club competitions

I joined a local photographic society this year, the Loughton Camera Club. The organisation was founded in 1945, and some of the members have been with the club since the 1960's. The club meets once a week for competitions, lectures, field trips and workshops. For some reason I had expected the club to be a bastion of film photography, and was a little surprised to find almost all the members had already converted to digital. They were Photoshop enthusiasts as well - the techniques of digital manipulation being discussed more than the techniques of photography itself. The club's founders may be turning in their graves, but it is moving with the times and will attract more interest as a result.

The club's competitions are run in four categories - color print, mono print, digitally projected, and slide projected.  As each image is presented to the judge, its title is read out. Otherwise the image has to stand on its own. I'm not able to present as a portfolio, or provide context or explanation - just that brief title. The judge provides a verbal assessment of each image for its artistic and technical merits, and at the end awards first, second and third place and commendations.

In the first two competitions I entered, which were for prints, my entries were unplaced. Then in the third competition, for digital projection, I took first prize and had two commendations. I thought Indian Carvings in Vancouver had the best chance of success. However the judge picked Vatican Ceiling as the winner - and commended Kuckaburra and Clifftop Shelter.




Clifftop Shelter


Vatican Ceiling


Indian Carvings in Vancouver

Why was Vatican Ceiling a winner ? Yes it's a beautiful composition - but that owes more to the Italian geniuses like Bernini and Michelangelo who worked on the building. They knew people would look up at that ceiling and made it look just right. I'm inclined to assess photography in terms of value added. The Kuckaburra image is unusual because it is so close and detailed - it's very striking when projected on a large screen. But I have to admit ( although it was not disclosed at the competition ) that the bird was in a cage. The Indian carvings are someone else's art but the image remains one of my favourites. The background figure has a strange smug expression, while the foreground figure looks like he's about to kill someone. The composition of the two heads was not obvious to someone viewing the site - and I don't think the sculptors would necessarily have foreseen that their work might be viewed in that way either.

some success with prints (updated September 2007 )

Print competitions are a bit more demanding than digital projection. The standard mount size is 50x40cm although the print can be any size within that. A printed area of 40x30cm offers judges the chance to examine the image in much more detail than a digital projection, which is limited to 1024x768 pixels. It's also the printer, paper and mount choice that is being judged.

Manhattan Parade

Monochrome print competitions are a throwback to the days of film, but now most people are converting digital color originals to b&w and printing with inkjets. The monochrome prints at the club often seem to lack the quality of b&w chemical prints. I am using the Epson Ultrachrome inks with 3 shades of black and I seem to have an advantage there. My winning monochrome print, shot during the Thanksgiving Day parade in Manhattan, juxtaposes a waving fairytale prince and princess with a giant billboard of a woman in a statue-of-liberty crown.

The winning color print is from Blakeney Point, a remote spot on the north coast of Norfolk. This shot is only possible in summer when the sun sets in the north-west. I watched the sun going down around 9pm, shooting wider angles with the 24-70L and shots of sun's disk with a 100-400L. It's a wonderful stretch of coast, with abundant seals and sea-birds. It was a walk of three or four miles along the shore back to the car - there were still a few people fishing there as night fell, their silhouettes just visible against the last glow in the north.

sunset and waves