This evening we welcomed Darren Pullman CPAGB BPE3* EFIAP, an old friend from Carshalton CC, to judge our penultimate print competition. Another hybrid meeting, this time with more members venturing back to the hall than were watching on Zoom. Long may that continue.

Darren began by explaining that with the Zoom meetings over the last two years, he had enjoyed the luxury of being sent competition entries to judge a few days in advance. This gave him the opportunity to look through the entries several times and he admitted that his ratings often changed from one day to the next. At a live meeting, he is forced to think on his feet and we had to accept that his assessment has to be based on a single first time viewing. Having said that, he did carefully consider each picture giving us a welcome and generous insight into his thinking processes.

A few comments on a couple of interesting points Darren raised. He said, ‘What I want you to show me is everything you want me to see and nothing else.’ He pointed out that in paintings, artists begin with a blank canvas and then paint in everything they want you to see. Photography is the reverse of this. Your job here is to use photo editing to remove any extraneous details not relevant to your image.

If this is current thinking, it represents a shift from the days of film photography when ‘post processing’ was limited to dodging and burning in the darkroom and perhaps a judicious crop. I must be one of a dying breed who hanker after the immediacy and spontaneity of a photograph. I think a photo should look like a photo. In my opinion, it should be enough to lessen the distraction of unwanted details but to insist that they are removed entirely takes away that unique connection a photograph has with the real world.

Photoshop is pretty smart and I love it, but I don’t want it to seduce me into eroding the unique character of photography and turning it into a kind of bastard medium good only as a tool for any old kind of picture making. It isn’t that I am against manipulated photos; they have a place in picture-making, but a different place. What do you think?

With several pictures, Darren pointed out that there is a difference between sharpening and detail resolution. It is important to understand the difference. Resolution is determined by such factors as the pixel density of the image and the quality and focus of the lens used. Resolution can be measured, conventionally by assessing how close two lines need to be apart to be seen as separated. But there is no widely accepted way of measuring sharpness as it is a subjective quality of perception. Sharpness is about edge contrast and helps us distinguish a subject from its surroundings. You will find a more detailed discussion of sharpening and resolution in presentation 8 on my Photography Basics disc if you have a copy.

My pinhole photo ‘.. a bourgeois concept’ is an example of a high resolution/low sharpness image. The title comes from something Henri Cartier Bresson said in conversation with the fashion photographer Helmut Newton, “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”. Just testing your knowledge of photographic history Darren. You get a 4 for not recognising that one ;o)

Darren held back 5 images.

Congratulations to Dave S for two of these. He was awarded 9 for A Walk through the Fields, a soft, atmospheric, feel-good image.

Photocraft Camera Club - A Walk through the Fields by Dave S
A Walk through the Fields

Geometric Layers (Mounting Boards) was given 9.5. A sharply angular abstract construction in complete contrast to the above.

Photocraft Camera Club - Geometric Layers (Mounting Boards) by Dave S
Geometric Layers (Mounting Boards)

Mandy was awarded 10 for Squirrel prepares for Woodpecker attack. Capturing two different species interacting is the gold standard for wildlife photographers so congratulations to her.

Photocraft Camera Club - Squirrel prepares for Woodpecker attack by Mandy B
Squirrel prepares for Woodpecker attack

Mark’s Newhaven Blue Hour also received a 10. A beautifully tranquil scene from a location most photographers associate with wildly crashing waves!

Photocraft Camera Club - Newhaven Blue Hour by Mark B
Newhaven Blue Hour

The 10+ score was awarded to David H for 2nd Battalion, the Rifles, Bristol. Darren thought this a creative and successful composition making it tonight’s winner.

Photocraft Camera Club - 2nd Battalion the Rifles Bristol by David H
2nd Battalion, the Rifles, Bristol

I must say that I was impressed by the very high standard of all the prints entered this evening with so many attempting to push the envelope and think outside the box whilst pushing the frontiers of photographic creativity. Ahem. I think it’s time I stopped.

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