Sunday, 11 January 2015

Day 11: Definitely, challenged!

Not having been to a Frui Social for a while I rather hankered after a photography challenge. Swedish C told me about a group she was a member of' but I couldn't entirely recall the name so I plumped for joining the Photography Challenge Facebook group. They have well over 4,000 members but I think there's a hardcore group who are the usual suspects. There are two challenges a week, starting on a Monday and a Thursday, where you have to post your single photograph into a beginner, intermediate or advanced category. There are also random 24 or 48 hour challenges that just creep up on you which sometimes the maddest pairings to discourage dusting off an image from your archive. Soft toy and stick, for example, slipper and ball and others, it certainly can elicit some 'interesting' images. There was the controversial "what's for dinner?" one where I cannot fathom if the number of likes was based on supporting the poster in their hunting for the family pose, or they honestly felt that a quick, badly lit snapshot was the most exemplary example of photography skill. I had no problem with what some felt was an offensive image, but it was just a poor photo, and it won, And then there's the photo editing challenge too. Here the winner of the previous editing challenge posts an image SOOC (straight out of camera) for other members to post their "edits" anonymously. Then the original poster awards first, second and third place for their favourites, plus the odd honory mention.

Editing is clearly a subjective issue. I think editing should be enhancing the great image you took in camera, not entirely reworking (silk purse, anyone?). Perhaps you need to tweak the white balance, add a little oomph to the levels, or spot-heal some blemishes. When I take the sunset pictures from the office, I have to erase the reflection of the overhead lights from the sky or else we look like we're being attacked by laser wielding aliens. I've tried everything to eliminate them in camera, but the combination of motion sensitive lights in a busy office and a wide channel between the two panes of glass have so far thwarted me. So their eradication in post-processing, is my only option.

But I learnt very quickly that editing in this challenge often means throwing flicks and kicks, bells and whistles, and pretty much everything except the kitchen sink at the photo. A few weeks ago there was a photo of a lizard on a tree branch. Simple and quite bland. I figured that I'd crop the picture to make the lizard a bit more of a focus, and jazz the colours up a tad. When I saw the others competitors' offerings, some were definitely eye opening. Someone had taken the lizard and turned it into a tattoo on a model's ankle and another had superimposed the lizard into the hands of a reclining model. Some look like acid had been applied to the photo, others had gone all pink (normally I wouldn't object but really?), giant exotic plants appeared in the background. There was a lizard crawling up the Empire State Building, a whole family of them possibly climbing all over Shanghai. There was one lizard that had been twinned with another which, bizarrely, seemed to be joined at the tail. Many defy explanation, just piling crazy photoshop effects on top of each other. Clearly I'm not being bold enough to join in such a competition. In the next one, an iron bridge over a dried up creek had kangaroos added, sheep, deer, flying ducks, and an entirely made up river. Again gobsmacked.

This week I went overboard and added a random swan (from Romney marshes) and a handful of bluebells and orchids from an earlier foray into Kent to the verdant pond image. At least the exposures I added were my own photographs, not just grabbing some stock photography which perhaps some do. I got the most likes from the other competitors than I'd ever achieved, but I was far from dramatic enough to place. I normally only manage to elicit the "sympathy like". AL (now L(a)) and M(a) think I should back away slowly. So I suspect this rather cheers edit is my swansong. And how happy am I that I chose to add a swan then!

The group admins really do a fine job corralling some recalcitrant photographers and liking every single photo, even when I'm sure they don't, to ensure they appear on the wall. I would like to learn to improve my photography by learning why certain images win in the weekly challenges, but it would add a lot of extra effort for the hard-working admins, so it will have to remain a mystery, in some cases. I'm pretty sure it will never be me though, I cannot fathom the secret sauce.



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