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Almost there, but not quite

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

  1. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    Last night I put three of my prints into the club comp again. Interesting - and predictable - result.

    I put in three that I have put under appraisal on this forum: Beardy, the DH Dragon, and "Faces of Ely (cathedral)".

    First up was Faces of Ely. The judge didn't like it at all. He didn't like that the lion was much more prominent than the other plaques; and he said it "made him feel uncomfortable". Because of that, he "couldn't give it more than 7 1/2." (His lowest mark, as ever, was 7.)

    Next up, the DH Dragon. He couldn't find anything wrong with it, and made REALLY appreciative noises, how good it was, how nostalgic (he likes classic cars) , fantastic angle, great sky, sharp, etc, etc. Gave it 9.

    Then after the break, "Beardy". He thought it was great. (!) "Fabulous character, 'gamekeeper stare', great detail, sharp, well-handled difficult light. Score: 9 1/2. (No other portrait came near it!)

    I tackled him in the break, and said, since he couldn't fault the aeroplane, what would I have needed to do more to get 10? "I don't know, very difficult....it's only subjective." Me: OK, but if it wasn't worth 10, then something was wrong. "Oh no, 9's a good mark." So, I said, in that case, an image of an aeroplane must be worth less than, say, a landscape (he likes landscapes) so it can't be worth putting aeroplane shots up. Panic!! Then he stuttered a bit about "perhaps the sky could have been a bit more blue..."

    Then I said, well, OK; I knew you'd mark down my montage. He repeated how it made him uncomfortable, and he didn't like the darker parts being 'subtle' and 'well-formed' and the lion being 'flat' and bright. I said, well, that's what I wanted; it expressed something about those plaques; all were saints except the lion. He didn't get it, and just said something about not being able to give marks for creativity.....

    Methinks, I can rest my case...... And, I have to say, he is one of the better judges that we get...
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2014
  2. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member


    You, yourself, have keyworded your Ely picture as "unconventional" and "abstract". Nothing wrong with unconventional or abstract photographs - but equally no reason why anyone else should rate them highly.

    Just a wee point on your scores and your reaction to them.

    I don't know what instructions or guidance your club gives to judges. In mine (where we ask for images to be scored out of 20) judges are asked only to award one 20, one 19 and one 18 so that we have a clear first, second and third. There are two consequences of this: firstly an "imperfect" photograph may score 20. 20 does not mean "perfect" it means the best of that competition's entries. Last year I got a 20 for a landscape where the judge commented that it would be improved by cloning-out a gatepost in a bottom corner. I agreed. The other consequence is that, generally, members are very happy with scores of 15, 16 or 17 which indicate excellent photographs.

    Worth remembering that, in club competitions, photographs are only competing with the other entries - they are not being judged against any absolute standard.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2014
  3. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    Anything unconventional very rarely does well with most judges that I've seen. They usually don't 'get it'. The issue for me is creativity. Judges don't seem to think it worth anything, unless it fits a specific formula - then it isn't really creativity. IMHO.
    Our club says award as many 10s as you like, then pick a first, second, and third
    from the 10s.
  4. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Your judge was doing what anyone with enough experience would do. Awarding mental marks for difficulty, originality etc.

    The score is not just about technical perfection, it should be far more than that.No way would I ever give your Dragon 10 and make it appear to be equal to an amazing landscape, or unique seeing eye shot. A perfect figure skating routine does not get full marks unless it is on the highest level of difficulty.

    You have to recognise what are higher tariff shots at that level and what are just not.
  5. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    This is where I really struggle with this judging stuff. Surely, all that matters is whether people like the picture or not? I'm not in the least interested in how a picture of a skater was made, if it pleases or informs me.
  6. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    a) there weren't any 'amazing landscapes', just fairly average ones.
    b) more importantly, aircraft shots rarely get anywhere near 10, whatever the aircraft is doing, and how well it has been photographed doing it. After all, there are only so many things an aircraft (and indeed the photographer shooting one) can do. Which comes back to what I was getting at - pointless putting them into an open comp. The same is true of various other genres.

    So far as landscapes are concerned, the tendency now is that exotic landscapes do far better than any British landscapes, after all, they can look more colourful, you can find things to shoot that you'll never see here, and so on. Therefore an exotic landscape will always do better than a local one here, given the same level of competence of the photographer, because it is very likely to be more dramatic, more unusual, well, more exotic.

    Which means that club members who can afford to go to, say, Cambodia or Alaska for their holidays are always likely to do better than those who go to Skegness or Morecambe...unless they are pretty incompetent with a camera anyway.

    Incidentally, you said 'not about technical perfection': most bird shots and macro shots are almost entirely about technical perfection. Bird shots often get 10s, macros very, very rarely do - in our club, anyway. Yet there is as much technical difficulty in doing good macros, if not more, than in doing good bird shots.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2014
  7. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    I've seen plenty of amazing aircraft shots that would get ten. I think you're talking about lazy, pay the airshow entrance, take a quick shot pictures.

    Re landscapes; if exotic landscapes get more than boring close to home ones, well that is another magnitude of difficulty. I know not very well off people who do all their landscapes abroad. Not being able to afford to does not get you 2 more points.

    And unless you have different rules (some clubs certainly do), the judge should be giving top marks for top work, not for best of a mediocre lot. BTW I really think marks out of 20 is far better, but so few judges use more than 7 of them. At least that's better than only 3 of them.
  8. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    There's nothing wrong with it - it's just a bit boring. A bit like a 'bird on a stick' is a bit boring. These days birds have to be much, much more exciting than just sitting there.

    He might have given it 10 if the light had been more dramatic or the sky more interesting or there was something, anything, that lifted it out of the 'straight record' category.

    I've just got back from my own club's projected image competition. Once more my experience doesn't mirror yours. In our advanced section (open competition) just five images were awarded 20.

    Two were macros of insects.
    One a bird (and I have to say that if the insect macros got 20 then the bird deserved even more IMHO)
    The fourth was a picture of some dead fish.
    The fifth was a portrait - a wonderful, stunning portrait that I will remember for a very long time.

    Three of those 'never do well' according to you. You might have expected the bird but the dead fish?


    PS Oh BTW there were lots of obviously Photoshopped entries but absolutely no sign whatever of any Photoshoppery in the five 'winners'
  9. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    Well, the winner was very obviously not only Photoshopped, but was HDR (a lot judges don't like HDR - and neither do I); otherwise, it was just a photograph of a street in the old part of Norwich. A street that has been photographed to death. another member commented that it looked odd; colours were unnatural, and he thought it not a good image. The second was a sea bird starting to take off. A far more worthy image, IMHO.

    My aeroplane: well, your answer " the sky more interesting " is much what the judge said; it started off much more interesting, but the blue sky reflected in the flat silver surfaces and - comment off this forum - gave it a blue cast; all that I could think of was to change the colour temp to correct it, effectively wiping the sky out - though in fact, the 'blue cast' was an accurate rendition. But let's get back to my point.

    It's an 85-year-old aircraft. Slow, graceful (I hope my shot showed that), rare, and fragile. It ain't gonna loop the loop or carry a wingwalker, or play with the Red Arrows, is it? So it's actually pointless putting anything like that photograph in a competition. That's what I'm getting at. The judge disagreed with that sentiment, but that is, to be honest, the bottom line.

    Now let's think about the Red Arrows. I took slides of them about 45 years ago, doing much what they do still. Are they any more 'exciting' today than 45 years back? No - personally, I'm bored with them, and don't bother even watching them now. There is little that can be done with any aircraft today that hasn't been done already, photographed by countless photographers, good and bad, and I can't see how an aircraft shot can be made unique enough to stand out dramatically - unless it's of a wing falling off, or an engine flaming out - and if either happened, probably the last thing I'd be doing would be taking pictures - I'd want to get out of the way of its fall to earth! (One shot that got a second a bit ago was of a biplane landing on a trailer being towed by a LandRover; poor quality image - half the car cut off, a bit overexposed - but the judge liked it. The exception that proves the rule perhaps.)

    At the end of the day, every photograph is a record of something. Some were harder to get than others; that, we're told, doesn't count in scoring - though with some judges it does. Some are technically better than others; sometimes that counts, sometimes not. Some are more 'arty' than others; again, sometimes that's valued, sometimes works against the entrant. The whole damn thing is down to the opinion/mood/background/whim of one judge, at one time, relative to what other images are entered at that one time, and seems to me to be little more than a lottery for the most part. Certainly as I've experienced it. You have what you think is good in your area, and that's fine - end of story.

    And PS "Three of those 'never do well' according to you." That was a statement of my experience, and a comment from one of our judges that I discussed comps with.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2014
  10. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member


    I wish that I could get my points through to you. Others have tried in this thread but you seem to ignore our points.

    You got 9 for your plane - that's a good score and so not at all pointless entering it (sorry for pun). What did you want? I'll be honest (but remember it's just another opinion) that photo would never be awarded 10 in any competion. Why? Because it's a fairly uninteresting, but competently done, record of an old plane. the subject may mean everything to a plane buff but to Joe Public - including me - it holds no interest at all. There's no 'wow' factor, nothing to make it memorable.

    I mentioned the sky but a 'bluer' sky wouldn't hack it either. if you really want that shot to stand out then you need a very dramatic sky - maybe fierce looking storm clouds, maybe glancing evening light catching the wings or edges of the fuselage. Something really dramatic. Now I'm being very direct - maybe your judge on the night didn't want to upset you and so spoke in generalities.

    Now I know that conditions weren't like that and so you got what you could. What I'm trying to get you to see is what might have been and what might have been necessary to get that 10.

    In my own field I sometimes get told how lucky I am to find my subject. I usually agree - but I know (and so does SWMBO) that behind that luck there's ages of research, hour upon hour searching and waiting. There's endless washing from me crawling around in a marsh. And if it didn't happen today I'll go back tomorrow - and the next day and the day after that until it does. If you call that being lucky then yes I'm extremely lucky.

    Finally our points of agreement. We all know that some judges are not good. We all know that some have foibles and we all know that we are submitting ourselves to the opinion of one person. However I don't agree that the situation is as bad as you paint it and I don't agree that it's as much of a lottery as you suggest.

    Good luck
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2014
  11. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    So what do you call not 'lazy...' ? Are you saying that I just 'took a few quick shots'? All 652 of them over about 4 hours? What should I have done then, hire a helicopter for air to air? Break into RAF Marham? Come on, Mike, what else are most of us going to do but go to air shows for photographing aircraft? In fact, I avoid the major shows like the plague; they are so overcrowded, you can't even get a decent shot unless you're one of the first through the gate (and at Duxford, you've probably got to start queuing at about 5 am!!!)

    On this, I agree with you. What I struggle with is when out of say 35 prints, a judge awards perhaps 9 or 10 'tens', then picks first, second, third. It's a substitute for doing it properly. When judges come along they get a few minutes having a quick scout round, then go through one at a time, mark on the fly, and effectively, 10s are used as a form of short-listing.

    One consequence when it's a DPI is that the flip-through is even faster, and the early entries and last few entries are usually marked - don't know how to put this - less reliably than the main body.

    Doing it like this is utterly flawed, IMHO. If you look at any APOY comp, how many get 100 marks, whatever the category? Marks usually (in the ones I've looked at in detail) seem to peak at around upper 70s-mid 80s. That, to me, makes a lot more sense than what I've observed in our local clubs.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2014
  12. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    Mick, you're making much the same point, up to the last paragraph, that I'm making; I didn't say my aeroplane shot was worth a 10 in an absolute sense; but I was comparing it with other images on the night. The way our club judging works is that it tends to be relative. You said "maybe glancing evening light catching the wings or edges of the fuselage. Something really dramatic." They don't fly 85 year old aircraft in those conditions. The only exception that I know being Shuttleworth, on "flying off into the sunset" shows. And it is definitely a matter of luck what sort of sunset you get, or whether the weather is good enough for such old planes to be flying at all. And I've never seen one of those photographs in a club competition.

    You are doing with your macro imaging what I and many others do or have done for bird shots. When I was younger, I spent many hours at reserves etc, and many feet of film/cards full aiming to get "the one". Age and health issues are against me now, so I've turned to other forms of photography. This is probably the case with many other of our club members, too. We have two bird photographers; one is absolutely obsessive about it, and his images are always excellent. The other is not quite so 'dedicated', so his images aren't quite so good (in fact, often very noticeably over-sharpened). Everyone else does what you might call 'ordinary' photography. Very occasionally a macro shot turns up, but nothing outstanding. From time to time, an aircraft shot. I'm not boasting when I say my Dragon was considerably better than either of the last two aircraft shots that were put up - and one of those DID get a 10! But - if you look at my previous post to this one - 10s don't mean a lot if they are just a means of short listing.

    I want to put this debate to bed now. I got quite a lot out of it, but I don't have the time to continue a debate that has been going round the same circles for a while now. I'm grateful for the help and advice given, especially in the Appraisals thread, and especially also from Roger.
  13. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    Furry Nuff ;)

    Hope you don't mind if I change tack. No need to reply if you don't feel like it but I hope that RMike does.

    By implication we have been speaking about two different scoring systems.
    1. (APOY?) top marks are not awarded which implies that the judging is being done against some mythical 'perfect' standard.
    2. Typical club method where judging is being done against what's presented on the night and the 'best' on that night get awarded the top mark. (Ignore top mark being used as a shortlist - that's crazy. Also many clubs DON'T ask for 1,2,3 as well as the mark). Effectively the judge is just ranking the pictures put before him

    I think that I prefer the second especially as, in the club scene, judges change from week to week and so the 'mythical perfection' will also change from week to week. In addition would a judge anywhere, anytime, ever award top mark - just in case next week something better turns up?

    No time to explore the highways and byways so the above is too simplistic.

    Any thoughts?

  14. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    I'm just terribly busy Mick. I've been out doing a video for a local campaign group today (and yesterday), which is problematic because it's very windy, and both weather and time are against us. Plus I have other big commitments.

    I think I prefer 1, because perfection doesn't exist. And it means that a winner is clearly a winner. Giving loads of 10s to me is nonsensical, especially as few judges award less than 7 - but one or two do, and that creates anomalies. The typical scenario is 7-7 1/2 = beginner quality. 8-8 1/2 = experienced; but this is where even very high quality images often end up (some of them that have won international competitions). 9-9 1/2 = whatever the judge happens to like but doesn't want to give it 10 (I think, there often isn't any other logic apparent). 10 = the shortlisted ones to pick 1, 2 , 3 from.

    Two things I've experienced:
    a) putting in an image that got 8; a couple of comps later someone else put in a virtually identical one, and won.
    b) As an experiment, I put in a snapshot: judge said "it's a typical holiday snapshot"; it got 7 1/2. Also same comp/judge, I put in a pretty good B&W, that the judge said was "a good professional quality mono image". Got 7 1/2 too.

    It's things like this that wind me up. I don't understand why it's like that so often, but it is; and when I've commented earlier, it's not just with my images (I didn't enter any for half of last season, just observed), but a significant number of other members have the same issues with it. And it's not just this club; another I joined was just the same - with the same judges. It makes a nonsense of entering.

    anyway, I must move on.
  15. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    I think (sadly) that 2 is the only way, or members can feel cheated, or that the judge is judging by some standard that they can't see and appreciate. Only way you could apply a universal standard (and I have seen many judges do it) is by putting technical perfection above everything else. Then no blemishes gets 20, which is rather nonsensical. The number of times I have heard "Well I can't fault it, so 20"!

    No shame if people are aware that 20 tonight might not have been 20 last week and don't expect 20 in the inter-club, or whatever. But of course it affects the leagues, just as you suggest. Someone gets 20 this week, then something vastly better comes along next week and can only get 20. I have never seen members really complain about that....we have all benefited at some time!
  16. KeithLeslie

    KeithLeslie Well-Known Member

    Yeah, but what about when something half as good comes along next week and also gets 20....?? I'm sure we've all been there, too.
  17. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Not even next week. In the same competition quite often.

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