Category: Camera Club

Winner

With the end of 2014 beckoning the Buckingham Camera Club held its annual Christmas Dinner Fish’n’Chip Supper in the Village Hall and the trophies were awarded for the competitions held during the year. Tonight was the final confirmation that I was indeed winner of the Photographer of the Year award on the third attempt – and by 30 points to boot, not sure how I pulled that lead out considering I trailed by a considerable distance for the first few rounds of the competition. I also scooped three of the four category awards, and the Best Use of Colour trophy as well. On top of my success Linda was crowned the winner in the best newcomer award. Just to cap a good year my “Underground Mini” shot was chosen by the members for the front cover of the club programme – the second year in a row I’ve held that honour too. I’m almost blushing!

Winner

The Club has invested in a new trophy for the POTY award this year. A rather smart new shield with all the previous winners are engraved on the back, and room for the next 8 years worth of winners on the front.

The previous two winners haven’t entered the following years competition to defend the title, and I have been pondering whether to defend the title myself over the past weeks…but I’ve decided that I will. It would be nice to defend the title – something done by only one other member in the history of the Club, and to take part so others can knock me off the perch, and there are definitely many people who have the ability to do so in the Club. Linda also wants a stab at the full year’s competition, having done so well just entering digital images this year. The Club have reduced the number of printed rounds by one next year which reduces the costs slightly – although more would be nice.

Another reason for having a go at 2015 is the titles, they are very good. Each round consists of four images – two set subject images and two open images. The titles for the set subjects are as follows:

  • February: Not New (Print)
  • March: Flags
  • April: After Dusk
  • May: Eyes
  • June: Man-made (Print)
  • September: Slow
  • October: Seasons (Print)
  • November: Signs and Symbols

A good challenge then for next year. It’ll be nice to have more people entering and challenging compared to this year, which I hope will happen so we can see more images and improve as a Club. With a few new members and some old faces hopefully returning it should be a good year!

If you are interested in joining the Club or coming along to look drop me a message, you can also visit the Buckingham Camera Club website for more information.

POTY: Becoming the Hunted

The Photographer of the Year (POTY) competition restarted this week following the Summer break with Round 6 of 8 with the set subject being Bridging the Gap. This round was projected digital images and I will admit to being responsible for the title of the round, having entered it into the hat for selection last year. In theory it had a lot of scope for interpretation, but in reality of the 32 images submitted 29 or 30 were of bridges. Still a lot of unusual images though, so a good range.

I’ve been in the top three of POTY for most of the year, always within touching distance of the top but never quite able to gain the points needed to overhaul the gap as my main competitor this year has been equally consistent and excellent in the quality of his images. Since round 4 Peter and I have been separated by just 3 points, so close and consistent stuff.

With the margins so small between us choosing the right image would be the key thing. Choose an image the judge dislikes for whatever reason and you are doomed. Some people check out the judges but unless I’ve had work judged by them before I don’t tend to bother looking for them, what they take pictures of isn’t always the best indicator of how they’ll score your shots. I try to go for some variety – not all monochrome images for example.  I spent forever fretting about my images, entering them right at the last moment as I vacillated between which shots I should be submitting – these were my final choices, which can also be viewed in their own gallery here:

POTY 2014 R6 - Bridging the GapPOTY 2014 R6 - Bridging the GapPOTY 2014 R6 - OpenPOTY 2014 R6 - Open

On the night it went far better than I could have imagined. I scored two maximum scores (20), a 19 and an 18. Three points dropped is probably my best round score ever, which was a surprise but pleasingly so. The evening from my point of view was made better still by a relatively poor evening for Peter who had some harsh scores from the judge and succumbed the lead of the competition for the first time since he hit the top back at the beginning of April.

Two things stick out about this year’s POTY competition. One is the reduced number of entries overall, this year we only have nine members who have entered images into every round so far, and the last two winners of POTY award are missing this year plus a number of other people who used to score highly. The other thing is that the average scores are soooooo much higher this year – the top three have average scores of around 18 for the 24 images judged so far.

So when all is said and done I seem to have ended up 9 points in the lead of POTY – a 12-point swing in my favour in one evening. Looking back at the scores for the year Round 1 was my bogey round while Round 6 seems to have caught up with Peter. Kudos should also be given to Linda (yes, she did feature in my Open entries and scored me an 18 – thanks dear!) who is only entering projected images this year but based on average scores she would be fifth overall in her rookie year, has scored 3 20s (only two others have scored more) and seems to be leading the mini-battle of the PDI-only entrants. Nice work, perhaps in 2015 she’ll enter all rounds and challenge for the top!

The addictiveness of competition

My second year of entering the Buckingham Camera Club Photographer of the Year competition is drawing to a close, with round eight beckoning next week and my entries already selected for the competition and ready to be submitted. It’s been a tough second year in reality, and while I’m close to the position I achieved in 2012 on the final table in terms of points and success levels I’m well behind.

Last year was my rookie year, and on the final night of the competition there were three or four of us who left genuinely not knowing whether we’d won or not – it was that close. I ended up third, just two points behind the winner and one point behind second place. It really was that close. This year after seven of the eight rounds I lie in fourth place, 5 points behind my finishing position last year. The big difference between 2012 and 2013 is that currently I am 27 points behind the leader. No way will I be making that gap up. As a result my thinking has for the most part changed for the end of this years competition and I’m not necessarily entering my best images – why bother? I could keep them back for 2014 and hopefully get a better result.

But it’s not all about the Photographer of the Year competition. The Club has a variety of other competitions through the year – the Versatility Challenge I managed to win (see Versatility Assured) and we’ve got Colour and Monochrome Prints trophies coming up soon too. It all makes for an interesting challenge for me to see how my work stacks up against the other club members.

On top of that the Club selects the best images from all members which are then entered into regional competitions, and we’ve had mixed success with that – although a new way of selecting the images from the club pool is starting to bear fruit. I’ve had a few images in regional competitions, and one or two have scored very well. Ironically the ones that have scored well are ones that don’t seem to have done so well in the Photographer of the Year competition – and vice versa. And this is this crux of competitions – it is unlikely two judges will have the same opinion of the image. The next external competition I’m entering is XRR Visions, where I enter as an individual but the Club selects three members to represent it for the team trophy.

So, how else to get your work looked at? I’ve been experimenting with “Salons” – an International competition where your image is judged by more than one judge – which should help to give a more balanced view. I’ve so far had work judged at one salon – the Midlands International Salon – and have entered two more where judging has not yet taken place. There are several categories in each Salon, I’ve so far only entered the digital categories as the expense of sending prints in doesn’t seem worthwhile at this time. How did I do at Midland? I got one acceptance out of twelve images. The one acceptance I had wasn’t granted any awards, but as an accepted image was shown at the exhibition in the Summer.

Curious about the scoring I emailed the Salon Chairman, who kindly explained some more detail to me. Each of the three judges could score from 1 to 5, and an acceptance was 11 points or greater. He also pointed out that entering the Nature section requires a very different sort of photography – much more of a record shot, and no “cute” titles. One image I submitted was titled “Reach Out and Touch Someone” and scored very low. It wasn’t felt to be proper nature, and also the title wasn’t to the judges tastes – in Nature categories the judges prefer the title to be more about the animal – rather than a storytelling title. Good image, but not appropriate. Live and learn – I have a much better idea of what is required now for that specific subject.

So now I await the results of the Swansea International Salon, and later in the year the Smethwick International. Acceptances is my target for now, I’d be happy with more of those and that will only push me to try and make better and better images in the future. I hope.

My Club competition entries can be found here once the competition has taken place, and the external competitions are here.

Lighting the Nude – the results

Lighting the Nude. Almost a year after this competition title was announced the day has dawned, the entries have been submitted, and the scores dished out. And the final result? A mixed bag for me, but could have been far worse.

Of the eight titles for Photographer of the Year in 2013 this was the one that filled me with the most unease. I’ve never worked with models with clothes on, let alone without. How do you direct the model, decide the poses, discuss the shots? How to edit the picture afterwards and a myriad of other questions all ran through my mind. In the end it wasn’t so bad. I went on the Abbey House Gardens Art Nude course (see Nude in the Gardens) and the Camera Club ran a day in Padbury Village Hall where we got expert help from both the Chairman and the ever-patient models. So in the end I had a reasonable bank of images to select my final two from.

This round of the competition was a printed round, so as usual the prep took longer as you have to have the images printed and framed on mounts so they can be displayed for judging. I order my prints directly from this website and they are printed by a printshop called Loxley. The quality is always spot on, never yet have I had a print anything other than perfect. These days I also do my own mounting using card mounts purchased from Cotswold Mounts. Takes a little bit of time and I’m still perfecting the technique but saves a bit of cash and looks pretty good.

Mirrored Forks - Lighting the Nude / Open entry

My top scoring image in Round 7 – a 20 for my forks!

So how did my work fare with the judge this month? In the Nude category I had what I thought was one strong image and one weaker one. I love my Stairway shot from Abbey House of Suzanne, but the judge quite correctly pointed out a blown highlight in the pictures in the background, and also the bannister finial on her upper arm was distracting. The score was 16. Ironically the image I wasn’t so sure about – Curled – was complimented highly for its simplicity and use of negative space and was held back to the end, where it scored 19.

In the Open category I’d entered two images which I’d had printed for a while but not entered up to this point. One image I wasn’t sure about and figured wouldn’t do well, the other was a print where I had a choice of two for an earlier competition and this one wasn’t used. As expected the Blazin’ Blues shot was criticised for the “HOUS” on the left, and scored just 14. Not unfair, I’ve been looking at it for ages and had it been a projected image I’d have cloned it out. Mirrored Forks came as somewhat of a surprise to me. The judge commented that he enjoys coming to clubs to judge because sometimes he sees something he really wants to try – and this was it. He loved the lines, the  simplicity and the symmetry. Normally when a judge likes an image it is held back to the end and then the top images are compared again. Not this time – a straight 20! Very impressed with that, given that this image had been rejected for use earlier in the year by me!

As for the table in the competition little has changed. I’ve climbed one place into fourth, but two people that were ahead of me didn’t enter this round so in reality I’ve moved back a place. I’m five points off third place now which is the position I achieved last year but with just one round to go I am 18 points behind second place and 27 points behind the leader. With just one round to go I can’t see this changing and me bettering my achievement last year – fourth is probably the best for me this year. With the power of statistics the average score of the leader this year is 17.6 points, last year the title was won with an average of 17.53. My average score this year is 16.6, well down on where it should be. Last year my average was 17.47 – I came third and was just two points behind the winner. This year I have not come anywhere close despite me feeling my work is better than I submitted last year.

The final round this year is Reflections. I’ve got some good images for this category but I’m quite reluctant to use them when I have no chance of winning, so will enter some more “maybe” shots and see what happens. Then I can save what I feel are my best images for next year. Roll on 2014!

Competition title carnage

The titles for the 2014 Photographer of the Year competition at my camera club have been announced. Oh boy.

For a while now I’ve been wondering what the titles were so I could begin working on them, and at club night on Wednesday we finally came up with them. From an original list of 66 titles submitted by the members we randomly chose the eight competitions to be used next year. They are, with the text that accompanied them as they were announced:

1. Signs of the Zodiac. Taking the literal and being creative the image should be based on something astrological not astronomical.

2. Objects of Desire. Perfect porcelain, pretty pearls, or tabletop with an exquisite attention to detail.

3. Pie R Squared. The area enclosed by a circle so anything round and flat (but not a circle!!!)

4. Mash ups. An image made up of several other images or elements. The image can be made in camera or in processing.

5. Bridging the Gap. The architecture of bridges, tunnels, even dams – if it is man-made and spans a gap it’ll fit in this category.

6. Patterns. Any image which demonstrates a pattern, from the close-ups on interesting architecture to a neatly mown sports field.

7. Lines. An image where lines make up the bulk of the image, buildings, ploughed fields or contrails.

8. Character. An image that will show the character of someone or something, a face or animal or building or a character perception in the imagination.

Stunned would be a good word to describe this lot. I’m to blame for two of the titles – Patterns and Bridging the Gap – and I obviously quite like them. Unfortunately Lines will be more or less the same as patterns so that isn’t ideal, and as for the mash up one – well. I can use Photoshop, but I’m hardly an expert. My skills are limited to light retouching and some colour tweaks NOT building an image out of nothing (or many images). The final nail in the coffin of next years competition seems to be Pie R Squared. That just doesn’t even seem to make sense, so no idea where I’ll go with that at the moment. Objects of Desire might be OK given that I’ve got a fair few modelling shots left in the library from this year’s efforts.

We now await the ordering of the titles. It won’t make any difference to the work we’ll have to do but will tell us which ones are printed images and which are projected. We’ll also find out the order of the titles, round one is in February which frankly isn’t far away. I hope that one of the abstract titles isn’t first, I’ve got nothing in the library for that.

So overall I think its fair to say that it’s a mixed bag of titles for 2014. The titles were chosen from what the members submitted and in an open, fair and random way so it’s just the way the cookie crumbles I guess. Overall though I’m hoping my 16 images in the Open category through the year will all be high scorers, because frankly the set subjects aren’t looking too good for me…

Versatility assured

Whoops. I’ve only gone and won the poison chalice of the camera club I attend. Didn’t mean to do that, honest.

Every year Buckingham Camera Club holds a “Versatility Challenge”. The titles are announced just two weeks before the competition, the idea being that you have to have the images for the subjects in your photo library. Five topics are announced and the next week the images are submitted ready for the competition. It’s all a bit of fun really, but unusually for a club competition there is money riding on it…

…the reason for this being that the winner of the Versatility Challenge gets free membership for the next year. Brilliant you say? Yes, I’d agree with that. Every little helps. BUT. The winner also has to pick the five titles for the next competition. OK, bit of thinking needed but not the end of the world. The biggest BUT is about to come…the winner also judges the next competition. D’oh.

Now, judges in the world of camera clubs have the worst job ever. My image is the best image ever, it’s better than that one, and whatever is said by the judge will be wrong. Not just my opinion, but the opinion of everyone – which makes things tricky. After every competition night there is invariably a heated discussion in the car and on Facebook about how so-and-so was robbed, or why such-and-such comment was made when it was blatantly wrong. These judges travel the country for petrol money and have a hard time frankly – although being British we are always very reserved and polite to their faces.

So next year I have the challenge of judging the work of my fellow club members, and somehow have to manage not to p*** anyone off. No idea how that’ll work, but on the plus side I’ve already got a reasonable list of possible titles. But that is a year away at present, so no point worrying about it just yet…!

The Versatility Challenge was jointly won by two members last year – Neil and John. John is a judge already, with lots of experience. Neil is like me, quite new to the club and very keen to sit at the back and avoid controversy. Neil and John judged jointly this year, and it worked pretty well. The titles were good, the comments were not bad either. The only criticism I have of the pair of them was that they made me the winner!

The titles were Playing with Fire, Film Titles, Up Close and Personal, This Green and Sceptred Isle, and Have I got News for you. Lots of scope for interpretation, particularly with the film titles, News and Up Close. My entries are below with the scores, and were good enough for an overall total of 91 – four points ahead of second placed Pauline, who was the real winner of the evening – second place is the perfect position in this competition.

So next year the baton passes to me. Five subjects and lots of images entered by my club mates  to judge. It’ll be fun. Hopefully.

19/20

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