Tuesday, February 28, 2012

As we leap into March...

It was interesting at club Monday. My prediction of a fairly low score was fully borne out by a HC in Set and Merit in Open.

The judge’s reaction to both was interesting; indeed her reaction to many of the images could be described thus.

She “did not understand” the Set entry. The shadow met with approval, but there was nothing in “her story” to explain the sharpness of the left side of the image. So, let me explain. Reading from left to right – which is why I rotated the image 90* left – there is the very sharp, and threatening, claw shape that grows out of the “background”. The shadow that it casts is of a fern – exactly as the sculptor intended – a gentle and soft plant that grows in the shade of others. To the right there is the series of diagonal parallel shadows which introduce a sense of instability. Those same lines create a barrier to the right, visually pinning the fern in the middle of the frame. The base of the claw and the fern are joined at the edge of the frame, indicating their direct connection.

I have no idea if the story I have read into the sculpture was intended by its maker but the image for me is direct and powerful. There is a danger in beauty; there is often a very visible but unrecognised cause to both. It might be surf and rocks, such as at Piha or Muriwai; it might be calm water and powerful currents, such as Tory Channel or the entrance to Hokianga, or a deep hole in a river. If you want you could even put a political slant on it; if that rings your bell then go for it.

The reflection was even worse. I think she recognised the image as being a reflection. It was not in her story that the people were looking at the objects floating there. The fact that they were created to look like flowers was missed. There was just no recognition at all. So between me and the person who made the sculpture we completely lost the judge. There was just no connection. The puns are almost multitude: reflection; it is, the three people in the reflection are reflecting on the “meaning” of the flowers in the water; flowers; artificial or not, flow-ers; flowers grow in a garden; is this a water garden, it is also the Botanical Gardens; and so it goes.

Or is my mind just too far bent for others to pick these things up?

I have to credit the judge with making the distinction between an “impressionist” image and a plain bad frame. In question was a picture of a family picnicking under a very large tree. As you can imagine, there was lack of focus and/or presence of movement. There was also a measure of manipulation in the image as well to burn out other detail. Not well enough burnt out in the judge’s opinion. It would have been better had the frame been deeper exposed in order to take out the houses etc in the background. I agree. It is a matter of how you do it; in camera, or in computer is the question.

One thing I have learned, and must remember, is the use of “Vaseline filters”. Good thing with which to play around. Also coming out of the comments last night is the difference between “form” and “texture” and “intensity”. This latter came from an image which, in the opinion of the judge, would have been better in black and white rather than colour. It was a very wide angle of a room in a photo exhibition. It was blurred and swept as one might expect.

One last comment. One of the images presented by an A Grader was of two surfers on a wave. Time of day appeared to be dusk. The image was manipulated by the addition of gold light on the crests of the two waves. This met with warm approbation by the judge. There was one problem. The light was – quite obviously too – from behind the surfers and the waves, as the front of the surfers was not similarly coloured but were in shadow. How come then that the front of both waves carried that gold light. The intensity of the colour was too deep as well. There was no blue, emerald, gold fade in though the blue-yellow boundary had been feathered. Sometimes judges can be as imperfect as can I.

Also out of the same evening comes the question, "Is this a competition on image manipulation, or expertise in obtaining and presenting photographic images?".

Friday, February 24, 2012

So the year begins...

Ahhh, time of joys, of the long late summer, and the commencement of the competition scene at club. That latter prospect has improved through the presence of a good mate who has decided to join the club this year (as a “beginner” naturally). The improvement will come from the occasional debate that we may have concerning things photographic.

F’rinstance, a question regarding the nature of “photographic images” was debated over the tea-cups one afternoon this last week. The question arose from Rules 2 and 3 -

2. An entry must originate from a negative, colour slide or digital file that was exposed by the contestant.

3. An entry may be manipulated in any way provided no areas are added that were not exposed by the contestant.

Seems straightforward enough, huh?

I looked long and hard at Rule 2 last year for the “White on white” set competition. I had a white feather – collected from one of my sister’s chooks I think – which I tried scanning with a white background, only problem was that the scan came out somewhat more yellow than I had imagined and the idea was dropped because of my inability to clean the image for consideration. But the question starts at that point – an “image” taken with a scanner? The output is a “digital file”, no?

Consider the use of a digital file taken from a scan of a film image. Is this in any way different to a print taken from a digital file for print competition? That is easy – the answer is “No!”. The premise here is that the image was originally captured using a camera. One can argue the same for an image captured using an iPad camera or phone camera. Equally as valid, equally a “photographic image”.

So, why the objection to an image from a scanner? There is no lens? I believe that the lensing and sensing functions in a scanner would be quite complex. In fact quite as complex as a digital camera in fact. That became a particularly unfruitful moot.

The application of “no areas added that were not exposed” in Rule 3 is comparatively straight-forward. There is a small matter of detection involved. Primary in my mind when I say this is an image that was presented in competition last year under the “photo-journalism” heading. It was of a crowd, either Japanese or Chinese, all looking in the same direction, all dressed in what I would think of as late 50’s or very early 60’s clothes; suits, hats. The overall feeling that I got from it was of immediate post-war Japan. There is no way that I could get any proof, but I had the uneasy feeling that I was looking at an image from the ‘Net rather than the person presenting it, and dating from some 50 years BP rather than being an image from current times.

I am not going to allow the year to get off to a bad start with the prospect of the "Abstract/Concept" as the set topic this month. The judge has been named and to give an indication of what she might expect. Sorry, mine is going to look like this -

I had a long struggle with which to offer as the Set topic. I chose this as the Open entry -

Both images were taken last month at the Auckland Botanical Gardens.