Set Subject

Judge: Brian Harmer

Hello, my name is Brian Harmer.  Thank you for inviting me back to judge for you again. As I said last time, I am a retired academic, a lifelong photography enthusiast and a member of the Hutt Camera Club. I am a holder of the LPSNZ and am still struggling to achieve my “A”. I have enjoyed looking at your images and, as requested by the organizer, offering a very brief comment on each of them. Please accept my remarks as you should for those of all judges, as just one person’s opinion, and if I have got something wrong, I hope you will be forgiving and hope for better from the next judge.

Imperial Cormorants – Punta Arenas    Here is a well told story of a colony of cormorants. All that is missing is the noise and the smell. The image is sharp,  well composed and nicely exposed.  To my eye, the main story is in the birds on the diagonal beam from lower left to upper right. I am mildly distracted by the fact that the horizon line runs through the background birds. Would it be a better picture if shot from a  slightly lower (or higher) position so that those birds were fully above (or below) the horizon, It is a pleasing picture.     Acceptance
Night Berth    The appeal of still water on a dark night has been nicely captured. As far as I can tell, the distant street lamp is the only source of light and the photographer has done well to make a pleasing image of the scene. I like the star-burst effect around the light. There is a lot of total blackness that adds no information and I wonder if the picture would have more impact if it were cropped inward from the bottom so as to leave a much smaller area of blackness. Well done for seeing so much in this scene.    Merit
Shadows    An early (or perhaps late) walk has allowed the photographer to catch a rather nice pattern of light and shade. The silhouetted trees and the shadows they cast are very nice. The distant hills take little away from the essential simplicity of the trees and their shadows. Well done    Acceptance
Winding Road    This image seems to me to assert that the journey is more important than the destination. The image leads the viewer nicely through the lovely landscape and around the corner. I like the composition and the exposure.  The photographer has made a good decision to exclude the sky. It might be worth looking at this scene again later in the day with different light. The picture makes me want to walk that track.    Accepted
Mt Cook Buttercup    The buttercup is beautifully captured and is sharp everywhere that matters.  I suspect that the photographer has deliberately underexposed the foliage to focus attention on the flower. If that is so, then perhaps the adjacent flower might have been gently pushed aside to leave the subject alone on the stage. Very nicely documented.    Accepted
Wayne    This is an interesting portrait of Wayne. I like the pose and the only change I would suggest is a very slight trim from the left hand side to exclude the fragment of his ear and its shadow. I believe that the photographer should not let the viewers think that something is there by accident. The image has been presented deliberately under-exposed, almost to the point where it has got muddy. I suggest it would be better if the exposure were lifted a little.  This is worth persisting with.    Accepted
Airshow 3    The photographer has placed the formation nicely in the frame. Traditionally we leave more space in front of a moving object than behind. In this case, however, the smoke trails are an important part of the air show and the photographer has chosen well to leave them in the picture. There is sufficient of them to depict steady flight. I would suggest a considerably slower shutter speed (perhaps 1/125) to avoid the impression that all nine engines have stopped in mid air. While fast shutter speeds work fine for jets and gliders, in my opinion propellers need  some blur and be seen to be spinning. Nicely done     Merit
Airshow 4    This image also uses the smoke trails to tell the story of a fast moving formation flight arcing across the sky. The aircraft are nicely placed in the frame., and they subjects are in focus and well exposed. Again, the absence of propeller blur could be easily overcome by a slower shutter speed, even if it required a tripod or better yet, some practice with panning to ensure sharpness of the moving objects. A pleasing image    Acceptance
City through the window    City architecture offers wonderful shapes and textures. I like this imaginative interpretation of the set subject and the choice to use black and white. Might it have made a more powerful statement about lines if the photographer had chosen a position that allowed the vanes of the blinds to be horizontal from top to bottom and the sides vertical so as to better reflect the lines of the building outside? It could be achieved in post-processing with Lightroom’s Guided Upright feature. However, that is for the photographer to decide. It works well as it is.     Accepted
Hills across the lake    This is a nicely composed landscape  in which the lines of the jetty lead my eye across the lake to the mountains. The exposure and sharpness of the jetty tend to make the jetty the subject of the image rather than the hills as suggested by the title.  I would have liked a slight increase in the exposure. The decision to use a large percentage of your 1620 x 1080 pixels as a white empty border is surprising in a projected image. The picture might have had much more impact if it had filled the available space. While it is basically sound, in my opinion, it needs some additional processing.     Not accepted
Tidal Lines    Strong patterns on the water have caught the photographer’s eye. We are being asked to see movement in the water. I like the light, and the direction of the lines. I am a bit lost however as to where I am supposed to look. In my opinion there is no clear subject.  It was definitely worth trying    Not accepted
A day at the beach    This image conveys the essence of being at the beach. We have the shoreline, and far in the distance we have the horizon. The colours, and the star in the sky suggest the end (or perhaps the beginning) of a long day at the beach. I speculate that this is a long exposure, or intentional camera movement, however it was made it produces a pleasing picture    Accepted
Kowhai    A bold yellow statement is made in this image which nicely captures the essence of the kowhai in blossom. I suspect it would have been a more compelling image if it were sharper, especially in the throat of the nearest flower. I like the placement of the flowers in the frame and the colours in the nicely blurred background    Accepted
Boardwalk    I get the sense that there is still a long way to walk. In keeping with the set topic, the lines of the boardwalk takes us through the foreground towards the distant landscape.  The boardwalk is undoubtedly the central subject of this image and despite being in the shade, it does its job. I like the lighting on the mountain to the left. I suspect that the image over all would benefit from a slight increase to the exposure.     Accepted
Building Lines    We are presented with some intriguing reflections in what I interpret to be the windows of a building. The black and white treatment creates a sombre mood and I like the image a lot even though it leaves me with a lot of questions. The light areas top left and bottom right take away from the essential simplicity.  Would a square crop avoid that problem? It is well scene.     Merit
Concrete    This is a challenging Triptych and I ask myself what does the artist want us to feel about it. First, I like the artistry which allows its creator to create images that ask questions based on some relatively simple details. Then they are brought together. Traditionally, a triptych is expected to be more than the sum of its parts. Because it occurs in each of the three images I am surprised by the artists choice of such a shallow depth of field and blurred foreground.  I enjoyed the journey even though I don’t fully know where I have been.    Accepted
Down the Stairs    I wonder if the photographer has been studying the art of Henri Cartier Bresson who had a number of famous images of people at the bottom of the stairs. The mystery of the stairs and the two passing pedestrians is well set up. It would have been a more timeless image without the presence of that parking meter box on the left. Consider whether the image might work better if the image were cropped so that upper floor was excluded. An enjoyable picture.    Merit
Enchanted Tramway    Astonishing greenery! Enchanting is the right word for the archway through which the tramway runs. It is well composed and the lines seem to promise more enchantment around the corner. Might it help to lighten the shadows very slightly? Very nice work.     Merit
Frosted Lines    Well seen lines created by passing vehicles. I spent some time trying to decide whether these were made by “hoons” or whether it was merely passing traffic coming and going in a frosty area. Either way it is an intriguing image. I am not sure I found the spot on which the photographer focused, and it all seems a bit soft. Perhaps that was a deliberate artistic choice. Well made    Accepted
Heading South    Congratulations to the maker of this image which embodies the essence of “lofty mountain grandeur”. I love the long sweep of almost empty road heading towards the base of the mountain before turning to the right. I might be tempted to experiment with a wider aspect ratio, perhaps 2:1 without necessarily losing the foreground part of the road. The other vehicles are sufficiently distant as to not be a problem. It is a lovely picture.     Honours
Lines of Light    Though this is fascinating, after studying it for a long time I am no wiser than when I first looked. The picture is nice to look at and definitely meets the set subject. It makes me think of theatre curtains before the show starts. And though I am still in the dark (no pun intended) about the real meaning of the picture, I want to bring the right hand border in to crop off what I regard as the outer darkness.  Well done on the exercise of undoubted skills.    Merit
Lines of Marlborough    Nice light and lovely lines definitely capture the essence of Marlborough. I love the receding planes on the upper left and the beautiful crepuscular rays across the top. My eye follows those beams across the hills and down into the vineyard. I think the foreground grass breaks the spell. Would it be better if some of the white objects among the vines in the foreground were darkened a little? A very pleasing picture.    Merit
Neon    Flickering brilliant laser lights? The photographer has done well to capture electronically created images so cleanly and in vivid colour. I regret my inability to respond emotionally to the complex patterns. I am certain that considerable skill has produced this image.     Accepted
Not my bike – Berlin Nightlife    Several stories are on display in this image. The lines of the road leading to the buildings are interesting. The oddly parked bike is intriguing, and then there is an event of some sort, taking place off the road on the right.  The picture works well. I wonder whether it might be even better if it were cropped in from the left to exclude the distraction of the apparently dead street lamp. Nice work    Merit
Outlines     This image lifts my soul. It seems to promise a wonderful day ahead. Of course nature contributed to the picture, but how well the photographer has caught it. I struggle to suggest any improvement. Perhaps darken the little spot of light just below the right hand edge of the tree and maybe lift the bottom edge to reduce the empty area of blackness. This is a superb picture.    Honours
Parched Trail    This brings back memories of the excellent PSNZ convention in 2014 and puffing up the Wither Hills … I love the placement of the various elements in this picture. The path leads me to the tree and then disappears for a while to re-appear on the right of the tree and along the ridge. The clouds are so much more interesting than a clear blue sky. The depth of field is nicely managed. Thank you for the happy memory.    Merit
Still Standing to Attention    The stillness in this image is appropriate to the subject matter. The image is sharp and well composed and I like the exposure and the choice of monochrome. The lichen on the vertical faces adds strongly to the sense of time passing. I am guessing that the upward angle of the shot has caused the inward lean of the nearest stone, and wonder whether it might be worth correction in post processing. A well made image    Merit
Straight Furrows    Solid soil and a man of the land. This captures the spirit of the set subject very well.  I like the placement of the lines within the composition and the man looking back towards the camera. My gaze follows the furrows to the man then to the right along the next ploughed section to the tree and then wanders off into the hills. I am not sure whether I am seeing frost or merely the sun glinting on wet soil.  The image is made with the sun high in the sky and I wonder if it would have more impact earlier or later in the day.    Accepted
Sunset Drama    This image deserves its title. While I might speculate on how it was made, the finished effect is great. It could represent the great fire of London (1666) or some other great drama. Very well seen or designed and I love the colour palette and wonder if a little more saturation might be forgiven. An enjoyable image.     Honours
Tidal Isolines    I feel the ebb and flow of the tides. Lines leading to the distance are always worth a look and here is a good example. I love the shadows and ridges in this nicely exposed image. I spent some time wondering whether the sky in the background added to the image and whether it might be an even more powerful image cropped down to exclude the distant hills entirely. Very well seen    Merit
Time and Tide    A boating community uses a lot of lines as we see here. There are many lines in this picture which is well exposed and nicely composed in the frame. As an enthusiast for maritime images myself, I am familiar with the struggle to extract an image from the clutter of masts and rigging in a fleet of boats. The photographer has done well to give us a clear view of these four. I liked the variety of lines ranging from old-school hemp through a range of modern highly coloured synthetic ropes.     Merit
Track in Sand    A big wide tyre passed this way. This meets the requirements of the set topic and it has its fair share of lines. It is well focused and exposed. On the other hand I am not seeing whatever it was that caused the photographer to press the shutter. Though I like the underlying idea, I don’t think this succeeded. Perhaps a different angle would help.    Not accepted
Vineyard entrance
    Come in, you are welcome is the message of the trees.  Tree lined avenues are always attractive in my opinion, especially when the trees have some seasonal colour. The photographer has found a particularly pleasing one and presented it well. The avenue draws us in to investigate what lies at the end of the road. I think the real power of this image is inside the overarching trees. May I suggest experimenting with the aspect ratio to exclude the blue sky on either side. Nicely seen.     Accepted
Waiting for the Winter Snow    Seasonal signs of the winter to come. The creator of this image has placed the fence nicely against the sky and presented us with an attractive scene. I really would like to have seen the foreground flowers in focus. If the depth of field of the lens did not allow both the flowers and fence, perhaps the photographer might consider stacking several exposures.     Accepted
Decaying Mushrooms    What an intriguing situation fungi on other fungi … portrayed well in lighting that adds a nice sense of mystery. My eye keeps returning to the one mushroom in the lower right that has not yet been infected. At the risk of shocking the mycologists or purists in the nature community, might it have been possible to remove that single mushroom, and perhaps the small bright green intrusion on the lower right. Very interesting.     Merit
Hummingbirds seeking Nectar    Beautifully captured these hummingbirds are a delight. I am astonished at the lack of wing blur which suggests a very high shutter speed given that I see no signs of artificial lighting. The two birds have been caught in a nice arrangement. Might it be worth losing a bit of the empty space on the right?
Excellent image    Honours
Sky Jockeys    Orange smoke against a clear blue sky creates a striking image. I like the choice of the wide landscape format which works well. Though the focus on the left-most parachute leaves the other two a bit soft, I think that works well.     Merit.
Print: All lined up    How could I not smile on seeing this. There are so many lines in this image including the pylon and its guy-wires, the rails, the walkway and above all, the perfect diagonal formation of the dogs on their leads. A dramatic sky adds to the image, and I congratulate the photographer on having the courage to present the image bang in the centre. I love it.     Honours
Print: Gateway to the Bay    Another powerfully central image with a dramatic sky. The picture is beautifully sharp. For my taste the shadows might benefit from being lifted just a little, especially on the right hand side. Or perhaps a little less contrast? A very pleasing image.    Merit
Print: Holding the line (Lion)    The photographer has risked making an amusing little joke on the set topic (and got away with it). The image is well made, exposure, focus and composition are all well done.     Accepted
Print: Not a Good Day for Sightseeing    Lines appearing out of the mist qualify this image for the set subject. I like the placement of the gondola and the framing offered by the trees at top, right and bottom. Might it be worth removing the blurred twigs intruding from the top to the left of the gondola? In a day that is almost by definition characterised by flat light the photographer has done well to get some punch into the gondola and the tree in the bottom right. Good work    Merit
Print: Power to Iceland    A harsh environment yet people live here. Clean simplicity makes this a compelling image. Stark shapes of the pylons against the snow and the  bleak weather tell a powerful story. I can almost hear the wind that  I am sure was present, Would it be even stronger in a  different aspect ratio and losing the strips of black rock in the foreground? Very nice work    Merit
Print: Dandelions    Another beautiful image in which simplicity is the key component. I am fascinated to know how that droplet was put there and whether it is water or something else. The central seed head is beautifully sharp. Though the other two are less so, that doesn’t seem to be a problem.  The wonderful colours in the out-of-focus background are a delight. Well done    Merit
Print: Essence of the Nest    A beautifully constructed nest protecting its precious fragile cargo is well conveyed here. The image itself reminds me of the delicacy of Chinese ink art. It conveys so much by merely hinting at thinks. I can think of nothing I would change     Honours
Print: In the Corner    Seeing something special in simple items simply arranged is a real gift. The photographer has done a fine job of making a striking image out of a traditional broom and a chain. Though the purpose of the chain is unclear to me it adds to the character of the image. It is sharp, well exposed and nicely composed.  While it  is clear that there is a light source out of view to the left, the softness of the shadow suggests some modern contrivance rather than something from the era of the broom and chain. A very nice image    Merit
Print: Kaiteriteri Cliffs    A golden morning and a calm sea are well caught at Kaiteriteri. The elements of the image are pleasingly placed, and the lovely clouds provide balance to the rocks below.  I perceive that the photographer has focused mostly on the bottom right of this landscape and the more distant cliffs and the little island are allowed to be distant.  Pleasing work     Merit

Results (pdf)