PSNZ Judging Seminar

The weather has been really lovely for the last week and last weekend particularly so, unfortunately I did not get much chance to enjoy the sunshine. I spent the weekend at a seminar organised by the Photographic Society of New Zealand on competition judging and accreditation. While it was a shame to be inside with the sun was shining the seminar itself was extremely interesting and useful with around 20 attendees from around the South Island of New Zealand. 

The seminar as was very ably run by Bruce Girdwood (Chair of the Judge Accreditation Panel) and Shona Jaray (PSNZ President) both of whom had clearly worked very hard on providing a clear and useful presentation. The seminar was very interactive based around a framework for evaluating images and how to provide useful feedback. It included examples taken from a variety of sources and finished with a session where we all had the opportunity to evaluate some images and present our results back to the rest of the participants.

The framework presented was based around the concepts of visual design and composition. I have heard the concepts presented before but it was useful to hear it explained in terms of judging images rather than making them. The importance of trying to identify what feeling/mood the photographer is attempting to convey was also stressed. The basic principles that were outlined are given below, there are plenty of texts covering these concepts for those interested in learning more.

Visual Design:

  • Light
  • Lines
  • Shapes – triangles, squares, circles
  • Textures
  • Perspective
  • Dominance
  • Balance
  • Proportion
  • Rhythm

The intention behind the seminar was to start the process of improving the general standard of judging in club competitions; to make it more consistent and also to make it more helpful to the club members. After all the purpose for most people entering the club competitions is to improve their photography and it is important that judges provide positive and useful feedback on the images being judged.

I now have to judge my first competition in a couple of weeks and I hope I manage to apply what I learnt to provide useful, well reasoned feedback. I suspect the judging itself will be fairly straightforward, presenting it back will require some careful preparation!

At least with the sun out this week I managed to cycle to work, and make a few images on the way – just to brighten up this post a little!


Sunset over the Waimakariri River


The flowers in my garden are getting busy.


The trees are in blossom.


But it is still cool and misty in the morning!


Cheap Camera Challenge Update

The cheap camera challenge has expanded a bit over the last few weeks with a couple of new cameras added to the list. The first really cheap camera we tried was theNZ$25 pink thing which has been described as land fill and my last post shared a few images made using it. An even cheaper camera was then found for the princely sum of NZ$5, so I gave that a try too!





The stripes I think are particularly fetching, the resolution at around 1 megapixel may or may not help.

We decided to return the camera which was clearly not working correctly but two more copies had different and more serious issues  we therefore splashed out on a NZ$10 version which apparently takes perfectly reasonable images. I will try that soon.

SmuginProForAperture Update

Feeling a bit under the weather this week, not much photography unfortunately. A quick update on the current state of my Aperture export plugin SmuginProForAperture is all I have!

I am currently in the process of testing a new update which supports multiple accounts, I have released the first beta and another should be out this week with a few tweaks. If anyone wants to give it a go and send me some feedback that would be appreciated. If I feel a bit more alive later this weekend I’ll try and get a more interesting post up!

Oh, I did get a new soft box and grid to play with, seems to work well but I need to feel more like playing with it to work out how to use it properly.

Tests 2012 08 07 21 48 06 DSC5647 ©RichardLaing 2012

Sumner HDR

I have been playing with HDR for quite a while now, since going on a photo walk with Trey Ratcliff in Christchurch. I haven’t settled on any one tool for generating the HDR and tone mapping. Mostly I have used Photomatix and HDR Efex Pro both of which I like and which produce different looks to the finished image. Which I use depends on the look I want or often I will try both and decide after I have seen the results.

I was up early on Saturday and headed down to Sumner for the sunrise and with the light, and particularly with the caves at the beach it seemed like a good opportunity to take some bracketed exposures for HDR processing. The new Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 plugin has also just been released and I wanted to give it a try to see what this new version would be able to do. 

I made a few HDRs with HDR Efex Pro 2 and so far I am liking the results. The controls feel quite different from the previous version but the results seem better, it seems easier to create a natural looking image for example. I also really like the new graduated filter that has been added, this is really powerful particularly when combined with Nik’s U Point technology. I often used Nik’s Color Efex Pro for this sort of processing and being able to do it with the HDR directly is great. You can get a 15 day free trial on the Nik Software site.


5 Exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex Pro 2

There are interesting caves on the beach, some of which are closed off following our earthquakes but some are still available. The rocks and the light make for an interesting subject for HDR.

I thought this looked a bit Martian.


5 Exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex Pro 2


5 Exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex Pro 2


5 Exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex Pro 2

Even without HDR the colours were pretty good.


1/50s @ f/11 ISO 200 Focal Length 32mm


 1/320s @ f/3.5 ISO 200 Focal Length 70mm