March 2014 Monochrome Meeting and Competition

The Monochrome ‘competition’ attracted an extraordinary number of entries:  more than dozen prints, but forty 40 Projected images!  Wow!

Our guest judge/commentator was Michele Usher.

Michele is an active member of PSNZ and the Wellington Photographic Society.  She was the winner of the Maadi Cup for Champion Monochrome Print at the PSNZ’s 2013 National Exhibition.  See her winning image here.  Michele teaches beginner photography classes at WPS and also helps to teach Lightroom courses.

Michele said that she had been very impressed by the overall quality of our monochrome images.

 Face by Nik Player - WINNER Projected

Face by Nik Player – WINNER Projected

Michele commented that she was looking for a ‘story’:  something that engages with the emotions.  She said she asks herself, when evaluating an image, “what is this image telling me? or is it merely a record shot?”

For what it is worth, this is consistent with what I was once told by landscape pro. Mike Langford:  “Try to make a photograph about your subject, not merely take a photograph of the subject.”

Michele talked about her own preference for prints, rather than digital projections, and about her darkroom where she stills prints her own black and whites.   I read somewhere recently that “a photograph is not a photograph unless it’s printed.”  Call me old fashioned:  I could’t agree more!

That said, the standard and quality among both print and projected images was fantastic.

Michele made many helpful comments.  She pointed out that not all photographs make good monochromes:  some scenes are really about the colour contrasts in them.  Several times, and in different ways, she reiterated the idea that the best monochrome images are those that emphasise strong tonal contrasts, strong shapes, lines, and interesting textures.

Michele pointed out that one thing to look out for is edges of important elements merging with strong lines (e.g. the horizon) in the background.  Those elements should break the line completely or be contained within it.

Sheri Loved Louie by Tim McMahon - WINNER Print

Sheri Loved Louie by Tim McMahon – WINNER Print

She pointed out how altering your point of view to ensure the main subject of the photograph is well isolated from the background, either physically or in tonal contrast, can make a huge difference.   In that context Michele also made the point that, if you’re shooting landscapes, taking five minutes or so to look around the subject, moving from side to side, back and forward, up and down, rather than simply setting up the tripod and pressing the shutter, can often reveal a better shot.

Mike Langford’s advice in this context, was that you should try to verbalise a sentence about the image you were seeing before settling on the shot.  This, he claimed, would force you to look for the best frame, focus, etc to convey, in your photograph, what you were thinking/seeing in the scene.  It’s easy to say to yourself “That’s nice”, but more helpful to then ask “What’s nice about it?” and “How can I emphasise that?”

Michele also said several times that a pet hate of hers (many of us would agree) is images that have been too obviously processed, or over-processed.  She was very complimentary that we had, for the most part, avoided that trap: especially the over-the-top, weird “HDR” look.   Nevertheless she felt that a couple of otherwise outstanding images had been marred by processing that was too obvious and unnatural.

Everyone at the meeting agreed that Michele has been an excellent judge and commentator.  Attendees agreed that her feedback was comprehensive, sensitively put, and very helpful.

Congratulations to everyone who entered images.  All the entries are here in our Competition Galleries.

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