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  • valeriehuggins0

Challenges and Competitions: some thoughts

I have been fortunate to have participated in several of @charlottebellamy's workshops and have learned a lot, particularly about ICM (intentional camera movement). So when she set up a new challenge to her group to create an image a fortnight based on different topics, I was really keen. Points would be awarded to the top ten on a sliding scale by an external judge with extra bonus points for the five that Charlotte particularly liked.

The first topic was Woodland and I happily submitted this image of bluebells in a local wood.

I then kept an eye on the other submissions as they came in. But this had the effect of me gradually losing confidence in my own contribution. It was not like the others. They had definition. Tree trunks. Clearly woodland. Whereas mine was more an essence of the woodland, the bright spring colours diffused in the light, softened by the ICM. And I lost confidence in my contribution to the challenge. Because of the competitive element I was judging my image against everyone else's and finding it wanting.

At the last minute I withdrew it and submitted this old 'familiar' instead, one that had previously been published and displayed.

This one has trees, trunks, leaves, and a lovely sense of Spring. It is a multiple exposure which gives it a sense of depth and leads you into the gaps between the trees. As you can tell, I really like this image.

But then it didn't make the top ten (out of 32 submissions) which you can see through this link to the challenge images:

and you can see the top scorers and appreciate their originality and emotive qualities.

Up to now I have opted out of the local camera club competitions, finding the whole process intimidating. The images that I find most appealing often don't catch the eye of the judges and the critique evenings tend to focus on what the judges like, leading to some of the photographers creating images specifically to do well in competitions. Over time I have realised that each judge has different perspectives and preferences so it is a never-ending, frustrating game trying to please them. But, even more of a concern is that in playing this game what happens to my individual creativity, my way of approaching the creation of an image? To what extent am I compromising all this?

At least there is advice out there to contribute to this debate, e.g. this link

Tip 7 gives me an insight into why my image perhaps didn't get in the top ten for this challenge. It didn't surprise, it didn't offer anything different, it didn't stand out. My lack of confidence in my own first choice had led me to follow the crowd, to fit in. And it fitted in so well it didn't make an impact. Would the first image have done better? I don't know. But I do know that if I am going to enter such challenges I have to be ready to accept that my images may not do well, not throw my toys out of the pram and refuse to play the game. I need to use the experience to learn how to develop my photography further, but only in creative ways that fit with my values and beliefs.

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