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?".