Past Meetings 2019-20

Tuesday 26th was the “Match a Picture” night with North Berwick Photographic Society. The final score was NB 39, HCC 29. A very enjoyable evening and many thanks to Gordon Rae for coming all the way from Lockerbie to judge it for us on a wet and foggy night.

29th October. The “Season Starter” competition was the first to use the new scoring system. This replaces the “points out of 20” score with a 1st, 2nd, 3rd system , but adds categories, so more people have a chance at a “first” in different types of photograph. This simplifies some aspects of scoring while complicating others. In particular it means the judge must be fast on his feet, as he gets no chance to examine the images before the event.

Charles Summers was the “Guinea pig”. He was still standing at the end and I’m sure he will be fine after a good night’s sleep. Charles pointed out potential areas for improvement in each shot as he went, after a rapid run through of 62 images he had never seen before. This is the important bit about competitions- that we learn something from criticism of our own and everyone else’s images. Judges see a lot of shots, from a wide range of clubs, so they can give valuable comment on what could be better- because they will often have seen the same subject differently treated.

Whether we score a 1st or not is less important. What matters is that we continue to improve. I saw some great shots last night that didn’t “win” , especially among the prints, which by their very size don’t get the punchy presentation of DPIs. (It helps to sit at the front.)

A big “Thanks” to Charles for his stalwart performance. It can’t have been easy! We will be assessing the scoring system throughout the year.

22 October. Colin gave us an impressive demonstration of preparing an audio-visual presentation using a mix of freeware. The main program “Photostage” is available free to download for home users here.

In the middle of a live demo, Colin also used both Faststone Image Viewer and GIMP to edit images at the same time, while simultaneously remaining upright and talking. This impressed your jaded scribe no end.

Seriously, what this demonstrates is just how good freeware has become. All the software used (except Windows) is available for no cost to home users.

Using the Windows 10 Photo app to create an A/V is probably simpler if you stick to the basic options, but if you fancy producing something more polished, why not try Photostage for yourself?

We also had 5 favourites from John and some favourite locations from Paul. Keep them coming, everyone.

15 October. So, why do you like some landscape photos a lot more than others? Do all your “good” images have things in common? If so, can you say what those things are? That’s a simplified version of the question Neil McCoubrey asked himself. Few of us would pursue the question in the sort of depth Neil has, but none of us (as far as I know) is working towards a PhD in photography. We are used to the sort of “Rules” of composition which score points in club competitions. Cheerfully ignoring rules of thirds , slapping the principal element square on the optic axis of his lens and laying his horizons wherever he thinks they belong, even if it’s right in the middle, Neil looks for 2-D geometries which can fade in milliseconds of overthinking the image. I think there are a lot more ways of seeing images than his , as I’m sure he would agree, but I liked a lot of his images, even if my reasons differ from Neil’s. A lot to think about here , in a very different approach to Landscape from that of Neil Mcdade a few weeks ago.

08 October was a “Members’ night”. In theory, so is every night, insofar as if any member has something to contribute, they are very welcome to do so. That might be “5 favourite photos” , or a suggestion for something you want to know a bit about; it might be a query about how to solve a problem with your camera, or about which camera / tripod / software to buy. It might be something you found out that you think we should all hear. It can be any input at all and the more the better. It’s your club. Don’t just sit there. Stand up and shimmy.

Links to the free editing programs we mentioned are below. All four are free to home users, though if you feel like contributing something, I’m sure the people behind them would appreciate it. For most of what we need as club photographers, “Faststone Image Viewer” is fine, as Colin demonstrated. If you want layers, try Gimp. If you want to edit raw files in Gimp, try one of the two raw handlers- Rawtherapee or Darktable. The links below are to the correct download sites.

Gimp

Darktable

Rawtherapee

Faststone Image Viewer

This fellow, Michael Davies, has a load of tutorials on Gimp and Darktable.

01 October. Wow! Eagles! Buzzards! Bison! Dolphins! Dragons! OK , no dragons, but if there was one on Mull, Zaneta Blasczyk would have a great picture of it. There are two key aspects to wildlife photography- knowing your equipment and understanding your subject. Real wildlife photographers must master both and it’s clear Zaneta fits the description.

Of course, willingness to go where the subjects are is critical, too-which is where a willing assistant like Chris comes in very useful. No wildly exotic locations here though- we’ve all been to Mull and Musselburgh is just up the road. This is the sort of quality we can all get if we a) Are willing to get up early at the right place and b) Have an incredibly good eye for animal behaviour. It just takes hard work and talent. Which lets me out. I enjoyed this evening very much. It really is time I went back to Mull.

24 Sept. We covered a lot of ground this evening. First, Colin gave a briefing on the “Safari” and teams were chosen. Paul, Colin and Jim showed five favourite images, with Jim giving the first presentation of prints rather than projected images. Everyone’s photography is different and these short presentations let every member show a bit of what they do and tell us what they like about it.

Grace then gave us a double item, first about using phone apps to edit images downloaded from a camera, so sidestepping the need for pricy software like Lightroom by using apps which are free or cost literally pennies. She then gave a talk on what photography is for from her point of view. Most of us would share several of her reasons for carrying a camera, but there are loads of others- photojournalism, for example. If anyone would like to do a similar talk, just speak up at a meeting.

17 Sept. Some really lovely views of Scotland tonight from Neil McDade, the man behind Facebook’s “Spectacular Scotland” site. I would have been happy to have taken any of the images Neil showed us. He is determined, whenever possible, to find a new viewpoint from which to photograph Scotland’s best known views, so his results are recognisably different. I have images of the Forth Rail Bridge from Dalmeny station, but it never occurred to me to go there at night, in fog. It occurred to him. The tree-framed shot of Kilchurn Castle, the snowy highland border hills beyond Stirling Castle, from Bannockburn- original variations on old themes that present known scenes in a fresh new way. It clearly takes a lot of time and effort- which is usually the secret of doing anything well. Neil’s off to Iceland soon. I will be interested to see what he brings back.

10 Sept. Apart from a closely averted disaster with the kitchen cupboard keys, things went generally to plan at the first meeting. There was a lot to get through and I can imagine first timers and maybe several old members were reeling from information overload, In particular, the new competition rules do need a bit of explaining. It will be easier when we actually do it.

Same goes for the hasty explanation about the projector resolution. Keep that screen height limit of 1050 pixels in your mind and don’t worry about the rest. We will go over it again.