17 September 2020 (Opening Night and Trophy Presentation)

We started the 2020-21 season with a very different kind of opening night. We normally meet up at the Fisherrow Centre for a social gathering, a look back at the previous year’s photographs and a look forward to the coming events on the syllabus. It is an opportunity for potential new members to come and meet our members, try out the club and see if it is the kind of club they would like to join. None of that happened this year. The Fisherrow Centre remains closed to clubs, and due to Covid-19 restrictions we can’t meet face to face as a group. But we have a new Zoom Pro account to try out, we can meet virtually from our own homes and find creative ways to make this season work.

I was pleased to be able to announce two new events on the syllabus. There will be a joint meeting with Mölnlycke Fotoclubb on 22nd October and a presentation of images from two photographers from The Netherlands on 3rd December. Being able to meet via Zoom gives us the opportunity to meet other photographers around the world.

Our first creative event of the season was a simulation of the trophy presentation that would have taken place at the end of the last season. Normally, we would have the trophies neatly arranged in order on a table, with the bronze, silver and gold medals lined up. The winners would be called up one by one to accept their prize. Instead of this face-to-face ceremony, George Todd (our competition secretary) put together a presentation to run us through the competition results. The winner of each trophy was announced by an impressive curtain-open transition, while members responded with cheers and Zoom reaction buttons; and some winners responded with surprise because they had forgotten they had won! Here are the full results. Congratulations to all the winners:

The next creative event will be a socially-distanced photoshoot at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh. Some members had already visited, and others were intending to visit this weekend. We will all visit separately but join up at the next club meeting (on 24th September) to discuss our visit and share our pictures. I look forward to seeing you all again next week.

10 September 2020 (Extra Club Meeting)

We are starting the 2020-21 season two weeks later than usual. There has been a lot of uncertainty over the summer about whether or not the Fisherrow Centre would reopen, and exactly how many of our meetings we would need to hold by Zoom videoconference. This extra club meeting was arranged by Zoom to inform members about the latest news. Here is a summary:

  • The club needs to follow guidance for keeping members safe during the covid-19 pandemic. The situation is changing constantly and members are advised to monitor the web site and watch out for club emails to be informed of last minute changes. You can find some guidance at the following links:
  • Existing members can join the club by emailing the treasurer, returning an application form and paying their membership fee by bank transfer or cheque. New members can contact the club secretary (as stated on the home page) and will be referred to the treasurer.
  • The Fisherrow Centre is closed until further notice, so all our meetings will be held by Zoom unless otherwise stated. I have created two sets of recurring meetings for members:
    • A meeting at 19:30 every Thursday for our regular club meetings.
    • A meeting at 19:30 every Tuesday for extra meetings such as training sessions.
    • When members join the club they will be given the information needed to join these two meetings. However, we can create as many meetings as we like, and the club is not limited just to these two occasions.
    • Haddington camera club have kindly provided a link to this article describing how to use Zoom:
      https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-use-zoom
  • There has been a change to the club rules for Digital Projected Images. All images must now be no wider than 1600 pixels and no taller than 1200 pixels. The matches the club rules to Scottish Photographic Federation (SPF) rules.
    • The deadline for submitting images to the DPI competition is Thursday 17th September. Please email them to georgetodd1957@me.com.
  • Print competitions will take place digitally until further notice. Judges will accept images digitally, but they must be sized to the same limits as DPIs.
    • Members can add a small border to indicate how they would have mounted their image, but this is entirely optional.
    • Because of the image size limit, use a thin border, not the thick border demonstrated in my previous club message.
  • We would like to arrange regular photoshoots so that members have an opportunity to meet face to face outdoors. The following venues were suggested:
  • The maximum limit of 6 people from 2 households meeting up will make photoshoots more difficult but not impossible. We can follow this procedure:
    • The club advertises a venue and a 2 hour time slot.
    • Members make their own arrangements and visit the venue during that time slot.
    • Up to 6 members from 2 households can arrange to meet up.
    • After the visit we meet together by Zoom, show our pictures and compare our experience.
  • The recent change in the rules on meeting people in Scotland means that next week’s opening night and trophy presentation cannot take place face to face. Instead, George will present the trophies virtually and will arrange to have them delivered to winners.

The real start of the club season begins next week with our opening night and long overdue presentation of the trophies from last year. I look forward to seeing you again (albeit through a computer screen).

How to Make a Digital Print

Our new season is fast approaching. This season, because of covid-19 restrictions, it is likely that many of our print competitions will need to be held digitally. Our judges have agreed to accept digital versions of images and judge them as if they were prints.

So how do you distinguish a print competition from a digital projected image competition if both competitions are judged digitally? Well, one of the differences in a print competition is choice of mount: its colour and size relative to the print. For a digital competition you won’t be able to physically mount your prints, but you can make it look like they have been mounted. The following presentation shows you how to do it using Photoshop.

HowToPrepareADigitalPrint

Here is a mount-board swatch I created by scanning samples of my own mount-board. If you have a different selection of favourite mount-board colours, you can scan or photograph samples of your own to make a similar swatch.

Of course, with “digital” printing you can create a mount-board in any colour you like!

I look forward to see you all at this Thursday’s extra meeting and welcoming you to the start of the new season.

27 February 2020 (3-Way Inter-club Competition)

This week Musselburgh Camera Club hosted the first of a new series of 3-way competitions with Beeslack Penicuik Camera Club and Haddington Camera Club. I was disappointed to miss this competition myself, due to a late night at work. I would like to (belatedly) welcome Beeslack and Haddington to Musselburgh and hope they enjoyed the homemade cakes that we usually lay on for such occasions.

The competition was judged by Doug Bernt from Edinburgh Photographic Society. I heard that Doug picked up on every detail that he thought would improve the images submitted. Each club submitted 5 prints and 10 digital images each, and the competition was split into 3 stages: 15 prints followed by the first 15 digital images, then the remaining 15 digital images. Musselburgh Camera Club submitted the best print (Taj Mahal “Before The Crowds”), but Haddington Camera Club submitted the best digital image (The Green Dress).  The final scores were as follows:

The top Musselburgh images were:

  • Taj Mahal “Before The Crowds” (print) – 20 points
  • Tanahun Priest (print) – 19 points
  • Loch Ard Boat (DPI) – 19 points
  • Pelican Reflection (DPI) – 19 points
  • Razorbill (DPI)
  • Magnificent Hummingbird (DPI) – 18 points

Thank you to Doub Bernt and well done to Musselburgh Camera Club for another decisive win!

20 February 2020 (Photographing Scotland)

This week we had the pleasure of welcoming Scottish landscape photographer Dougie Cunningham, author of the popular guidebook “Photographing Scotland“. Dougie began by telling us how he started in photography, which grew out of his love for the outdoors and the satisfaction of capturing those defining moments in life. He shot wedding photographs for friends and worked on photo-shoots for outdoor clothing manufacturers. His full biography can be found on his website, “leading lines”:

https://www.leadinglines.net/bio

Dougie then described how his love for landscape photography turned into a contract to write a guidebook for photographers wanting to capture the best Scotland had to offer.  The book was divided into chapters covering different parts of Scotland. Compiling each chapter became an adventure in itself. Some chapters were completed quickly and some chapters needed many repeated visits to the same location until the weather finally allowed Dougie to capture the shots he wanted. Dougie toured Scotland in a small camper van, which allowed him to sleep in remote locations and wait for the sunrise.  A typical pattern was to capture sunrise and sunset, then drive to the next location and wait for the next sunrise. He would often climb to the top of a mountain and sleep in a tent at the top, hoping to capture a striking sunrise shot from the summit, only to wake in the morning after an uncomfortable night to the sound of horizontal rain lashing against the side of his tent. But Dougie learned during the project to make use of every opportunity; not to let tiredness put you off when the light is right, and not to let waking up to bad weather put you off. On some occasions the weather had cleared enough by the time Dougie set up his equipment to capture an atmospheric post-storm mountain sunrise. He found the project itself gave him the inspiration to keep going. In landscape photography it helps to give yourself a goal.  Members were transfixed for an hour and a half, when Dougie showed one spectacular Scottish landscape image after another.  Some of these images can be seen in Dougie’s flickr collection:

https://www.flickr.com/people/oldnotbold/

Dougie described some of his photography techniques. He tries to capture scenery as you would find it, so his photographs are not digitally manipulated (apart from graduated filters and tone corrections). If a lamp post happens to be in an inconvenient place, so be it. But this rule helps Dougie think about the composition of his images, capturing iconic landmarks from unusual angles to avoid the distractions. Dougie encouraged photographers to find new ways of capturing popular scenes. It is understandable for a someone visiting a place for their one and only time to play safe and capture the usual postcard shot, but if you have a chance to visit more than once it pays to experiment and find a new view unique to yourself.  Dougie’s book can be found in most bookshops, such as those below:

Amazon;  W H Smith; Waterstones;  Blackwells

Now we just need to save up and buy that camper van…

 

 

13 February 2020 (Set Subject Competition – Wildlife)

This week we had the second of our 3 set subject competitions; this one on the theme of “Wildlife”.  Jim Todd had won last year’s “Abstract” competition but, as he was already judging the “Travel” competition, the judging passed to me in second place. Wildlife photography is one of the most strictly-defined categories. A commonly accepted definition is

Wildlife photography is a genre of photography concerned with documenting various forms of wildlife in their natural habitat.

Competitions such as the International Wildlife Photographer of the Year or Scottish Nature Photography Awards define strict rules along the lines of:

  • The photograph must include a wild creature and not a pet, a tame or farm animal. The creature must also be alive.
  • The photograph must be taken in the wild and not in a zoo, farmyard or any place where animals are in captivity.  N.B. A local park or garden is regarded as a wild place.
  • You must not manipulate the photograph in any way which changes the environment or animal but you are allowed to correct what the camera has done to the image. Cropping, colour correction, brightness and contrast correction, dodging, burning and removal of dust spots is allowed but cloning out distractions or composing composite images is not. Organisers will want to see the original RAW file from your camera as proof. So, if you capture a fantastic wildlife shot and are considering entering it for one of these competitions, keep your RAW file.

The club competition was not judged as strictly as these competitions. All images were accepted. Judging what was wild lead to a few controversial decisions: Is that curled up animal a domesticated cow or a wild deer? Did the photographer stalk that tiger, take a close-up photograph and survive, or was the image taken in a zoo? There were 45 images entered by 15 members. It was a hard competition to judge because all the images were good in some way. The strongest images were the ones which captured a wild animal showing natural behaviour, and where the background showed the environment but wasn’t too distracting from the subject. Photographs taken at eye level gave more engagement with the viewer than ones pointing downwards or upwards (although Mike Clark showed that rule could be broken with a shot of a Sparrowhawk looking directly down from a tree at the photographer). Cropping too tightly was a common fault. Some images were also take in harsh lighting. Correcting the exposure, dodging and burning can help some of these images, but choosing a cloudy day rather than bright sunshine would help capture a better image in camera.

The top-scoring images were

  • Red Squirrel (Jennifer Davidson) – 20 points
  • Where’s Dinner? (Joe Fowler) – 19 points
  • Female Green-Breasted Mango (Anne Yeomans) – 19 points
  • Robin Redbreast (Jennifer Davidson) – 18 points
  • Queens Of The Road (George Todd) – 18 points
  • Sparrowhawk Eyes Locked On (Mike Clark) – 18 points

The highest scorers were:

  • 5th place (47 points)
    • George Todd
  • 4th place (48 points)
    • Malcolm Roberts
  • 3rd place (50 points)
    • Mike Clark
  • 2nd = place (52 points)
    • Joe Fowler
    • Anne Yeomans
  • 1st place (55 points)
    • Jennifer Davidson

Well done to Jennifer Davidson, who wins the privilege of judging next year’s competition. The league table after two competitions has narrowed and now looks like this:

George Todd (55 + 47 = 102)
Joe Fowler (49 + 52 = 101)
Mike Clark (51 + 50 = 101)
Anne Yeomans (47 + 52 = 99)
Malcolm Roberts (50 + 48 = 98)
Lorraine Roberts (49 + 45 = 94)
Gordon Davidson (49 + 45 = 94)

Only 4 points separate the top 4 places, so there is everything to play for.  Entries for the final set-subject competition (on the theme of “Old Faces”) are due on 5th March 2020. Best of luck everyone!

30 January 2020 (Human Portrait Print Competition)

This week we had the last print competition of the season. Roger Stewart, vice president of Stirling and District Camera Club, visited Musselburgh to judge our human portrait print competition. Roger specialises in wildlife and landscape photography. Click here to see his gallery.

Ten members had entered 30 prints, which was a smaller entry than usual, but this gave Roger more time to critique each print. Most of the entries this year were portraits of individuals, but there were a few group photos, and it was a group photo of three people having fun in the water which won the evening. Some of the portraits were a little too tightly cropped, and Roger recommended allowing a little more space so that a piece of hair, or the very top of a hat, is not cut off by the frame. The depth of field was an issue in some images. In a portrait the eyes must be sharp, but there were cases where the camera had focused on a nearer part of the face, leaving the eyes soft. Portraits that were not face-on posed a particular problem. If your subject is sitting at an angle you’ll need a larger depth of field to keep everything of interest in focus. The title of the print can also suggest what needed to be in focus. For example, if the title suggests the subject is writing a letter, both the eyes and writing hand need to be in focus. Likewise, a portrait entitled “Wink” leads to a dilemma over whether the open eye or the closed eye should be in focus. Settle the dilemma by keeping them both sharp. Brightening the eyes and face can also help improve a portrait. Distracting backgrounds were a common problem, and Roger suggested whether a different angle of view could have helped.

The top scorers in the human portrait print competition were (in reverse order):

  • 4th place (46 points)
    • Jennifer Davidson
    • Malcolm Roberts
    • Sean Conner
  • 3rd place (48 points)
    • Joe Fowler
  • 2nd place (49 points)
    • Steven Beard
    • John West
  • 1st place (53 points)
    • George Todd
    • Mike Clark

and the top images were:

  • Bursting With Happiness (Mike Clark) – 20 points
  • Brahman Priest  (George Todd) – 19 points
  • Fortune Teller (John West) – 19 points
  • Tanahun Priest (George Todd) – 18 points

Well done to George Todd and Mike Clark, who now need to decide how to share the trophy. Congratulations also to relative newcomer John West for a great result.

 

23 January 2020 ( Plant and Flower Photography)

This week we had the pleasure of a visit from Liz Cole, a plant and garden photographer. Liz runs a Japanese Garden Photography course at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh. Her images are regularly used by gardening magazines, books, newspapers and horticultural labels. It had been 9 years since Liz had previously given a presentation to Musselburgh Camera Club, so this one was long overdue.

Liz began by describing the equipment she uses for plant and flower photography. She uses Fuji X-Pro 2 mirrorless camera. The advantage of a mirrorless camera is that it is small and light, doesn’t attract attention, and yet still gives good quality photos. The camera has a very quiet shutter, which helps if you are photographing plants in a Japanese temple, and a good autofocus. Two types of lens can be used for flower photography. A macro lens lets you get up close and capture small details, but a medium telephoto lens will let you capture a larger plant or flower and blur out the background. A lens which gives a good out-of-focus bokeh gives the best results.  Liz recommends photographing plants and flowers by natural light. Using a flash can upset the colour balance (which is not good if you are aiming to use your image on a plant label).  A silver reflector can be used to brighten the shadows. It is possible to attach a circular reflector to the front of your lens to help with macro shots.  Adding a UV filter can help to improve the colours in sunlight and a polarizer filter can create a richer sky background.  Liz doesn’t use any other kinds of filter for plant photography.

Liz began by showing us the images of plants and flowers in their natural setting which she uses for horticultural magazines and plant labels. There were several beautiful images of Japanese gardens, common and exotic garden plants, trees and wild flowers captured in the Aberlady nature reserve. She used a lot of upward-pointing shots of trees which kept tourists and distractions out of the shot and captured the blossom against the sky or background plants or buildings. Liz then showed us a collection of studio portraits of plants and flowers which she had captured indoors or at flower shows. Unlike the outdoor shots, these images have a plain background. Liz uses a white, an 18% grey or a black background, as appropriate for each image. During her presentation, Liz gave us some hints, tips and great ideas for improving our photography:

  • Make sure you control the exposure so that flowers with white petals are not blown out in the highlights. Always underexpose a white flower.
  • If you don’t have a silver reflector handy, you can use the silver lid from a curry carton.
  • Check your plants carefully for ugly defects, pieces of dirt or lurking insects. Also (if you are allowed to) remove bits of rubbish from the surroundings. It is much better to get the shot right in camera than to try to fix it afterwards.
  • Don’t forget that seed heads and shoots can be just as beautiful as flowers.
  • If you want to ensure you have a plain background at a flower show, take along a print of an out-of-focus image of your own lawn. This kind of background can also be used for insect shots.
  • If you are using an artificial background make sure it is far enough away that your subject doesn’t cast a shadow on it.
  • If you are composing your images for a magazine cover, leave enough space for the wording at the top.

All in all this was a fascinating and enlightening talk.

 

09 January 2020 (Set Subject Competition – Travel)

We opened the second half of our 2019-2020 season with the first of our 3 set subject competitions. The competition opens with the subject of “Travel”.  Jim Tod had won last year’s “Seascapes” competition and earned the right to judge this year’s competition.  Jim began the evening by drawing our attention to the commonly-accepted definition of travel photography:

Photography that may involve the documentation of an area’s landscape, people, cultures, customs and history. The Photographic Society of America defines a travel photo as an image that expresses the feeling of a time and place, portrays a land, its people, or a culture in its natural state, and has no geographical limitations.

42 images had been entered in total from locations near and far, including Scotland, England, Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Iceland, Vietnam, India, China, the Galápagos islands, South Africa and New Zealand! There were landscape images showing the beauty of these locations, portraits of people going about their business, shots of interesting things and photographs of various forms of transport. The best images were the ones which combined these aspects, showing people in the context of their culture or landscapes connected with iconic local landmarks. The transport images had more impact if they showed people using the transport and included a clue to the destination in the frame (for example an image of a ferryboat approaching a jetty had more impact than a shot of a boat isolated in the middle of a lake). Blown highlights were a common fault. Many shots had been taken in bright sunlight and the use of a polarizer filter and better control of the exposure would have helped those shots.  Jim explained how some of the shots could be improved by a better viewpoint or better camera angle. The adventures of Sven Martin Bullwinkle (a series of images showing a cuddly toy journeying through Scotland) raised some laughs with the audience!

The top-scoring images were

  • A Long Way from London (Malcolm Roberts) – 20 points
  • Lake Cruiser (Mike Clark) – 20 points
  • No Room For A Passenger (George Todd) – 19 points
  • River Crossing (George Todd) – 19 points
  • Morning Commute (Joe Fowler) – 18 points
  • Mainline Steam (Mike Clark) – 18 points
  • Line (Kevin Johnston) – 18 points
  • The Beagle At Dawn (Anne Yeomans) – 18 points

The deciding factor in this competition was consistency,  and the top places went to members who had consistently good scores across all three images. The highest scorers were:

  • 5th place (47 points)
    • Anne Yeomans
  • 4th = place (49 points)
    • Joe Fowler
    • Lorraine Roberts
    • Gordon Davidson
  • 3rd place (50 points)
    • Malcolm Roberts
  • 2nd place (51 points)
    • Mike Clark
  • 1st place (55 points)
    • George Todd

Thank you very much to Jim Tod for judging this competition over his Christmas holiday. Congratulations to George Todd, who wins the right to judge next year’s competition.

This is the first in a 3-part competition, with George, Mike and Malcolm now standing at the top of the league table. The next two parts will be the “Wildlife” competition (hand-in date 23rd January 2020) and the “Old Faces” competition (hand-in date 5th March 2020). If your images didn’t do well in this competition don’t despair.  The final result depends on the total score from your best 2 competitions, so there is still everything to play for.

07 December 2019 (Black and White Print Competition)

This week, Neil Scott visited the club to judge our black and white print competition. Neil is a long-standing member of Edinburgh Photographic Society, and in 2016 had been listed as the 4th best monochrome photographer in the world by the Photographic Society of America. Neil began the evening by showing us some of his work and explaining what makes a good black and white image. The key points were:

  • A good black and white image is not a good colour image with the colour removed. When he judges an image, Neil asks himself if the photographer had a black and white image in mind when the shot was taken.
  • A black and white image relies purely on light, shade and texture. Plain backgrounds help the subject stand out. Neil prefers a strongly-contrasting, white or black background. If a subject doesn’t have a plain background (e.g. in street photography), darkening the edges can help draw your eye back into the centre.
  • Most good black and white images contain black, white and shades of grey in between. Most landscape, still life and portrait images would benefit from an increase in contrast to ensure the full range of shades is included. There are some exceptions. High key portraits of women or babies look more delicate when fewer shades of black are included.
  • Neil spends a great deal of time dodging and burning his black and white images, to ensure that the shadow and highlight areas retain their details.

There were 45 prints entered by 15 members, and Neil appraised each image in turn and explained his scoring system. A score of 14-15 meant a print needed some improvement. An average print would score 15-16, a good print 16-17 and a very good print 18. Scores of 19 and 20 were given to the top images in the competition. Some prints looked a bit flat and Neil recommended increasing their contrast to cover a greater range of blacks and whites. Some prints needed their shadows brightened to include more detail. There were also some subjects that were too tight in the frame (touching the edges) and could have been improved by giving them more space. As expected, some otherwise superb prints lost marks because they looked like good colour images with the colour removed. When the scores were added up the competition was very close, with the top places all decided by a single point! The top scorers in the black and white print competition were (in reverse order):

  • 5th place (50 points)
    • Steven Beard
  • 4th place (51 points)
    • Jennifer Davidson
    • Anne Yeomans
  • 3rd place (52 points)
    • George Todd
  • 2nd place (53 points)
    • Joe Fowler
  • 1st place (54 points)
    • Mike Clark

Well done to Mike Clark, whose top image “May Contain Nuts” was backed up by two 17-point images. The top images were:

  • The Dandy (Joe Fowler) – 20 points
  • May Contain Nuts (Mike Clark) – 20 points
  • Flightless Cormorant With Octopus  (Anne Yeomans) – 19 points
  • Eyeing Up The Opposition (Jennifer Davidson) – 18 points
  • Taj Mahal “Before The Crowds” (George Todd) – 18 points