Will I Ever Take a Good Picture?

My journey trying to take good photos.

Camera Club Photo Competition Number Two

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A couple of weeks ago I participated in the second photo competition of the season at the Camera Club I belong to (7HCC). The judge was Jeff Baker of Visions by Baker. I entered three prints, three digital images and a couple of snapshots. As in the last competition my strongest images were the ones I printed. I was excited about this competition because I thought that one of the prints I was showing was the best picture that I had ever taken and was curious how it would be judged.

The format was the same as last time. About 1/2 the images were selected and then awarded a blue or red ribbon. Jeff seemed to really enjoy looking at all the photos in the competition. He was a judge who tended to see the good in the photos rather than the bad which was interesting because he wanted to give more than 1/2 the pictures ribbons. I am not sure if I like this format of judging or whether I would like to get a score on each of my prints.

On to the photos I entered. I am writing this a bit late and have no idea what order they were judged so I am going to show the prints in the order they show up in Lightroom.

Here is a picture I really want to like that was one of my digital entries:

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It took Photoshop CC to get this picture in good enough shape to even think of using. It was a bit out of focus and I used the shake reduction in Photoshop CC to get things a bit clearer. It made the picture useable. The problem I had with this picture is that you can’t see the face of the bird very well. It would be better if the bird wasn’t looking straight at the camera. Jeff wasn’t a big fan of this picture. One reason was that you couldn’t make out the birds face/head. I agree! Also interestingly he did not like the tree being in sharp focus. I will have to work on this image a bit more to see if I can get the tree out of focus. Before I used the shake reduction feature the tree was out of focus:). When I edit this again I’ll see if I can apply the shake reduction just to the bird. Unfortunately no matter what I do I can’t get the bird to pose differently. I am happy though that I entered this photo because the comments were very helpful. Two things I learned; no matter how hard you try to fix a picture if the composition isn’t good your wasting your time, and two blurred backgrounds are good even if the background is only inches from the subject.

The next photo I entered was one I didn’t think would get a ribbon. I just wanted to get a critique. This photo has a twig on a leaf and I wanted to see if that caused the image to be downgraded. I thought of taking it out in post processing but I wasn’t sure that was allowed. I should have noticed it when I was taking the picture and removed it! Live and learn; get the composition right in camera.

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As expected Jeff noticed the twig and said to remove it before taking the shot! Also I got the impression I could have removed it in PS and no one would have cared. Jeff did like the overall photo though and gave this a red ribbon. 

Then my weakest picture of the day although being a gardener I like it. I had gone to Tower Hill Botanic Garden one evening this summer to try to get some sunset pictures. See my post about that trip here. Here was a photo I took waiting for sunset.

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This is actually an HDR shot. I spent quite a bit of time getting this to look like this. Not to dark nor to light in any area and to not look like an HDR shot! Tossed out because it was just a snapshot. Any modern DSLR camera could take this was the reason. Ouch. I couldn’t get this from the camera directly since it kept coming out to dark in some areas (since it was taken late in the day). Guess I have some camera exposure techniques to learn.

On to my prints. I had taken a trip to Sturbridge Village and had got a few good shots that I entered. You can see my post on the trip here. This print I entered because a lot of folks at work liked it. I thought it was ok (good enough to print at 4×6 and show outside my cube at work) but not really a strong image. The comments I got though changed my mind so I thought I would enter it and see what happened.

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I though of cropping it oval but couldn’t figure out how to do it (I did it on my iPad though and it looked good)  so I added the vignetting in LR instead. I like the way it came out. Jeff agreed and said without the vignetting it would be just a snapshot. This was awarded a Blue ribbon.

Next up was a picture of a mushroom.

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I really like this shot! I am not sure why since it is a bit busy. Jeff didn’t like it. I didn’t understand his objections. I believe he wanted the background more blurred and maybe didn’t like the way I framed the shot. I guess you have to like mushrooms to like this. I have to say that most folks at work who saw the picture agreed with Jeff, they just didn’t think it was a very good photo.

Ok you must be wondering what I consider to be my best picture that I had ever taken since what I have shown so far are good (for me at least) but nothing that stands out. Well here it is. 

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I am not a big Black&White fan and was surprised when I was looking at this in editing that the first thing that popped in my head was this needs to be B&W. To be honest the color version doesn’t look good. Folks at work also liked this so I had high hopes. Jeff liked it and said it was one of the better pictures he had seen that day and awarded this a Blue ribbon.  I might enter this at NECCC next summer. I would like to get a score and see if it beats my entry from last year (a 26 I believe).

Here are the snapshots I entered.

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I think this is a nice picture of one of the pigs at Sturbridge Village. It reminds me of my trip.

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All day this carriage would go by me and I would try to get a good photo. This is the ONLY one all day that I liked and it is the carriage going away from me. Jeff’s comment: “Would have been better if the carriage was coming toward you.” I tried Jeff, I tried, although I  like it because it is a different way of seeing the carriage. Most pictures of this are probably from the front!

I enjoyed the competition. Not just for the critiques of my photos but also it was great to look at all the photos submitted and hear the critiques for them. There are some talented photographers in the club! The best compliment I got was someone thought my blacksmith image was taken by one of the other photographers in the club whose photos I admire.

Well that’s it for the competition. I haven’t been out on a shoot since Sturbridge Village. I am a warm weather photographer! I am hoping to go thru my photos this winter and try to get better a LR and PS. 

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