Last Sunday marked the closing day of Smethwick’s 2009 International Exhibition of Photography. We had unfortunately left it too late to book for the opening night, which was fully subscribed before I got around to trying to book, so were lucky to get places on the last Sunday…though, in fact, there were a few seats to spare…where were you?
John Mike and I set off at noon and arrived just after doors opened. You’d think that, with 6 hours before the end of the evening, we’d have time to get round and see all the prints! but no, the first thing is that you see all your friends from other parts of the country and spend a little time catching up with each. Before we knew it the digitally projected shows were starting and we’d only seen about 25% of the prints.
Pictorial images were divided into two showings…with a welcome tea break in the middle and didn’t we need it! talk about image overload…the standard of the images was very very high, in fact the whole exhibition was probably the best yet. Standards just keep going up and up. Usually, with the digitally projected images there’s more than a handful that you might wonder how they got in….but this year WOW, some very inspirational images.
After the pictorial images came a longer break for food and we took the opportunity to view the monochrome images in the main hall and only just got round before the natural history and travel shows began. Digital monochrome has really come of age now. I felt really pleased to have a couple of my monos shown on the walls…they never have room to hang all the accepted prints, so those that aren’t hung get shown on a flat screen monitor in one of the side rooms – we never got to see those!
“Birds in Flight” were popular this year largely, it seems, due to improved camera design, for quick focus and following of fast moving objects. Tony Wharton, as always, proved a fountain of knowledge on almost every species…don’t ever mis-name a fungus if you’re sending to Smethwick!!!!
The Travel section left us slightly baffled…quite a few images seemed to have been manipulated more obviously than the rules seem to indicate is allowable, according to the PSA definition. We accept that it can be difficult to spot this during quick-fire judging. There was quite a bit of evidence of overuse of fill light without corresponding correction of blacks, even in the awards section and this was more prevalent in the travel section than the pictorial. In fact, throughout the exhibition this year, there were lots of examples of what looked like HDR images, some well done, some less so. Is this the new trend? I think perhaps that in a few years time, HDR will be the norm rather than the exception in landscape and interior shots.
A last quick look at the remaining prints and perhaps it’s worth mentioning that there were a lot of accepted landscapes this year, which pleased me of course. Is this another trend along with HDR or was it just the preference of that particular panel of judges? Only time will tell. There were fewer “faces in backgrounds” and those that were there, on the whole, were better cutout than previously, though a few still exhibited that uncomfortable “different perspective” feel. The images, in general, were darker and stronger….fewer light delicate images…fewer obviously “created” images.
Last thoughts…digital imaging keeps on improving…the standard of the open and nature sections were particularly high. It leaves us with a huge challenge…to keep moving forward, improving our skills and keeping up with trends. A fellow visitor (actually a woman, not a fellow) remarked that you can no longer just take a shot and enter it…images now need to be optimised to get the very best light and feeling out of them, even more than before.
Are we downcast then? No!!!!! We’ll do our best to rise to the challenge.