Our 2014 Landscape, Seascape, Skyscape competition drew more than 60 entries. That only 7 entries were prints was perhaps a surprise — the days when we could argue that a photograph isn’t a photograph unless it is printed are clearly under challenge!
Our judge for the evening was Sandra McNabb. We gave Sandra an enormous job: judging a large number of Projims is particularly difficult as they cannot easily be compared side-by-side. Sandra explained that her process had been to go through all the entries giving a star ranking to the images she felt were ‘out of the ordinary’, and then going through the starred ones, adding a second star to the better ones, then going through the 2 star selections to identify those worthy of 3 stars and so on.
Sandra made a few general comments before speaking about the individual images:
- the general standard of the submitted images was very high (which she put down to a combination of the quality of image making in the club, and the possibility that landscape is an easier topic than some because most people are very familiar with what makes a pleasing landscape photograph);
- because of this she said she’d found the adjudication quite difficult;
- Sandra said she was looking for images that are more than well-taken ‘coffee table’ pictures: she was looking for a point of difference in terms of the story being told, or the sense of presence or drama in the image.
Sandra indicated a preference for black and white in landscapes because of the tendency of bright, contrasty colours to sometimes overwhelm the shapes and textures that often define excellent landscapes.
She reminded members of the importance of compositional tools, such as leading lines, and the ‘Rule of Thirds’. However, Sandra noted that two or three of the strongest images on the night had, indeed, contradicted the general principles she was espousing. Breaking the rules deliberately for effect can work well: breaking them carelessly can make for a poor image.
Sandra also made a point of encouraging photographers to be mindful of the particular focus, or point of interest, within a landscape image. The focal point or object in the image is the point to which the viewer’s eye should be pulled, and should be central to the ‘story’ of the image. She made the point that, ‘biscuit box’ or ‘coffee table’ landscapes often lack such a focal point: they’re ‘nice’ but often fail to communicate anything of interest or drama.
Sandra made a very interesting suggestion in terms of making ‘out of the ordinary’ landscapes. She suggested that once the photographer has taken the ‘safe’ or obvious shot, she/he should then make a number of additional exposures trying different angles, different points of view, different camera orientation, altered depth of field, b&w and so on. As Sandra noted, in digital photography it doesn’t cost much to make additional images and to try stuff that may, or may not, work. Many times, the surprising image is not the one you originally saw.
An interesting question came up in discussion: What defines a landscape? Can a landscape have people? buildings?
Apparently the word ‘landscape’ comes from a Dutch word describing paintings ‘depicting scenery on land’. Nowadays we accept that water and clouds are an integral part of ‘scenery’ so land is interpreted quite broadly. (In any event, our competitions are usually called ‘landscape/seascape/skyscape’ to cover all eventualities.)
As to the inclusion of people and buildings, many (most?) real-life scenes contain people or buildings. They’re part of and quite often add interest or scale to the scenery. The judgement is probably around whether the photograph is about a person or people in it, or about the building, rather than simply including those elements as part of a bigger whole.
It possibly doesn’t matter much anyway. PSNZ has strict rules governing acceptance of images in the ‘Natural History’ category for national exhibitions: no man-made artifacts; no domestic animals etc. But our bottom line should be the interest and quality of the image. It will be up to a judge whether any particular image is ‘on topic’ or not.
To see all of the images that were entered, go to our gallery page, here.
PS The image at the top of the screen is ‘Moors Path’ by Mike Longworth.