Upcoming Photographic Judging

So as a quick introduction I'm a certified Southern Photographic Federation Class B Judge. Meaning basically I can go to Photographic Societies within the SouthernFed's region and judge their internal club competitions.

After a brief hiatus whilst jnr #2 was born when I couldn't commit to doing any evenings out as of April I should be back!  So I've looked up the list of photographic judging that I'm been asked to do.

There are 6 dates currently booked into the calendar at a variety of clubs (Woolston provisional).  You're all welcome of course to come and see what goes on.

Of these I've only been to Marwell before. I'm really looking forward to going to Marwell - it's a small club but with some talented members and a very warm welcome (plus it's my first camera club!)

But equally I'm also looking forward to going to the other clubs.  Looking at their websites there all have talented members.

Within the camera club and photographic society compensation circuit I will honestly say that these competitions are strange beasts.  It's all too often to hear lots of comments about the randomness or odd remarks from judges (and I've made them myself to be honest).  Or for Judges to forget that they have haven't separated their own personal preferences from their assessment of an image.

As an aside for a different take on photo critiquing have a look at  this edition of XKCD.

But we still put these competitions into our society's schedules so they must be fulfilling some need (and I argue they do)

Last year I put a presentation together on how Judges think and critiquing photos.  I'm going to try and expand on that in an article to give some background to how I judge.  It's only fair I think to present the 'marking scheme'.

Thoughts on Focus-on-Imaging 2011

As promised some thoughts on Focus 2011. Overall another worthwhile trip I feel.

Arriving a little earlier than in previous years was a bonus; gave a little more quiet time to review what was there and determine a plan of attack. It was noticeable I think that there were a few less exhibitors than in previous years - the noteable absence of Canon for example. It also felt a little less crowded, not so much pushing and shoving to get somewhere. Or perhaps this was just because with fewer stands everything was spaced out more. I also noted sadly there were no public address announcements when a talk was about to start; nor is they any central list of the talks. A real shame as I had hoped to pay more attention here this year.

After a coffee and bacon bap (so important to stay hydrated and feed as it's a non-stop day)  first stop was as planned Nikon. So D7000 D300S and D700 comparison. My comparison here was purely ergonomic - all are good specifications and all better than a D100! The broad decision was easy to make - I picked p the D7000 and then put it down again. Ergonomically it is just felt 'wrong'. Comparing with a D300s/D700 body showed quite a lot had been taken off the left hand side. With the grip on the bottom the D7000 became a square box with a lens at the top left corner - not at all balanced.

If I had to buy a camera today - D300s; however it's coming to the end of its life. D700? well with DX lens this crops down to around the D100. A few more pixels are now required really.  Upshot? Well the money is not quite yet in the account so it's a wait and see game?  Can I last until the D400 or D800?  D800 full frame is very tempting - lower noise and get to use the old FX lens as they should be used.

Moving to the Lee Filters, 'Big Stopper' talking to the Lee stand Speed Graphic decided not to bring any as they would sell out very quickly. (Business model fail?) So Linhof got the order (as they had some but had sold out).

PhotoBox next to talk about their calendars in loci James. Well the couldn't say what the aspect ratio was, not were overly  keen to find out. But were firmly of the opinion that the templates in the calendar tool would permit the layout that is required without any needing to know the ratio. Plus that the mix of colour/b&w wouldn't compromise the image quality. In fact the example calendar on display was a mix and had good definition.

Epson's new printer is big - but not as I had imagined another replacement for the replacement of the R2400; the R2880 still stands. This new printer is filling a new need apparently. They did confirm that servicing a printer that hasn't physically failed or has demanded servicing is not reqiured. My drifting black point is most likely my colour management.

So what else?

  1. Spoke to Joe Cornish and Eddie Ephraums about their new book (signed copy obtained)
  2. Paramo have indicated to me to send back my jacket so they can remove the lint it's picked up over the years (a common problem now especially with merino wool.
  3. Brilliant Prints impressed me with their canvas prints, very good quality printing and physical construction. Reasonable prices, good guarentee and a passion for the business which is so important.
  4. Drobo always impresses me; especially this year when I got to start pulling out drives live and putting them back again.
  5. Last year I was smitten by a new monitor, and so this year. NEC PA-241W is simply outstanding - and one of the lower end models. Maybe if I wait for the D800 I might be tempted with a new monitor.
  6. Loxley Colour was also a stop; having been impressed with some prints for Alexis, I wanted to stop buy - they do calendars (yes finally I can get competent calendar!) and lots of other things.
  7. Sony had a very impressive stand and display, no doubt trying hard now that a certain big name was missing. Yet not many people around the stand.
  8. Panasonic though had a good showing for the Lumix G series. An impressive concept with a growing lens collection. It's a very tempting proposition I must say. Indeed one I would possibly recommended to anybody starting. (Although it has to be said the D3100 is also very impressive - although so very very small!)

I must give an honorable mention to the vice-president of the RPS - as I challenged him to explain why I should join. I do applaud and support the concept of the awards and have seriously been working on and off to the 'L' Panel. Yet reviewing the cost of the RPS  - now at least £100 a year - I need to ask what I would get from it. To be fair the answer is really - how much can you put in.... the problem is that with the amount of time free for photography the RPS would always for me a the moment a distant club. I applaud the work they do behind the scenes... but sorry at the moment £100 is better spent on other areas of photography.

So finally to the end of the day, a quick trip to the Hahnemühle stand for their discount on paper. Also picked up a DIY Canvas kit for £20 - worth a try. Also just looking at their site I realise that I was quizzing one of their top directors about how curl a roll sheet of paper would have when mounted.

Also picked up a new Nomad print box (growing print collection) - these are simple boxes but simply brilliant. Did get a soft sided cases for taking to club print evenings.

I did finally pay another visit to Nikon - was my initial impression right from earlier in the day? Yes - no question. So the matter remains now, need to get the money into the camera fund. When it gets to the suitable level - where are we in the year.



Focus-on-Imgaing 2011

It's that time of year again when I take a day off from the job that pays the bills, to spend time at the job that creates the bills.  That is I'm going to Focus at the NEC on Monday.

One reason I go is primarily to spend a day with photographers, cameras, gadgets and photographs.  Generally I don't go with a shopping list - as I know that I'm going to be tempted to get something. Plus to be honest the prices are not that greatly reduced I find.

So what am I looking for this year?

  1. D300S or D7000 - need to go and hold these and see really which I want.... money is now there to replace the D100 - it's getting to the end of it's life.
  2. Lee Filters 10stop filter - will probably buy this there.
  3. Attend some of the talks - never really done this before as I've always just spent the time wandering around all the stands. But as a lot of these are the same year-on-year time to get to some talks.
  4. Look at the new Epson printer that is a several generations away successor to the R2400

Often I've been with James but as he's doing his day job this year I'm going to head over to PhotoBox and find out really what the aspect ratios of the apertures of the calendars are! Plus why the Blacks on mixed colour/monochrome products aren't black.

Although I can't promise anything if there's some burning question you think could only be answered at Focus, post a comment and I'll see if I get it answered!

Will post back next week.


PC Performance and PhotoShop/Lightroom

So in trying to produce the latest images for Tone, Texture, Time my machine seemed to be really going slowly. Turned out that I was really running out of disk space on the local drives. Not only did that give appalling performance, but it also meant that a few attempts to print A3+ failed half way through.  Half a printed picture is useless.

Optimize performance of Photoshop CS3 on Windows XP and Vista on Adobe's site gives some basic information; on of the interesting things was having to local hard drives. Currently I have one 160Gb (small now) and a 500Gb NAS (RAID1).

So some thinking on upgrading the PC.

  1. Clear out stuff
  2. Run more from the NAS
  3. 2nd Hard Drive - Shuttle case can take it.. but need to move out the Floppy Drive/Card Reader.

Will edit this as thinking moves on... see Delicious Stream for more links on this topic

Christmas Presents for the next couple of years…

Well my request for presents for the next fews years are now taken.. Nikon have announced the D300 (I've a D100).  See the initial summary at dppreview

I love the D100 - wonderful build quality and I've really got some good use from it.  The D300 has some great advances over the D200. Noteably to me are 100% viewfinder, 12MP, auto focus that is way superior that the D100.  UDMA CF cards, and HDMI video out could be useful.

Plus it has built in sensor cleaning... yes excellent.

Having just got some new lens and filters; no way will I be able to get a D300.. so perhaps Christmas 2009?

Broughton Down

Despite the threat of more rain, I ventured out this morning. Having spent much of yesturday inside, I very much wanted to get out side. Checking the BBC's weather page this morning hinted that today would be notably better. The satelite pictures suggested that better weather was coming in from south-east.

Buoyed by a promising conclusion from the amateur meteorology, I headed for Broughton Down. A location I've wanted to visit for sometime, due to the tag of "the best views in Hampshire" from the Hampshire Wildlife Trust.

Following the HWT's directions I got there eventually, although the car is now muddy and it's suspension has less life in it. Walking past the burnt out shell of Ford Fiesta, I was not confident in that tag line. Nor did passing the supposed location of one of these view points. I sure it was a nice cornfield, if cornfields are your thing. After landing flat on my back after slipping on some exposed chalk, I had firmly removed "best views" from my thoughts.

Things started to look up, when I found that the actual view points where on the other side of the small wood I had walked down. Looking over across the village of Broughton, the countryside opened up. A small but pleasent chalk down with numerous low growing flowers, but without the usual butterflies that accompany such land. The weather at this time was turning bad so macro shots would have had me soaked, so I head into the woods. Some wonderful old knarled tress.

However whilst in there, the cloud started to break up giving some better light and I headed out again to the chalk down. The expanse of the flowers, much like bluebells looks like a great shot but capturing it is always difficult. A few shots with the 200mm looked promising; will attempt similar at a later date.

Time was now approaching lunchtime; the (virtually) unmarked track and that burnt out car had been at the back of my mind at the time. This seemed like farily remote and safe part of the test valley but was it? Plus I was hungry

Would I go back? Possibly, but I think I'd like to park in in Broughton, or similar go through the down on a walk to somewhere else.

See the results!

Recycled Photo Paper.. and can Valentine’s day to a sustainable part of the year?

Well finally a photo paper made from recycled components has been released. The GreenPix Photo Matte is the paper in question.

The only problem of course is that the paper is currently made in the US, so I would have to ship via a carrier across the atlantic. Now can I deliverably do this? Should I do this? What's the carbon cost of air freight... (ps I don't want to know)

This raises a great question - in that we really don't know the full lifecycle of anything that we buy. The final product may have been assembled in the UK say, but where have the constinuent components come from. For example, one report suggests (also cited here) that buying roses from Kenya instead of from Holland will produce a fifth of the CO2. Essentially because of the fact that in Holland, the greenhouses will have to be heated.

There are other issues involved of course including work conditions in the various countries. Also it does raise the issue of should be get away from requirement to give roses early in the year. So can we move Valentine's Day to later in the year so I can give truely English grown roses???

oh.. and I'm going to check where my Epson photo paper has been made!

Flickr: Useful tools

I started using Flickr a while ago, and I've just upgraded to a pro account. I've not yet completely got it integrated into my photography workflow, but I'm getting there.

Some tools that certainly looked interesting.

Multiple Uploads from a watched directory. Perhaps I could now just set this to watch the portfolio directory that I have, and it would keep Flick updated

Picasa is a great local browser of images, but only set to go to Google's own blog. Being able to blog from Picasa to Flickr looks attractive

Finally a very nicle way of showing Flickr hosted pictures on your own site!

Epson R2400 – Ink Cartridge Recycling

I nearly didn't get the R2400, for one very simple reason. It didn't seem possible to do anything with the ink cartridges afterwards. You can collect from various places,  bags to send used cartidges, from which some money for charity can be gained. What exactly the part that is worth something I don't know. I would send mine to the Hawk Conservancy for example.

Most of these bags don't accept Epson cartidges - so why not get an HP that could? Well when on Cartridges4Charity, they gave Epson's address that I could send back the cartidges to the manufactuer. Epson on the phone confirmed this was the case.

So I will be sending them back - hopefuly they will be reused and not thrown away. Here's the address

 Service Materials Management (SMM)
EPSON Telford Ltd.
Hortonwood 40