Competitions - A review of our Focus on Nature Digital Competition judged live & online by Ralph Snook, 06 Apr 2020

A review by Helen Jones - Focus on Nature Digital Competition (Sections A and B), judged by Ralph Snook ARPS, DPAGB EFIAP
On Monday 6th April we held our long-awaited nature competition, but not as originally planned!

The virus sweeping the world has forced us to abandon physical meetings and become, instead, a virtual camera club. On 6th April we welcomed our ’Focus on Nature’ judge, Ralph Snook ARPS DPAGB EFIAP, for our very first meeting via zoom video conferencing!

In preparation we had had a trial run the previous week with many members taking part, and others received one-to-one help from Stephen Jones in order to get to grips with this new way of meeting. Ralph received the images in advance in case there were any issues with image quality or running the meeting on the night – normally Ralph prefers to judge ‘cold’ without having seen the images first. He and Stephen J had a run-through in advance too, just to ensure everything worked. We recruited some extra Zoom hosts – Di Tilsley and Janine Scola – with David Whitton and Stephen & Jane Lee ready as back-ups. Malcolm Macnaughtan and Susan Buckland kept a manual record of the results in case it all went wrong! Thanks to all of them.

It was a strange experience for me, talking to a computer screen! I turned the web cam off - one less distraction and it meant you couldn’t see the frantic gestures Steve and I were making to each other. 57 club members logged in– some of them also switched their web cams off – they were probably the ones in their PJs or with the largest glasses of wine J We muted all mics other than those belong to the judges and the hosts.

As usual we divided the entry into two sections – B with 19 entries and A with 50 entries and ran the evening using DiCentra, just like a normal club competition. Ralph is a very experienced judge and gave every photo a thorough critique, with plenty of helpful advice. He was looking for photos with had plenty of space and context, and in particular, photographs which showed behaviour and environment.

Many images were just a little too large or too tight in the frame. Ralph also wanted to see a good choice of depth of field with images either sharp from front to back or sharp where they needed to be with the point of focus in the right place. The choice of depth of field was also very important when it came to backgrounds – some lovely photos could have been improved if a slightly shallower depth of field had been chosen to make the background less sharp and distracting.

Ralph was also very alert to burnt-out highlights and over-bright areas which could have been dealt with via exposure compensation. Most of all, Ralph was looking for original photos, photos that were a little bit different and which really told a story. As a very sought-after nature judge, he sees hundreds of nature photos so something original really caught his eye.

He stressed that the standard throughout was extremely high and that many superb photos, which would do well in salons, just missed out. He said any of 25 photos in the ‘A’ section could have made it to the awards and he spent a long time considering his final choice.

Thank you, Ralph, for a great evenings judging. The response from our members has been so positive, with everyone thoroughly enjoying our first virtual meeting and appreciating Ralph’s expertise and feedback. It felt slightly odd to judge in silence but we did unmute the microphones at the end so that everyone could show their appreciation!

Well done to Janine Scola who won the Parsons Cup and Steve Broadhurst who won the Portman Trophy – we will be presenting these and all the annual trophies as soon as we are able!

Thanks to everyone who joined us!

~ Helen Jones

Focus on Nature Competition Results and Gallery