Saturday, 7 March 2015

Four of the best

The recent competition at my local photographic society was a new format for me. It was called the panel of 4 and required you to present a DPI and/or print consisting of 4 photos in some way connected.

This is actually a lot harder than it sounds. Firstly there needs to be some link between the photos. Secondly each photo has to stand on it's own merits. At the same time each of the 4 photos had to be consistent in terms of both quality and presentation. For example 4 photos, one of which is outstanding, and 3 which are of lesser quality would not work. The great one photo would look out of place from the other 3 and distract from the overall montage.

I must admit I had been thinking about this competition for a while. My original plan for to present a DPI with a panel in 4 strips consisting of various forest trees cropped at tree trunk level. The rebel in me did not like the square  format and I sorely wanted to try something different. However in the end I could not find the type of forest so I had to resort to plan  B.

My 2nd idea was my set of leaf prints taken on my light table. Originally this was going to be my DPI entry, but once I got the prints they seemed to work better that way. The biggest challenge was choosing four. I had intended to show some sort of progression, from fall to decay. But when I tried this, it just looked dis-jointed so I stuck with just 4 light table images.

The print's were originally going to be called Wind, Steam and Power and consist of pictures of wind farms and Ratcliffe power station. The problem was when I put them together the wind farm pictures were just too good and I couldn't find a link between them. So instead it became just pictures of the Ratcliffe power station.

The problem was then to find 4 photos to put in a panel. I found 3 easily,  but the 4th was more difficult. Eventually I used one of Ratcliffe at sunset, and in hindsight I realise this was probaly a mistake, since it was quickly spotted by the judge as the weak link and probably stopped it getting higher marks.

My DPI. The image at the top left was the weakest of the 4. 

The leaves did better, but the judge again took a dislike of one of the panels. Ironocally it was the one I thought it was the strongest of the four.

My leaf prints. Ironically it was the one in the bottom left the judge did not like. I thought it was the strongest

Both panels got 17 marks and again did not make final selection. Once again so close but so far. It has to be said that in terms of the competition, the prints quality was very high, but with a better selection for the DPI's I think I could of done better.

It was interesting to see which ones did do well however. Picking out details say of architecture or single shots of a type of car seemed to work quite well in this format, and sometimes the overall result is greater than the sum or the original photos.

So my takeaway from this sort of competition is as follows:-

  • It is not the overall quality of the individual prints that matter, but the montage as a whole 
  • You need 4 consistent prints, not 3 plus one thrown in for luck
  • Photos of small details work well. The winning DPI was of Moroccan windows. Not great photos individually, but stacked in a panel the sum was greater than the individual
  • With prints, they need to be the same size and mounted the same way. I made the mistake of mounting 2 in black and 2 in white frames. I should of stuck to one colour. Similarly some put prints in of different sizes. This can work well in DPI, but prints just look disjointed.
  • In this sort of competition format, it is best to go out looking for 4 such photos rather than throwing together 4 individual ones you had just taken.
  • The montage must hang together as one photo as well as 4 individual ones.
Still it is an interesting experience, and one worth playing with and pursuing in future years.

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