Please yourself This is your chance to climb up on your soapbox and have a rant. Get in touch if you have something you want to get off your chest. This issue, John Gravett urges you to photograph what you want – not what the judge wants!
gate open to take his shot. This was because judges had told him that the open gate helps lead the viewer into the picture. On the same workshop a Scandinavian photographer said of the open gate ‘but that looks stupid, it looks like someone has gone through the gate and left it open!’ I must admit, I did find that a refreshing view. The country code says you always shut a gate behind you. Isn’t it about time we applied the same logic to our photography, and our judging? Thesedays, Iworka lotwithyoungphotographers, and they have a refreshing, different view to photography and composition. It’s so wonderful to see their work; sometimes far from perfect, but with a fresh approach to seeing – creating different yet exciting pictures I’d want to look at again and again. I learn as much from them about seeing in different ways as they do from me. I suppose club competition photographers can tend towards the ‘safe’ image, the one that won’t be controversial. How many times have I heard judges say ‘The photographer’s used the wrong shutter speed on this waterfall’? The simple fact is – no, they haven’t! They’ve used the shutter speed they wanted to portray the water in the way they chose, which may be different from the way a critic might; it’s personal preference, not right or wrong. I sometimes wish camera clubs could do away with annual trophies and simply look and find the positives in people’s pictures – only that way will many photographers be encouraged to experiment with new and different techniques as well as lens choice and perspective and truly push their photography forward and to new levels. I was looking at some Ernst Haas photos on the web the other day, in particular his beach runners – a totally abstract blurred image dating from 1958. Even today, some judges might say ‘it’s a pity there isn’t something sharp in the picture’. How brave was that image when taken 55 years ago! How refreshing and innovative club photography would be if people experimented and innovated. A suggestion to camera clubs: on every competition, count only the highest scoring picture from each photographer towards the trophies – that way members might be encouraged to try that new, different, exciting technique that might only get a 4/10, but equally might get a 10! Finally, a suggestion to judges: I know it’s not easy going out x-nights a week, and finding new things to say about photographs, but try to welcome the innovative, even if it’s not your style, providing it has balance, style and quality. meet johngravett John Gravett ARPS is an experienced photographer and tutor, and together with his wife Gail Gravett LRPS, runs Lakeland Photographic Holidays based in Cumbria. They offer workshops and photo holidays, home and abroad. www.lakelandphotohols.com
Words by John Gravett AFIAP ARPS DPAGB
I have been running photographic workshops in the Lake District for 15 years now, and I’ve been a member of camera clubs since the 1970s. I also judge at camera club level, and have judged national and international exhibitions. I still often hear: ‘I can’t do that – the judge won’t like it.’ Let’s get something clear – the majority of people reading this will be pursuing photography as a hobby rather than a career, therefore the only person they have to satisfy photographically is themselves. It’s equally important for me – at this time – to allay any fears that this is just a ‘have a pop at judges’ piece – I love camera clubs and I have huge admiration for judges, most of whom give up much time and share their experience with other photographers for little more than petrol money. Sadly, though, there are a hard core of photographers (however small), who take everything a judge says as gospel, and this simply is not the case. One thing I usually say on the first day of my workshops is “If a judge/critic says something about your photograph that you agree with – take it on board and file that in part of your brain for the next time you’re out shooting – if they say something you don’t agree with, forget it” (and that includes everything I say too). I even know a hard core of ‘pot hunters’ – those who habitually win all their club’s trophies – who keep detailed notes on certain judges’ favourite subjects and styles, and take and enter suitable pictures in their camera club competitions. To me, photography is – as with all forms of art – about choice; what you choose to include in a picture, how you choose to compose it, your choice of focal length – they all affect the look and feel of your photograph. Just because I arrive at a location with a group of guests and reach for a telephoto lens because I’ve seen a distant detail or the opportunity to shoot something simple using telephoto compression, doesn’t mean that the guest standing next to me fitting their wide-angle on the camera has got it wrong – we’re both simply choosing to take different pictures. I hear (and read) all too often about the rule of thirds, keeping the subject out of the centre of the picture, reading pictures from left to right and so on. Rules of thirds and off-centre compositions are great backbones for composition, but what isn’t
stressed enough is that they aren’t cast in stone; they are basic principles, not rules. I always try to teach about balance in photographs, rather than thirds, about elements and lines in and across pictures leaving an overall harmony to an image. I read an article in the RPS Journal by a much respected photographer a few years ago about reading pictures from left to right. If all pictures are composed this way, when putting a panel of images together you’ll still need pictures that read right to left to led the eye back into the panel. I think lead-in lines can come in from anywhere in an image. I personally ‘read’ landscapes from near to far – whichever side the lead line comes in from – and I’ve had many judges in the past suggest that images should be printed the other way round so the lead line comes in from the left. A few years ago, I had an (elderly) camera club member on one of my workshops, who, after some of the group had been photographing a drystone wall with a small gate in it, went and propped the
If you have an opinion or something you want to get off your chest, drop us a line at opinion@photography- news.co.uk. WHATDO YOUTHINK?
Tome, photography is about choice: what you choose to include, howyou compose, your choice of focal length
Issue 2 | Photography News
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