Friday, 23 March 2018

Match-an-Image Competition at Cheam 21st March 2018

To call a Match-an-Image competition a ‘Bun fight’ is a bit of an understatement. Gone was the button-lipped silence of our normal club competitions: instead the poor judge, Steve Lawrenson ARPS APAGB of Reigate Photographic Society, had to withstand a constant barrage of heckling abuse from the audience, two thirds of whom understandably disagreed with his adjudications. But it felt great to let rip like this and subject a judge to the kind of emotional torment they often put us through, and, give him his due, Steve took it all in very good spirit, pretending sometimes to be swayed by one team or another, then changing his mind again.

The occasion was a three-way Match-an-Image competition at Cheam Camera Club where we pitted ourselves against the host club and Carshalton Camera Club. Each club took turns to lead with an image and the other two had to display one within 30 seconds that matched it in some way. The lead club scored a point automatically, then a point for a successful ‘match’ in the judges opinion. A further point was awarded to the best image projected, providing the judge had declared it a match.

We started off good, scoring the maximum available two points in 6 out of the first 10 rounds. By round 26 and the tea break, we were 3 points ahead of our nearest rival. By the end of the evening and after a gruelling 51 rounds, we slipped back a little. Nevertheless PhotoCraft won the contest with 63 points, a point ahead of each of our rivals. Getting good at this aren’t we?

So congratulations everyone as this was very much a team effort. Thanks to the many of you who offered your pictures to use. We had plenty to make our final selection from. The selection was made by Mandy, Dave S and myself who tried to get the best balance of subject matter, matching difficulty and image quality to optimise our chances of winning. We included at least one picture from everyone who sent some when choosing the 60 required. Only 51 were actually used, so if you didn’t see any of your own, they would have been among the 9 that didn’t see the light of day.

Mark managed to get this shot of PhotoCraft members returning to their seats after a punch-up with the Carshalton supporters sitting next to us (a couple of bloodied noses but no bones broken :x)...

An impressive 20+ of you turned up to add your voices to the ruckus. Thank you for your support on an evening I’m sure was enjoyed by everybody. Thanks also to Mark for masterminding the event and for his sterling performance at the laptop on the night, and to Brian G for kindly lending us his projector screen.

Friday, 9 March 2018

7 March | Monochrome PDI Competition

Most competition judges have an oft-repeated mantra. Eddie Hyde came clean right at the start about his: the best images are the simplest ones, pictures that are no more complicated than they need be. As we soon realised, this is what drove his judging. During the course of the evening he gave so much good advice that we didn’t notice we were running out of time. Heavy vignettes seemed to be very popular with entrants this time – just a bit too heavy in most cases: less sometimes is more! 

The Level 1 winner was Kevin Brookes, with his ‘Barn Owl’ image. The judge felt this was ‘beautifully simple, very strong and very striking’. He loved the fact that it was ‘lovely and sharp’ and had ‘fantastic catch lights in the eyes’. 

Kevin Brookes said this about his winning entry:

I took this photograph during a visit to a falconry centre about five years ago, since when it has sat in my computer. Despite several revisits I could never quite get the picture that I felt was there. Having not entered a monochrome competition since last March, and feeling a little left out, I decided to experiment converting the Barn Owl into a B&W picture.
The original photo was shot with a Canon 400D with kit lens, exposure: f6.7 at 1/180sec; ISO 400.
The conversion to B&W was carried out in Photoshop Elements. It was heavily cropped and there was some tinkering with the lighting controls, (I cannot remember what, simply played with sliders until I was happy with the result). It was just an experiment. Submitted in hope.
On the night It was eventually up against three very good landscapes, and I was stunned when it was given top spot. I am now going through my collection with renewed enthusiasm to see if I have any more pictures worth ‘experimenting’ with.
I don’t have any particular favourite subjects but I am drawn toward landscapes and animals, (providing they stay in frame long enough).

The Level 2 winner was Graham Simms, with his ‘Lakeland Fence’ image. The judge especially liked the ‘lovely moody sky… acting as a frame to the fence’. He felt this was a ‘nice and simple’ image – a ‘very effective piece of landscape photography’. 

Graham Simms said this about his winning entry:

I liked the graphics of the fence jutting into the lake, particularly with the side lighting. It was in November at about midday; the sun was not particularly high. I was set up in the lake, in about 2 feet of water, to get the perspective I was after.

It was taken on a Nikon D7500 with a 16-80 at 20mm, f/16, ISO 100 and 6.0 secs, with a little stopper (6 stops) to remove any distraction of small waves on the surface and to get some movement in the clouds.

The image was post processed in LR to crop (cropped about 25% from the left. The right not cropped) and I put a gradient on the top half to darken the clouds and hill. It was than ‘refined’ using Silver Efex 2 to bring out the detail in the fence rails and dry stone wall by sharpening using control points.

I don’t really have a favourite subject but tend to stick to landscapes as you are less likely to offend people, which is my worry with street photography, which I would like to do much more of.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

21st February 2018, Open Print Competition 3

It has been a couple of years since we invited Royston Williamson of Dorking Camera Club to judge one of our competition. A perceptive and articulate judge giving us a very enjoyable evening, so why did we wait so long?

The outright winner among some strong opposition in Level 1 was Beneath the Pier by Terry H. A beautiful image worth getting wet feet for and good enough to seriously challenge any of the winners in Level 2, so well done Terry.

There were so many excellent entries in Level 2 that many were held back and, ultimately, five awarded 10 points.

It is good to see our monochrome competitions so well subscribed; even better to see some excellent examples spilling over into our open competitions. The first, the 10+ winner, was Camel Guard, a classic piece of documentary photography by David H - an extraordinary subject captured extraordinarily well.

Still classical in concept but poles apart in the monochrome genre was Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Martin F. The composition seems to transcend the sum of its parts imbuing meaning into what is relatively mundane subject matter. Purely photographic.

Moving on to colour we had two robins, also poles apart in style. The first, Robin in Flight, captured with characteristic panache by Mandy. Royston said 'capturing birds in flight is not easy'. Bit of an understatement I think.

The other robin, sessile, and enjoying some TLC from a fairy, we had Keeping up Appearances by Dave S in his inimitable style. Maybe he would have got the 10+ if  he had bothered to tidy up the paint spilling over the snail shell ;o)

Lastly, a dreamy, impressionistic seascape Incoming Tide by Brian C. It looks like a long exposure from a speedboat, although Brian C assures me it was taken from dry land.

SPA Biennial Exhibition 2018
This exhibition will be at the Guildford House Gallery from 7 - 28 April and well worth the trip if you want to see some of the best work from the camera clubs in Surrey and West Sussex. For more information visit

Congratulations to the six intrepid PhotoCraft members who submitted pictures, all of whom had at least one accepted. This is an infrequent opportunity to have your work put on public display and worth the effort (if you are successful, of course!). The exhibition is changed halfway through and we should be informed nearer the time which half will feature the work from PhotoCraft members.

PhotoEntry for print competitions
Now that we are familiar with PhotoEntry and can see the advantages for our PDI competitions, it has been suggested that the system is used for our print competitions too. It will take a little extra effort from members in having to prepare and submit PDI versions of their prints in advance.

However, I think the advantages outweigh this. It would save around 20 minutes or so recording entry titles at the start of the evening as the scorer would already have this information. PhotoEntry can allot a randomised sequence number to the entries which will be presented to the judge in that order. Also, we will all receive a list of the print titles, members' names and awarded scores with a thumbnail of the images soon afterwards, as we do now for the PDI competitions. File the emails and it will be a useful reminder of what you entered and how you did.

If you have any comments about this proposal, please add them to this Blog or make them known to one of the committee members.

Friday, 2 February 2018

31 January 2018 | PDI Competition

As our memories of last week’s Bokeh contest blurred into the distance, it was time for an Open PDI competition. Tonight’s judge was David Mendus, who was full of praise for the high standard of our entries, at both levels - no image was graded lower than 7. David explained that his key questions of each image were: ‘Was it worth recording?’ and ‘Have I seen what you saw?’ We much appreciated his warm and constructive critique.

The winning entry at Level 1 was ‘Sweet Chestnut’ by Julia Hiscock. The judge described this as ‘superb photography… it really made something work that rarely does… it’s so far ahead of anyone else’s I’ve seen’.

Julia said afterwards:

“I wish I could say that it was my technical knowledge that helped me win but I'm afraid it was pure luck. I was out walking in the Ranmore Common area and the spikey green husks of the chestnuts scattered on the ground caught my eye.  I chose the best looking husk and matched it with the shiniest chestnuts  - et voila!

“I took the photo with a Panasonic Lumix TZ90 compact (on automatic setting I'm afraid) and didn't make any changes to the image.  Had I tried to use my DSLR camera I suspect I wouldn't have got such a good result! – more practice needed.

“My favourite subject matter is anything related to the countryside - landscape, flora, fauna.”

The winning entry at Level 2 was ‘Waterworlds’ by Martin Faiers. The judge described this as ‘a superb piece of photography… the water drops are beautifully represented… and it captures the girl at the right moment… the face is fully part of the action’.

Martin said afterwards:

“This image was taken at the fountains that operate outside the Royal Festival Hall each summer.  I was drawn initially by the strong figures moving within the water and the lighting, and it was only later that I realised how well the other elements in the picture fall into place.
“The image was taken on my smartphone camera - isn't technology wonderful these days!!   It received minimal post-production treatment as is the case with the majority of my photographic work.
“My favourite photographic subjects include people-based street scenes that contain strong story lines, often involving humour, irony, or illustrating the gap between the haves and the have-nots.  I also enjoy monochromatic land or seascapes with strong textures and moods."

It was intriguing that both of tonight’s winners hadn’t used high end cameras and had done little or no post production – proof maybe that it’s the photographer’s eye that’s essential to making brilliant photos!