A hero, stepping in as replacement judge at short notice, Steve supplied his usual succinct and perceptive feedback on our images. In fact, he was so to the point that we finished fifteen minutes early, which was immensely welcome, given the plunging temperatures! As always, it was intriguing to discover what the judge revealed about himself and his photographic likes and dislikes. It turned out that he’d done his ARPS portfolio on ‘Rust’, which boded fairly well for one of my images! He also confessed that he was a ‘heathen’, although he found tonight’s image of the Sagrada Familia church ‘awe inspiring’.

Steve liked pictures that engaged the viewer and conveyed an atmosphere. He was not over-interested in sharpness, but particularly wanted images to avoid distractions. He advised us not to be afraid of trimming off unnecessary details. He pointed out that distractions could have been excised in post-production (such as the stray photographer in the ‘Final Furlong’ photo). Steve also suggested getting a superfluous subject to move away (if you’re in sufficient control of what’s being photographed) or, more likely perhaps, moving oneself to a slightly different vantage point (for instance, to avoid two sets of antlers touching).

Already, during the initial run-throughs, we got an idea of the impact the photos were having on the audience – a chorus of ‘aahs’ for the sweet images; chuckles and groans for clever titles; and a sharp intake of breath for one particularly intriguing title, given our venue (although, as Voltaire was reputed to have said: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!’). 

Congratulations to this week’s excellent winning entries…

Level One Winner: ‘Searching the web’ – Steve H

The judge said there was ‘a nice range of light’ and he particularly enjoyed the way the light hit the web and the ‘arrow’, as it were, ‘pointing you straight up toward the centre of attention’ (the spider – arachnophobes, look away now!).

Steve H later told me more about the photo:

‘I was really surprised this one won. It was taken late afternoon last
September. This spider had decided to block the entrance to our side gate
with his web. There was something distinctly red around the spider’s mouth
area so I grabbed the camera. The background comprised miniature fir trees
that were easy to darken in Lightroom.

My lens was a Canon 28-90mm with a 0.43x macro extender. As I was using
flash I set the ISO at 100 to minimise noise and the shutter speed was 1/200
at F22 to get as much of the spider in focus as possible. (It sounds as if I
knew what I was doing. The camera was already set up as I had been taking
photos of various insects and bugs in our garden earlier that day inspired
by Ann Healey’s talk. There were dozens of pictures that were absolutely
rubbish until I got an idea of which settings worked).’

Level Two Winner: ‘Fisherman’ – David H

The judge reckoned this was a ‘considered and careful’ image. The exposure was beautifully controlled, with fine lighting on the hands, and ‘everything was beautifully sharp’. The subject was ‘beautifully portrayed’ and there were no extraneous elements. He particularly loved the way the net pattern led your eye up to the hands.

David H later gave me the background to the photo:

‘”Fisherman” was taken in Musandam, opposite Iran at the Straits of Hormuz on my last visit to our son,Tim who works in Dubai. I was driving alone along the coast road and noticed a fisherman sitting in his boat repairing nets, I stopped, made coffee for the two of us and sat in the boat with him enjoying the warmth of the sun, the tranquility of the scene and his company. Words are not always necessary. A contact with a local working man is satisfying in itself. Photos can easily follow such a meeting.  Maybe he will remember that occasion as much as I do. Equipment & settings: Nikon D3x 105mm macro f2.8, 1/500 f5.6, ISO100 and luck as always!’

This was the context of the photo:

And congratulations also to the other entries that scored 10 at Level 2:

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