Members night – Three Members’ Experience and Enlightenment

This was our first members’ evening of the season and didn’t disappoint. Three members Tony Marsh, Alan and Julie Walker presented “Macro Nature Photography’, “What A Judge is Looking For” and “Creative Photography”.

Alan Walker opened with tips on why a judge might criticise an image or as Alan named it “Judge Bait”! Believe it or not these are often simple mistakes that the photographer cannot see because the overall image is very good. However, in a competition with an abundance of good images, a fault has to be found in order to justify the judges’ selection for first, second or third position.

Essentially one must get the basics right in camera; good exposure, use of the histogram to provide information on over or under exposure, avoid backgrounds which divert attention and if a distraction exists, remove it in post processing especially sensor dust spots. With landscapes make sure the horizon is level and use the “rule of thirds”. Finally, correct the white balance to avoid colour casts.

For portraits and people light up the eyes and place the eyes on one of the thirds, certainly don’t crop parts of people and do give the subject sufficient space within the image.  Portrait images in colour can be enhanced by changing the image to black and white. Refrain from over processing the image with plug-ins or sharpening. Story telling in an image is important but not without the technical quality.

Standards continue to rise in photography; for example, historically a kingfisher on its perch would have been a winner 10 years ago, then it had to be holding a fish in its mouth, next it needed to be  emerging from the water with a fish and water splashing, now underwater images are essential to produce the “WOW” factor.

Exploding out of the Water by Alan Walker

It is paramount that one enjoys photography as every image has its own value whether it wins a competition or not.

Julie Walker gave an excellent succinct presentation on creative photography. It was the best I have seen being understandable and simple to follow. This is not always the case as the “expert” frequently leads one down the road of complex methods and techniques which are impossible to remember.

Waiting by Julie Walker

She explained the use of post processing with Photoshop, a computer based “Darkroom” and the application of layers to create a composite image when two separate images are blended together to make a unique visual creation. Subsequently, she showed how texturing  adds atmosphere to an image and how to create textures by taking pictures of household wall tiles or wallpaper and applying them in layers.  The addition of a layer mask offers the flexibility to view one layer through another permitting the freedom of artistic creation.

After the interval Tony Marsh gave a description of the lenses and flash accessories he uses for macro photography in nature. He described how his image quality had improved with much  practice and by making mistakes!  His field craft knowledge has also been enhanced.

Lace fly by Tony Marsh

The images ranged from 1:1 ratio to 5:1, with this amount of magnification the detail obtained was spellbinding.  The sequence was of butterflies, moths, damsel flies, beetles, bugs, mushrooms and ferns – all of which can be found in most back gardens.

One of the major problems with macro photography is a narrow depth of field which means that the amount of subject in focus can be just a millimetre.  To improve this, flash can be employed which also permits hand holding as insects don’t stay still for long and a photographer needs to be mobile and unhindered by a tripod.  Tony reinforced the same rules from “Judge Bait” which become more critical with magnification.