Photography News 01

Opinion

23

BEFORE THE JUDGE Sandy Cleland FRPS Photographic judges are like football referees – their decisions are often derided and discussed at length, but we can’t do without them. Each issue, a respected judge shares their thoughts and experiences with us

Words by Sandy Cleland

MEETTHE JUDGE Sandy Cleland FRPS : Respected judge and selector Sandy Cleland shoots most subjects, but his specialist area is nature. He has been president of his club and was the International Exhibition Secretary for 12 years. Howmany years in photography? I have been actively involved in photography for over 50 years, having started at the age of 13, initially with an 8mm cine camera having been enthused by the ilms of photographers such as Heinz Sielmann on the Look programme, which was presented by Sir Peter Scott. Later I changed to still photography with a Praktica 1VF and a manual preset Schacht Macro Travenar lens.

Over the years I have been fortunate to have been invited to be a selector at many exhibitions in this country as well as several in Europe. These are always most enjoyable experiences and it allows me to meet up with photographers whose names I have seen in catalogues and whose work I admire. I suppose I just fell into judging, starting with some of the local clubs and gradually being asked to judge at the larger clubs and then national and international exhibitions. When I started there were no training courses for judges as there are now so it was really just a case of being asked. Judging can be a rewarding experience, especially in the encouragement of new people to our wonderful hobby. I love it when one of these newer people gains the top award. The great thing about these newmembers is that they have not been subjected to some of the dogma, which is evident in some clubs, and approach their photography with a freedom of expression and composition, which is very refreshing. Choosing my favourite judging experience is very diicult as they have all been most enjoyable, but if I have to oer one it would be the irst time I judged the Austrian Super Circuit. There were 11 other judges from dierent parts of the world and it was very interesting to listen to them. The standard of photographs I see in camera clubs varies enormously from the sublime to the ‘cor blimey’, but on the whole the standard is good. One of the main problems is that with a lot of camera club members club-night is their only experience of meeting other enthusiasts and many of them never visit photographic exhibitions or events run by the PAGB or RPS. I feel that many of them are therefore losing out on a lot of what photography has to oer. I think that amateur photography in the UK is certainly up there with the best in the world, we only have to look at the success of many British photographers in international exhibitions and the achievements of some of our top clubs. When judging with other photographers, as in the case with national and international exhibitions, I usually ind that most of the time there is general agreement but it is also very important that we express our opinions as individuals and we must stand by our own decisions whether or not the other judges agree. If there were always total agreement then we would not require three judges. On one occasion when judging a print contest, there were some prints with a green cast, which I commented on. After judging the author accosted me, his parting words were ‘that is the way I like them’. There is no answer to that! Among the main failings in photographs I see are that they have been taken in very contrasty light, and that the composition has not been thought out

Home club Edinburgh Photographic Society

to produce the strongest image in the situation. Today we live in a world where speed is of the essence, we have fast food, instant coee and everyone seems to rush about. I often tell people to slow down when taking their pictures. There is always something that makes us want to take an image and that is the time to slow down and analyse what it is about the shot that makes us want to take it. It may, for example, be the way the light plays on the landscape – this is when to look carefully and compose the image before pressing the shutter. I also hear people say ‘taking the image is no problem as I can sort it out on the computer’; yes, it’s possible to improve an image on the computer but the chances are you will end up with an average image from an ordinary original. I personally still tend to shoot as though I am using slide ilm where I have to get it right at the point of taking. There are, of course, instances where you do not have time to think and have to react very quickly, but I ind that when you have previously learnt to take time to compose your images, this compositional awareness tends to stick in the memory and it’s instinctive when we need to react at speed. I believe that all pictures have merit, although in some cases it can be hard to fathom. Anyone who shows a picture to someone else must believe it has somemerit and I feel that as photographers wemust be positive in any comments we make. Negative and unhelpful comments by judges must have lost our hobby a great many potential members.

ABOVE One of Sandy’s personal favourite images from his vast collection. It’s an ichneumon fly ovipositing – apparently!

What is your favourite camera? I loved my Olympus OM2n, but in the digital age I now use the Canon EOS1D X, which is a fantastic camera.

What is your favourite lens? Canon 300mm f/4

What is your favourite photo accessory? An accessory I use a lot is a small Lastolite relector, which is great for killing shadows. Who is your favourite photographer? Naming a favourite is very diicult as there are so many top class photographers producing superb images, but two of my favourites are Art Wolfe and Michael Kenna. What awards have youwon or achieved? I am a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and have been both a member and Chair of the Licentiateship Distinctions Panel as well as a member of the Associateship and Fellowship Nature Distinctions Panel. At the present time I am a member of the Distinctions Advisory Board and a member of the Fellowship Review Board. I have been very fortunate to have won many FIAP, PSA, PAGB and RPS medals but being awarded a medal at the centenary exhibition of the London Salon is certainly one of the highlights.

If you have an opinion or something you want to get o your chest, drop us a line at opinion@photography-news.co.uk. What do you think?

ABOVE Springtime, Sandy Cleland.

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