THE PSCC LANDSCAPE COMPETITION…Judged by Dr Tom Peck. 21st OCTOBER 21

Date Published 
Sat 23 Oct 2021

I am just a competent photographer. I come from an engineering /journalism/competition background. I like clear definitions and hard and fast rules and specs. It was a revelation to me a decade ago when I witnessed and then realised how one could, actually quantify our photographic branch of art. A lot, even most of the time, our templates work very well but they will always be a compromise. I know because I have to apply them regularly.

However I have learned that to apply the sort of attentions that are necessary in detailed engineering, particularly specifications, in our field of ‘art’, can be counter productive. It would be comfortable for me if it could be done but it can’t. It’s never going to happen. That is not to say Dr Tom Peck the host judge for our annual landscape disappointed. Far from it. It was a great relief to hear someone that could elucidate so freely on the photographic art form and explain clearly his logic and thinking behind the scores he gave. I learned a great deal of good judging technique let alone photographic.

Ten clubs lined up – two having dropped out earlier with membership and administrational problems exacerbated by the current pandemic climate. Park Street’s entry was limited by lack of Landscape photographers at the minute. Terry, Chris Gilbert, Jeremy F-M and David Butler did their best. Chris Gilbert’s ‘Heading for the Glacier’ being our highest scorer at 18. We were seriously out gunned by some fine and in many cases far travelled (expensive) material from Potters Bar, Harpenden Croxley, Tring and others.

So appreciating the problem with lack of authors we, especially as the host club, should congratulate both Croxley and XRR for submitting seven images each from separate authors and in Croxley’s case doing so very well to come 3rd and include two 20s in their total. (Perhaps we could offer a secondary prize for the top club that uses all separate authors. I might like to sponsor that.)

We had not seen Dr Tom Peck judge before. I had been recommended him from an associate in the Enfield Club. He was entertaining and fluent. His sensible scoring range saw to it that the final result wasn’t a tie either which is sometimes the case. Indeed there was quite a bit of air between all the club totals which is rare. The final results sheets tell you all you need to know. Harpenden winning with no 20s but nothing lower than a score of 17! That’s some going. That is strength in depth.

However how we came by some these scores might be of interest. To start with let’s examine the runner up club Potters Bar. Can you remember that slightly unnerving whirring sound that accompanies most of the movie Blade Runner. Well when I saw their first submission ‘Down Lower Wacker’ by Fiona Adamson that is what I heard. I was thrown into a scene from that film. Quiet wonderful and our judge spotted it too thankfully. (Simply cinematographic magic in a single shot. 20.) Then Graham Coldrick their comp sec and his sensationally lit rolling fields ‘The Homestead’ (18) and also the charming and tranquil “Winter on Lake Bled” from Graham Adamson an image (also 18) that before the comp our very own Jeremy (F-M) had tipped to win outright, I thought (17). However the same Graham Coldrick’s “White Sands Park’ and its minimalism was a little to much for Tom and the 14 he gave it sank them. But it needn’t have done hadn’t something else not happened later.

Harpenden’s Chairman Steve Collins, he of the sensational street shot “Momentous Day” taken during the very first moments of this pandemic and coincidentally also the day the UK left the EU – lead the way with his old World feeling Toulouse Lautrec style “After The Rain.” Actually a quite contemporary shot of the West End of London in the wet but with wonderful reflections and a carefully chosen exposure length to enhance some and reduce other human elements – still only a 19. However the remainder of his club all scored 17 except Peter Stevens who gained an 18 with low cloud over the isles. (For me too much cloud and not enough isles but an 18 nevertheless.) The clincher was their “Bobby Socks Tree”. A beautiful close up piece which would be doubtless a front runner in the newly formed “Intimate Landscape” idea that Tring are in the process of launching. Just perfect for that and that’s why they have their spec and we had ours. Clearly it was wildly outside ours and it shouldn’t have scored as it did. It very much derailed the final result.

The individual winning image came from Tring’s Simon Turnbull with his Autumnal ‘Last Leaves’ also recently commended by the RPS – but it was really mostly a tree. Jim Turner from Hemel Hempstead deserved his high score for Frozen Wasteland including as it did so much dimensional detail by way of the side lighting, too often missing in shots like these.

It is clearly impossible to swamp the minds of experienced landscape judges with specifications and rules. Do we really want to? They come with many pre-conceptions borne of time. Who is to argue? There must be as many preconceptions as there are people on the planet. I now feel there is a bit of keeping a dog and barking yourself going on here. The secret to law or rule making is that if you see it not working time and time again then you back off and take another route. Try something else. We have been down this road too many times now. Let’s back track and take a breath. Let’s stop digging the hole!

My suggestion might be rather radical. Offer no specification to either the clubs or the judge. (We can still uses our rule for our own domestic events if we think it works for us – maybe?) However allow all participating clubs to know who the judge is well before the event and they can go around doing their research on them to see what they class as a landscape. Competitors do like adjusting their pics. to suit what they think are the judges tastes anyway so let’s encourage it then the problem is out of our hands.

I feel sorry for all the clubs that read our spec and didn’t put their versions of Bobby Socks Tree into the competition and then see one get a 17 which swung the outcome at a stroke – it really didn’t qualify it was lovely but outside our spec. If I were Potters Bar I would be saddened and a bit confused by our result. That’s not to take anything away from a first class performances from a first class judge. I just feel we are now clearly striving for the unobtainable and creating more stress than we are relieving. Let’s scrub the spec.

Dave Hipperson

Harpenden………...122

Potters Bar………...120

Croxley……………116

Tring……………....114

Harrow………….…113

Watford…………....113

Park Street…………108

Hemel Hempstead…107

XRR……………….104