It was good to welcome Eddie Hyde ARPS of Bookham Camera Club to judge our competition. Quite early on in the evening he issued a warning that many competition judges suffer from ADHD and won’t tolerate anything that distracts them from the main subject of an image. He went further I think by stating that it should not contain anything that does not contribute something to the picture. Everything in the picture needs to be part of the story. This seemed to be an encouragement for heavy use of the cloning tool when editing pictures. Hmm..

This got me thinking about two experiences, one old one, and the other very recent. Several decades ago I went to an art fair and was looking at some of the paintings on a stand there. I was attracted to one of the entrance to a churchyard with a lychgate, a stone wall and some trees. It struck me how beautifully balanced and composed the picture was and I asked the artist if that was exactly as it looked when he painted it.

‘Oh no’ he said, ‘I did lots of sketches of the different elements in the scene and moved them about and resized them until I got the composition right.’ And how long did you spend deciding on the composition before you started painting? ‘Weeks’, he said. So this is what artists do.

The more recent experience was watching the programme on BBC 4 Don McCullin: Looking for England. If you missed it, catch it on BBC iPlayer while you still can. The programme followed the veteran photographer revisiting places where in the past he had taken some of his most successful images. We see him wandering about carrying his favourite medium format film cameras, taking pictures, and later developing and printing them himself under the safelight in his darkroom. Apart of a bit of dodging and burning under the enlarger, there were no other manipulations before the pictures appeared magically in the developer. There they were, distractions, unnecessary details all over the place – and they looked beautiful.

So now we can, if we so choose, pretty much do what painters have always done – PhotoShop makes it possible. But don’t you think that photography is beginning to lose it’s identity as a distinct art form? For all the freedom editing software gives us, I for one, feel uncomfortable with the prospect of photography disappearing into the general melting pot of illustrative art. End of rant!

This is no criticism of Eddie who I think did a very good job; his comments were all constructive and worth listening to. He emphasised that his suggestions were just that – not guaranteed to work but what he would try out if the picture was his. I felt he warmed with a bit more enthusiasm to the landscape pictures, but none of us is perfect..

Now to our winners.

At Level 1, congratulations to David A. who was awarded 10s for two of his pictures.

The 10+ for Highland and dry. Eddie loved the beautiful muted colours and the composition of this image.

His second winner was New Year’s Day. Another beautiful landscape. Eddie forgave the blown out parts of the sky. After all, if you take a shot straight into the sun, it will saturate the camera sensor and there isn’t a lot you can do about it.

The overall winner at Level 2 was David H. with Declining Years. I am not sure if the placement of the signpost to the cemetery was witty, poignant, or a bit too close to comfort for some of us!

David also received a 10 for Dubai and the Creek. Eddie wasn’t quite sure about inclusion of the skyline but I guess this was just another of his ‘suggestions to try’ and it didn’t stop him from awarding top marks for this picture.

The final 10 of the night was for Mark’s Godafloss. One of the most stunning waterfalls in Iceland captured in an unbelievable morning/evening light.

A great evening with some really impressive entries at both levels helped by a judge who knew what he was talking about, and justly praised at the end by Brian for his consistency.

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