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The reports of the meetings held by Bradford Photographic Society
Our last speaker of the 2012-13 session was a real treat. Cpl Mike O'Neil gave us a much anticipated talk on his experiences as an Army photographer. The anticipation came from an initial booking for last September which was re-arranged when Mike's posting to Afghanistan came along. While everyone else gets leave as soon as they return from the posting, the photographer has to carry on and cover the arrivals, homecomings and parades of every unit as they come back. So we were very privileged to have some of his precious time and to be the first to see his amazing images of his time in Afghanistan – and there were hundreds of them!
Mike’s running commentary on the circumstances of each picture gave a fluent and intimate insight into the lives of our soldiers, of all ranks, at the sharp end of the conflict. We were left with many unexpected impressions
- of everyday civilian life on the streets,
- of a group of Afghan Policemen laughing
- of sheep running along with the troops as they cross to board a helicopter
- of the rugged beauty of the countryside.
Sadly there was not enough time to linger over the most beautifully crafted images that leapt out from the photojournalism - the dawn patrol walking along the side of the irrigation canal, with reflections in the water and that golden light – just one example.
It was heartening to hear of the dramatic normalisation of in the life of the people since Mike’s previous tour in 2009 and to hear of his ambition to return as a tourist in, maybe, 10 years time to photograph the countryside properly.
We agreed that Mike an excellent professional photographer and a first class representative of the Army. We wish him every success in his next posting to Northern Ireland.
Our Annual general Meeting was held on 28th March. Following the normal agenda produced the usual formal reports from the Secretary, President, Digital Secretary and Print Secretary. There are currently 52 members. One consistent theme running through these reports was the impressive enthusiasm of members, particularly new members, in their willingness to have a go and enter the competitions.
For full details of rule changes, performance in external competitions etc., see the official minutes and the club web page.
The internal print trophy winners were:
WH Hammond Trophy, Portrait: Terry Kolanko
Norman Stow Applied Trophy: Rais Hasan
JW Murray Pictorial Trophy: Steve Swiszczowski
Greenwood Trophy, Novice: Karl Dunachie
Tom Scatchard Record Trophy: Graeme Mitchell
JH Leighton Trophy: Michael Myers
Walker Trophy, Colour All-rounder: Michael Myers
HM Storey Salver, Monochrome All-rounder: Peter Milthorp
And the winners of the Digital Projected Image trophies were:
Bronze Statuette, Novice Colour Trophy: Bill Clark
JF Mather Trophy, open: Graham Pile
Percy Lund Rose Bowl, best all-rounder novice: Chris Ingleson
D Bates Trophy, best all-rounder open: Sandra Cockayne
Norfolk Trophy, natural history: Sue Zajaczkowska
VB Lloyd Trophy, journalism/action/sport: Imran Khan
CE Lawson Trophy, creative processing: Rais Hasan
We look forward to the formal presentation of trophies at the President’s Evening on 30th May.
Officers for the next year were confirmed as:
President- Kath Bonson
Vice president – Tom Heggie
Secretary – Jacquie Gibson
Treasurer – Kath Bonson
Digital Secretary – Graeme Mitchell
Print Secretary – Tom Heggie
Interclub Representative - Graeme Mitchell
YPU Representative – Geoff Richards
The evening was rounded off with the well-deserved award of Life Membership to John and Rita Cawthra. This award was made in recognition of their long-term contribution to the club as officials for many years during the time when BPS, along with most photographic societies, struggled to continue. It was typical of their approach that most of John’s acceptance speech was about how this award was totally undeserved, finally agreeing that it was all down to Rita. Contrary to everything they say, this was a truly well-earned and popular award. Long may they enjoy their Life Memberships!
Re-organised earlier in the week and threatened by the weather, our outdoor meeting in Leeds city centre looked somewhat dubious by the morning of Thursday 16th. However it all came together triumphantly on the night! The weather forecast improved, Kath’s attempt to get permission to photograph as a group inside the Trinity centre succeeded at the last minute – and the members turned out in force! We must have boosted the takings of the Costa coffee shop quite unexpectedly in the closing half hour of their day.
Having compared journeys and parking experiences, we trickled out of the coffee shop and set our minds to capturing the amazing shapes and light effects in the Trinity Centre as the daylight faded into night. The architecture of the development is striking and manages to give the impression of being a seamless, sweeping continuation of the surrounding streets while the curvaceous atrium roof provides weather protection. It is the 21st century’s answer to the preserved Victorian arcades that made Leeds famous as a shopping centre.
As darkness falls, the colour-changing lights in the roof grid come on and combine with the shop fronts and their multiple reflections in the roof glass to create an ever-changing photographic challenge. Several techniques were experimented with and there was always someone about who could advise or discuss any technical topic. It will be interesting to see members’ different versions of such a multi-faceted subject in future meetings and competitions.
The record for the longest journey to the venue goes to Chris who started in Southampton and picked up Don on the way. And the record for the neatest turn-around of a quick buck goes to Sandra who sold his portrait to a dapper reveller for £20 late in the evening! For some of us it was a pleasant, new experience to have the security staff smiling and chatting! It was a great evening in a great location, much enjoyed by everyone who came.
Didn’t we have a lovely time, the day we went to Pudsey? For those who didn’t make it on 16th February, we definitely did! The room over the library where Pudsey Camera Club meet was packed, with people sitting on tables etc. Our hosts politely allowed the BPS contingent prime seats in the stalls, though.
The first half of the evening was the print competition and, by the end, although their set included three 20’s to our none, Pudsey were ahead by only 255 to our 251.
After a cup of tea, we proceeded to the projected images section. Once more Pudsey scored more 20s, two to our one, but our consistency carried us to victory by 253 to their 250.
So those of you who are good at the mental arithmetic will already realise that we actually lost by a single point – 504 to 505! In fact, as I was checking the official scoring, I could see that it was a real cliff-hanger all the way through with the scores neck-and-neck from image to image – very nail-biting!.
Our single 20 was Jacquie Gibson’s ‘Composure’ – very well deserved. The digital images that were used are posted in the 2012-13 Gallery and I will add the prints in due course. Chris Hodgson, the judge, made useful detailed comments on each image. Sandra took notes of her comments and you can see them on the forum thread about the battle. You will be able to appreciate Chris’s judging first-hand when she presides over our 3rd Print Competition Evening next week on 21st February.
A truly memorable battle and a great evening’s entertainment.
Billed as a training night, Graeme’s talk was a cosy flash-back to the days of Powerpoint for some of us of a certain age. He gave us his own personal thoughts on landscape photography along with an interesting insight into how he, personally, goes about it.
He covered the basic principles of composition, illustrating the rule of thirds, leading lines, the golden hour, balance, light-and-shade etc with great examples of good and bad. Also including cases where breaking the ‘rules’ gives a better image too. Thus, surely very useful lesson to beginners, this was still an interesting re-cap for the rest of us and reminder of what we are trying to do and why – maybe a reminder of one or two concepts that have fallen out of our repertoire?
When it comes to kit, Graeme favours the lightweight approach. He uses a Leica Delux 3 compact with a 28-112mm zoom and a 16:9 wide-screen format or a Leica V-Lux1 bridge camera with a fixed 35-420mm zoom lens. While he is reacting to a half a lifetime of lugging professional equipment about, some of us will identify with a desire to travel light. (No, not necessarily lazy, just efficient). His assertion that f/11 hand-held can give you plenty depth of field for practical purposes was well demonstrated by his images. Modern image stabilisation must help.
The attractions of panoramic formats was explored, some based on cropping 16:9 format and some created in software from several images. The magic of using the ‘levels’ adjustment in post-processing was clearly demonstrated and this, along with cloning-out occasional unwanted distractions, is the scope of Graeme’s use of Lightroom / Photoshop etc in every-day practice.
My own theory was that, after all his experience, Graeme is physically incapable of taking a bad picture. This was destroyed by the ‘worse’ examples in the pairs he presented to illustrate his points. Although I did notice that a few were deliberately worsened versions of the ‘better’ image – fair enough, really. I wish I had the problem!
A final post-script was a short Australian video on copying and pasting instead of cloning a largish area. That will save some of us a good few man-hours in future.
On the 10th January 2013 Leeds photographer John Dolan came to talk about his 365 and 52 photography projects and also about his portrait photography. This entertaining and informitative talk had been postponed from the 16th October when John had been due to do a co-talk with fellow photographer Si Cliff, who also does inspired self portraits. John spoke about what inspired him to start his 365's and the difficulty in comleting the projects whilst working full time as a teacher. John is an active member of the Leeds flickr group and you can read more about John and view his work by viewing his website.
Our first projected images competition evening of the season took place on 15th November. The Novice trophy was for the best set of four images, and attracted ten entrants, while the open JF Mather trophy was for sets of three images, and had 18 contenders. If you do the arithmetic, that gives a very healthy total of 94 images that were shown in the evening!
In the Novice trophy, third place was taken by Peter Kurton, with a consistent set of images of Bolling Hall, scoring 68. Chris Ingleson, with 70, came second with images of a variety of subjects, all scoring 17 or 18. Bill Clark’s winning set scored 72, and included the only two 20s in the competition: for ‘Strawberry Splash’ and ‘Keep Calm’. He was accused by the judge of being drunk when he took his impressionistic floor-level shot of ‘Boogieing on the Dance Floor’ – which Bill happily confirmed afterwards.
The Open trophy generated an impressive number of high-scoring images, with three 20s. These were awarded to Graeme Mitchell’s ‘Wast Water Screes’, Bill Longbottom’s ‘Footbridge’, and Graham Pile’s ‘Aurora’ — all stunning images. Overall, Bill came third with a score of 56, while Graham and Graeme tied on 57 points — the decision going to Graham Pile in the end.
Richard Townend, our judge for the evening, employs a detailed scoring system, awarding partial scores for sharpness, exposure, composition and artistic merit, which he adds up to give the total score. He left his score sheets with these details, so, if anyone wants to know how their images were scored, please contact me.
It was another great evening’s competition, with a large selection of fine images in contention.
With a large turnout of members on 8th November, it was an enormous relief to Graeme and Tom when Ian Beesley finally arrived at 8pm! That M62 has a lot to answer for.
A consummate professional, both as a speaker and a photographer, Ian was unruffled by his little local difficulty and swung rapidly into his illustrated talk. This time he told us of his work in themed portraits and commissions for hospitals. His project to photograph centenarians produced a series of anecdotes, including being sent away by one old lady who would only have her photograph taken by someone ‘properly dressed’ in a jacket & tie. The pictures showed some real characters, and revealed that vital connection between the subject and the photographer.
Being the first photographer to do a bespoke project for a hospital, led (he says) to his becoming an ‘expert’ in photography for hospitals. Personally, I think the quality of the images and the imagination might have had something to do with it! Developing the project for the corridor to the Bradford Royal Infirmary MRI scanner into a trek along its axis all the way to Cumbria was one splendid illustration.
Showing the odd failure, along with the hard work involved in creating the successes, Ian clearly demonstrated the importance of relating to the people involved in each project—both the subjects of the pictures, and the intended consumers. His pragmatic tip for relaxing a rapid sequence of children in a studio—let the parent take the picture!
Hearing him speak and seeing his work, it is not difficult to understand why the Royal Photographic Society has just awarded him an Honorary Fellowship for his continuing dedication to photographically documenting social and industrial topics in the UK.
His latest project for Bristol University involves research on mid-life—shouldn’t be too much of a crisis!
On 1st November, we had another fascinating talk by Bruce Pickering about wildlife photography. Billed as a training night, Bruce's talk was especially interesting for those of us who want to learn how to take better wildlife pictures. He reviewed his own equipment - cameras, lenses, lens adaptors and tripods. In each case he explained what it was good at, what it was bad at, and, even in the case of a shelf clamp, why it was a total waste of money!
A comprehensive description of the particular photographic techniques required for specific subjects was very useful. The common theme was planning and lots of patience - lots of patience! That includes being prepared to keep going back until you get the shot. Showing pictures that did not work well, with an explanation of why that happened, was very useful. Taking that theme to a higher level, Bruce also showed several pictures that most of us would have been delighted to have taken. He then explained why these would not gain top marks in a competition, and gave us an insight into what judges are looking for. It's almost impossible, really! Still I suppose you never win a high level competition on any theme without producing an exceptional image.
The only disappointment of the evening, for those of us who enjoyed his last talk, was the non-appearance of that gillie suit! Our thanks to Bruce, and also to the silent Helen Hall, whose contribution is clearly key - Christmas Day on a nature reserve even!
On 16th October, his co-presenter’s car problem left Simon Cliff to make a solo presentation on the topic of personal projects — and he rose to the occasion very well. We were treated to an account of the highs and lows of undertaking these ambitious self-imposed projects.
The traditional 365 project (taking a photograph every day for a year) is a daunting challenge for most. But if they all have to be portraits, self portraits even, it sounds impossible! However it has certainly be done, and done well creating a huge variety of impressive images on the way.
For a 365 project applied to general portraits, the problem would seem to be finding enough models. We were assured that this is quite straightforward if you just approach people in the street and ask their permission. So add charm to the list of technical abilities you need for success!
Having heard something of the daily challenges, pitfalls and tribulations, the audience could only be astonished by the imagination, artistic flair and sheer determination demonstrated. Also it seems to become addictive – as soon as you finish one project you are driven to plunge into another, apparently!
Are we inspired to try it? There was some muttering about once a week being more possible – a 52 project anyone?
As scheduled, the much anticipated casual internal competition between the Club's 'Artists' and 'Photographers' took place on Thursday 11th October. We were not disappointed! The ten categories corresponded approximately to those in a standard photographic competition. One example of an art work and a photograph were placed side-by-side for each category, and members voted for their preferences.
The bald statistics show that the 'Artists' won 6 categories of the 10, and scored 123 total votes compared with 104 for the photographs. However that is only a small part of the story. The author of each image said a few words about its creation - and that was pure gold!
For the uninitated, it was quite overwhelming to hear about the inspiration, techniques, skill and painstaking patience involved in producing an art work. Whether it was the skill needed for Kath to dash off a charcoal and chalk seascape in ten minutes, or Graeme to capture the detail and dynamism of a water skier with the blunt instrument of a palet knife. Or Sandra's account of inspiration from Jackson Pollock and Vivaldi, and Rais by traditional Persian art. Or the huge commitment and sheer detailed hard work of Kath drawing a dry stone wall in pencil, Graeme making a portrait from strands of wool and Rais building up his large woodland scene over many weeks and layers of paint and money! Don's explanation of his still life of his painting equipment, which he did specially for the meeting over the previous fortnight, offered several pearls of wisdom about compostion and light that apply equally well to photography.
While many of the lessons in the 'Photographers' explanations may be more familiar to many of us, it is still inspring to see what you might be able to produce by just going back to a location until the light is right, using monochrome instead of colour, or using the classic compostition conventions like leading lines. Then there's the ever elusive 'eye'.......
In the end, the preconceptions of painting as an art, and photography as a technique, was destroyed for me, at least. There is a lot of hard-earned technique in a good painting and a lot of artistic thought in a good photograph. Here endeth the lesson!
The evening was great fun and I hope it will be an annual fixture in future years.
The Society is now on it's Summer recess after an enjoyable and sociable final meeting. Regular Thursday evening meetings will resume at the beginning of September and a syllabus will be published during the summer. The committee is finalising the programme, but we hope that everyone will enjoy the mix of speakers, competitions, instruction and social events that we are lining up.
One major event during the summer recess will be our 150th Anniversary Celebration Exhibition at Shipley Library. This will feature work from over 20 members in a range of styles and with a wide variety of subjects. The preview night will be on Wednesday 20th July from 7.00pm and everyone is welcome to attend. There will be refreshments, a slide show and lots of members on hand to chat with about the Society. The exhibition will continue until Friday 29th July.
We hope to see you there!