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

 

21 November 2019 (4-Way Inter-Club Competition)

This week we had the pleasure of welcoming Kirkcaldy Photographic Society, Edinburgh Photographic Society and Stirling And District Camera Club to Musselburgh for the annual 4-way inter-club competition. Kirkcaldy had won the 2018 competition and were keen to retain their title. As usual, each club entered 15 digital projected images each, making a total of 60 images on the night. Images were judged by Stewart Dodd of Dundee Photographic Society. We are really grateful to Stewart for coming all the way to Musselburgh and judging in the midst of a cold.

This year was a particularly strong competition. We were entertained with awesome landscape images, extremely well-captured wildlife shots, stunning portraits and carefully crafted art shots. There were no fewer than eleven 20-point images and ten 19-point images scattered across all four clubs, meaning a significant proportion of the evening was spent clapping and admiring the achievement of the photographers gathered. There were some images included which had recently won SPF awards.

By the halfway point of the competition Musselburgh was leading Kirkcaldy by just one point, with Stirling and Edinburgh hot on their heals. We had a lovely interval with tea, home-made cakes and biscuits. Then in the second half came a festival of 20-point images with the final scores ending up

  • Musselburgh Camera Club – 278 points
  • Kirkcaldy Photographic Society – 275 points
  • Stirling and District Camera Club – 265 points
  • Edinburgh Photographic Society – 265 points

It is a huge achievement for the club to win against such strong competition. Well done to all the club members whose images helped us secure this result.

Normally at this point I would point out the top images entered by Musselburgh, but there were so many good images presented this year, I think all the clubs deserve credit. Here are all the top images entered:

  • Musselburgh Camera Club
    • Mating Orange Tip Butterflies – 20 points
    • Taransay – 20 points
    • Pelican Reflection – 20 points
    • Magnificent Hummingbird – 20 points
    • Razorbill – 19 points
    • Church Of The Santissimo Redentore – 19 points
    • Steep Ascent – 19 points
    • Loch Ard Boat – 19 points
    • Lava Heron Fishing – 19 points
  • Kirkcaldy Photographic Society
    • Painted Lady – 20 points
    • Rattray  Lighthouse – 20 points
    • The Potter’s Son – 20 points
    • Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe – 19 points
    • Little Owl – 19 points
    • On a Snowy Day – 19 points
  • Stirling and District Camera Club
    • Male Kingfisher With Catch – 20 points
    • None To Share – 20 points
    • Rum – 19 points
  • Edinburgh Photographic Society
    • Beak to Beak – 20 points
    • Parallel Lines – 20 points
    • Rail Street Offering Hanoi – 19 points

Thank you to all the club members who travelled from far and wide to attend. We’ll see you again next year.

November 14 (Members Evening)

This week we had the first Members Evening of the season, where club members present their work and talk about their interests. Allan Cameron began the evening by showing an audio-visual presentation he had made when he visited an arts and crafts fair at Cockenzie House and Gardens, in Cockenzie as part of the 3 Harbours Arts Festival. The fair included demonstrations of salt panning, bronze casting and other fascinating crafts.

Joe Fowler followed with a presentation of photographs taken during the club visit to Mölnlycke Fotoclub, Gothenburg in April 2019. Joe explained how the connection between Gothenburg and Prestonpans come from an old trade agreement where goods were exchanged at Morrisons Haven.  Joe’s images showed that Gothenburg, like many modern cities, contains a mixture of old and modern features. There was a lot of building work going on, a new arts centre, a picturesque canal and chruch, an old sailing vessel and a floating car park. Joe also showed some of the street photography images he captured under the guidance of professional photographer Agneta Delleforres Dryden.

  • There is an exhibition of photographs showing life in Scotland from 1840 at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. Click here for details.
  • A reminder that the Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year competition is open.
  • Next week we will be competing with Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy and Stirling in the 4-way inter-club competition. We will be meeting in the large room in the far corner of the Fisherrow Centre. Instead of going into room G3, carry on along the corridor and use the left hand door before the stair well. Come along and support your club.

07 November 2019 (Colour Print Competition)

Some members may recall the 2018 black and white print competition, where Sue Hill CPAGB and Doug Hamilton CPAGB  of Edinburgh Photographic Society judged our prints and gave us good advice. We enjoyed their double act so much we invited them back this week to judge our colour print competition.

There were 57 prints altogether. Several were landscapes taken in places around the world. Lots of shots from Scotland, but also some from Ireland, Yorkshire, Venice and New Zealand. There were several wildlife shots and some interesting still life and abstract compositions. Sue and Doug carefully described each print, explaining what they liked and giving feedback on what could be improved. There was a very high standard overall, leading to a record number of high marks. For the prints that didn’t achieve the high marks, unwanted distractions were a common theme: bright areas which drew attention away from the main subject, or tiny details (such as a polythene bag or intruding camera lens) which clashed with the main subject. Some images could have been improved by better lighting or a better depth of field. The black mounts used for some prints didn’t help the subject and Sue and Doug would have preferred to see a lighter mount. But kudos to Elaine Gilroy, for the entertainment brought by a print entitled “Your Left Luggage Is Secure”, featuring an armoured vehicle driving past a secure building looking like Fort Knox with a “left luggage” sign on it! Carol Edmund’s print “Feather Pillows” also raised a chuckle, since the feathers in question were still attached to the birds.

The top scorers were (in reverse order):

  • 5th place (50 points)
    • Malcolm Roberts
  • 4th place (53 points)
    • Jennifer Davidson
    • Mike Clark
  • 3rd place (56 points)
    • Joe Fowler
  • 2nd place (57 points)
    • Jim Tod
  • 1st place (59 points)
    • George Todd
    • Anne Yeomans

The top images were:

  • Platinum Point (Joe Fowler) – 20 points
  • Lesser Masked Weaver At Work (Jim Tod) – 20 points
  • San Giorgio Maggiore (Jim Tod) – 20 points
  • Lunar Landscape (George Todd) – 20 points
  • Pelican Reflection (George Todd) – 20 points
  • Magnificent Hummingbird (Anne Yeomans) – 20 points
  • Iguana With Tracker (Anne Yeomans) – 20 points
  • Cheetah Resting In The Shade (George Todd) – 19 points
  • Laua Heron Fishing (Anne Yeomans) – 19 points
  • Brown Hare At Sunset (Jennifer Davidson) – 18 points
  • Jay In The Rain (Jennifer Davidson) – 18 points
  • Bridge To Nowhere (Joe Fowler) – 18 points
  • The Old Mill (Joe Fowler) – 18 points
  • Loch Ard Jetty (Mike Clark) – 18 points

Well done everyone for achieving such a high standard of entries that we ended up with seven twenty point images! And a special congratulations to George Todd and newcomer Anne Yeomans for jointly winning the competition with an almost perfect 59 points.

 

31 October 2019 (Halloween Club Competition)

A club night on the 31st October was the perfect opportunity to have a Halloween knockout competition. Members brought along images vaguely associated with the theme of Halloween. 31 images were entered altogether. The mages were paired up and members voted for their favourite in each pair. There were several portraits, including a green witch, a vampire, a skeleton, three variations of a girl in costume, and several groups in scary gothic make-up. There were some composition shots of a skull or a Frankenstein in front of a graveyard, shots of pumpkins and spiders, a crow. Members wondered if the shot of a swan staring at the camera was quite scary enough for Halloween, and a landscape shot showing a calm sunset had the audience baffled.

There were an off number of images in the second round, so the audience voted on which of the rejected images to bring back. An image of the grim reaper was a clear winner, and it joined the other 7 images to battle for a place in the final. In the end, 4 images remained, and members voted for their favourite. The final result was:

  • In 4th place with 3 points, the grim reaper image which had won a place in the second round, by Joe Fowler.
  • In 3rd place with 5 points, an image of a group of glowing skeletons crossing the road (looking very like a still from a Ray Harryhausen film), by Anne Yeomans.
  • In 2nd place with 6 points, an image of a pumpkin carved into a skull in a window framed by 2 candles, by Steven Beard.
  • In 1st place, with 10 points, an image of a scary tree (below), also by Steven Beard.

Scary Tree in Dalkeith Country Park

So in the end I won the box of chocolates I had brought in to present to the winner! There were some “trick or treat” chocolates for the runners up. Thank you to everyone who entered the competition. There were some good images on show and hope everyone enjoyed taking part. You might well see that box of chocolates again in the near future… The evening finished with a review of the “Match an Image” competition from the previous week.

 

17 October 2019 (DPI Competition Review)

On 17th October 2019 we reviewed the results of the Digital Projected Images competition, which had taken place 2 weeks earlier.

03 October 2019 (Digital Projected Images Competition)

The judge, Simon Wooton, had left us a very comprehensive set of feedback on the images. This gave us the opportunity to review the competition images and discuss how they might be improved next time. Most members noticed the judge had spotted distractions or faults in their images they hadn’t noticed. This is a common problem. Showing your images to someone else before submitting them can often help. Another technique is to prepare your images weeks in advance, set them aside and forget them, and then look at them again before the competition. Giving yourself more time helps you spot things you might not have noticed.

We discussed some of the common problems reported in the images, and methods of correcting the problems. I have compiled all the advice into a handy PDF document which you can obtain by clicking on the link below.

ImageImprovementTable

NOTE: On 31st October there will be a Halloween digital knockout competition. Please bring along 1, 2 or 3 JPEG images on the theme of Halloween/Gothic/Horror/Trick-or-Treat/Costumes/Ghosts/Graveyards… or anything else vaguely related to the Halloween season. The best image on the night wins a prize.

24 October 2019 (Match An Image Competition)

Members will recall that last February we competed with North Berwick Photographic Society in a new competition format called “Match An Image”, in which each team has 30 seconds to match an image displayed by the other team. We did rather badly in that competition because we weren’t used to the format. Click the link below to see what happened last time.

14 February 2019 (Match That Image)

On 24th October 2019 we had a rematch with North Berwick. This time they hosted the competition and entertained us with a delicious collection of cakes and biscuits. The competition was judged by Andy Bennetts. We were better prepared than last time, and this year the competition was a lot closer. By half time the competition was neck and neck at 16 points each. We opened the second half by attempting to repeat our trick of matching an image of a spider with a herd of elephants. This time it didn’t work, and North Berwick took the lead. They stayed ahead until we managed to catch up by matching their image of a group of mushrooms with our image of a cauliflower! Then we won three consecutive rounds with images of a canoeist, a showjumper and a light house, and we moved ahead. The rounds became more chaotic as we tried to match their images with fewer to choose from. At the end of the competition we played our last image – Jim Tod’s “Church Of The Santissimo Redentore”. Astonishingly, they managed to match it with their final image of a building the same shape. But their final match didn’t help much. In the end, Musselburgh won the competition by 32 points to 27.

Thank you to North Berwick for hosting us, and thank you to everyone who submitted images and helped us to win.

 

10 October 2019 (A Journey to 80 Degrees North: The Land of the Polar Bear

On 10th October 2019, Christine Murdie gave us a fascinating, illustrated story of her journey to the arctic to carry out a survey. Christine is a qualified conservationist who works for the marine charity Orca, which is committed to studying and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Click here to see about some of Christine’s recent surveys for Orca.

Christine described a cruise to the Barents Sea via Norway, where she was tasked with counting and photographing wildlife (especially cetaceans). She showed us the images taken en-route: some of the wildlife she was surveying and some of the spectacular scenery which distracted her from the wildlife. On the way she visited Stravanger, Lysefjord, Bergen, Andalsnes, Alesund, Rorvik (where she spotted a lion’s mane jellyfish), Torghaten (with views of the seven sisters mountain range), the Lofoten Islands,  Trollfjord (place of trolls), Tromsø,  Honningsvåg, and then arrived at the northern cape of Norway. After that, the ship travelled on to Bear Island and Svalbard. Amongst shots of the breathtaking scenery, Christine showed us some rarely-seen images of whales with babies and blue whales breaching.

The story, though spectacular, was tinged with some sadness. There was far less snow up above the arctic circle than there used to be just a few decades ago, and she has watched the glaciers are retreating over the years. The idyllic Norwegian fishing towns contrasted strongly with the ugly and polluting Russian mining operations in the Barents Sea. The wildlife count was smaller than it used to be, and some species (including the polar bear featured in the title of the talk) were not seen at all during the most recent trip. All in all, a fascinating talk with a conservation message for us all to take away.

03 October 2019 (Digital Projected Images Competition)

This week we kicked off our club competition season with the Digital Projected Images competition. The competition was judged by Simon Wooton of Midlothian Camera Club. Click on the link below to see Simon’s gallery of landscape, sport and wildlife images.

Simon Wooton’s image gallery.

Simon had 72 images to judge and had gone to the trouble of providing a whole page of feedback on each image. We will print out Simon’s document so members can read the comments on their own images.There were several images of flowers, landscape and seascape images (some from as far away as New Zealand) , architectural shots from Edinburgh, sport and street photographs. Distractions in the background or around the edges of images were common comments, and some images were a little too dark or too bright. There were some beautiful sky images which didn’t quite work on their own. Two images stood out as discussion points because of their humour: “Beemer” by Edward Robertson and “What Does She Want?” by Carol Edmund. Both shots were funny and timed beautifully but had too many distractions to be successful competition images. Even so, thank you for entering them and cheering us up.

A mix-up with the score sheets meant we could only give a preliminary result on the night, but we can now announce the final results. The top scorers were (in reverse order):

  • 5th place (48 points)
    • Jennifer Davidson
    • Elaine Gilroy
    • John West
    • Howie Findlay
  • 4th place (50 points)
    • Steven Beard
    • Mike Clark
    • Anne Yeomans
  • 3rd place (52 points)
    • Joe Fowler
    • Malcolm Roberts
  • 2nd place (55 points)
    • George Todd
  • 1st place (57 points)
    • Jim Tod

The top images were:

  • Tarasay (Jim Tod) – 20 points
  • Growth Amongst Decay (Jim Tod) – 19 points
  • Two Ducks At The Waterhole (George Todd) – 19 points
  • Fabrication Welder (Joe Fowler) – 18 points
  • Move Over (Joe Fowler) – 18 points
  • Remarkable Rainbow (Malcolm Roberts) – 18 points
  • Church Of The Santissimo Redentore (Jim Tod) – 18 points
  • Circle Of Flowers (Steven Beard) – 18 points
  • Taking Jump Number Nine (George Todd) – 18 points
  • Brown Bear Confrontation (George Todd) – 18 points
  • Razorbill (Anne Yeomans) – 18 points

Well done to Jim Tod for winning the competition and achieving first and second place with two of his images.

Next week Christine Murdie will be giving us a fascinating-sounding presentation entitled “A Journey to 80 Degrees North: The Land of the Polar Bear”, and the week after that we will go through the competition images a second time, with more opportunity for feedback and questions.

 

19 September 2019 (Introduction To Photography)

This week I gave an introduction to photography presentation for club members. Whereas last year I gave a demonstration with my own camera, this year I encouraged members to bring their own cameras and try some exercise themselves. My slides were very similar to previous presentations, and you can download a full set of notes by clicking on the link below.

MCCIntroductionToPhotographyNotes

This time I included some exercises where members photographed sheets of white and black paper and observed how their camera behaved in auto exposure mode. I also set up two makeshift studios: one where a piece of sea coal could be photographed against a white background and another where some white sweet peas could be photographed against a black background. If you are new to photography, or are just starting with a new camera, here are some points to take away:

  1. Learn how to configure your camera so it displays a histogram. For some cameras this involves viewing an image and then pressing an “info” or “display” button to cycle through the various options. Your camera’s instruction manual will tell you how to do it. A histogram that is bunched up on the left hand side suggests your image is under-exposed and a histogram bunched up on the right hand side suggests your image is over-exposed.
  2. If you are new to photography, or are trying out a camera for the first time, start by using the “Auto” modes provided by the camera. When you use these modes you are telling the camera to decide what settings and exposure to use. It helps if you give the camera information on the kind of photography you are doing. There might be special auto modes labelled “landscape”, “portrait”, “sport”, “night scene”, etc… You will find some camera controls locked in these modes (for example the flash pops up when you don’t want it to), which can be frustrating when you want to take more control. The next mode to try is “P”: This is still a fully auto mode (the camera decides on both the aperture and shutter speed) but it lets you take full control over other settings, such as ISO (sensitivity) and flash mode. The most popular modes for creative photography are “A” (set the aperture and let the camera decide the shutter speed – useful for landscapes, portraits and still life) and “S” or “Tv” (set the shutter speed and let the camera decide the aperture – useful for sport and wildlife telephoto shots). But the most creative and flexible mode of all is “M” (manual). Here you take full control of all the camera settings. Manual mode is essential for getting good shots in very unusual situations where the camera meter no longer works properly (for example astrophotography).
  3. All the camera modes except “M” are automatic modes where the camera chooses the overall exposure. Since the camera doesn’t know what it is photographing, it can make mistakes. A white piece of paper and a black of paper are rendered almost the same shade of murky grey. Look for a button on your camera with a symbol similar to the one below. This is the “exposure compensation” button. You can use it to correct the mistakes made by your camera. For some cameras you can adjust the exposure compensation by holding down this button and turning one of the control dials. Other cameras might have a special dial labelled -3,-2,-1,0,+1,+2,+3 which you can turn to the required setting. Changing this setting to +1 when photographing the white paper adds 1 stop to the exposure, and the paper should look a much better shade of white. Changing the setting to -1 when photographing the black paper subtracts 1 stop from the exposure, and the paper should look a more satisfying shade of black. You can fine-tune the setting until the histogram on the back of the camera looks right (see point 1). Don’t forget to restore the setting back to 0.0 when you have finished.
  4. You can bend a sheet of white or black card into a curve and stick it with masking tape between a horizontal surface (table?) and vertical surface (wall or plastic box?) and make an “infinity curve” (or “infinity cove”). This creates a space where you can photograph objects against a plain background which looks like it never ends. These can be quite expensive when purchased as part of a studio, but a piece of card is a much cheaper alternative. The best way to use an infinity curve is with a diffuse light source which casts no shadows. If the natural light in your room doesn’t work, try pointing your flash straight upwards and ask someone to hold another white piece of paper above your camera so the light is reflected from it.
  5. When shooting against a white background, try a positive exposure compensation and when shooting against a black background try a negative exposure compensation (see point 3). You can also try using your camera’s “spot” exposure mode and place the spot on the object.

Joe finished the evening by giving a mounting masterclass with the club’s new mount cutter.

I hope my presentation helps you get the best use from your camera. Best of luck. 🙂