Do you ever do background research on competition judges, to optimise your chances of winning? According to the internet, tonight’s judge, Royston Williamson ‘aims to stray from the norm in (his) photography hopefully producing a reaction in the viewer’. It didn’t help me win, but his website revealed that he specialises in flora and fauna, landscapes and surrealism, and goes on regular cruises.

There were a few more things that I found out during the evening that I wished I’d known beforehand. Royston liked subjects to face the camera. He wanted photographers to pay attention to the edges and backgrounds of their images and remove anything unnecessary. He loved colour, though not too bright. He liked to be amused by photos and appreciated pictures that contained ‘something different that sticks in the mind’ afterwards. Above all, Royston delighted in black mounts and guess what colour mounts both tonight’s winners had used! Since all my mounts were antique white, that meant I had no chance… alongside the fact that the winning photos were so good!

There were an extraordinary number of entries ‘held back’ for final judging at level 2. ‘They’re all too damn good’, Royston claimed, ’it’s not my fault!’. But was it my imagination or did his judging get a tad stingy just after the tea break (had we short-changed him on his biscuits)?

As always, competition night was a useful learning experience and not just about photography. Royston’s judging was enlivened by extra nuggets of information. We discovered that there are sharks in Sydney Harbour and that people instinctively keep looking around when eating on their own. You never know when information like that will be useful!

Level One Winner | Bavarian Church Door | David A

Royston explained that this image was ‘all about patterns’. He loved the fact that it was taken straight-on and was ‘sharp all over’. The placement of the crosses was ‘well-thought-out’ and ‘dynamic’. He also felt the colours were ‘extremely nice’. The dark mount was well-chosen: a white mount would only have been ‘half as good’.

David A told me: ‘Of the three I entered, this was my third choice; it was chucked in and one that I was happy to be discarded if there were too many entries’. He explained ‘before I joined the club (when I took this photo) I tended to go for strong graphic images’ and that he was (justly) proud of the sharpness of this image. David took it on a Nikon full frame, with Sigma 35mm Art f1.4 lens – at f4 for best sharpness, aperture priority, and programmed for minimum sensitivity (giving him 100ASA) and slowest possible handhold shutter speeds (giving him 1/40s). For post-production he used Lightroom.  ‘It would have been minor tweeks (if necessary)’, he told me, ‘I usually take my pictures on Nikon Flat Picture Control, but I probably increased contrast in Lightroom and cropped a little to get things off-centre with no full diamonds’. David’s favourite subject matter is landscape/cityscape, and/or strong graphics.

Level Two Winner | Sunset over Archaway Islands, New Zealand | Mark B

Judges are seldom lost for words, but Royston simply felt this image was perfect: ‘what is there not to like?!’ He loved the ‘fantastic’ lighting of the rocks, the ‘astounding colours’ and the appropriately chosen dark mount. ‘You were so lucky to have been there’, he said. And we were lucky to be transported there by Mark B’s brilliant photo! In fact Royston had difficulty choosing between two potential winning entries – both stunning images by Mark B.

Mark told me: ‘We’ve had a number of speakers (one this year actually) who’ve talked about researching a picture beforehand, and this image is a great example of that.  This was taken on holiday in New Zealand and we visited this location specifically because I wanted to see what sort of pictures these rocks might make.  It also required a bit of time planning too, as the rocks are on the west coast of the island and I had to be there in time for sunset!’
He was most (justly) proud of ‘the colour of the sky, the contrast of the rocks against the sky and the smooth effect of the sea’. It was taken on a Canon 6D and a EF24-70mm f2.8L II USM lens.  It was a long exposure image (10 seconds at f9) and he also used a “Lee stopper” filter to smooth the sea and naturally he needed a tripod. The image was “improved” in Lightroom: ‘a bit of cropping, a bit of temperature, shadow, clarity, contrast and shadow adjustment .. a bit of everything I think’. Mark still considers himself to be relatively new to photography and he is still trying out new genres and techniques (when he gets the time!), but he loves night photography and landscape work.

Congratulations to tonight’s worthy winners and to the other successful entrants who scored 10 (at Level 2):

Form an orderly queue please | Brian C

Sydney by night | Mark B

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