2017 10 - Competition 1 - Open

15th October 2017
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
11th October 2017
First Competition of the New Season

The first competition of the season offered everyone a feast for the eyes. 100 images had judge Sue Hartley remarking that we had some exceptionally skilled nature photographers. The competition these members give each other certainly encourages them all to try even harder year on year..

Sue set about her task methodically, beginning with the 38 colour images. As with most judges, Sue was keen to crop off material which did not help the image. In some cases rocks, shrubbery or superstructures had been included to frame or set the scene, but every time it was suggested that less would have been more. A base is often needed to ‘ground’ the subject, but too much reduces the size and thus impact of the main subject.

Skies also came in for comment. Sue feels that a plain blue sky, while not ideal in many situations, does provide a complimentary background to a graphic subject as with a granite cross. Interesting skies are always good, but if there are layers of cloud, the top layer should be a dark one. Lighter colours at the top draw the eye out of the picture while darker ones hold it in. In similar vein, we were told to look carefully around our images to ensure there are not bright patches at the edge or parts of objects which would be better cropped out or darkened.

Empty space is as bad as elements of the image which add nothing and here we were told that reflections can transform water from a potential problem into an asset. Two images showed the human subjects from behind. In both cases Sue felt that while aspects of each were commendable, being unable to see the faces, read expressions and interpret the storytelling made them far less effective than had the author taken a facing view.

Two shots of the Tour of Britain cycle race were presented. The first showed how trying to focus on two points – in this case the two leaders - can result in the focus falling between them, resulting in the main subjects being soft. Sue remarked that the other image looked static because too high a shutter speed had resulted in the spokes on the bikes being captured with no hint of motion blur, which would have hinted at their speed. By contrast a child apparently participating in Pony Club games showed motion blur to great effect but this image was let down by the usual clutter of buildings, cars and spectators in the background.

It was when we came to the 26 monochrome prints that we came upon the portraits. Lighting can make a huge difference to any image, but with a portrait in particular, harsh lighting can make for a rugged, masculine result. This time we had several examples where side light had been used to capture a close up of the face. Such images are generally taken in posed situations where the photographer can adjust position and lighting. It was surprising just how much difference there was between one pose with the light just right to show a little of the dark side of the face and one where it did not.

There were a number of issues with colour casts in the printing. It was not clear if these were intentional or a printer issue. Sue also pointed out that several nature shots, which were beautifully captured, did not suit a monochrome format. Whereas browns show up against greens, both are basically the same tone and appear in monochrome as similar shades of grey, losing impact in the process.

Sue appreciated some quirky or unusual shots. These included sculptures which had spectacles placed on them; a well spotted image of a person on a shiny pavement cropped to show only the knees downward and some views of cathedral ceilings. The authors were all commended for looking for a different angle or point of view.

After the break the 34 digitally projected images were shown and commented upon. Many of the comments covered similar ground to the previous classes. Some images were commended for their use of symmetry and others for capturing great textures.

Throughout the evening members efforts with natural subjects were highly commended. Sue was clearly very impressed with the many images in this genre for the accuracy of focus – on the eye of the creature -, for the majority managing to blur the background to make the subject really stand out and again many finding their chosen creature against a background of complementary colours which all help create a harmonious image. Above all, Sue drew particular attention to the great technical competency of the authors.

White is always a difficult colour to photograph. It can be tinged with an unwanted colour; it can be muddy and grey or it can be so bright that it loses all detail. Birds with white feathers are a particular challenge as they move quickly and the scene changes. The great majority of images shown in all classes demonstrated that this is a lesson which has been well learned at Retford as the whites drew appreciative comments in almost every case.

After viewing the images in each class, Sue held back the best for further consideration. This resulted in a group of 10 colour prints which scored 18 or above out of 20. Two scores of 19 were awarded to Barry Inman and Paul Lancaster and two coveted 20 scores went to Des Lloyd as Sue could not split his images of two kingfishers and two curlews, both of which were stunningly good shots showing behaviour as well as perfectly sharp birds.

In the monochrome class 7 images were held back. Here there was an outright winner – Lee Dalglish’s striking, gritty portrait of ‘John’ scoring 20. Lee is one of our newer members and it was good to see him achieving a well deserved win. He was followed by Andrew Paul and Alistair Macdonald with 19 apiece

7 digital images were held back, resulting in a richly deserved win for a spectacular shot of a barn owl in flight by Anna Blow, another of our newer members. This was as good a shot as you could ever wish to get, with the bird looking at the camera, captured totally sharp against very dark shapes in a tree. In joint second were Dick Lewis, Ben Searson and Mike Vickers.

Congratulations to Anna and Lee for joining the ranks of our competition winners. The battle for the trophies this season looks like being closely fought.

Full results:
Colour Prints
Joint first: Des Lloyd - Dad’s Fish Supper – Male Kingfisher and Fledgling (20)
 Des Lloyd – Curlew in Combat (20)
Joint Second: Barry Inman - Wings (19)
Paul Lancaster - Clumber Park Bridge (19)

Monochrome Prints
First: Lee Dalgleish - John (20)
Joint Second: Andrew Paul - The Dying Lion (19)
Toledo – Alistair Macdonald (19)

Digitally Projected Images
First: Anna Blow - Ready or Not, Here I Come (20)
Joint Second: Dick Lewis – Marianne in Contemplative Mood (19)
Ben Searson – Waiting (19)
Mike Vickers – Waxwing in Flight (19)