I’m fond of the idea that a strength is often a weakness, and vice versa. Well, the McLean Photo Club is not large; about thirty members. Turns out that can be a strength.
At our October meeting we had twenty-three people, including guests. Almost half of us brought images, either in printed form or for digital projector display. What was new was that we critiqued the pictures together, rather than asking an outside judge to do it.
At a regular club competition, we sit in neutral silence while the judge offers critiques and conclusions. Last Wednesday’s group critique, instead, gave the sensation of sharing one another’s inner monologues during a regular competition. The sharing of insight, appreciation and critical advice was friendly and invigorating.
Before we looked at any images, Bill Prosser spoke about the two jobs of a judge at a photo competition: adjudication and education. It’s the latter that’s more valuable. The more entries in competition, the more likely it is that the judge’s adjudication – the selection of the winners and losers – will have to be subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
As Bill explained, of the 4 C’s that judges typically apply, three can (arguably) be applied objectively.
- Craftsmanship; for example, sharpness, exposure, proper focus and depth of field.
- Composition: Is there a subject and is it framed in a visually interesting way?
- Content/creativity: Is the photo or its subject mature, that is, have we seen it many times before? Or does the image surprise, charm or intrigue the viewer in some way?
The last C stands for communication. In other words, Does the judge just plain like my picture better than the others? Would she or he want to hang it on the wall at home?
The critique session was unburdened of any judge’s particular tastes. It was enlivened by voices that, though familiar and friendly, are seldom heard so directly on the matter of our individual images.
“Take it again at another time of day.”
“Do it again with a smaller f-stop for better depth of field.”
“Push the purple in the background.”
“Darken the sky.”
“Lighten the sky.”
“It’s perfect. Don’t touch a thing.”
I put in three pictures I was unsure about. By unsure, I mean I was undecided about whether I should spend any time in Photoshop trying to make the images technically strong and visually interesting.
The members confirmed my suspicion that I was thinking wishfully about the quality of one image. On the other two, I was encouraged to work on them more. My fog and glacier picture needs more contrast, I was told; my photo of a cormorant needs adjustments to exposure, contrast and sharpening.
So there you have it. The dozen members who invited critiques of their pictures got some specific advice; sometimes contrary, mostly constructive, all of it sincere. It was enjoyable to talk to each other for an evening, rather than just listen to the judge.
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The McLean Photo Club is in its fourth decade -- and we welcome new members.
MPC's next meeting will be Wednesday November 14 at 7:30 pm in the McLean Community Center.
The November meeting will be a quarterly competition, for any type of photograph, with no limitations on subject matter or photographic technique or equipment. Members must pay their annual dues of $25 in order to compete; new members who pay at the meeting may compete as well. Guests are welcome at this and every meeting without payment of dues.
We compete in three broad categories. Two are for printed images, which are judged in separate color and monochrome categories. Within the color and monochrome categories prize ribbons are awarded separately for advanced and novice photographers. The third and final category is digitally projected images, in which color and monochrome images compete together. Again, there are separate prize ribbons in the digital competition for advanced and novice photographers.
All the rules for the competition and for submitting prints or digitally projected images are online at http://www.mcleanphoto.org/competition.html.
The club has finished gathering photos from members for entry in an annual nature photography competition that is organized by McLean and five other clubs. The Nature Visions Photo Expo takes place November 9, 10 & 11 at the Hylton Center for the Performing Arts in Manassas. The pictures in the recent McLean Patch gallery are by McLean photographers who earned a place in the exhibit at the Nature Visions Expo last year. About three hundred of the one thousand photos entered from six partnering Northern Virginia clubs were selected for the Expo's exhibit.
On Friday November 9, Seth Resnick, named one of the decade's thirty most influential photographers by PDN magazine, will offer a full day workshop at the Hylton Center on "Seeing Color: Creating Dynamic Killer Images." On Saturday and Sunday November 10-11 Expo visitors can see the gallery of 300 juried images and visit with over thirty local and national vendors of photography equipment, supplies, software, education and travel. Seven more photography lectures and ten workshops are available on those days at an additional cost.
Canon Explorer of Light Darrel Guilin will give a free 2 hour presentation on backyard photography on Sunday at 4:30 pm. Prior to Sunday afternoon, a daily admission for Saturday November 10 or Sunday morning is $10. Full details and prices are at naturevisions.org.