I suddenly realised I haven't posted about a competition I entered (at Camera Club) last month. Once a year they hold a digital image 'Set Subject' Competition. The Judge (who is booked almost a year in advance) decides on the three subjects, and we each have to try to have a shot for each category for the competition. It was my first attempt at one of these Set Subject contests, and I found I did enjoy having the 'prompt' of certain things to photograph.
The first category chosen by the Judge was 'Outdoors at Night' (with a qualifying remark 'anywhere outside after dark, as long as skies are not light'). A quick look through my archives quickly told me that I had the sum total of zero shots of outdoors at night which I felt were good enough for a competition. I therefore decided that a sunset whilst we were in Jersey earlier this year was my best bet. I took zillions of the darned things, but in the end plumped for this one for the competition:
A sunset at La Pulente on the south western tip of Jersey, which is largely unprocessed other than a neutral density filter at low opacity. I was not really happy with this image: It's sort of 'soft' which isn't always a bad thing - I'm quite partial to a bit of soft focus - but it lacks *something*. For me, anyway. There is nothing 'wow' about it. I think the Judge agreed - he said it was very nice, he liked the colours, he liked that the 'author' had managed to avoid burning out the sun, and he gave it 16 points out of a possible 20.
The second category was 'Indoors Architecture' (Interiors of buildings). Now, I'm not one for taking pictures of the insides of buildings - it just doesn't appeal to me. So for this competition I had to step outside of my comfort zone, which was no bad thing. I knew some of the chaps at Camera Club would be taking shots of the inside of churches, cathedrals and other terribly grand buildings, but that's just not me. So in the end the shot I submitted was a slightly abstract one of a ceiling:
I liked the colour, the strong lines and the textures in this ceiling (which is, in fact, a local bandstand). This image was cropped, and the texture emphasised with software. The Judge also liked the lines although he quibbled that it was, in fact, an abstract (I had entitled it 'Ceiling Abstract'). Anyway, he gave it 17 points out of 20.
The third category was right up my street - 'Strictly Simple'. Before we started, the Judge told us that he chose this category because a close friend of his is an artist and is forever telling him that he thinks images are stronger if they are more simple ... the old adage that 'less is more'. I was really pleased to see this category as I love simple images myself and was reasonably sure I could submit something half decent.
This image of the inside of a magnolia blossom is what I chose as my shot for this category, and it was the only shot of mine for this competition with which I was happy. I stuck my lens inside a blossom on my cousin's magnolia tree for this image; it was then cropped and a slight vignette blur added to the outer edges. As soon as he saw it, the Judge said this was exactly what he'd intended by the 'simple' category. He admired it, said he thought it might do well commercially, and after initially keeping it back, gave it 19 points.
So, I ended up with a total of 52 points for the evening, which put me in joint third place. I was very happy with that, especially as I had been so unsure of two of my three images. The winner of the competition got 60 points out of 60 points - all three of his images were absolutely stunning. It is the first time in the club's history that one person has got full marks with three images, and it was very much deserved. A large round of applause ensued.
The Judge (a chap named Stan) for this competition was, in my opinion, one of the best Judges we've had at the Club since I became a member. He was humorous, informative and offered constructive criticism which was then reflected in his marking. So many judges come and spout forth on images, and then award every image with a similar mark, not really differentiating according to their own comments. I chatted with him during the break, when he made me chuckle with tales of how badly his own images tend to do with visiting judges. Like most forms of 'art', photography is largely a matter of personal taste.
Up until now, the name of the Judge for any competition has been kept a secret so people cannot submit images they think will appeal to a specific judge. But from 2011, our Club is trying a new tack - publishing at the start of the year, the name of each judge for every competition. I wonder if it will make a difference? I'm not sure I will want to find out anything about a Judge beforehand. I think I will continue to take images which appeal first and foremost to me; if a judge likes them as well, that's a bit of a bonus!