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Monthly Archives: January 2010
I enjoyed a weekend in Sussex visiting Flickr friends who have been participating in the 2008 and 2009 Photo A Day groups. Although the weather wasn’t brilliant, on the Saturday, we enjoyed a photo walk around Chichester, a good lunch and natter, and followed on with a visit to the Chichester Camera Club‘s Advanced Section Annual Exhibition. We saw some really inspiring work, and it was great to catch up with old friends and finally meet some of the folks too.
Here are a few more images from the weekend:
You can see the full set of images in my Flickr Set.
I attended the first Presentation Camp London last weekend and gave a talk on my experiences as a Photographic Judge. I thought I would jot a few points down in case you missed it, or if you are just interested in what a Judge’s life is like!
- I’ve been taking photographs for the best part of 25 years, firstly on film and then I moved to Digital SLRs in Feb 2004.
- I had my first image published when I was 7.
- I started taking a photo every day on 1st January 2008 and am still going – through 2009 and into 2010.
- No formal traininging, most of what I’ve learned has been self-taught.
- I gained my LRPS in 1995.
- I got my ARPS in 1999.
- I’ve applied for an FRPS a couple of times, but no luck yet!
Amateur Photography in the UK
- UK governing body for clubs in the UK is the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB).
- My local area is the East Anglian Federation of Photographic Societies (EAF).
- The PAGB Handbook publishes lists of approved Speakers and Judges for local clubs to consult when they are looking to arrange their programmes. There are three levels of Judge:
- ‘C’ Panel
Used for general single-club competitions.
I was appointed to the ‘C’ Panel in January 2000.
- ‘B’ Panel
Used for local inter-club competitions, print battles etc.
I was promoted to the ‘B’ Panel in January 2002.
- ‘A’ Panel
Used for Federation-wide or inter-club events and competitions.
- ‘C’ Panel
- The EAF (and some other federations) run annual Judges’ Workshops each October, where people who would like to become a judge can gain some training and experience, There are three levels of workshop:
- New Judges’ Workshop
For those seeking to gain experience of judging with a view to joining the EAF ‘C’ Panel. Also suitable for photographers who have attended previous New Judges’ Workshop but have not yet joined the ‘C’ Panel.
- Intermediate Workshop
For current ‘C’ Panel judges. This will focus on the development of candidates’ judgine skills with the prospect of promotion to the ‘B’ Panel. Current ‘B’ Panel judges may like to come along for a ‘refresher’.
- Advanced Seminar
Bringing together both ‘A’ Panel Judges and those seeking promotion from the ‘B’ Panel. This workshop will provide an opportunity to share knowledge and experience, and discuss the judging of work of the highest standards. The course will include practice in the use of an electronic scoring system, particularly relating to the selection of exhibitions.
- New Judges’ Workshop
There are a few skills which are needed to be a successful photographic judge. Some can be taught, others have to come naturally!
You most often do not get to see the pictures before the evening when you judge. A 10-minute preview for prints or run-through of projected images is all you are likely to get to make an assessment of the overall standard of the competition. As each image is then shown individually, you will have to come up with something unique to say about each, on the spot.
Even if you don’t like a picture, you must give it a fair assessment and critique, and say why you weren’t keen on it, and how it could be improved upon.
Nobody wants to hear a damning criticismn of their work, especially if they are a new member who might have entered the competition for the first time. Be diplomatic, and try to use non-confrontational language.
Try to find good points, even if a picture isn’t up to scratch. The “Kiss-Slap-Kiss” technique is often useful – tell them something good, give them constructive criticism, then finish on another plus point.
Try to keep comments light, add a touch of humour at times. The club members will be sitting listening to you for the best part of 2 hours (often in the dark), so a monotone delivery is going to send them to sleep!
100% important this one – if you run over time, everyone will get bored and some clubs might be charged if they don’t clear the hall by a certain time. This is one of the hardest things new judges find to get right, but it takes practice. If you’re unsure, ask the Competition Secretary to give you an indication of how far through a class you might be, and how long you have left before the break/end of evening.
- Bad Habits
Try to avoid bad habits when judging – waving your arms about, pacing up and down, and (worst of all), rattling change in your pockets – it drives people nuts.
As a judge, you will be expected to comment on most of the following points about each image:
- Exposure – has an appropriate exposure been used for the subject matter – look at burnout on highlights and blocking of shadows.
- Focus/Depth of Field – where is the main point of focus, is the DoF sufficient for the subject?
- Composition – does the composition make the best use of the scene, can anything be cropped from the edges (intrusions around the frame) or should a wider viewpoint have been used (things cut off the edge of frame).
- Lighting – how does the lighting affect the mood of the image – harsh shadows, soft tones, texture, etc. Sometimes it might be a great composition with the wrong flat lighting – this isn’t going to help the overall effect.
- Print Quality – if judging a print competition, you should also mention the print quality of the image – is there any banding, colour casts etc.
- Post Production – if any obvious post-production has been done on the image, is it appropriate for the subject? It helps to know a little about image maninpulation techniques yourself, such as the Orton Effect, HDR, Sepia Toning etc.
The way you make your comments is just as important as what you say:
- Eye Contact
Talk to the Audience! Don’t just turn your back on them to examine a print carefully, and talk to the easel.
- Clear Enunciantion
Don’t gabble, take a breath at the end of each sentence and slow down. What seems like an age-long pause to you, will probably be unnoticable to them. Try to project your voice to the back of the room, whilst not actually shouting.
Try to use a wide variety of adjectives and avoid the repetitive use of words such as nice and lovely. Nobody wants to play Vocabulary Bingo at the back of the hall. Try not to “erm” during a pause, it gets really annoying after a while.
They can be useful at times, phrases such as “The light didn’t do you any favours” can really mean “it’s a terrible picture, I would not have bothered to take it under those conditions” ! But choose your words wisely.
- Don’t Be Descriptive
Any fool can stand up and describe what’s in front of them. “There’s a tree and a lake with a boat on it”. That tells the audience nothing. What they need to know is your response to the image, and how it makes you feel. Ultimately, photography is a subjective medium, and if you don’t explain your feelings, someone might well be disappointed with the mark you decide to give to their picture.
If you get asked back for repeat engagements, and receive glowing Thankyou letters in the post after your visit, then you know you are doing something right. I’ve had many of both, and have thoroughly enjoyed the last 10 years as a judge. If you would like to hear me judging sometime, why not come along to one of my next engagements and say hello.
So if this has whetted your apetite to become a photographic judge, and you live in the East Anglian region, you can get in touch with the EAF Judges’ Officer, Sue Dobson, and enquire about the next workshop dates for 2010. Places sell out quickly, so don’t leave it too late! Unfortunately, I can’t link directly to that information on the EAF website as it’s built around frames. Argh!
I’m not normally a great one for rushing out and buying the latest equipment (for starters, I’d be bankrupt if I did!). But about every 12-18 months I get a new piece of gear which seems to fire my enthusiasm once more. It’s always interesting putting a new piece of tech through its paces, whether that is a camera or new lens. My last purchase was the Canon 24-105mm EF f/4 L IS USM in March 2008.
My main camera, a Canon EOS 30D is approaching 3 years old now, and my Ixus 850IS compact is even longer in the tooth, having been bought in Feb 2007. I can hear you thinking: “Caz is due for a new bit of gear”.
One of the things that struck me when doing the 2009 Photo A Day review was the fact that I had not used the Ixus once during the 12 months. I’d not even taken it out of it’s bag. I had instead lugged the 30D around with my larger lenses, or at least the 50mm f/1.8 prime. That’s quite a large lump to carry about each day. But I did it probably because, although the Ixus takes decent enough snaps, if that’s all that I had with me during 2008, I was often disappointed in the technical quality if I found a really good pictorial composition.
I wasn’t consciously looking for a new camera, but just before Christmas, a good friend mentioned she was getting a Panasonic Lumix GF1 with 20mm f/1.7 “pancake” lens from Santa. That’s a new format called Micro 4/3rds – a kind of half-way house between the sensors on pro-sumer DSLRs and the tiny postage stamp chips in most compacts. And it has the advantage of interchangeable lenses, although there is no optical viewfinder.
So I did some research and was hugely impressed with what I found in the reviews. It’s a cracking little camera and although quite heavy for its size (I like that aspect, actually) it fells like a properly-built camera of old, not one of the plastic throwaways which are so common now. And the fast f/1.7 prime lens is roughly equivalent to a 40mm lens on 35mm format, so quite versatile all in all.
I was lucky enough to get one of these beauties for my birthday on 1st January, and have been using it more or less every day since. I’ve now wracked up over 1000 exposures, so I guess I have an initial idea of its capabilities and drawbacks, although I don’t feel I’ve more than scratched the surface as yet. You know it must be impressive as it’s the first non-Canon camera I’ve owned since 1987!
The main control dial on top is easy to access, as are shooting modes (single, continuous, self-timer etc). The shutter button is nicely placed on the top plate, next to a small video record button. Yes, it does video too, although I’ve never tried it (and am not very likely to). I was even able to use the controls wearing thick gloves, when I was out and about walking in the recent snow.
There is a huge LCD screen on the rear, which gives you good clear pictures. In the absence of an optical viewfinder, that’s essential, and I haven’t found any problems as yet, even in quite bright conditions.
The thumbwheel at top right also has a push function, which swaps you between various command modes.
As a long-time Canon user, I was a bit worried that I might not be able to find my way around, particularly in the menu system, but so far I have had to consult the rather thick accompanying manual on surprisingly few occasions!
I have been mainly using the camera in Aperture Priority, as if left in full-auto, the settings seem to default to opening up the lens as wide as it will go – and f/1.7 isn’t always what you want, to achieve a big enough Depth of Field.
The reviews do say the camera gets a little noisy if you use it at ISO’s above 800 – so far I have stuck with 400 or below and have had quite acceptable results. It also does RAW, and the results from that are allegedly even better. But I’ve not had time to experiment with that as yet.
- Smaller and more lightweight than comparable-spec DSLRs
- Full control over Shutter, Aperture, ISO, Exposure & Flash compensation
- Comprehensive range of lenses from Panasonic, Leica and Olympus
- Excellent technical quality for a camera of its size
- Versatile shooting modes for less experienced users
- Built-in on-camera flash
- Optional external viewfinder
- Aperture and Shutter-speed preview on rear LCD screen
- Live view on LCD
- Can be a little slow to focus at close range with the 20mm pancake lens – haven’t tried others
- Fixed lens isn’t long enough for some landscape or work where subject is at a distance
(not a fault of the camera though)
- No optical viewfinder
- Quite expensive
So there you are, a long ramble and a few first impressions. I will try and write some more in about six months when I’ve had time to really get to grips with what it can do. In the meantime, I will not be far from my reach when I’m out and about for general photography, although I will still take the Eos 30D when going on specific photoshoots.
I’ve finally pulled my finger out and finished off another Blurb photobook from my 2009 Photo A Day project. It’s quite time-consuming to put together, but the end result is definitely worth it. Now it’s off being printed, and I can’t wait to see what a hard copy looks like.
Here are a few pages for you to have a look at: