2015 11 - Worksop 2 Way

29th November 2015
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
17th November 2015
Images by Geoff Stoddart

Competition with Worksop

Our annual two way battle with Worksop Photographic Club was the first opportunity this season to test our latest images against another successful local club. The Exhibition Secretaries of both clubs gather their chosen twelve prints and twelve digital images (DPIs) which are put in random order before being presented to the judge for analysis and scoring. The highest total wins.

This week's judge, Howard Tate introduced himself as someone who prefers judging inter club competitions to club events as he is less likely to see bad photos, which he said he has been known to score as low as 5 to differentiate between the very best and very worst. He then commented that he judges objectively even when presented with pictures of trains and children, which he dislikes, and has a penchant for photos of death masks, leaving us wondering what he would make of our offerings, which at Retford tend towards the natural world.

The prints were first to be judged and it soon became clear that Howard was a judge who considered his comments carefully. He had looked through the entries in advance and so had gauged his benchmark. Like all judges, sharp images were paramount, and anything which failed in this respect was marked down. He also picked up on whether the colours looked right for the subject or whether they had been adjusted unnaturally. He remarked on composition, sharpening and noise reduction and tried to work out whether the image was as taken; a composite of a number of shots or an artificially set up scenario.

There was a wide range of subjects in both colour and monochrome in the print category, although maybe fortunately, no children or trains. Howard commented that anyone with aspirations to win a photography competition cannot expect to do so with a shot out of the camera, but would need to do some work on it afterwards. The goal is to bring the subject out from the background which can be to done in camera through the choice of f-stop, but can be enhanced by subtle and selective sharpening and lightening of the subject and toning down of the background. It was interesting to hear that global sharpening can cause visual artefacts which are undesirable while local application of the tool will enhance. If the subject is sharpened and given a boost to its contrast it will bring it out, taking the eye.

Other judges have said that 'What doesn't add will subtract' and it was clear that Howard found certain areas in the background and on the margins, however small, drew his eye away from the subject. In some cases he advised cropping these out and in others he suggested cloning it out on the computer.

Having viewed and scored all 24 prints, the scores were even at 197 each.

The second half of the competition was for the DPIs, and again a wide range of subjects had been selected, from architecture through punk to wildlife. It was interesting to note the different comments given to the same images we had seen judged the previous week. This time some of our high scorers did less well, but others did better. Only one print scored the magic 20which Howard had analysed as a composite featuring a punk scene. Three scored 20 in the DPI section. At the end of the DPI contest Worksop emerged clear winners, with a total of 207 to Retford's 196.
Through his commentary Howard shared some tips and observations which gave members food for thought. To make most effective use of a budget he suggested that rather than spending the majority on the best camera body you can afford, better results will be obtained with basic body from a good manufacturer and the best lens you can afford.

We learned that the emerging trends in photography at present are dogs and sheep, so in this rural area we should be able to get access to both. We have been advised that a low angle for shooting is often advantageous, but Howard explained that it doesn't always work with people. He used an image of people walking down steps to show how it can work when the subjects are looking down towards the camera.

We have heard a lot in recent weeks about what constitutes a ‘Nature’ shot and what is classified as pictorial, but tonight we learned that different rules again apply to ‘Wildlife’. There is on-going, good natured ribbing between members who take pride in capturing images of truly wild creatures, while others visit wildlife centres or events arranged to allow photographers access to difficult to find species. We now know that the captive creatures photographed in these sessions are acceptable in ‘Nature’ classes as long as the rules about no alterations are followed, while only truly wild creatures can be shown under ‘Wildlife’.

As a former architectural photographer, Howard advised that shots of buildings should draw attention to particular details or show a different, artistic approach to the structures rather than being square on shots which merely captured the work of the architect. His remarks on pictures of the Shard and two glass buildings with prominent reflections bore this out.

We also learned about the compromises which face photographers working in low light conditions. An image of two hurdlers at a night meeting showed how you cannot eliminate all the noise introduced by using a high ISO without also softening the subject more than is desirable, In this case the photographer has to make the decision how far to take the adjustment.

Retford is a sociable club and the committee had put on an excellent buffet with which to entertain our guests from Worksop. In total over fifty people attended the evening and the buffet gave everyone a chance to discuss the images and the results of the night. It was good to see the Worksop members again and we will look forward to visiting them again next year.