The final ladder competition for 2017 had the set topic of “into the night” which screams out astrophotography. But it also meant that these were going to be landscapes, which is not one of my main shooting areas.
On a clear night I headed to Owhiro Bay on Wellington to do the shoot. I had planned on shooting an orb in the foreground but in the end that image was not as good as the one as a simple landscape. There will be a separate post about the night shoot and my painting with light attempts.
In the end I only selected one image from the shoot, and for the second entry went back to a shoot two years previous at the base of the Pencarrow light at the entrance to Wellington harbour.
Going into the round I was tied for first place with another club member, so we both knew the relative results of our image would decide who won the award for 2017 Advanced grade photographer.
As it turned out the judge must have liked my images as both received Honours, meaning that I have successfully won the competition for the second year in a row.
This year I submitted and was successful in achieving the licentiate level within the PSNZ Honours system. This was the combination of a number of years working towards the goal, although inconsistently. In this post I am going to give a fairly honest account of what happened along the way in the hope that it will help other people going for their honours.
I first got interested in applying for others in 2012 although I cannot remember exactly when. The convention in 2013 was going to be in Wellington and I always said that if I was going to the put the effort putting a set together that I wanted to be able to pick the certificate up in person.
By this time I had moved through the beginners and intermediate grades of the Hutt Camera Club winning at both levels. Based on the fact that a number of my images had got acceptance is in competitions outside of the club, and honours within it, I felt I met the minimum requirement set out in the guidelines. I also believed it when other photographers told me I was good enough to put forward a set.
As most photographers do when they begin this journey I downloaded the reference material from the PSNZ website. Unfortunately anyone who had read it will know that it can be extremely confusing at times.
I then went through my Lightroom catalogue and identified around 30 images that I thought were good enough for consideration. I was lucky enough to have Simon Woolf offer to assist me in the process and so one lunchtime I visited his Wellington studio with printed copies of all 30 images.
He laid them out over the floor of the studio rejecting quite a few, that I quite liked. After about 40 minutes we ended up with about four definite possibilities and a number of other images that even needed work or he recommended I re-shoot.
Even back then I had too much of confidence in my photography that I now recognize was bordering on arrogance. While I fully accepted that Simon had a lot of experience, I was not completely in agreement with some of the choices and changes that he was recommended.
At the same time there was a group of 12 other photographers at the Hutt Camera Blub who are working towards the L level. Despite being a member of the group, for some reason that I now cannot remember, I did not take the set much further. When it became obvious that a combination of the timing of the convention and the fact that I’m was not all impressed the speakers, I put the set aside and took it no further. The group was very successful and all bar one achieved their Licentiates that year.
The 2014 Malborough convention was occurring at the exactly the same time as my daughter was representing New Zealand in Roller Skating, so in the lead up to it I did not take the set any further.
However come September 2014, when the program for the Tauranga convention was released, I made the decision that I was attending and I decided to pick the set back up. Again I started with the ones that Simon had chosen and again went through the library catalogue for images shot in the last two years.
At the time it appeared that print sets had a higher success than digitals so I had every intention to submit prints. Unfortunately a series of home appliances failing around home in the December meant that this was not feasible and I would be forced to submit a digital set instead.
The problem that I was facing was that during the time since the discussion with Simon my photography had developed further and I had established that my main focus was with people. I took the set to a fellow photographer and we initially tried to integrate the old and new images but it became obvious that the old set did not represent my photographic style now.
Anyone with that familiar with the PSNZ honours system will know that there are several levels. The Licentiate is the lowest level. It is expected that you demonstrate proficiency over a range of photographic skills. At this level a theme is not required. The Associate level is at a higher level and does operate on a theme. There is no requirement to have one level before moving onto the next, and there have been a number of photographers who have been successful got their Associate without first achieving the Licentiate.
It became obvious that with the images we were now leaning towards were following a theme and my friend was of the opinion that my photography was strong enough to submit an Associate set.
Taking their advice we ditched virtually every image from the original set and selected 12 images that I believe ran together. We structured the set so that it flowed with the use of colour.
One of the recommendations in the guidelines is to seek advice from a number of people with regard to your set. I approached Bruce Girdwood who at that stage was just a member of the judge accreditation panel, and he agreed to look at the set.
He came back with the honest advice that the set was not strong enough for the Associate but that there was a possibility to make a Licentiate set out of it. We agreed to drop two images and he also recommended tweaks to a couple of other images.
It is at this point that I know I made a fatal mistake. When submitting images for competitions you should not be so in love with them that you cannot see the flaws nor take advice about them. As far as I was concerned I had selected 10 great image, the colour provided a flow between the images and I could easily reel off the various approaches that were taken amongst the ten.
My expectations for success were so high that I actually started mapping out the images that I was going to shoot that year to submit for an Associate. It is therefore hit me like a lead balloon when I opened the letter from the Honours Board telling me that I have been unsuccessful. The letter contained the following explanation:
“The board felt that the theme dad distracted the photographer from the requirements for Licentiate as set out in the guidelines, namely those relating diversity of approach etc. to demonstrate overall competence with the camera. Your individual images are mainly of a very good standard, but each did have some small fault apart from 9 which was considered to be especially strong. The last image was considered to be out of context with the rest of the set and the weakest one was identified as Jelly Belly, where the arm and pillo beyond the torso are distracting and the composition generally is not strong. You are clearly a competent photographer of the subjects you have shown but the Board would like evidence of that competency in other disciplines.
The letter made me real angry. The only thing that you could call a theme was that all of the images were of women, but there was diversity of approach. That anger continued through to the convention when I saw the successful sets. It became obvious to me that the Honours Board viewed diversity as being someone who shot different genres. When you are in negative space you also look at other people’s images and see the flaws and wonder how they got through.
About a month later after the convention I was able to get some further feedback from a person present at the judging. This strictly breached some protocols but at least it let me see where I had gone wrong.
The problem started what the very first image and then went downhill with the second one. This image was titled Jelly Belly and it hangs on the wall in my bedroom. I really like this image so much that I actually ignored separate comments from both my wife and a fellow club member that there were issues with. Unfortunately by the time your first two images have been marked down the set is pretty much over.
Now some people have the ability to pick themselves back up again and try the next year. Well I would like to think that was me, but the reality was that it wasn’t, and I did not do anything else leading up to the 2016 Convention in Queenstown. However seeing the honours suits on a wall there inspired me two again try. But time I was going to go right.
In May 2016 I had the opportunity two take part in a photographic exhibition with my wife at the Odlin Gallery in Lower Hutt. In preparation for that I purchased 12 brand-new mattes with the intention that they would be used once for the exhibition and then again for a print set in the Honours. The majority of images within the exhibition were street scenes shot in various countries you have visited earlier in the year.
After my previous disastrous effort this time I have decided to not only take advice but to take it early enough maybe would make a difference. As Bruce Girdwood had been appointed to the Honours Board I approached another member of the Judge Accreditation Panel (Shona Jaray) to see if she would help. So on a Saturday morning in July I travelled to her farm in Waikanae with a set of 12 images that I hoped would be the base of a new set. Others were still encouraging to go straight for the Associate but the first meeting with Shona dispelled that notion.
My initial idea for the set was still too stick within the genre pf people but too separate the images quite clearly into separate groups such as conceptual, straight and classic portraiture and Street Photography. This fell apart when she assessed that none of the street images were of a high enough standard to be acceptable. By the end of the session we had five images that could possible make the set.
Fortunately Shona has good contacts on the Honours Board and was able to confirm for me that diversity was not restricted to different genres, but if you were shooting in one then you had to show different approaches. As I spend just about a hour a week watching Youtube photographic videos, were was no shortage of ideas to try.
As it would happen on the way back from Shona’s place we stopped for lunch at a small cafe. The owner and location was so brilliant that I asked if I could photograph him and that image ended up in the final set. I knew that the images we had selected meet the standard portrait style so it was now time to look for the alternatives.
After seeing a video on using long exposure with studio flash, I booked studio space on two occasions to try this approach with different models. (You can read about the first shoot here and the second one on this link). Then during a Lindsay Adler video she used a macro lens for portraiture I decided to see what I can could create. The result was a striking image that you can read about here.
In September I was also fortunate to be able to attend a workshop at the regional convention run by Esther Bunning on creative portraiture what the models present I had a play in capture camera double exposure. You can read more about this here)
All through this period I was also submitting images that I was considering into both club and local competitions to see what reactions they received. I was also taking into consideration comments that the judges made. For example on image was flipped in the final set as a judge said that it made a better composition that way.
Come November I figured that my set was finished and I had an arrangement of 10 images sorted. Shona was unavailable at this time so I sort the advice of fellow club member William Wright. As before I took full size images around to his place.
He was generally happy with the set however he was initially concerned how the image “Late for the Ball” (Bottom row second from left) fitted in with the others.
The image has been in the set right from the start. However as Shona had also expressed a similar comment, the image was pulled. This is despite the fact that this image had won a merit at the Central Region 2 years before.
William suggested that I should bring a black and white image into the set and I decided that a nude would be a good addition to the set. Bringing in that image into the set required a little shuffling round.
I thought that at this point we were almost there but then William pointed out that there was an issue in the last image on the top row. There was a line running down the image, as well as a white object in the corner that was distracting. The line was actually the corner of the pillar.
I made several attempts to fix the image in photoshop but in the end decided to replace it with a image taken of Sian at a body painting event, however that agains required some adjusting in the layout.
I initially came up with this layout, however when we looked at the colour tones decided that the black & white nude suited the bottom row than the top.
It was a long process, and along the way a lot of highly successful images were considered and rejected. In the end it worked because my set was one of 40 successful ones. Given that there were 100 sets up for consideration I was extremely happy with the result.
I posted last week that my image had received Honours in the Photographic Society of New Zealand Central Regional Salon. I also told you that I had been present when the images were judged so I knew that the final decision of who won the cup had been between my image and a black & white portrait.
I was both pleased with the honours but also disappointed that it had not won. Today I was reading through the October issue of f11 Magazine when I spotted the image that had beaten mine. It was one submitted to the 2016 Iris Awards where it received Gold and went on to earn its creator the title of 2016 Classic Portrait Photographer of the year.
I guess that if you are going to be beaten, then being beaten by the best in the country is not all that bad.
I have had to keep things under wraps for a couple of weeks, but my reflections image with Jason, scored Honours in the Open Category of the Central Regional Salon of PSNZ. The central region is essentially the lower half of the North Island.
I was present at the judging so it was great to see the reception the print got. It fought it out with another image to be named the overall winner of the category, but ended up coming second. This is still a very pleasing result.
I also entered a print of Wilf into the Salon which received an “accepted” which means that it will be displayed over the weekend at the conference.
My image of Jason and the mirrors continues to have success. This time I entered it into the Canon Online competition, which is a digital competition run every two months by the Photographic Society of New Zealand.
I have entered images into it previously over the last three years without any success, but this time I found out that the photo had made the top ten in the round coming 8th.
The judge made the following comments on it.
“This is a busy image but I kept coming back to it and seeing more interest in the picture. Each mirror helps create the full image of the man. The post work is very good. Having the one mirror without a face just adds a bit more interest.”
What is quite amusing is that the mirror without the reflection was actually a mistake.
The image is also entered as a print in the Central Regional Salon with the results announced in a couple of weeks time. Will keep you posted.
Last night we had the results of the third round of the Hutt Camera’ club 2016 ladder competition. This time I had four images in for consideration. There were two digital images, that had been entered specifically to compete for the overall title. In addition I submitted two print images, that I am considering to be part of my submission early next year for Photographic Society of New Zealand honours. The plan was simply to get feedback from the judge.
I was blown away with the results. Both print images were awarded honours, as was one of the digital images. The other scored a merit (which is the grade below honours) so that was pleasing as well.
My image of Wilf is one that proves you don’t need a fancy camera to get the image. This was shot on a small and relative cheap Fuji mirrorless.
Each year the six photographic clubs in the Wellington area have a print competition. The host club sets 10 topics and each club submits a single image. I have entered images for selection in most years, and have normally had at least one selected by the Hutt Camera Club. This year was no different and I submitted images in two categories.
The judging was held last night and I was thrilled when my entry in the “reflections” category won, with the judge raving about the image.
Afterwards the images attracted a lot of attention and I received a lot of questions about how it had been produced.
When I had seen the category “reflections” I knew that I wanted to create something quite different. A very similar topic was used in 2011 and that time I used a mirror as well. (you can read about that one on this link).
Fortunately just down the road from work is an unusual shop selling a wide of mirrors. It is set out more like an old curiosity shop, and so i knew that it would make a great location. The shop describes itself as a gentleman’s destination shop so I knew that I wanted a particular look for the person. Fortunately I knew that Wellington wedding photographer Jason Naylor fitted that bill, and he agreed to take part.
We had to wait a couple of months to get a time that was not so chaotic for him and the shop owner. We will given full run of the shop after it closed to the public. My daughter assisted with helping set up the mirrors.
The image was lit with a single strobe placed immediately in front of Jason firing into my 7 foot parabolic umbrella. A Lumecube was placed on a light stand just behind him (camera left) to add a little separation.
The shot as presented is pretty much straight out of camera. Photoshop was used to set the tone of the image along with a little dodging. The fifth mirror was a little bit of a mistake however I quite like how it adds a little bit to the image.
Last night we received the results of the second round on the 1026 Hutt Camera Club Ladder competition. The set topic was “hidden” and I had entered one image from my shoot with Wellington, and a second image shot specifically for the competition. I was really happy when it was announced that my first image received a “honours” but absolutely over the moon when the second one got the same mark.
Over the last two weekends I have had the situation where I had stepped out from behind the lens to be in front of it. I do this occasionally because as a portrait photographer I do not feel that you can really produce the best if you can’t feel what it is like to be the subject.
Last week it was at a portrait field trip associated with the Photographic Society of New Zealand annual convention in Queenstown. That was a relatively simply shoot.
However yesterday it was a completely different affair as I helped out Upper Hutt photographer Mandi Lynn who was working on some images for entry into the upcoming professional body awards.
I was turned into the victim of a zombie attack. This involved half an hour of makeup and the application of a lot of blood. Some of the positions that I had to get into were not the most comfortable but the end result looked really good. I can’t wait to see the final image in early June.
Last night was the judging of the first club competition for the year. The theme was “alternative view” and so I decided to enter the image I had taken of Kat. I figured that this was not the normal way that a portrait would appear.
It would appear that I was right as the judge awarded it a “Merit”. This is the second level down from the top mark that can be awarded, so I am really pleased with the result.