Category Archives: Competition Results

First Competition of the New Year

Our first club competition was on the theme of ‘Water’.

Once again the quality of the images entered demonstrate ust what a talented bunch of photographers we are.

The quality of the photographs entered made judging hard:  it always is, but this even more so.  Before the comments were made we revisited the judging criteria, so everyone present knew what the judges are asked to look for.  Judge for the night (yours truly), also explained that in terms of the ‘idea’:

  • I am looking for photographs that are not just ‘of’ water, or just have water in them, but …
    • photographs that draw attention to some characteristic or something else about water, or
    • photographs that express another idea altogether but which only work because of the way water is used in their composition. 

Both of the winning images expressed the latter idea beautifully.

The winning projected digital image “A Single Tear” entered by Michele Usher.  It is the featured image above.  The judge noted:

“Superb. Although the smallest element in the picture, the water drop is clearly the subject and what this image is about. Beautiful detail. Fantastic colour contrast of the secondary element (the scarlet petals) and the green negative space.”

The winning print also used water in a very clever way.

Jan Abernethy - 360 Sea of Tranquility copy copy

Jan Abernethy: Sea of Tranquility

The judge’s notes say:

Here, the water is equal element with the paddler. The use of sihouetting downplays the paddler to a contrasting shape. Beautifully simple composition all about the interplay between the hoizontal lines of the wavelets and the ski, and the up and down of the paddler and paddle. Beautifully sharp. Lovely print.

As you will see from the galleries page there were many other amazing photographs.

Anne Nelson In a forest — Projim

Anne Nelson: In a forest — Projim

John Rhodes: Dettifoss, Iceland — Projim

John Rhodes: Dettifoss, Iceland — Projim

This image by John Rhodes was perhaps the best photograph in telling a story ‘about’ water.  You can nearly feel the power of the fall — accentuated by the use of the fast shutter speed to capture the detail, and the sense of awe created by the way the onlookers are placed in the frame.




Rebecca Kempton Misty falls — Projim

Rebecca Kempton: Misty falls — Projim

A couple of photographers had used neutral density filters to increase exposure times slowing water movement.  This technique  can make stunning images like this one by Rebecca Kempton.  However, the judge felt, rightly or wrongly, that the whole purpose of the very long exposure technique is to disguise the ‘wateriness’ of the water and to render it into silken softness.  This works beautifully when the silken flow is contrasted with the hardness of its surroundings:  rocks or hard shadows, for example, but may not have been the best choice when the subject was ‘water’.  One or two of these shots could well have been winners in an ‘open’ competition.

In general, both the in-camera photography and the post-processing of the images were excellent.

One or two photos were softish suggesting focus issues.  If you’re shooting static objects, using a tripod and live view makes accurate focus child’s play.   Using a wide aperture, to cause shallow depth of field and consequent out of focus backgrounds, works really well to highlight eyes in portraiture.  However, the technique is less successful in landscape photography, and particularly where you want to highlight a whole body of water like a fountain.  You can get the front of the fountain in focus but the water at the back soft, or vice versa.  f/8 is a good choice for fountains!  This link, suggested by Bruce Kirk, demonstrates the idea quite well.

Two or three otherwise wonderful photographs were marred by distracting sensor-dust spots (so easily removed in Post-processing).  Hint: look carefully around the edges of the frame and into clear mono-tonal areas like skies.  Landscape textures in a couple of otherwise interesting images were somewhat spoiled by what seemed to have been over aggressive noise reduction and/or sharpening.  Hint:  when you’re applying sharpening or noise reduction, zoom in to view critical parts of your image at 100%.

All-in-all this was a great competition, and I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the entries.

Pond Light

Greg Arnold: Pond Light — Print


— Tim McMahon





The results are in! Celebrating Fine Photography

Club Champions

Subsequent to the final competition, all competition winning entries were sent to an external judge whose task was to identify the best print and best projected image of the year.

The Mike Field Trophy for Print of the Year was awarded to Peter McNeur for his print Millau which won the ‘Structure’ competition.

Millau by Peter McNeur — Print WINNER

Millau by Peter McNeur — Print of the Year

The Marden Colour Cup for Projected Image of the Year goes to Michele Usher for her portrait Caught in the Light.

Caught the light by Michele Usher — Projim WINNER

Caught in the light by Michele Usher — Projected Image of the Year

The Wairarapa Camera Club Cup for Projected Image Champion of the Year, for the member who gained the greatest total points for the top 9 of their projected images entered in at least five competitions, goes to Jan Abernethy.

The Winery by Jan Abernethy — Projim WINNER

The Winery by Jan Abernethy — Projim WINNER – Structure Competition

The Wairarapa Camera Club Cup for Print Champion of the Year, for the member who gained the greatest total points for the top 9 of their prints entered in at least five competitions, goes to Rebecca Kempton.

River Skies by Rebecca Kempton — Print WINNER

River Skies by Rebecca Kempton — Print WINNER – Panorama Competition

Congratulations to our winners.  We have had many fantastic photographs entered this year.  The trophies for our champions will be presented at the club’s end of year lunch, Saturday 14 novemeber, at the Tin Hut.

Individual Trophies

At the end of the final competition of the year (Structure: November), our President Peter McNeur, presented trophies to the winners of specific competitions:

The Desgranges Memorial Trophy for best Portrait Print, went to Rebecca Kempton, for Harriet

Harriet by Rebecca Kempton — Print WINNER

Harriet by Rebecca Kempton — Print WINNER

The Kodak Trophy for best Portrait Projected Image, went to Michele Usher for Caught in the Light

Caught the light by Michele Usher — Projim WINNER

Caught in the light by Michele Usher — Projim WINNER

The National Wildlife Centre Trophy for Natural History Print, to Greg Arnold for Summer Harvest

Summer Harvest by Greg Arnold — Print WINNER

Summer Harvest by Greg Arnold — Print WINNER

The Nola Wright Trophy for Natural History Projected Image, to Jan Abernethy for Purple Beauty

Purple Beauty by Jan Abernethy — Projim WINNER

Purple Beauty by Jan Abernethy — Projim WINNER

Masters Trophy for Landscape Print, to Tim McMahon for West Wanaka Winter

West Wanaka Winter by Tim McMahon — Print WINNER

West Wanaka Winter by Tim McMahon — Print WINNER

Mabson Memorial Trophy for Landscape Projected Image, to Stewart Watson for Huge Waves Little People

Huge Waves little people by Stewart Watson — Projim WINNER

Huge Waves little people by Stewart Watson — Projim WINNER

2014 Print and Projected Image of the Year

Print and Projected Image of the Year was our last regular club meeting for 2014.

Sadly, fewer than 20 members turned up for what was a wonderful session lead by Esther Bunning.

Before looking at the photographs Esther said that what she looked for in a photograph is a “story”.  She said she found that relatively easy as a portrait photographer and observed that she enormous admiration for photographers who can get a sense of story into a landscape photograph.

As an aside, I’ve often related how Mike Langford urged photographers to ‘make a photograph about’ a scene, rather than ‘take a photograph of’ the scene.  It is hard and it was interesting to hear Esther reflect on that.  On next year’s syllabus we have an evening devoted to Abstract photography.  I suspect the challenge will be a notch higher!

Esther talked for a while about photographers developing a personal ‘style’.  The kinds of photographs they prefer to make or the approaches they like to take.  She pointed out that it takes time to develop such a sense.  But once you’ve begun to develop it, your photography becomes more engaging and fun!  Esther called this “developing your own aesthetic”.

She suggested that a good exercise to do is to trawl through other people’s photography on a site like and to collect photographs that you instinctively prefer.  Then take a long hard look at the collection of preferred images and ask yourself why?  What are the common features of these images?  Esther argued that doing that will draw out what your photographic preferences are, and begin to define your ‘personal aesthetic’. The next step is to pick up the camera and post-processing tools and try to make photographs that express that style.

Many club photographers are  eclectic.  We tend to make photographs of anything and everything:  indeed our club syllabus encourages us to have a go at different kinds of subjects and themes.  Esther is laying out a challenge:  can you put your own stamp on the subject?

Esther made two other points that were very interesting to me.

The first was about the freedom and potential that newer technologies offer photographers.  She talked about the use of post-processing techniques that enable photographers to produce photographs that can express an idea even more clearly through the use of exaggerated effects or overlaid textures, and the like.  Exaggerated or softened tonal ranges, colours, or sharpness.  In this respect, Esther spoke for some time about how much she liked  Martin Connelly’s Cahoots Café photograph.

"Cahoots" by Martin Connelly

“Cahoots” by Martin Connelly

Esther and Martin agreed that the colours in the photograph do not represent the ‘reality’ of Cahoots, but that the post-processing of the photograph has emphasised textures in a way that makes the image much more compelling than an out-of-the-camera photograph would have done.  How different is that approach than that of the people who say that using Photoshop to change the way things were is ‘cheating’.

The second point that Esther made was about how photos are saved and shared.  She hoped people didn’t simply save their good photographs in some digital format hidden away on a hard drive or among a billion others on some web-site.  She hoped they were printed to be shared.  Now, who do we know who keeps bleating “a picture isn’t a photograph unless it’s printed”?

After the judging, Esther showed two videos about some of her work.  One was a behind the scenes look at her ‘Fire-and-Water’ project, and the second was a look at the production of her ‘The Angels Collection’ book.  You can see the videos here, and here.

The videos provided a fascinating and very instructive insight into the way a creative photographer works, and the results that are possible.   Esther talked about how she had experimented with, and come to use, the multiple exposure facility on her camera during the Angels collection work.  Amazing!  (A challenge to club members:  does your digital camera offer a multiple exposure option?  Have you played with it?  Might be useful for next year’s abstract comp.  Just sayin’)

The other thing that Esther told us, which was a surprise for many at the meeting is that her go-to lenses are from the simple, variable focal plane, lineup of Lensbaby lenses.  She says that the variable focus plane give her creative opportunities a prime or zoom lens can’t provide (unless you can by a horribly expensive tilt-shift lens).  Further, the Lensbabys, being essentially one-piece-of-glass only, are deliberately not very sharp:  they produce a soft ‘dreamy’ look which suits Esther’s style.

Esther did not comment on all of the photographs we had entered.  The nature of this ‘competition’ is that all of the images have previously been critiqued.  She did make the general comment that the overall standard was up on what she had seen before at the club.

She chose some images to discuss in more detail.  Her technique was to engage the photographer in a discussion about the photograph — what were the circumstances? what had they seen?  what gear/settings?  (Implied was, why those settings?  why that composition? etc)  The conversations were, I thought, very instructive, because they helped to focus on the question “what were you trying to do?” the question which, to my mind, is at the heart of photography that’s a step above the snapshot.

Unfortunately, not all the photographers she would have liked to talk to, were at the meeting.

Esther explained that she and Terry had both looked at the images and had agreed on their choices.  The two images they chose for Projected Image of the Year, and Print of the Year were these:

"String of Pearls" by Jan Abernethy — ProjIm WINNER

“String of Pearls” by Jan Abernethy — ProjIm WINNER

Apartment Life

“Apartment Life” by Tim McMahon — Print

All of the entries can be seen on the Gallery page here.

As usual, the selections provoked some discussion:  not the least being whether or not it is a good thing members to re-enter an image which had ‘tanked’ in an earlier competition, to get a ‘second opinion’.  Would you have made different selections?  More on this in another post.

See you soon


2014 Open Competition

As payback for his nearly 30 sterling years as Competition Secretary, Kevin Morgan was press-ganged into judging our entries for the 2014 Open competition.

There were 30+ prints and more than 45 projected images so Kevin had his hands full!  You can see the entries on our Gallery page.

Congratulations to Greg Ball, whose silhouetted person on a bicycle was judged best projected image, and to Carolyn Kearns whose adult and child sharing a secret was the best print.

As always, the competition raised some constructive discussion, the liveliest of which was about abstract images.  The debate was around the question of whether a photograph — in particular, an abstract — needs to be identifiably “of” something, or whether the image can still convey an idea, even although the object photographed is not identifiable.  At issue is whether a photograph that aims to tell a story about textures, patterns, or contrasts can do so without disclosing its sources!

In a similar vein an interesting challenge was thrown down about pattern repetition:  when is this a strong compositional element, and when does it simply render a photograph ‘too busy’?

Another theme that arose during the evening, was the hoary old chestnut of adequate depth of focus.  How much of an image needs to be sharp?  The answer is both simple and complicated!  The viewers eyes will be drawn to the sharpest parts of the image, so two simple things are obvious:  make sure the most important element(s) in your composition is/are sharp, and make sure that potentially distracting elements don’t draw attention to themselves.  In portraiture make sure the eyes of the subject are sharp:  most people, and I dare say, animals, would prefer you to be looking through their eyes into their soul, than drawn to the end of their nose!

Listening to the conversation afterwards was reminded of the numbers of times I’ve heard (and sometimes thought, myself) that that person critiquing the photograph ‘missed the point’.  If a viewer misses the point of your image, whose fault is that?  Perhaps the point was just too subtle.  No one ever missed the point of the ‘Napalm Girl’ photo from the Vietnam war days.  Food for thought.




Something Mechanical ‘Competition’ and ruminations on the subject of ‘depth of field’

Sorry for the lateness of the report folks.  Workshops have been front and centre for a week or three!

The entries for “Something Mechanical” were critiqued by local artist and teacher Roger Thompson.  Roger’s current interests include sculptures in metal but he has worked in many media, including photography.  He taught photography for nearly 20 years.

In his introduction Roger replayed a theme brought up by many of our judges:  what makes a compelling and engaging photographic image?  He referred to the fact that the explosion in the availability of digital cameras and camera phones makes everyone a photographer.  But what makes a good photograph?  It is more than “just a record shot”.  A good photograph is a piece of art telling the viewer about the object or scene some quality of the scene and its lighting.

It’s a useful exercise, when making a photograph, either behind the camera or while post-processing, for the photographer to ask “what is it about this scene that is worth the trouble”?  The answer to that question should help with decisions about composition, and help with the choices that might be made in post processing.

"Mechanical 1" John Rhodes— JOINT WINNER Projim

“Mechanical 1” John Rhodes— JOINT WINNER Projim

Particularly in reference to black and white photographs, Roger emphasised the way outstanding practitioners use the whole tonal range from absolute black to pure white.  The contrast helps to create drama, while the ‘stretch’ in the mid tones can make details and textures much more obvious.

In this context, Roger referred members to the work of once controversial American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and New Zealand photographer Laurence Aberhart with whom he had worked.  (You can see some of Aberhart’s photographs here. )

Roger noted that the subject “Something Mechanical” lends itself to a different point of view, and to abstraction, with an emphasis on lines, shapes and textures.  He rated images with those qualities more highly than those he regarded as ‘record’ shots.

"Rotary Aero Engine" Dave Ferguson — JOINT WINNER Projim

“Rotary Aero Engine” Dave Ferguson — JOINT WINNER Projim

However, part of his discussion raised some interesting debate.

Roger belongs to a school of photography that was championed by Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and co. in the “Group f/64”.  It was Adams’ conviction that every element in a landscape photograph had to be pin sharp.  Consequently, he used very narrow apertures and long exposures to get great depth of field and sharp focus from front to back as you can see here.

Roger commented critically  that many of the images we had entered had rather shallow depth of field and some parts of these images were not in focus.

In landscape photograph, very often the far distance is a critical part of the story the photographer is trying to tell.  That has to be sharp.  But blurry foregrounds in landscapes, more often than not, distract the viewer.  In other words, landscapes usually do require large depth of field as Adams argued.

But other photography, like product photography, portraits and the like, very often benefit from a quite different treatment:  the photographer wants the main subject to be very sharp to draw the viewer’s attention, but background objects to be softened so as not to distract.  For all that, very blurry foregrounds work only in very special photographs:  usually where the blur has been intentionally introduced to frame the subject as in this example.

"Gear Fix" by Tim McMahon — WINNER Print

“Gear Fix” by Tim McMahon — WINNER Print

Ironically, the print that he judged best on the night is an example of intentional use of shallow depth of field.  Thank goodness for texture and tone!

What would competition night at the Wairarapa Camera Club be without some stimulating alternative points of view?  Thinking about these issues can only make us better photographers.  Bring it on!

See you at the macro evening.



Triptych ‘Competition’

The Triptych competition attracted 13 print and 17 Projected entries.

From Vine to Wine by Jan  Abernethy  (ProjIm)  [Judged Best ProjIm]

From Vine to Wine by Jan Abernethy (ProjIm) [Judged Best ProjIm]

While many members had commented that this theme was ‘hard’ the quality of the entries was very high indeed.

As we noted last time, ‘hard’ themes make us think as photographers before making the pictures.  Images are thus more likely to be deliberate than merely accidental shots.   That has to be a good thing!

The competition entries were assessed by Vicky Pilling.  Vicky made some interesting general points before presenting her detailed ‘judgements’:

  • she noted that triptychs may be composed of three different but related images, and also of a division of one image into three parts;
  • whatever approach was taken, each individual photo had to stand on its own, but the triptych had to ‘work’ as a whole, meaning that the relationship between the three parts had to be clear;
  • she noted that three unrelated images do not make a triptych, nor does a 3-fold repetition of one image.

The general points recurred in Vicky’s detailed discussions.

She did point out in relation to one or two images that the photographer had overlooked some, sometimes subtle, and sometimes obvious, issues.  For example where the three images had a horizon the photographer had made the triptych so the horizons ‘lined up’ in two of the images but not the third, creating a jarring effect.  This kind of feedback was very useful (people all thought it obvious in retrospect) because it did emphasise the need to think a bit more about how an image can be presented to create the best impression.

Vicky left detailed notes on each image.  I’ll try to get these transcribed and up on the downloads page soon!

Everyone present agreed the competition had been a good one and that Vicky had provided very good and useful feedback.


The image at the top of the page is ‘Purple’ by Nik Player.

Sun's Rays Falls by Tim McMahon (Print) [Judged Best Print]

Sun’s Rays Falls by Tim McMahon (Print) [Judged Best Print]

Disappearing Drops by Martin Connelly (Print)

Disappearing Drops by Martin Connelly (Print)

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.

The Year Gets Underway

Church and Station

The year started with our Church and Station competition.    You can see all the entries here.

There were some magnificent images submitted as you can see.  Congratulations particularly to Martin and Nik.

The trick in this competition was to make pairs of images that were clearly linked, while at the same time each image was strong in its own right.  The winning pairs met these criteria easily.  In others, one of the pair was strong while the entry was let down somewhat by the other.   In yet other cases we had a pair of good images with no obvious link.

Thanks to Jim Graydon for his work in judging these.   Not an easy ‘competition’ to adjudicate.

Thanks, too, to Jim for inviting discussion on his comments, and to members who participated in the discussion.  Critical and illuminating comment about the strengths and weaknesses of images that are in front of us, is one key to learning how to become better photographers.

Many people found this topic ‘hard’.   However, as was pointed out in the discussion, ‘hard’ topics force us, as photographers, to think about what we want our image to convey.  This, in turn, should lead to much greater deliberation about how to make the image:  what to include; what to omit; how to emphasise the parts that reinforce the idea and so on.  Often we won’t get this right, but greater thought and consideration is likely to result in much stronger images than off-the-cuff snapshots.


Our first workshop of the year – Tuesday 18 February, is intended to provide two opportunities:

  • question and answer:  everything you wanted to ask but didn’t want to when everyone could hear!  and
  • post-processing primer:  what can be done in post-processing, and when and why you should think about it.

We have detailed, longer, workshops addressing how to use Lightroom, and how to use Photoshop, later in the year.  The p-p primer is a what and why, rather than a how, session.

See you there