Last Night – Omar Shamma: Polar Regions, the last wilderness

Firstly, congratulations to PPS’s Vicky McNamara for her Commended placing in the recent Scottish Photograhic Federation SPF Print Championships, for her mono, ‘Do you have to?’.

It was lovely to welcome Omar Shamma to the library speak to us again. He’d previously delighted us on Zoom, when he told us about his street photography in London, back when we were meeting online during the time of covid.

This time, in person, we heard about his photographic travels in the north and south – Svalbard and the Antarctic Peninsula. After a brief and colourful moment to set up, he told us of the archipelago formerly known as Spitzbergen, where the best way to get around is on a photography cruise, on a small/medium-sized ship, with options for zodiac excursions and landings.

The zodiac trips have their own characteristics – photographers packed shoulder to shoulder, facing each other across the boat, and all trying for that bucket-list shot, as the boat bounces around beneath them. To come back from such trips with a worthwhile image is an achievement – Omar had scores of them. And he told us his tips for getting the shot that are often just as relevant on a cold day in Scotland as they are at the ends of the earth.

The talk was sub-titled ‘the last wilderness’. Sadly, the ends of the earth are nearer than they’ve ever been. Omar’s closest polar bear sighting was, we heard, made more poignant when it was noted that the object the bear seemed to be playing with was not seaweed or a piece of seal, but a carrier bag. Legislation being introduced for future seasons will increase the distance to be kept between tourists and the bears, and frame-filling photos will be even harder to come by.

Legislation has reached Antarctica, too. To minimise the spread of bird flu, those going ashore have their feet disinfected before and after, and tripods are deprecated. Even dropping an un-sterilised knee into the snow to get your lens down to penguin-level incurs a prompt correction from the guides.

Omar talked us with good humour through image after memorable image, with wonderful framing through ice formations, and light ranging from brilliant and clear to threatening and stormy.

The cruises run photography competitions for various genres: landscape, wildlife, abstract, people, and so on. Suffice to say, Omar cleaned up. It’s been a delight to hear his story.

Upcoming – Omar Shamma: Polar Regions, the last wilderness

This week we have another visiting speaker. Omar Shamma will tell of his recent visits to polar opposites – Spitzbergen and Antarctica. Omar has presented to PPS before, about his generous and friendly approach to street photography. See now what he brings back from those parts of the world where the names have no streets.

See what we were up to last week:

Newcomers are still welcome to register online, and come along to meet us for a couple of weeks, with no commitment. That gives you the chance to decide if you like what you see.
Or you can jump straight in with new or renewed membership.
Either way, go to the online form on our Membership page to register.

Last Night – Colour Rosebowl print competition

Our third print competition evening of the season is for the Colour Rosebowl, which allows members to enter up to three colour prints. It’s also our third evening of the season adjudicated by an SPF-accredited judge, and last night we welcomed Piers Hemy, long-time member of Cromarty Camera Club, for his first outing of judging in Perth.

Piers started the evening by sharing a few of his own images, confessing to a love of textures and patterns. He also showed a few landscapes that appeared to be treated to excessive polarisation, but which were in fact shot in infra-red, to illustrate how easy it is to jump to conclusions. However an image was made, he said, whatever challenges were overcome, the judge can only go by the result – guided by the title, and coloured by their own preferences, or prejudices. He noted that overall, the standard of entries for this competition were more uniformly high than he had seen before.

With a field of 36 prints, we were able to view all entries with commentary before the tea break. This allowed time during the break to view all the prints, on the stands around the room. What impresses in a print can vary between being viewed from the back of a lecture theatre and viewed close up.

After tea, the results, and an opportunity to discuss some of the prints further, with the author and amongst the membership. This is where we can learn more of how an image was made, and what challenges were overcome – or perhaps what ingenious techniques were employed. There’s no simple formula for success, but clearly perseverence pays. Lots of opportunities for learning.

Upcoming – Colour Rosebowl print competition

Our final externally-judged competition of the season is for the Colour Rosebowl; it’s for up to three colour prints per entrant, and the choice of subject is open. It’s another opportunity to hear constructive critique of our work, and this time our SPF-accredited judge is Piers Hemy. He’s been based for many years at Cromarty Camera Club and is doing the honours in Perth for the first time.

See what we were up to last week:

Newcomers are still welcome to register online, and come along to meet us for a couple of weeks, with no commitment. That gives you the chance to decide if you like what you see.
Or you can jump straight in with new or renewed membership.
Either way, go to the online form on our Membership page to register.

Last Night – Members’ Night: Three topics

Our members’ night in the downstairs former-cafe saw PPS members being treated to three excellent presentations on three topics:

John Boyd discussed printing – do it yourself or get professionals to do it? John talked us through the pros and cons, and what’s needed, for each. Printer, paper, ink vs being organised enough to send files off and await prints by post. A calibrated monitor is a good idea for both options. And consideration of the annual volume at which point home printing starts to have the economic edge.

He reckoned it had taken a fair time to get the hang of home-printing, but we can learn from his experience and perhaps get confident more quickly.

Raymond Leinster, previously best known in PPS as a master of wildlife photography, turns out to be a master of sports photography too. As he told us, contact the clubs or watch the event listings to find out what’s going on. Your access to the action will vary depending on whether you photograph an event for your own pleasure, under an arrangement with the organisers, or on behalf of the organisers.

Either way, usual photographic principles apply – composition, technique, engaging with your subjects – all whilst not getting hit by the ball, the athlete, the horse, the car, and so on. And who knew there were opportunities to photograph harness racing, or parkour, so close to home.

Third up, Tim spoke about computational photography techniques including pixel-shift, lucky imaging, HDR and focus stacking, starting with the choices and decisions made at time of capturing data, and the benefits and considerations of each technique.

He worked through an example of focus-stacking using Ralston’s memorial Cairn in Glen Coe, processing it using DxO PhotoLab, Serif Affinity Photo and LuminarAI.

Benefits of various image-blending techniques.
Key: tick = you get the benefit, thumbs-down = you don’t; blue = secondary; orange = not without some other work

Upcoming – Members’ Night: Three topics

It’s members’ night again, and this time we have three topics:

  • Home printing or third party? John Boyd will weigh up, should we do our own printing, or use a commercial printer?
  • The hobbyist sports photographer. Raymond Leinster will look at ways to achieve success in sports photography, from his experience at the grass roots.
  • Practical computational photography. Tim Haynes will discuss post-processing of our images in the digital age.

See what we were up to last week: 

Newcomers are still welcome to register online, and come along to meet us for a couple of weeks, with no commitment. That gives you the chance to decide if you like what you see.
Or you can jump straight in with new or renewed membership.
Either way, go to the online form on our Membership page to register. 

Last Night – SPF Portfolio night

The SPF Portfolio – what’s it all about? Clubs from around Scotland can enter images, which go before three judges, each of whom marks out of 5; images scoring 13 or more (ie at least one judge gives it top marks) are included in the annual ‘portfolio’, which is then circulated to the clubs as a slideshow – and that’s what we saw last night. Our very own David Hay talked us through the 13s, 14s and 15s, in the principal categories of colour print, mono print, and digital. Some themes emerge.

Over the course of a thousand or so images, the judges have but a few seconds per image to cast their scores, so the ones that do well are those with immediate impact. In his commentary, David points out to us such impactful elements are strong leading lines, triangles in composition, use of negative space, harmonious colours, and more. And his keen eye spots things we (and the judges) might miss – the banding in a processed sky; strange sky replacement; the ragged edge to the crop; the hole in the dog where the cloning was careless.

With dry wit, he doesn’t labour these points, but he makes them clearly, and there’s lots to learn. What makes an image impactful, and what are some pitfalls to avoid.

This is more than we get from the SPF. In the competition itself, the images are marked but not critiqued (there’s just too many of them). So if we’re to raise our game, the critique needs to happen before we put our entries in. If our images have already been entered in an internal competition, we might take the advice of the judge at that time. Or we might ask around in the club for advice, to help each other make our entries as impactful, and error-free, as possible.

Some of the high-placed images use a lot of imagination and skill. Is PPS likely to clean up this year? Perhaps not. But it would be good to think we can do better than last year. Over an entry of say 50 images, having them score mainly 12s and 13s will do better for the club than if they score mainly 11s and 12s.

So let’s, while there’s time, look to find some strong images we’d like to enter, and check in with each other about their strengths and weaknesses, so there’s time to polish them up and curate a good club entry before we put them in.

Upcoming – SPF Portfolio night

This week will be SPF Portfolio night. We’ll be taking a look at the high-scoring images from last year’s Scottish Photographic Federation competition, as entered by clubs from around Scotland (including perhaps some from us).

In what’s something of a regular annual fixture, commentary will be by David Hay, who is one of our most experienced members, having served as an SPF judge for many years. 

This is a good chance for members to see what does well in SPF competitions, and perhaps cut their cloth to fit, given that we currently working towards this year’s entry.

New faces are still welcome to attend two weeks on a trial basis, to see if you’d like to join us for the season. For those who are ready to join, the online Membership Form for the season is open. The membership subscription reduces by 50% after New Year, and the £27.50 can be paid by BACS or by cheque – details are in the membership form. 

Last Night – the Nan Borthwick and Peter Rourke Salvers competitions

Last night we had the honour of hosting local photographer Chas Sievewright as our external judge for the ‘two print competitions in one evening’ night of the season.

Chas started out by noting that critique is an important part of developing as a photographer – you’ll never learn from friends and family, because they’ll just look at your pictures and say ‘yes, that’s nice’, and that’s not enough to really help you grow.

Another important aspect to growth is learning your craft in your chosen genres with people who have experience to share. As a veteran of courses in Street, Long Exposure, and other genres, Chas knows that a good teacher can save you a lot of time identifying your mistakes and pointing out how to learn from them.

The Peter Rourke Salver had 29 entries, so we looked at these in the first part of the evening. This is for prints ‘showing photographic artistic styles, … moving away from merely representational / documentary styles’.

In his commentary, Chas talked us through how he read each image, pointing out aspects of style, composition, exposure, technique, and choice of paper too – all the while generous and encouraging in his observations.

As each print left the judging easel it was set for display around the room, to let members take a closer look during the break. Now is a chance to notice the finer details that can be missed when seen from a distance.

The Nan Borthwick Salver is for ‘a set of three prints which should show a clear intention of a connecting theme of style, content or both’. With a smaller field, of 10 entries, we looked at this after the break, and finished in time to take a closer look at the Sets, around the room, which of course hadn’t been put out for display at half time.

Our thanks go to Chas for the time he spent with all the prints in the two weeks between hand-in and judging, revisiting each and refining his opinions. His familiarity with every image shone through in his relaxed and knowledgable delivery, which, combined with the pleasure of viewing such a selection of entries, made for a wonderful evening.

As always, the top five entries in each competition are featured on our Gallery pages.

Thanks too to everyone who came early and stayed late to help set up and dismantle our bamboo print stands.