Photographic Competition 2008

Thank you for inviting me to judge your photographic competition once again.

This year's bonfire celebrations lived up to the previously high standards set by the dedicated Newick Society team and the firework display was itself magnificent. Sadly the weather wasn't on your side this year, resulting in fewer spectators and certainly, fewer photographs.

The standard of photography this year was at least equal to if not better than your previous competition, resulting in a difficult, but very enjoyable, task in separating the top images.

The winning photograph grabbed my attention immediately. I dismissed it almost as quickly because of the elementary errors contained within. But, after long deliberation, I decided that, despite the full-frame uncorrected printing, including distractions such as the figure on the left and the speed limit sign on the right, together with the UFO at the top of the picture, it is nevertheless a cracking photograph. The front cross, and one may argue the main focus of the image, although nicely positioned if one considers the Rule of Thirds, is sadly almost going out, reducing its effect within the image. The remaining torches, however, are lit as far as the image takes us and draws the eye right to the heart of the photograph. The heavy grain is almost, but only almost, too much. Ultimately, it is a hugely atmospheric photograph and conjures up a real feeling of what celebrating the Gunpowder Plot is all about, together with its atheistic or even pagan undertones.

The second placed image was a close runner-up, also taken using the ambient lighting, which is clearly much stronger next to the bonfire. It is a classic Newick picture, with local revellers, having consumed a small dry sherry or two, enjoying themselves by the glowing, crackling and sparking embers at the end of another successful evening. The image contains Newick Bonfire Society members, together with visitors, and a celebrant in great fancy dress. Everyone has a smile on their face. All but one of the subjects is blissfully unaware of the presence of the photographer, helping to produce a natural and candid effect. That lone face looking at the camera however, permits just a little more intimacy, allowing us to feel slightly more part of what is happening. Interestingly, but probably unintentionally framed, it conjures up a totally different atmosphere of the night, and one with which more people are probably familiar!

The third placed image is a sound photograph, capturing several elements of the evenings celebrations. It shows the ladies in their resplendent glory, lit with just a little too much flash. But it also shows the Newick banners, drawing our eye into the photograph, the youngster in the middle and the clown (just about) with his collecting bucket, for charity. The picture has a slightly "grabbed" and "automatic mode" feel to it and would have benefited from less flash, better framing to include another female figure on the left and ensuring the torches were all together. Nevertheless a competent photograph, in most respects.

I feel bound to comment on a fourth image which is so near and yet so far from being a winner. The group is static and would have remained so for at least long enough to correctly frame and meter for this image, which is too dark by about a stop of light, maybe a tad more. The photographer is correct in not using flash but the faces and slightly more details of the main subjects would have improved this image no end. All the torches are together, most of the faces on the subjects are looking at them and for a static image, it has a great amount going on. Sadly these elements detracted from the image. It was, however, never going to be even considered for placing as it has the digital details printed on the bottom of the image. This is always a no-no. So close...............

Congratulations to you all

Carl Bold