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August 2003




FOCUS August 2003

The Romiley Club Interclub Slide Competition

Romiley Club’s Annual Exhibition took place in the Romiley Forum from Thursday to Saturday 22nd to 24th May 2003. Sadly this was after the end of the NCPS season and it coincided with the Spring Bank holiday. Only Bill Chadband was available to support our entry into the Slide Competition. (In passing he noted that prepared marks sheets for the previous day’s print competition included NCPS though we had not expected to be entering it. Also good use was made of the latest Amateur Photographic Magazine in propping up one of the legs of the tripod screen).

Our friend Keith Brown, from Sheffield Club, was the judge: the competition was a knockout competition; and each club was allowed 6 slides, no more than two from any one worker. Keith was feeling generous; only 8 of the 66 slides were lost in the first round, and only 15 more in the 2nd round. With 1 more round before the interval Keith felt he had to get tough. We lost THE JETTY (Jon Dixon) in this round and Christine Widdel (who had been the Judge for the Romiley Exhibition) noted that all of Oldham PS’s entries had now gone. In round 4 we lost ABERDONIAN BOAT WOMAN (George Beaumont) and only 17 slides remained. In round 5 PASTA RULES (Brian Turnbull) and LIONESS AND CUBS (Steph Clack) went leaving 9 slides overall for round 6. We then lost our two remaining slides EVENING GLOW (George Beaumont) and PUDDLED (Estelle Broomhall). There were 4 left for round 7, and 2 for round 8. The winner was Martin Malies OUT OF THE MIST, an image which has been winning competitions all of the season; the runner-up was Geoff Robinson’s well known blue slide of a man in a red hat painting a swimming pool.

And the Club results ? Jack Byatt read them out in reverse order. 11 clubs had taken part but he gave the top 6:

5th - Oldham CC 20pts

4th - Altrincham 21

3rd - Bredbury and 85 Group (tied) 23

2nd - NCPS 29

1st - South Manchester 35

The Annual General Meeting held Tuesday 20 May 2003

Despite the 1 week delay the AGM saw a good attendance. Dave Sharp presented what he said would be his last Treasurer’s Report. After seven years he felt it was time for a break. Much of David’s work went unseen (in booking rooms and paying the bills). President Joyce Streets thanked him warmly for all of his efforts on the club’s behalf, over the years.

David noted that the club’s finances were healthy. Though the subscriptions had not covered the regular out-goings, the profit on the Annual Exhibition and Digital day, plus the Grant from Macclesfield Council had more than covered the arrears.

Reports were given by the Exhibition Sec., the Publicity Sec., the Focus editor and the Competition Sec., all showing that we had had a good year. We had done well in Club competitions and were particularly pleased to have been the first winners of the new Martin Avery Digital Invitation Trophy. In their absence reports were read from the Social Sec. and the Syllabus Sec. (who claimed she would be basking by the shores of the Black Sea whilst her report was being read out!)

Joyce presented Steph Clack with the trophy for Clubman of the year. She noted that Roselind Bramley Trophy had been presented to Stuart Forbes at the earlier meeting.

After tea Joyce read out the list of nominations from the committee for posts for the coming session. No other nominations had been made and so she pronounced the following duly elected:

President - Joyce Streets

Past President - Bill Chadband

Treasurer Estelle - Broomhall

Secretary - Joyce Robson

Competition Sec - John Coles

Exhibition Sec - Gordon Robson (shadowed by Jonathan Bawden)

Publicity Sec - Frank Hutchinson

Social Sec - Colin Pickles

Focus Editor - Bill Chadband

Syllabus Sec - Richard Scaife

Membership sec -Joyce Streets

Without portfolio - Brian Turnbull

Chair of Selection Committee - Jon Dixon

A resolution by David Clack, seeking to tidy up the rules regarding re-use of images in the Annual Exhibition (and previously published in Focus), was carried nem con.

A second resolution by Dave Clack seeking to abolish the weekly attendance subscription was lost by 14 votes to 10, with 2 abstentions.

Bill Chadband

Who wants to be a Judge?

On Saturday 31st May L&CPU ran another of their Judges seminar’s.

Following a chance meeting with Christine Widdell the previous day and the discovery that there were still places available your intrepid editor phoned Bob Dennis and arranged to be included. The morning (10.00am) began with tea and biscuits and was followed by a talk by David Marsh. Following another tea break we had a talk from Bob Dennis. Lunch was taken in the nearby park (bring your own sandwiches) and at least one of us took the opportunity to walk around Port Sunlight (the model village built by Lord Lever). The afternoon consisted of more practical sessions. We split into three groups and spent time, in turn, with L&CPU judges Christine Widdel, John Smith and David Marsh. During this process we left the room, in threes, to try our hand at judging 50 slides, using an electronic silent scoring machine.

The day was well organised and a credit to the L&CPU. Where else would you attend a professionally organised course for the price of five 2nd class stamps ( I promise that my five stamps are in the post, Bob!). The Seminar is put on as a service to members. The judges and lecturer’s lists produced by the L&CPU are likewise a service to members and no doubt Bob hopes that these courses will help replenish the judges list. But even if you have no immediate intention of becoming a judge the seminar gives an insight into how to approach club competitions as a competitor. Inevitably individuals benefit in different ways from the same course.

So what did I learn? I took comfort from the remarks of David Marsh that at the end of the day images are a matter of personal preference. But David emphasised that the best images stand out as such to most judges. Equally most judges agree on the really poor images. It is the great bulk of images between these two extremes that cause the greatest difficulty to the judge, particularly if a club asks that marks be given to all the images (for instance to satisfy the club’s clubman of the year requirement).

Both Bob and David argued that the most important task of the judge is to assist the author to improve his/her images. Judges should be enthusiastic about seeing new images and should be positive in their general outlook. They should seek to identify with the author as to why a particular image was shot and if this is not readily apparent seek to offer positive advice as to how the author could better communicate with the judge (a slightly different perspective, different lighting conditions and the avoidance or removal of extraneous matter in the image were all well-known remedies). Before claiming that parts of the image were not sharp a judge should satisfy him or herself that it was not the deliberate intention of the author to introduce differential sharpness. The judge could then reasonably argue that in his own humble opinion a different decision might improve the image.

Bob noted that marks were not absolute but related to the spread of work on offer. Beginner judges were advised not to undertake judging on the night without having previously seen the work to be judged. David noted that his method was to do a preliminary viewing of images and to sort into three piles. After a day or so he would return to the task and most likely move some images from one pile to another.

After another break he would consider his final order, or his assignment of marks. Inevitably, during this process, most of his comments would emerge, for use at the particular club.

In the practical sessions we learnt how easy it was to criticise and how much more difficult it was to get ourselves into the mind of the author of an image, and understand why a particular image was prepared with such loving care for presentation to the judge. How to compare ‘apples with pears’ eg how to compare a good landscape with a good bird image was a problem that was only solved (at least partially) by experience. One needed a grasp of the possible range of landscapes, and equally a grasp of the possible range of bird images. Ideally one would not try to order them in the same list. In practice one was obliged to when a club requested that it be done.

Bill Chadband

Steph Clack wins PAGB Colour Print Gold Medal

Members will recall a circular inviting all to submit entries to the L&CPU 2003 Print and Slide Competition. Eleven members responded, and following the judging we have been informed of the following:

Slides retained for the L&CPU Folio:

The Great Wall of China - G Robson

Giraffes at Nbutu - Steph Clack

Prints retained for the L&CPU Folio:

High Rise Calgary - George Beaumont

Carmine Bee eater - David Clack

Pelicans at Nakuru - David Clack

Elephants at Nxai Pan - Stephanie Clack

The Chancel, Lichfield Cathedral - Gerald Hallworth

Monument to Mary - Gerald Hallworth

Golden Corridor - Tony Redford

Hard Rock - Tony Redford

Autumn Glade - Tony Redford

Shag Drying Wings - Tony Redford

Charles de Gaulle Airport - Gordon Robson

Prints retained for PAGB :

Polar Bears No. 3 - Stephanie Clack

Chinstrap Penguin with Chick - Stephanie Clack

Winter Walk - Dorothy Redford

The Morning After - Tony Redford

Snowy Egret - Tony Redford

As ever, we do better with Prints than with Slides. Of the 61 prints sent we note that 5 were sent to the PAGB, and a further 11 retained for the L&CPU folio. However we should note that 5 prints were disqualified due to uneven backing, or tape on back.

The L&CPU competition is split into seven sections viz:

1. Monochrome Prints

2 .General Colour Prints

3. Natural History Prints

4. Creative Prints

5. General Colour Slides

6. Natural History Slides

7. Creative Slides

"The Morning After" by Tony Redford was awarded 2nd Place in the Monochrome Prints section, with Gordon Robson being awarded a Certificate of Merit for

"Charles de Gaulle Airport" in the same section.

"Snowy Egret" by Tony Redford received a Certificate of Merit in the Natural History Prints section.

The great news, nevertheless, is that we have been informed by the L&CPU minutes secretary that Steph Clack was awarded the COLOUR PRINT GOLD MEDAL for the print “Polar Bears No.3” in the subsequent PAGB competition.

The PAGB Annual Print Competition is between all fifteen Federations and the prints are in two sections, mono and colour, competing for The Alexander Keighley Trophy and The Stirling Trophy respectively. Federations are limited to the number of entries they can make by the number of members they have. The L&CPU therefore was limited to 34 entries in each category. (Only Midland Counties (40) & East Anglia (37) qualified for more and both Northern Ireland and North Wales got 10 each) These entries are made after a vigorous selection process at the local federations, At the PAGB the individual entries are judged by a team of three judges scoring in the usual 1 to 5 points system.. All or any prints receiving the highest score are then scrutinised for medals and ribbons. PAGB award one gold in each of the two categories and each of the judges makes a selection for their silver medals, making a grand total of five medals (and this year ten ribbons) across the whole competition.

The individual scores are then totalled for the federation and divided by the number of entries to get an average score. On this basis:- Kent County Photographic Association walked off with both trophies, scoring 11.467 for mono and 11.933 for colour. (15 entries in each) The L&CPU came 9th in mono with 10.118 and 5th in colour with 10.912. The total number of entries in each section was 338 but only 63 mono and 87 colour prints form the exhibition which will tour the UK and can be seen at the St Helens World of Glass from 26th Sept to 25 Oct 2003.

The images of all the medal and ribbon winners can be seen at http://www.pagb-photography-uk.co.uk.

Thanks to Dave Clack who worked hard to ferret out information for this article! Incidentally, Dave has set up a web site detailing their many photographic trips to Africa together with a selection of their photographic results – a fascinating and informative site well worth a visit by all members – look for http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/clackie

Bill Chadband

A New Look Website – www.ncps.org.uk

Many of you will have noticed a change to the NCPS Website over the summer. The clean new look and simplified colour scheme is designed to present NCPS in a modern and streamlined way. Most of the content remains the same but we've added a 'news' section to provide up to date information to members. Remember to check back regularly.

The 'links' page hasn't changed much since the site was launched three and a half years ago. A comprehensive links page encourages people to revisit our website as it acts as an index to other relevant and recommended sites. If you've discovered any sites that may be of interest to other users of our website then email their web address to webmaster@ncps.org.uk. Details of commercial and non-commercial sites are equally welcome.

Why not make your own positive contribution to our club’s shop window by volunteering a panel of 10 pictures? Prints, slides and digital files can all be transferred to the website – pass them on to Tony Redford for processing.

For those who are interested the new website is constructed and managed using Adobe GoLive. The graphics were created in Adobe Photoshop and the gallery pages are automatically generated by Adobe Photoshop Album. The site is hosted by freenetname (www.freenetname.co.uk).

Peter Redford (Webmaster)

Twenty Years On

The recent AGM marked for me the completion of twenty years membership of NCPS, and realising this set me to reflecting on the changes that have come about both in photography generally and in the Society in particular.

There has been a vast improvement in the quality of the films that we use, particularly in the fineness of the grain; 400ASA films today are as fine as 100ASA films of 20 years ago. Today there are several excellent mono films that can be processed in colour chemistry. In 1983 who would have guessed that by 2003 we would be buying cameras that don’t use film at all?

Cameras today are much more sophisticated than those of 20 years ago, with programs, aperture and shutter priority, exposure compensation, bracketing etc and now we don’t even have to focus the camera if we buy one with AF. How much of a benefit this is, is debatable and the unwary photographer may find that the camera has focussed on something other than that intended. Has AF merely made us lazy?

Twenty years ago NCPS had a much larger membership than today. Weekly attendances of well over 30 were the norm. Over the years many faces have disappeared. New Members have arrived, some to stay only briefly; but fortunately some of the old lags have remained, maybe a dozen, amongst whom I note that Brian Bower was President in 1967 and Trevor Harrison in 1973.

Competition-wise I cannot help feeling that our standards have slipped some-what. For most of the last twenty years the minimum print size was 8”by 10” (or 80 square inches) Now suddenly this is reduced to 75 sq In. This mystifying change apparently is to help and encourage our digital workers. Apparently only traditional photographers can manage an 8” x 10 “ print! Twenty years ago any print entered had to be processed by the author. Today, trade processed prints are allowed. This was probably the most controversial and bitterly fought inception during my membership. It is now possible to win Print-worker of the Year without ever producing a Print!! And this is Progress?? In the Exhibition it used to be accepted practice that any Natural History entry would include the Latin Name with the title. I suppose this gave an implied scientific aura to the section. But no more! Recently we have seen prints entered as Natural History, carrying ridiculous titles, and being accepted. A few days ago in a fit of morbid curiosity I tuned in (is this correct?) to www.ncps.org.uk . Yes folks the latest wonder of modern technology has arrived at Ringstones Farm. Of course, we don’t know how to use it, but at least we’ve got it!!

Anyway I found myself reading that the “aims of NCPS are to promote and encourage all aspects of photography”. Now either this statement is blatently false, or we are failing miserably to fulfil our aims. In truth we are allowing conventional darkroom photography to die of neglect. If you think that this assertion is unfair consider how many of our recent meetings have been devoted to digital imaging, and how many to darkroom photography. When I attempted to get separate classes for digital and darkroom prints I recall I was accused of being divisive. The next thing I knew was that we were introducing an interclub digital print competition at our Exhibition. This was Jon Allanson’s doing and I applaud him for it because he singlehandedly turned around the exhibition finances from loss to profit. We now also have a class for digital prints in the exhibition, thinly disguised with the title “altered reality”. I know that strictly speaking this is not an exclusively digital class but for all practical purposes it might as well be.

“Hold on” I hear the cries “you are dabbling in digital yourself”; to which I reply “I am. So what?” Just because I am attempting to produce prints digitally, and have bought a digital camera, you should not infer that this invalidates my arguments. In fact my experiences with digital to date only reinforce my view that prints produced in the darkroom, and those produced by computer and printer should be in separate sections. I recall recently attempting to produce test strips for a print in the darkroom. Whatever I did I seemed to end up with a colour cast. It took patience and application to solve the problem. But with digital prints I manage to get an acceptable print first time knowing little about the processes involved.

Having my digital camera gives me the added bonus that when my daughter turns up with the latest addition to the family I can “snap” her picture and give her a copy to take home (though why women drool over pictures of the latest baby I will never know – to me they all resemble a poached egg!) I never argue against digital imaging: it is new; exciting; often beautiful; sometimes hideous; and clearly can be a difficult medium to excel in. It just isn’t photography! It’s neither better, nor worse, just different. In some ways I think of it as the difference between the skilled oil painter and the one who paints by numbers; or the difference between the wood carving produced by the skilled craftsman and that produced numerically by a machine. Perhaps it is the difference between Art and Science.

Perhaps the most ridiculous comments (repeated by authorities such as Bob Denis, and others) equate digital manipulation to Dodging and Burning in the darkroom.. What nonsense! And if, as we are assured, “photography” means writing or painting with light, then surely dodging and burning in the darkroom is photography at its purest – the production of an image by controlling and adjusting the light. How can digital wizardry on the computer be the same as this?.

Happily whatever ones thoughts are on this topic, one essential ingredient of good photography remains unchanged – the ability to spot or see a good picture.

To return finally to darkroom printing and the Annual Exhibition. Noting that two of the three evenings are taken up with inter-club competitions, suppose we made the third evening the occasion of an inter-club competition for darkroom produced prints. Preferably the prints should all be home-produced. We could have an award for the best home-produced print, Would it work? We wouldn’t know til we tried, but at least it would justify our claim to encourage all aspects of photography.

Gerald Hallworth

The Committee Meeting held Thursday 14 August 2003

The Poynton Show is an Annual NCPS commitment. NCPS members take the pictures, put them up for sale the next year, organise a photographic print show, and judge a photographic competition for the public. The winner gets a members pack plus free membership of the club for a year. All this needs organising; inevitably in the “close season” when members are away. Jon Allanson has been a key organiser (as well as our competition judge) previously, but President Joyce Streets this year had the task of general organiser. A particular difficulty is that many members are away for the Bank holiday weekend in August; this year being no exception. Brian Turnbull agreed to assemble the “prints for sale” board, Tony Redford was available on the Friday only to assemble the Club Prints display. John Coles and Colin Pickles would be available on the Saturday to help with the photography, and Gerald also, if his knee allowed him.. Other club members are urged to contact our President quickly if they think they are available to help. Entry passes and Car Parking tickets are available if organised well in advance.

Gordon Robson reported on work in progress for the next Annual Exhibition. He had typed up the modified Rules for the event. He reported that the Judges for the event and for the interclub digital print competition were agreed but that he still sought a judge for the interclub slide competition and a suitable speaker for our Friday public Presentation.

The committee agreed to Gordon’s proposal that entries be limited to eight prints and eight slides this session, with a maximum of four in any one class. Also the “creative slide” class would be dropped for lack of interest.

Our new treasurer, Estelle Broomhall (who usually answers to Stella!!) was on holiday, but sent a detailed account of her actions to date. She wished to tighten up on the handling of the door money and petty cash in general, by providing standardized request/ receipt vouchers which she hoped all would use. This would make her job, and that of our auditor, much easier. She requested that no money be taken out of the door takings on the night and that all who require petty cash re-imbursement fill in a voucher and present it to her. She would generally carry petty cash for such re-imbursements and for judges/ speakers expenses. The committee applauded this approach

Colin Pickles reported that the Club Christmas Dinner on Tuesday 16th December would this year be held at Kurts in Bramhall. The basic cost would be £20 per person and the establishment could seat up to 39 people. This approximates to our usual turn-out and should present no problem, but to be certain of a place members are advised to book promptly once Colin distributes the Menu/booking and payment form (in the Autumn).

Colin also reported on progress re our Annual Club Weekend Abroad. Following general consultation, a weekend in Prague had been agreed. It was agreed that Friday 7th May to Monday 10th May were appropriate dates. Initial talks with the travel agent indicated a price of about £325 for the trip, using Czech Airlines. The proposed flight leaves Manchester Airport at 7.40am, landing in Prague at 10.50am (transfer by taxi to the hotel). The return flight leaves Prague at 19.25 arriving Manchester at 20.40. Thus we have most of the travel days in Prague. The possibility of alternative “cheap fare” airlines was not viable for the party booking that the club sought. Prague is becoming a popular venue and seats on the flights are already filling. Colin needs to confirm our booking quickly. He is asking for a £50 deposit per person by September 13th from all members who are interested in the trip. The hotel will be 3 star.

Gerald Hallworth reported on progress in organising our trip to Wales and a competition with Dysinni (and perhaps other Welsh clubs). Dysinni had suggested the Plas Maenan Hotel, Llanwryst, in the Conway valley, To keep a decent interval before the proposed Prague visit Gerald had enquired about vacancies in March 2004. The Hotel had 13 bedrooms, which we thought we might well fill (if not entirely by NCPS members then perhaps with the help of Welsh club members). The committee agreed that the weekend of 26/27 March would be suitable. A quick telephone call to the hotel confirmed that this date was presently available. Their published prices for this summer were £55 for Dinner, Bed and Breakfast, per person, and though we would endeavour to get discounts for our block booking we should take this as a guide price. Gerald would negotiate with the hotel and confirm in writing the provisional booking.

From the Competition Secretary

Dear NCPS members,

The new session is rapidly drawing upon us. I hope you have all had a good summer (what a scorcher!) and have been able to get out & about with your camera and latest gizmos. Our Quarterly judges are as follows:-

Q1 Dave Hallows Q2 Toni Pioli Q3 Keith Brownlow Q4 R Stephenson.

(I take it that the final judge is the more elderly as he was waxing lyrically about being pleased to attend if he was still alive !!)

For our annual battle with Chapel club on Nov 4th I have enlisted Tillman Klienans as adjudicator (so, please, a few good rust/decay images plus some interesting architecture !)

On Monday 6th October the competition at Southport is a little different in that the images are required on CD (written to 1024x768 and using blank space filled with a ‘mount’ colour if the shape of image calls for it.) These files to be jpeg format at a max resolution of 150dpi. - open subject matter but each club to produce eleven images from eleven different members.

On Sat 8th Nov some members visit the lakes where part of the activity is a print battle with Local and less than local invited clubs.

On Wed 19th Nov we have the triangular battle at Wilmslow guild. Images are required for each of these battles and so the Selection Committee is going to be busy, and soon, since all the above fall before the second quarterly on 25th Nov

So please select your slides ; remount and mask if required………. Print your prints and please do not be shy at coming forward and offering images to the selection committee. Support your club; it is run by the members for the members……. The more we get involved the more fun it is.

John David Coles