2017 03 - Digital Portfolio Competition

12th March 2017
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
9th March 2017
Images by Alan Burkwood

Digital Portfolio Competition

We welcomed Dave Hollingsworth to judge our digital portfolio competition following on a few weeks after the print portfolio event. The entire evening was devoted to digitally projected images (DPIs). Each person must enter a portfolio of five images to show their versatility and a broad spread of skills across the range of photographic genres.

A preview of all the images gave Dave an idea of the overall standard. He declared 'You have got some cracking images there'. The event began with each image being projected and judged individually before a composite view appeared showing all five. New member John Hutton went first with a stunning sunset with the most beautiful colours. Dave commented that he likes 'big skies' if they have detail and add to the image. He really liked this one.

John's second image was an intriguing monochrome portrait of a young woman seated against a black background and placed centrally, breaking the usual rules of composition. Its good exposure, simplicity and symmetry made it a ‘fine image’.

A misty morning river scene with a bird in flight followed and was commended for the beautiful, diffuse lighting. Dave recommended a lower viewpoint to get the structures to break the horizon but still said he would have liked to have taken this image himself. He observed this competitor’s skill with portraiture as the second example, in colour this time, was again judged a fine portrait. The final image in John's set was of a ruined abbey shown in muted colours. To nobody's surprise this set was held back for scoring later.

Dave picked out the good points in each image and made suggestions about how they might be improved. A very positive judge, he offered encouragement to everyone, stating clearly that his comments were just his view. He could suggest improvements, but he was not there at the time and could have no idea if it might have required standing in the river to get a whole bridge in.

There was a wide variety of subjects and photographic treatments. Some had cropped in close while others showed sweeping landscapes. Some had spotted unusual, thought provoking subjects while others conjured striking images out of everyday objects. There were a number of portraits and a smattering of pets and bird shots - which are something of a speciality at Retford.

Cropping was picked up as always. Tiny bits of feet, ears and outer edges of the subjects were missing. Dave suggested that in most instances it was worth checking to see if the missing part was there in the original image and had disappeared during cropping. He advised us to check in the view finder when shooting to make sure we have the entire subject in the frame.

Similarly Dave suggested that a bold crop often works better than slight intentional crops, leaving no doubt that the effect was intentional. A shot of half a face showing a steel pan reflected in the player's sun glasses showed this technique to good effect. It was also a good example of the photo’s title drawing the judge’s attention to what the author was trying to portray. Other cropping suggestions were the usual selection of ‘too much sky without detail’, ‘bland outer edges’ and ‘foreground with no detail’ which all add nothing and need removing.

Dave remarked on good lighting and effective exposure plus the critical issues of sharpness and detail e.g. a very sharp macro shot of a seed pod. He liked the power in two shots of aircraft which were in a set he held back. His comments on these judge’s favourite points were almost entirely positive, to the credit of the sixteen members brave enough to enter.

The sixth set received particularly glowing comments. It had a mixture of monochrome and colour, starting with a striking angled shot of a street light in front of the British Museum. Dave was very impressed with the exposure, the detail and the way the converging verticals had been left to allow a dramatic sky to be seen to good effect.

The next image, a steam train working hard, was praised with ‘it looks as though it is straight off the cover of a book'. Every aspect of this image was spot on and pleasing aside from a small group of admiring people who, Dave acknowledged, 'had a right to be there'.

A Cornish tin mine at the foot of cliff was taken using a dark filter to allow a long exposure resulting in the water having a milky effect. Dave liked this different approach to a coastal shot, saying it had been perfectly handled. He especially how the exposure blurred the white foam on the rocks. The colours in the image and those in the sky were very pleasing.
A portrait of a steam punk in costume was commended for the out of focus background making the subject stand out. The whole image was well handled and pleasing, even if the subject's own modern watch seemed rather out of place.

The final image in this set was a high contrast monochrome shot of an abandoned mine. The detail in the mud in the foreground with rain-filled tyre ruts creating good lines leading to the forlorn looking buildings was commended as an example of how to make a fairly empty foreground work well. The low angle of the shot and the fact that the head stocks broke the horizon were also identified as strengths.

We saw two silhouettes - one a dawn and one a sunset. Both were effective and Dave remarked that in achieving a silhouette the author must underexpose the foreground, so sacrificing detail. He suggested one of the images would benefit from a little more foreground detail, but acknowledged doing so would have been difficult.

A set of monochrome images was also held back. Dave liked the light trails in Madrid with the striking lighting on the buildings. With this, as with some other shots, he remarked that a little light to give detail to the sky would have helped. This set had great range, with a well captured shot of a race car at Le Mans, a portrait taken on a club studio night, a street scene of a commuter in the London Underground and a 'very strong' image of Tower Bridge where faint light and detail in the sky were commended.

The final set held back included a dramatic, frame-filling shot of a beautifully lit cat's face captured in great detail. It also included a shot inside Salisbury Cathedral from a perfectly chosen viewpoint looking along the surface of the unusually shaped font into the body of the cathedral beyond. The roof structure was reflected in the water adding to a very effective image.

In conclusion Dave marked the five sets he had held back. He gave 17 to Ben Searson and Dave Grimsdale then 18 to Jenny Smith's set including the font. After much deliberation he awarded John Hutton 19 points and Alan Burkwood the much-prized 20. Dave thanked us for inviting him to judge his first competition of this type, remarked on the high standard achieved and commended competitors’ 'valiant' efforts to meet the competition criteria. Jenny Smith thanked Dave for his comments which had been positive and encouraging, concluding a very enjoyable and successful evening.