15 April 2021 (Digital Knockout Competition)

Our last competition of the season was an informal one: our annual digital knockout competition, where all the members get a chance to be judges.  Members submitted up to 3 JPEG images on the theme of “abstract”. 46 images were submitted in total. The images turned out to be a masterclass in photographic innovation. Members had used a variety of clever techniques to create their images; making use of reflections, intentional camera movement, close-ups of textured surfaces; unusual views of architectural features, household objects or artworks; or composites cunningly constructed from objects photographed in a light box. The simplest, and yet most innovative, example was Anne Yeoman’s photograph of the back of the lid from a jar of curry sauce. Now we will all see our used jar lids in a new light!  There were also some great humorous entries, such as Joe Fowler’s  “Crush Me If You Can” and Mike Clark’s “Release The Kraken”.

Members judged the quality and impact of each image, together with its relevance to the “abstract” subject. Most of the images were of high quality, making it difficult to pick the winners. Members felt that the best abstract images were ones that used the texture, shapes and colours of an object to create an effect where the identify of the original object was not obvious.  There were debates whether a textured surface was made of wood, rock, ice (or coffee!); or whether the unusual shapes seen were natural or create by an art filter effect.  There were some excellent still life and landscape compositions which lost out due to their subject matter not being sufficiently abstract, but those images could do very well in a more general competition.  The images were paired together in a series of head-to-head rounds until only 7 remained. Members then voted for their favourite to determine the final placings, and the result was:

  • 4rd place
    • Seascape (Stephen Williams)
    • Orange Light (Sandra Crowhurst)
    • Frosty Feathers (Anne Yeomans)
  • 3rd Place
    • Abstract 03 (Gordon Davidson)
    • Cool Abstract (Lorraine Roberts)
  • 2nd Place 
    • Looking Up (Stephen Williams)
  • 1st Place
    • The Vortex (John West)

The evening ended with a lengthy discussion about exactly how each image had been created, making it the longest club meeting of the season!

Well done to John West, whose winning image was created by taking some beautiful coloured reflections and warping them into a dramatic vortex pattern. Stephen Williams’ second placed image converted an unusual view of an electricity pylon into something looking like an artwork. In third place, Gordon Davidson’s image showed an unusual view of a stack of metal chairs, and Lorraine Roberts’ image showed the surface of a glacier.

08 April 2021 (A Photoshop Retrospective)

This week we were delighted to welcome Libby Smith of Carluke Camera Club and the Scottish Photographic Federation.  Libby had last visited the club in 2018, only this time she didn’t need to trek from Carluke to Musselburgh in the foul weather. Libby’s talks are always fascinating and enlightening and usually contain valuable snippets of information about Photoshop techniques. This time Libby gave us a complete Photoshop perspective, describing how she first got into digital photography in the 1990s by scanning slides and film.  Photoshop began as a digital alternative to darkroom techniques. It could be used to correct the tones and colours from digitized slides, or combine slides together for special effects. Colour slides could be converted to black and white. Using Photoshop to add film grain noise to the digitized images helped lower the contrast and create an atmospheric effect. Libby learned that you can’t use the same effect on everything, and it pays to experiment and find which techniques work best for your own style of images. For example, a watercolour art effect can enhance some images by removing background detail, as long as the effect doesn’t destroy important detail in your subject. The “find edges” filter can also be used for special effects. A layer mask can be use to apply the effect only to certain parts of the image (e.g. to some tulips but not the sky behind them). You can experiment with different brush textures for creative effects. You can also change the mood by hand-colouring parts of your image.

Libby moved on to show us how she learned to make composite shots using Photoshop layers. Composites give you more creative freedom. You can take components from several different images (a lighthouse from one place, a clifftop from another place, a dramatic sky from somewhere else…) and combine them. Libby warned us that if you become well known for making composites, people will start to think every image you show is a composite! Dramatic images can be made by blending a portrait or still life image with a textured background. Libby makes textured backgrounds by photographing interesting objects (such as dried petals, plants, seed heads and feathers) against a plain white background. The white background helps you to select the objects. You can also capture images of flat objects using a flat-bed scanner. The backgrounds can be placed in separate layers and combined using “soft light”, “hard light” or “overlay” blending modes. These blending modes tend to add contrast, so it is important to reduce the contrast in the background before blending. Libby went on to show us some stunning landscape images, dramatic images of derelict cottages and mining equipment, and some beautiful portraits; all enhanced by Photoshop techniques.

During the evening we also learned the following hints and tips:

  • When using a digital camera with Photoshop, try to expose so the peak of your histogram moves as far to the right as possible without losing highlights. Unlike slide film, which is best exposed to give rich dark shadows, digital cameras give the best results when the shadows have as much light as possible.
  • Photographs tend to look darker when printed than when viewed on the screen. Libby lightens her images by half a stop before printing them.
  • The “magic wand” selection tool can be used to select a white background, enabling objects placed on that background to be selected without leaving a halo around them.
  • If you are applying special effects to a portrait, make sure the face is not affected.
  • Using a negative clarity setting in “camera raw” can create a soft focus effect (as an alternative to blurring).
  • Try removing just a subset of the colours from an image to create a black and white image with a little bit of colour. Libby often removes green to reduce the distracting effect of grass but keep the subtle colours of rocks and stones.
  • A colour print can sometimes be improved by boosting the saturation in yellow and red (using the “hue and saturation” adjustment), which will emphasise the light on the print. A sunset image can similarly be improved by reducing the saturation in the blue.

Libby was our final speaker of the season, but she gave us lots of creative ideas to try over the summer and take to next season. Thank you Libby for a very entertaining and fascinating talk.

Garden Photography

While we are on the subject of this weekend’s Musselburgh Flower Show and garden photography, the National Garden Gift Voucher scheme have announced a photographic competition where you could win a trip to next year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Click the link below for details.

https://nationalgardengiftvoucher.co.uk/photography-competition


On the same subject, the club has received the following notification :

I wanted to let your members know about an exciting weekend workshop for keen amateurs wanting to improve their garden and landscape photography skills, led by Garden Photographer of the Year 2018, Andrea Jones . September 20th-22nd.

Andrea will explore her creative process and share her trade secrets over a weekend in one of East Lothian’s most beautiful gardens, Fairnielaw. Expect an inspiring taste of practical photography, theory and image processing. Learn how to deal with the most common challenges a photographer can face; coping with harsh light, making the most of the elements and shooting in cramped spaces. group will be limited to 12 people to allow space and time with Andrea for everyone.

Click here, for details and booking. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/garden-photography-workshop-with-andrea-jones-tickets-63559735881

Any queries, please let me know.

Best wishes

Susan Begg (susan@semplebegg.com)

28 February 2019 (Set Subject Competition – Abstract)

This week we had the second of our 3 set subject competitions, following on from the “Seascapes” competition, which took place in October 2018. The competition was judged by Mike Clark, who won the “Movement” competition last year. Mike began the evening by showing us the definition of abstract photography, which he would be using to judge the images. He also showed us a collection of his own abstract images, which would also have been strong contenders in this competition.

Members submitted a total of 39 images. The “abstract” subject gives members a chance to be creative in their work, and Mike said he had been inspired to try some of the ideas. Images included a spectacular arrangement of oil drops on water, streaks of light, creative collections of everyday objects viewed from unusual angles, reflections, bubbles, striking rock formations, unusual landscapes, lighting displays, strange portraits taken through glass or cloth and a glowing neon tiger. One images which stood out from the rest was a spectacular macro image of water droplets covering the centre of a flower, by relative newcomer Sandra Crowhurst. Well done Sandra, you nailed it with that image! Mike was baffled how some authors achieved their effects, and there was a lot of discussion during the tea break.

The top scoring images were:

  • Water Droplets (Sandra Crowhurst) – 20 points
  • Glacier Nebula (Jim Tod) – 19 points
  • Bubs (Kevin Johnston) – 19 points
  • Emergence (Jim Tod) – 18 points
  • Winter Gloaming at Luskentyre (Jim Tod) – 18 points
  • Riveting (Gordon Davidson) – 18 points
  • Pine Cone (Sean Conner) – 18 points
  • Resting Place (Steve Barber) – 18 points

Jim Tod stole the show with a great set of 3 images, but it was the 17-point images which made a difference to the rest of the placings when the scores were added up. Steven Beard achieved 3 x 17, Jennifer Davidson achieved 2 x 17, and Lorraine and Malcolm Roberts each had one 17 point image. The highest total scores were:

The highest scorers were:

  • 5th place (48 points)
    • Malcolm Roberts
  • 4th place (49 points)
    • Jennifer Davidson
    • Sean Conner
    • Sandra Crowhurst
    • Kevin Johnston
  • 3rd place (50 points)
    • Gordon Davidson
    • Steve Barber
  • 2nd place (51 points)
    • Steven Beard
  • 1st place (55 points)
    • Jim Tod

The winner normally wins the privilege of judging next year’s competition, but as Jim Tod also won the “Seascapes” competition and is already judging next year, the task falls to me in second place.

The set subject trophy will be won be the member who has the best combined score from their best two competitions. The league table after two competitions looks like this:

  • Jim Tod (57 + 55 = 112)
  • Steven Beard (51 + 51= 102)
  • Gordon Davidson (51 + 50 = 101)
  • Steve Barber (50 + 50 =100)
  • Joe Fowler (54 + 44 = 98)
  • Mike Clark (49 + judging)
  • Jennifer Davidson (47 + 49 = 96)
  • Malcolm Roberts (47 + 48 = 95)
  • Kevin Johnston (43 + 49 = 92)
  • Sandra Crowhurst (42 + 49 = 91)
  • George Todd (45 + 46 = 91)

Jim Tod is way ahead, but only a few points separate the rest. Entries for the 3rd competition “street photography” are open now. George has extended the entry deadline by a few more days, so if you would like to enter please send 3 JPEG copies (scaled to 1600 pixels on the largest side) to George (georgetodd1957@me.com) this weekend. The deciding competition takes place on 21st March 2019.