Our recent experiences with SLF competitions where two different judges awarded significantly different marks to some of the pictures raises important points about club photography, and I think it's high time they were addressed. Marcus Scott Taggart marked down Brian's magnificent 'American Falls, Niagara/Gulls over American Falls Niagara' giving it a score of 7, apparently because he thought the gulls had been pasted in. I guess he considered this cheating. However, he gave a higher score for 'Midnight Encounter' by Dave S which was clearly a highly manipulated image and looks as if it included some graphic content. Don't get me wrong, I have no objection to highly manipulated images. Digital editing is such a powerful tool for producing new and exciting creations, why not exploit it to the full. However, I think it's a shame that photography may be losing its identity as a distinct art form. It is a unique way of capturing a moment in time, and the photos I enjoy most are those that demonstrate that. Manipulations often destroy that unique photographic quality and blur the distinction between a photograph and other ways of generating pictures. Of course, every photographer will set there own limitations on what they allow themselves to do. I for one, like to keep manipulation to a minimum except occasionally for a bit of fun. A good example of failed attempts to define what image manipulations should and should not be allowed you'll have experienced if you have ever tried to understand the rules for 'Nature' competitions. In the PAGB, for example, these rules have been amended so often in recent years it has descended into farce. The latest version of a year ago relaxed the rules somewhat so that now 'cloning of image defects and minor distractions including overlapping elements' is permitted. Overlapping elements - what on earth does that mean? To its credit, the SLF avoid the problem altogether, first by not having Nature as a separate category and secondly, by allowing any kind of manipulation. However, they do acknowledge that defining the difference between features that are photographic and those that are graphic is not easy. In my view, there is a simple but radical solution to this problem. All competitions should have two categories: 'Manipulated' and 'Non-manipulated'. The Nature category should be scrapped. In 'Non-manipulated' images, normal editing adjustments like cropping, contrast, cleaning up of minor details etc. should be permitted but not significant removal of image features, pasting in bits from other photos or addition of graphic content. By having just these two categories, judges would know exactly what they were looking at and be able evaluate it accordingly. A few years, I wrote to Rod Wheelan who produces e-News, a regular newsletter from the PAGB, hoping he would publish these suggestions. I received a fairly curt reply saying that he doesn't publish readers' letters in e-News, it would open a can of worms in the PAGB, and he didn't agree with me anyway. What do you guys think about this?
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