In my humble opinion ..

by Nov 26, 2023

So this week we tried something a bit different, with Chris R “volunteering” Brian C and Mark B (your blog author this week) to facilitate an evening of feedback on images submitted by members. 

Both Brian and I were somewhat nervous about this as we are not trained judges, we do not view ourselves as being any more qualified than others to have opinions on the work of fellow members, and we really didn’t want to offend anyone (while at the same time wanting to give our honest and hopefully helpful opinions!).  

So with much trepidation (but also a bit of excitement) we both agreed to give it a go!  One of our “conditions” for the evening was that we received our images in advance so we could spend a bit of time getting our thoughts together (a luxury our visiting judges do not have) and I am really glad we did that, as properly considering an image (rather than giving it a quick glance and forming a snap opinion) requires a bit of contemplation time.  

The theme of the evening was “Fire and Ice”, and while adherence to the theme was option, most images did (and some, in a very creative way!). In total we received 26 images, so I took the even numbers and Brian the odd.  

To give a feel for how the evening went, the first image I was asked to comment on was “Autumn Embers”. 

“Autumn Embers” by Brian C

My first comment on this one was that it was an interesting interpretation of the theme, with plenty of fiery colours in the background and the leaves in the foreground did very much look like glowing embers.

I liked the way the foreground interest is nice and sharp, with even a little drop of water on the branch being perfectly in focus, and also liked the way that the colourful trees in the background are nicely blurred and don’t draw too much attention away from the ”glowing embers”.  And of course, if we are going to play pretend judges, the photographer deserved credit for the key-line 😊

In terms of “what would I maybe have done differently” I wondered if this image would benefit from a bit of a crop.  I found the way the branch in the foreground appears part-way into the frame a bit visually disturbing .. not sure why, but maybe there’s a balance or symmetry thing there .. and I also wondered if there was a bit too much of the bare branch on display.

So my suggestion was to try cropping the right hand third of the image off.  My view was that the bare trees on the right don’t really add much interest, so cropping them off would focus more attention on the background tree and foreground branch.  This would also make the branch come in from the side, which might work better for me … but that is only my opinion 😉

After sharing my comments the photographer was asked for their thoughts .. thankfully this image was Brian’s so I got to warm up with someone who could relate to the pressure we were both under tonight!  A great discussion followed with many members sharing opinions and ideas on what they might have done differently, including some interesting alternative crop ideas!

So that’s how we ran the evening.  It took us a while to work out our timings, with Dave S helpfully pointing out that we spent 15 minutes on the first image!  Time management is another challenge that our visiting judges seem to (mostly) manage seamlessly.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to share our comments on all 26 images (and you dear reader would probably soon be nodding off if I did), but a selection of entries from the evening are included below to give you a taste of the variety we enjoyed critiquing.  

Overall I think we had a great evening of lively discussion, interactive debate and ideas sharing, and I really hope that members got something out of the evening while not being offended by our well intended comments!  

This judging business is really not as easy as it might look .. in my humble opinion! 

“Byron Bay Sunset” by Martin D

So much interest in this image – one really needs time to study it. Great fiery colours too! Perhaps clone out the people on the very left-hand side to give a bit of empty space at the edge of the image?

“Fire Wasp” by Dave S

A strikingly graphical image created from images of fireworks.  On brighter monitors there is a dark patch by the top of the antennae, but overall a fantastic image! 

“Fire and Ice” by Chris R

Perhaps the most literal interpretation of our theme!  Great contrast between the almost monochrome background and the popping red colour of the car.  My only suggestion was to brighten the whites a bit as cameras tend to under-expose when taking snowy pictures and this can make whites go a bit grey.  One of my favourites of the night!

“Brazier” by David M

Brian and I both agreed that this was a great image.  We loved the dark background, the wisps of smoke and the vibrant colours of the brazier.  The only comment on this one was that maybe the brazier could have been centred on the stand, but otherwise excellent!

“Skyline at Chamonix” by Philip R

Plenty of ice here! The letterbox format is perfect for this one, the contrast between the bright and dark areas is well handled, and there is plenty of detail in the shadows.  I also  loved the little splash of colour and interest in the sky, although Philip’s wife apparently had other thoughts on that!  Would perhaps have benefitted from a lovely little key-line though, given all of that dark area at the base of the image.

“Tree in Mist” by Alfred C

A beautifully muted palette with the dark profile of the branch against the misty background.  Great framing of the branch and a lovely calm feel to this one.  I would potentially clone out the farm machinery on the left hand edge of the image, darken the top of the diagonal branch (so it is in silhouette like the rest of the branch) and clone out the white railings.  My thoughts on the railings provoked a great discussion: my view was that they jar a bit with the soft moodiness of the rest of the image, but others held a different view that if they were there when the shot was taken, why remove them .. all great opinions and exactly the type of discussion that made this evening so fun!

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  1. Brian Connolly

    I enjoyed this evening and it has made me give a lot of thought as to what our photography is for. Both Mark and I pretty much fell into looking at the images from the point of view of a competition judge, even though we both were clear that we have no basis at all to do this. We kept it to a minimum but it was almost an “auto-pilot” reaction because we are so used to having our work seen and commented on in such a way.

    On reflection, I want to say how hard it was to make those kinds of comments as I do not – and will never – go out to take “competition photographs” when I leave the house. I take everything for myself and my own enjoyment. I then look at the outcome, edit those I feel are potentially good and then, at some stage, think about what might work in a competitive environment. I have many more images that I really like and am proud of and I will not enter these into competitions at all. They are not photographs that need to be dissected by a judge- they are the ones I like the best and may go on my wall or towards something else.

    I want to keep all of us thinking creatively and not feel that we have to get everything right for a judge. They all have their own (sometimes wildly differing) views and no doubt they also take most of their images for their own pleasure.

    Go out with your phones and/or cameras and enjoy taking your photos. Take them because you enjoy photography and the process of creating something special for yourself. If you find yourself with a few that you want to put into a competition, go ahead – but be prepared to have a complete stranger tell you what is “wrong” with your well exposed and composed image.

    We will only ever see and share a very small amount of our collective members’ output at the club when we have evenings like this and it will be great to have more members share images next time. Show us what you’ve got and are happy with. We will enjoy the evening all the more.

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