taking our photos to entertain at Lincoln RB Photographic Club. The next event in the Hall will be a ‘Photographers’ Question Time’ evening where members will be able to put their questions to panel of experts.