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Almost there, but not quite

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by Roger Hicks, Oct 16, 2014.

  1. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    That's not what I said, Keith. I did not say that "you" would do better in salons than in club competitions. I said that your photo of a bearded old man might, in my opinion, do better in a salon than in a club comp.

    I thought I had explained the reason for that opinion - that, in a club competition, the judge has the time to examine the photograph carefully and pick up on the various technical flaws in it. On the other hand the panel of judges in an international salon are much more likely to be influenced by the initial impact of your artistic representation on the basis of a 3-second exposure.

    But that is not to say that "you" would necessarily always do better in salons than in club comps. I am sure you could do well in both - just as long as you study the requirements and produce photographs to suit each type of assessment.

  2. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    I had realised that, but didn't say it very well; that shot, however, is quite typical of a lot of my photography. It was a candid shot; if I had got him into a studio, I could have done a far better job of it; taken maybe 50 or 60 shots, different angles, lighting, and so on, picked the best, etc., but that would have no spontaneity. I hadn't thought about salons at all, but your comment made me think about them, and that there is actually an alternative to club competitions (or indeed, AP ones) other than what I was aware of. In my reply to Kate, I should have said 'could' rather than 'would'.
  3. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    Getting back to the generic nature of the thread, rather than the specific of "Beardy" now!

    I've tried to say, but I think not very well, that the whole concept of club competitions is flawed, IMHO, and that seems to be what Mick and Oly are saying too (?). Whilst there are some very good and some very poor club judges, what it is all trying to achieve is unfair to both judge and entrants. Mick talks about 100 entries in his club; in mine it's usually about 40 or so.

    I think the first flaw is open competitions. How do you compare a landscape with a portrait with an abstract with a wildlife shot? You might as well compare grapes with cars with bricks with Blackpool rock. Open comps show up both judges' likes/dislikes (or prejudices in some cases) and also are affected by the judge's competence in a particular genre. It is inevitable that some entrants will feel aggrieved even with the best judges.

    If there is no distinction between beginners, intermediate, and experienced, it produces scoring anomalies. Judges obviously feel that beginners need encouraging, so overrate their efforts; at the same time, hit more experienced entrants harder - so it produces the anomaly of beginners scoring higher than experienced entrants.

    In my view, competitions should firstly be themed - one theme per night, maybe - and sectioned into beginners, intermediate, experienced. Limit the maximum no of entries to say 30. Then that gives the judge a fair chance, and also the entrants.

    But, certainly in my club, that has long been a no-no. And the result is dissent among members and destructive comment, which really does no-one any good.

    The same situation has existed for a long time in the old car fraternity: every village wanting a few old cars for its fete, instead of fewer, good meets. Again, effectively open competitions (i.e. concours) which means that only those with expensive cars, expensively and professionally restored, stand any chance. And that has led, certainly in this region, to public and owners alike losing interest.

    It's in the power of clubs - and probably judges, too - to change things. What it needs is the will.
  4. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Trouble is, Keith, would you think he was wonderful if he had rated your pictures highly?
    Sometimes it is hard to accept that one's work is flawed in some ways. You have been shown here how your images could be improved - and in other threads too. One either accepts that or carries on in the hope that a judge will come along and like your version.

  5. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    Do any of us produce perfect work? What I've said before is that if a club says to newbies "if you want to improve, go into competitions", the nature of the way things are currently done with open comps does not help people to improve. I'm not a newbie, but want to improve what I do. I've had a 10 for an image that I didn't think was worth a 10. It wasn't rated when I put it on this forum.

    You jumped on me for posting a quick re-crop of the same image just now; note the word 'quick'. Not fully reworked - because I've taken on board your comments about levels (that pic was virtually straight out of the camera, with just a bit of cropping, and taking a heavy cable out in front of the trees), but given your comment 'revisiting', I'm not wasting time doing a complete re-work on it, if I'm going back to try for better light, for instance. But i did think it worth experimenting with the crop shape and extent. That will influence what I do when I revisit it and take more shots.

    I'm not "carrying on in the hope that a judge will come along and like your version"; I'm looking at things of different genre and seeing what response I get, because I'm taking a step back and look at the wider picture (no pun) to work out what I think is my best way forward.
  6. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    I agree. There's something (to me) distasteful about trying to compete with 'art' and with so many genres. BUT and it's a big but - it's what the members want. Go back to the post of mine that said that I tried to change it and failed. Roger seems to have had the same experience. I repeat - it's what the members want.
    The flaw in your argument is that, in clubs where there is no distinction, the judge doesn't know who is a beginner or otherwise. If there is a distinction made and the judge does know then it's accepted that the 'winner' of the beginners, scoring 20, would most likely be an 'also ran' in the higher classes.

    Back to where I came in - the members don't want it. My club has a few more than 100 members so, in theory, there could be 200 entries into a competition. We actually get about 100. If we were to limit the numbers entered how do we choose who is not allowed to enter. Again the members insist on two entries because, they argue, that one of the entries can be 'safe' (to please the judge) and the other can be experimental. It does actually seem to work that way.

    The bottom line is that the members get what they ask for.

  7. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    What's perfect?

    All I can tell you is that for me (Many moons ago) entering competitions was helpful. I admit that sometimes I got miffed because , as Kate said, I had a higher opinion of my work than I should have had.

    I also sometimes had to ask a more experienced member what the judge meant - sometimes he had sugared the pill to the extent that the meaning was obscured. Now the newer members often ask me and I'm pleased to help.

    It's noticeable that ,in my club, in general , it's the less experienced that slate the judge. Those of us who have been around the block are much more relaxed.

  8. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    Most members are apathetic; they don't care enough to do something about it. Just moan - and they do plenty of that.:) The committee decides what the club will do - period.

    Not really true in my experience, Mick. It's usually pretty obvious which are from beginners (unless they are pretty talented).

    We're limited to 3 entries, but many don't enter 3. Also, always more for a DPI than for a print comp. Since for the former a computer is used to show them, it would easy to sort them by theme. And one or two local clubs do sort into experience level.

    When I was in a club 50 years ago (a large factory club) all comps were themed, but not sectioned by experience. Someone on here said it's due to laziness of the committee now. Maybe, or just pressure of work, I don't know.
  9. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    'Perfect', I think, is whatever someone wants it to be....?

    In my club, it's the other way round!!
  10. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Mick, in x years of being on a formal roster, I think just about everything has happened to me as it does, sooner or later, for every Judge. Just this season, we were about to do the preview of DPIs at one club and a club member looked over the Comp Sec's shoulder & noticed the four he had sent through before deadline were not on the hard copy list. Fortunately he had them with him on his laptop and they were transferred over in the interval.

    As I had a good idea of the standard it didn't matter too much. I have had to dive in 'cold' or 'half cold' {ie. only a quick look at the first half dozen} on a couple of occasions, usually due to transport troubles and/or severe weather or things going amiss with others.

    One of the things a good Federation will do, apart from training days for existing Judges and Assessment Days for beginner Judges will be to advise their member clubs on good practice including regulating volume of entries, Judges preview, etc.. most clubs, I think, are good at that and clubs & their Federation do generally work to make it a better experience for everyone.

    One key thing is that more Judges are needed, especially younger ones, in most Federations. Keith's, for example, covers a wide area and a north Norfolk club cannot afford to invite a Judge from London or Southend, say, except perhaps for a special occasion or perhaps if they do a tour of several clubs in the same area over, a week. A big pool of Judges is needed.

    If you have been photographing for years, been a club member for four or five, entered competitions regularly and you moan about Judges then shut up! Get in touch with the Federation's Judges Officer and offer to become a trainee Judge. Put your money where your mouth is!

    In the EAF - and I think elsewhere, now - we have been prepared to 'buddy-up' a prospective Judge with an experienced Judge who will, with a club permitting a slightly longer entry preview, take the trainee through some of the thought processes and practical aspects of handling a Judging session. The Judges Officer will also probably know of clubs willing to give a prospective trainee a go at judging before they attend a Training and Assessment Day to go on the formal list.

    I'm younger than some of you guys on here but I'm becoming aware that my time judging, barring sudden riches & the advent of a chauffeur driven car, is likely to be limited to a decade or so. Down in Kent, another Federation I know, the top Judges are no spring chickens and I think the same is true elsewhere.

    Most Federations need more Judges and they desperately need some younger ones too! Don't just moan and sit there. Get up and have a go. You may actually be very good at it.

    I have to say this. Over the last few years, I have gone home most evenings thinking 'Wow! I really enjoyed that. We saw some cracking work tonight and there was a lot to talk & think about when the work was not so hot.'

    Not sure if that is down to digital, or general progress, or what. I'm not easy to please for reasons I may point out later and that actually have worried me slightly over the club judging process for a year or three. Cheers, Oly
  11. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Competitions may suit some people, especially beginners. But I tend to treat photography clubs not as places for competitions but as social clubs where everyone is interested in photography, so that we can sometimes learn from each other. Note "each other", though: I do not think I have ever learned anything useful from a judge, or from a competition, except perhaps the point that it doesn't matter how difficult the shot was or how long it took you*: all that matters is the picture. At my last club I rarely even bothered to go on competition nights.

    Photography isn't a competition. It's meaningless. It's about developing your own vision, not jumping through hoops to suit an arbitrary theme. The only possible value of competitions is that they drive you to attempt to do your best -- but I'd advocate trying to get an exhibition together as a much better idea, as it has the same effect and you're not constantly being diverted into irrelevancies.

    *Edit: afterthought. It doesn't matter how difficult it is to judge, either. Some judges are better at it than others, but having the time to think about why you like something, or why you don't, is normally important -- and judges don't normally have that time. Time is a necessity, not a luxury.


    Last edited: Oct 20, 2014
  12. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    Well said, Roger. Unless we are to gain qualifications form them, competitions have more to do with egos than anything else.
  13. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    What's wrong with egos?
    There's a suspicion of bruised ones here... ;)

  14. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    What-ho Roger! I have learned lots from Judges, including tips on how not to Judge. ;) In my early days of club membership, when the club had a programme that included 35-40% competitions, I learned something new almost every week. I had another informal benefit, though. I often got a ride home with a fellow member who was an excellent and very experienced photographer and his wife, who did the driving. Said member would always be expressing his view whether the Judge had been good, bad or somewhere in between. I also found that analysis invaluable, an extra free photography seminar from the front seat!

    The same club moved from weekly to monthly with just four competitions out of twelve. For some time, it has been meeting at least twice a month and the proportion of competitions has shrunk further. For the older more experienced photographers that is fine, it's how we like it. But, younger newer photographers do find the competitions surprising at first, then helpful and, after that, a challenge & a motivation as well as a measure of progress.

    We try to participate, when possible and we can herd the cats, I mean photographers, into bringing in the work, in the Federation print & DPI competitions. The club competitions are invaluable in starting to identify possible components for the club entry.

    Later, I'll elaborate on 'narrow perspectives' and the importance of competitions. Cheers, Oly
  15. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Kate,

    Quite. It's an interesting thought: can one be much of an artist without a fairly large ego?

    On the other hand, look at monstrous egos and monstrous talent, e.g. Picasso, and also ask yourself how many apparently monstrous egos are in reality carefully constructed shields. I can't remember: have you read Art and Fear yet?


  16. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Yes, I think a fairly large ego is a pre-requisite of achieving an artistic goal. Once achieved, the shield effect takes over, since the 'achievement' can seem an anti-climax?
    My thoughts, anyway. Probably rubbish, as usual.
    No, I haven't read Art and Fear. I'll look for it. :) Mind you, having spoken (in person) to another photographer tonight, we both express the same fear when the letters LRPS were mentioned! Our fears of rejection were identical.

    PS Purchased and downloaded!
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2014
  17. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    You may be right but IMHO putting an exhibition together is way beyond most of us. It's hugely time consuming, pretty expensive (most need frames these days) and not easy to find a venue. That's all before we start to think about talent.

    Club competition, however flawed (and they are flawed), is a much easier and cheaper way to get some sort of feedback. Then add the club exhibition (my own club guarantees that every entrant will get at least one acceptance) and I'd suggest that most of us would find that much easier.

  18. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    I'd far rather be thought of as an artisan. I look just plain silly in a beret!

  19. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Ah well, for some, the beret wouldn't fit! :rolleyes:
    For myself, it quite suits me.
  20. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Mick,

    I didn't say it was easy. But I'd suggest that if you're serious about anything, not just photography, "easy" shouldn't be your basic criterion. And expense is not really a valid objection, as I shall show below.

    At the moment (for example) Frances has an exhibition of 10 pictures in the cafe-bar across the square. She has another at a local Christmas fair in 3 weeks and we'll have a joint exhibition in Arles in July. I've had exhibitions in arts centres and even a hamburger bar.

    We use frames from Gifi, 5,50€ (call it £4.50) each at a half-price sale, 11€ when there's no sale -- and these can be (and have been, and will be) recycled for several exhibitions. It takes me about 10-20 minutes to cut the mount and frame the pic. Mats are about 1.25€ each (£1): I cut them with an Olfa cutter (about £50) on a Rotatrim A0 mat (another £50). Yes, £100 is a lot but I've had the cutter 15 years and the mat for maybe 10 -- and compare £100 with what you've spent in the last 10 years on cameras and lenses and tripods and....

    It takes the same time to prepare 10 (or 20) prints for an exhibition as to prepare 10 (or 20) prints for a club competition, but it forces you to think about what you want to do and to say, a vastly more useful exercise than preparing a couple of prints for a jumbled exhibition with at least one guaranteed acceptance from every member, no matter how bad.

    I sincerely regret the time I wasted entering competitions because it completely blunted my focus. When I was a beginner, I wasn't good enough to win, and I learned nothing except how to try to please other people. By the time I was good enough to win, there was less than nothing I could learn from the average judge, who was there to spout platitudes and recycle received wisdom.

    "Less than nothing" because judges would sometimes distract me from what I believed and wanted to do; or just make me angry. Perhaps the most cretinous comment I've ever heard was from a judge at a fair-sized multi-club contest in Kent, when he looked at one of Frances's pictures and said, "I like this, but I can't work out how it was done, so I'm going to mark it down". It was hand-coloured on a liquid emulsion print on water-colour paper. But what does it matter how it was done?

    When I was concentrating on competitions, I couldn't get my teeth into a theme, because next month it would be another theme. Frances and I have learned a lot more from going to good exhibitions, preferably by one or at most a few photographers, and from sheer practice, than ever we've learned from clubs. Working as an assistant in London in the 1970s taught me a lot, too -- such as how you have to take quality for granted, and then work on vision.

    Most of the good photographers I know spend months or even years on individual projects. Few spend less than a few weeks. Projects may overlap or run in parallel, but they are still coherent bodies of work -- see my Street Furniture series at http://www.rogerandfrances.com/bodyofwork.html

    That series was deliberately rough, the beginnings of an idea. Before it could become an exhibition, I'd need more pictures, and better. The purpose of the piece, though, though, was to give people a starting point for creating their own series, without being so slick, glossy and yes, difficult, that it would frighten them off.



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