Photography News 05




Each issue, a respected judge or exhibition selector shares their thoughts and experiences with us. This month, we put our questions to Dave Hipperson, photo competition judge

MEET THE JUDGE DaveHipperson : Dave’s interest in photography was sparked by his early career in motorsport publishing and his real passion, competitive model aviation. However Home club: Park Street (North London). I owe a huge debt to Harrow for putting me on the right path first. Years in photography? 44. Favourite camera: It’s the one I have with me when the ‘thing’ happens or appears before me. Bugger how many megapixels it can handle. Favourite lens: This tends to be very wide angle, 10mm end. However I also enjoy the possibilities of extreme telephoto especially in landscape photography and candid stuff. Favourite photo accessory: A tripod, only because it is so often with me when I don’t need it and not with me when I do. Favourite subject: My wife. The second choice is landscape; it seems to be relegated to the back burner, probably because it’s hard to create contest winning, five-second impact shots. Awardswon: Apart from some lovely trophies from the Harrow Club I haven’t won anything spectacular. The moment I most cherish was when I was asked to address the latest intake of potential judges for the Chilterns area. I had been only judging myself for a year. he didn’t start photography competitively until 2010.

Words by Dave Hipperson

This competition photographic stuff is new to me but in the three years that I’ve been involved I have been paying attention. When attending my first club competitions, I felt I was taking it in easily – particularly the judging aspects – and it is still a source of some surprise to me that a lot of people around me weren’t, and still aren’t. Within a few contests I was having to metaphorically sit on my hands to stop myself joining in the judging. So I wanted to try this judging stuff, and not because I saw or heard judges that I found unpleasant or irritating. I just wanted to work a few slants and angles of my own where I saw potential. I was encouraged in this aim by my club chairman at the time, Mark Buckley-Sharp, who advised me to attend one of the judging workshops run by the Chilterns Association of Camera Clubs. What fascinated me about judging was the form, the art, the challenge of the craft if you like. The performance aspects, as much as finishing up with the correct order and the correct spread of scores. The adrenaline rush as images flash in front of you and you realise that in a few seconds you have to talk intelligently about each one. The judge’s preferences are always a hot topic. Club members think they can second-guess us if they know what we like. Believe me, a proper judge sees way past all that. My own output veers towards landscape, architecture and street (preferably wet cobbles) but when I judge I want to be surprised. I think it is a great privilege to be able to tour the clubs viewing other people’s work. It gives me great ideas – remember most of the time we judges are competitors just like everyone else and we don’t win all the time either. The techno revolution Since the advent of computer-assisted imaging the software available has come on in leaps and bounds. Computer techniques which only a few years ago looked so much easier than what could be achieved in the laboratory are themselves being made to look somewhat laborious. I fear that it won’t be long before there are systems that not only allow us to do almost anything to an image but also advise us what to do. Whatever has been used shouldn’t be too evident unless the intention is to make it weird; then the sky is the limit. And talking of skies: there is no such thing as an unrealistic sky! The next time I hear a judge nit-picking the colour of the sky I shall scream. Go to the Arctic and look at the Northern Lights. The duff shot is a glorious challenge for the judge; and remember, he has to recognise the worst one of the evening pretty darn quick and to be sure to score it low, not to be nasty, but so there is room enough above to place the rest of the evening’s work in a sensible order without bunching everything in the 16/17s, which is done far too often.

ABOVE Vanishing point, by Dave Hipperson.

playing Space Invaders. The younger end of the population control a computer as naturally as some of us can fly an aeroplane or drive a car. Those with any sort of artistic temperament will, in an instant, totally dominate competitive photography and they won’t be photographers in the sense that you and I understand. It is vitally important that we decide quickly what we want to do about this. Otherwise the ‘c’ before ‘club’ will no longer be for ‘camera’ – it will be ‘computer’. There is room to celebrate all types of image production from straightforward natural history through to almost entirely computer constructed work. However inside the competitive framework it is vital that we differentiate between these types. At both extremes they are intriguing and creative and useful but we must guard against these new procedures swamping the traditional beauty of straightforward picture-taking if we don’t want purist photographers driven away and our hobby changed out of all recognition. My advice to help you to be successful in photographic contests is this: don’t try to be successful. Learn from the pictures you take and criticisms of them but don’t think ‘contest’ all the time when you’re taking photographs. Remember all you have learned in contests by all means but take the picture because it appealed to you first. You will have those clichés running around in your mind so it’s going to be difficult but be original, don’t follow fashion. Show us something new; you never know, you may finish up inventing a genre.

So I am looking for my 13 of the evening. When I have it in front of me I shall first do my utmost to see what the author wanted to show me and then make some gentle suggestions as to how they might have done that more clearly whilst all the time wondering why they had actually bothered to take it. It’s the most satisfying feeling when you can tease out the best aspects of a bad shot and then manage to elucidate them informatively to the author and the audience. I do not hesitate to heap praise on the really wonderful shot of course, but the good images are easy to judge. I have only been lost for words when it is absolutely impossible to work out what I am looking at. I wish authors wouldn’t do that. I like to be able to see the photographic content – sometimes I worry that there might not be any. Rewriting the rule book I must remind the reader that although only in competitive photography for three years or so, I live and breathe competition rules – always have done. I have spent a good proportion of my life writing them – some quite complicated ones. I come to competitive photography afresh and find it in a very precariously balanced position right now. You were protected when it was all film but now people that a few years ago would not have been called photographers have access. That’s good. I would love to see every person with any camera device attendingaphotographic clubonce aweek. However this access to and dependence on the computer is changing competitive photography like it’s changing the world. Digital cannot be uninvented and for a lot of us it’s a great boon – makes all that smelly, messy and sometimes quite dangerous chemical stuff we had to do quite unnecessary. However there is a downside. The population generally is becoming more and more computer literate. There are quite mature people out there whose first memories are

I’ve only been lost forwords when it is absolutely impossible towork out what I am looking at

Issue 5 | Photography News

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