The Blog

** Top Mono print, North and South! **
13th May 2018
In February my mono print "Ebony Dove" was awarded top mono print in the Irish Photographic Federation's 'Photographer of the Year' Competition in Carlow, by 3 highly qualified and independent International Judges. Now it has been awarded top mono print in the Northern Ireland Photographic Associations Top Print & PDI Competition, judged by Ireland's top International photographer Tony McDonnell EFIAP/p from Dundalk PS.

Ebony Dove:

"Kingfisher Dive" was also awarded the top Projected Digital Image - an award I have never won before, which is quite fitting as this is my last year taking part in the NIPA inter-club competition (until/unless there is a major change of personnel and change of ethos within the NIPA competition committee).

Kingfisher Dive:

I also won Top Colour Print in the IPF this year, making it a hat-trick, with "Autumn Cape." This print also won the Gold Medal for Top Colour Print in the NIPA Annual Exhibition 2017.

** FIAP Blue Badge at Smethwick International 2017 **
12th December 2017
I am delighted to win the FIAP Blue Badge for the best individual performance in the 43rd Smethwick International Salon 2017. Smethwick is one of the 'Big 3' UK based Salons alongside the Edinburgh and Southampton Internationals, and this is the second time in 3 years that I have won the Blue Badge!

Overall I managed 17 acceptances, with 5 images scoring the maximum 15/15, and 5 awards including 3 Medals! In addition, my image "Ebony Dove" will grace the front cover of the forthciming catalogue that is sent to all the individual entrants from around the World!

Autumn Cape - FIAP Silver Medal in Colour Prints:

Dark Statue - PSA Gold Medal in Open mono PDI:

Ebony Dove - Smethwick Gold Medal in mono Prints

Time to Leave - RPS Ribbon in Colour Prints

Private Dancer - GPU Ribbon in Mono Prints

** A Tale of '3' Pictures **
27th November 2017
This post is written in the hope that some NIPA judges might think twice before hitting the '2' and the '3' button - and start hitting the '4' and the '5' button more often.
I have gone to some lengths to try to 'critique' certain pictures, and explain how or why I believe the scores they have gained in NIPA competition have been out of sync with the quality of the picture.
Those who want to see nothing but negativity, will see nothing but negativity. But it is a sincere attempt to stop the low-scoring mentality of NIPA judges, by highlighting where I think the problems lie, and where the approach might be wrong.

After Round 2, I sent an e-mail to the powers that be in NIPA, voicing my disappointment at the standard of judging, and the "low scoring" in particular.
So what were my concerns? In NIPA, like most photographic competitions, the judges score pictures out of 5. '3' represents 'average photography' in NIPA; '2' is below average, and '4' is above average. '5' should speak for itself - the best pictures should get scored 5. Unfortunately in NIPA, pictures rarely score the maximum 15.

Let's take an example from Round 1 -

"Orangutan with Butterfly" by Hugh Wilkinson Scored 11 in Round 1. In order to score 11, at least one judge has to hit the '3' button for 'average.' The other two judges hit the '4' button. Is it more shocking that one judge hit the '3' button, or that nobody hit the '5' button? (It could also have been two '3's' and a '5,' but this is unlikely).

I don't think it is enough for me to simply criticise the scoring of the image. Let's be a bit more 'forensic' about it. Judging guidance, recommended by the PAGB, and available on the Western Counties website, says "A Judge should not initially look at how the picture was made but ..... should be looking at, and into the image and responding to its emotional content."

In NIPA, the judges are given every blessed print 'through the hands' prior to scoring. Every single one. What happens is that instead of sitting back and "looking at, and into the picture" they 'inspect it' up close - and clearly they dissected this image (i.e they looked at how it was made, which is what they are NOT supposed to do) and they decided that the butterfly was 'put in.' Even though the butterfly WAS put in, it was extremely well done, such that it could only be discerned from close inspection. The result was that they 'missed the overall picture and emotional content' and hit the 3 or 4 button.

How on earth a judge could look at this picture and not respond (positively) to its emotional content is frankly beyond me! The contrast of a huge Orangutan seemingly mesmerized by a delicate butterfly and a flower, bathed in beautiful light makes for an extremely powerful picture; a nice play on colour, with the complimentary colours of the orange fur and the blue of the butterfly. There are no distractions; the image was sharp and well printed. It is a '5' all day long.

Now, that is not just 'my' opinion. It was judged in the Guernsey Salon 2017 by a hugely successful photographer and acclaimed judge, Paul Keene FRPS MFIAP MPAGB EFIAP/P - and it was awarded a Medal as one of the top 3 images in the Colour Open Section - which had a total of 869 images! (In the NIPA competition it was up against a lesser standard all round, and significantly fewer images - probably in the region of just 90 prints, 24 of which would have been by novices - so effectively it was up against just 65 other prints!).

If that is not enough to convince NIPA that I am right to voice my dissatisfaction, it was also entered into the Catchlight Club entry in the PAGB Print Championships at Blackburn just a few weeks ago. In Round 1 it was scored by 3 highly qualified International judges and it scored (you guessed it) '15.' The Club made the Final, where the top 8 Clubs in the UK compete head to head over 15 prints. Again in the Final, it was scored '15.'
If you need any further 'proof,' it was also awarded this week in an International Exhibition in Moldova :

Let's look at an example from Round 2 -

"The Girl in the Blue Dress" by Ross McKelvey

This also scored '11.' So again, at least one of the judges must have hit the '3' button. The powers that be have attempted to assure me that the images have been 'scored appropriately.' One of my major criticisms over the years has been that too many judges in NIPA have no photographic Distinctions whatsoever. (I can understand how, in years gone by these people had to be used as judges because they were experienced club photographers and there were very few people with any credentials).

Again, I don't think it is enough for me to simply state that the scoring of my image was too low. It is a difficult, but nonetheless a good learning exercise, to learn to critique your own image. So let me have a try...
It is properly exposed with no blown highlights; there is a nice play on colours, with the orange glass in the windows mirroring the model's hair colour; and of course orange and blue are complimentary colours on the colour wheel, so the colour of her slightly sheer garment creates a very pleasing colour palette in the image. There is lovely soft but directional light, with a rembrandt triangle of light on the cheek below the eye on the shadow side. The model is 'filling the frame' with a nice diagonal aspect, and there are no distractions to draw the eye away from the subject. The viewer is invited to ponder her thoughts as she sits and gazes towards the light.
It is a visually pleasing image that should score 4 or 5 - particularly in 'NIPA' competition!
Did any of the above critique pass through the mind of the judge that hit the '3' button? I am not claiming this is a '15' by any stretch of the imagination or my own ego. But frankly, it pisses me off that a NIPA judge hit the '3' button on it. Surely it is either a '4' or a '5' which gives it a potential scoring range of 12-15. For instance just last week it was awarded a FIAP Silver medal in an International Exhibition in Norway:

A third and final image is a portrait called "Hope" by Paul Killeen of the newly formed 'Westcourt Camera Club.' It scored 8 in Round 2! In other words, one of the judges hit the '2' button for 'below average.'

What on earth would make a judge hit the '2' button? Again, it is not enough to simply state that it was scored too low. Let's critique it:
It is composed with a bit of thought, placing the model against the wall so that the lines on the wall act as a leading line, bringing you to the subject, and her eyes in particular. There is good use of differential focus (also called shallow depth of field) to make the subject stand out, and the background cannot be said to act as a distraction. It is sharp where it needs to be sharp, and strong eye contact from the model. The natural light is 'side-on' creating nice modelling light on the face. What is there not to appreciate about the portrait? It would grace any L panel for a start. So why would a judge hit the '2' button? I'm afraid I do not have an answer to that question, other than pure speculation that the judge is simply saying "I do not like this" and therefore marking it down. "I do not like this image" or "this is not my thing" is NOT acceptable photographic critique.

I totally get the fact that NIPA does not have enough qualified judges. So why do they insist on having 5 Rounds of Competition that require a total of 15 judges, when the quality of that judging is virtually guaranteed to be 'suspect?' All current 'judges' on the NIPA circuit with no Distinctions should be required to go and prove their worth by getting the minimum of an L panel or a CPAGB, but preferably higher. Otherwise their hitting of the '2' and the '3' button carries absolutely no weight whatsoever. Just because someone has spent a lifetime as a club photographer does NOT make them a good judge. Judging is not a matter of sitting down and pressing buttons based on whether you 'like' or 'dislike' something without being able to back up your opinion.
To quote (again) from the excellent PAGB article on judging, "a personal track record of good photography at an advanced level is essential, otherwise a judge's remarks would be based on theory and little practice." Judging is a 'skill' that many successful photographers have studied and learned. It helps you become a better photographer, and every time you achieve a higher Distinction or win an award, you are putting your own 'skills' to the test by selecting which of your own images are the strongest.

2 FIAP Gold Medals and 6 awards at Midlands Salon 2017 **
09th July 2017
The Midlands Salon is a long established UK based International Photographic Salon - now in its 60th year! I was delighted to win 2 FIAP Gold Medals, a Midland Counties Federation Medal, and 3 Ribbons - a total of 6 awards, and 14/16 accepted into the Salon.
The 6 awarded images all scored the maximum 15/15.

FIAP Gold Medal - "Ebony Dove"

FIAP Gold Medal - "Feeling Blue"

MCPF Medal - "Fluffy Shawl"

Ribbon - "Autumn Cape"

Ribbon - "Queen of the Forest"

Ribbon - Indian Queen"

** Member of London Salon **
31st January 2017
I am extremely proud and honoured to make it known that I am now a member of the London Salon of Photography! I received an invitation totally out of the blue just before Christmas, and I have been thrilled to accept. Exhibition photography has been my passion for several years now, and this gives me a unique opportunity to contribute towards the London Salon and its annual exhibition.

For anyone who does not know, the London Salon of Photography is a unique body of photographers, with a worldwide membership of just 46 photographers, whose sole aim is to exhibit, annually, the very best of pictorial photographic imagery.
Membership of the Salon is by invitation only and the roots of this organisation go back to the year 1893 when it was formed as "The Linked Ring", becoming the London Salon in 1910 when the first London Salon Exhibition was held.
The Linked Ring members were heavily involved with a breakaway organisation from the Royal Photographic Society being concerned to "encourage that class of photographic work where there is distinct evidence of artistic feeling and execution". That has been the continuing purpose of The London Salon ever since.

For the last 5 years I have been successful in having prints accepted into the London Salon annual exhibition - now I will have the right, as a full member, to submit 2 prints that will be automatically exhibited. The pressure still remains on me, to produce work that I deem worthy of the Salon's standards and aims!

Member of the London Salon

** FBPE - finished in style! **
11th September 2016
I am super thrilled to become only the 25th photographer to achieve the Fellowship of the British Photographic Exhibitions (FBPE) since 1999. A "Fellowship" is the Holy Grail - the highest Award that is made by most photographic bodies, and this is effectively my 3rd - following the FIPF and the MPAGB.

Exhibition Photography is what 'floats my boat' - it is the main outlet for my photographs. I only discovered National and International Exhibitions in approximately January 2012, but there was nobody else in Northern Ireland Club Photography that seemed to know much about them. After a bit of research, I found an 'online' Club called DAPA that had a small membership who were all entering National and International Exhibitions. The members were extremely helpful in providing all the relevant information and answering all the questions that a 'newbie' needed.
In January 2012 I therefore entered my first National Exhibition, and sent off 8 mounted prints to the Southport National Exhibition. To my huge surprise, I managed to get 4 prints accepted and won my first award - a PAGB Ribbon for "Johnny Fee."

Johnny Fee:

Vale of Evesham was the next exhibition in February 2012, and I managed 8 acceptances and another Award - with a ribbon for "Out of the Blue."

Out of the Blue :

A couple of exhibitions later, in Solihull (another PRINT exhibition) I really got the bug when I won 4 Medals and 2 Commended - a total of 6 awards!



The Boxer:

(Interestingly, this print scored 10/15 in a local NIPA competition, but yet came 1st in a National Exhibition, scoring 15/15 - not once, but twice!!)

Very quickly I was able to start applying for the first Distinction level - the BPE1* - which is awarded for 25 acceptances in National Exhibitions. BPE2* then required 50 acceptances; BPE3* required 100; BPE4* required 200; and BPE5* required 300.

In the local Northern Ireland Exhibition organised by NIPA, I had come 1st and 2nd on a couple of occasions - but in the 2012 Great Barr Exhibition in Birmingham, I had the thrill of getting 1st and 2nd in mono prints in a National Exhibition - Gold and Silver Medals for "The Boxer" and "Stephen."

My name started becoming more 'known' in UK photography circles, and I started receiving invitations to camera clubs outside N.I for the first time. In the very next Exhibition, Bromsgrove National Exhibition 2012, I had 11 acceptances and an incredible 8 awards - with 'Double Gold' - for "Underground Glamour" and "Subway Muscle!"

Underground Glamour:

Subway Muscle:

For various reasons, I decided to start a new Camera Club in N.I in the Summer of 2012 - a small club for people that were already at a 'good' level of photography, and who wished to gain Photographic Distinctions and join me on the exhibition circuit. Thus, Catchlight Camera Club was formed in September 2012. Unfortunately this raised a conflict of interest between my membership of DAPA, and my membership of Catchlight, and I had to give up my membership of DAPA, but I will always be grateful for the help and guidance I received from the members there.
(By taking part in National and International Exhibitions, the members of Catchlight Camera Club were able to see (and understand) the standard of "Exhibition" Photography - and this played no small part in the Club becoming the first ever Club from N.I to win National Silverware in Competition. There are now approximately 8-10 members who regularly enter the BPE National Exhibitions. It has also been the Top Club in N.I for 3 years running.)

And so it went on - these National Exhibitions run throughout the Calendar Year -
Everyone who enters these exhibitions receives either a printed or CD Catalogue, with all of the accepted and awarded images on display. My success continued, and by 2014 I achieved the coveted BPE5* - something which less than 100 people had managed at that time.

The final 2 hurdles were the Associateship and Fellowship of the BPE. The Awards are quite unique, in that they are not awarded at the potential whim of one set of judges - they are 'achieved' by passing set targets. The ABPE for instance requires another 100 acceptances after BPE5*, along with 20 separate awards with at least 10 different images. By and large it is the 'Awards' requirement that makes the award so difficult for most people to achieve. Up to August 2015, only 38 people had managed it so far.

The Fellowship is a different kettle of fish altogether - it not only requires a further 100 acceptances after the Associateship, but it needs a total of 30 awards with at least 15 different images - and ALL 30 awards need to be by images that have not previously been awarded. This is the catch - 30 awards is hard enough to come by - but to get them with brand new images AFTER reaching the level of ABPE requires a bit of doing!

And so, here we are in September 2016, and I have finally achieved the Fellowship of the BPE. I had recently been awarded both Gold and Silver Medals for Mono Prints in the Cotswold Monochrome Print Exhibition 2016 - with "In the Hood" and "Fredau in Natural Light."

In the Hood:

Fredau in Natural Light:

I needed only 1 more award to hit the target, and I knew that the SRGB Print Exhibition in the North West was my best opportunity. I am lucky to be sponsored by a major paper manufacturer in Fotospeed, and I have a good supply of all their fantastic ranges of paper. I print on an Epson 3880, and mount the prints on fantastic mounts and self-adhesive backing boards supplied by Paper Spectrum.
I sent off 9 prints and couldn't believe it when I received word that not only had all 9 prints been accepted, but that I had won Double Gold Awards, a Bronze Award, and 3 other awards. And so it was, that I can claim to have crossed the winning line in fitting style!
Almost 5 years of exhibition entries - a total of 533 acceptances - 149 Awards - and rather fittingly, in the 25th year of BPE Exhibitions, I have become the 25th Fellow of the BPE!

Ode to Nestor - Gold Award SRGB Print Exhibition 2016

Indian Queen - Gold Award SRGB Print Exhibition 2016

Uwimana - PAGB Ribbon

Thank you to everyone that has supported and encouraged me during the whole process. I will continue to enter the Print Exhibitions but will now retire from the PDI exhibitions. If anyone wants further information or guidance on these National Exhibitions, do not hesitate to contact me. I am, and always have been, willing to share the knowledge and the skills required to improve.

** Anna Rose **
22nd August 2016
** Photoshop Workshops for Camera Clubs **
02nd August 2016
You cannot 'teach' photoshop on a typical camera club night. All you can do is provide tips and snippets of information, and hope that people go away with at least something to benefit their workflow, whether they are beginners or advanced.

However an all-day session can be arranged, where I will attend with my desktop computer, and go through a typical image processing workflow, preferred photoshop settings, and image processing techniques. This can be as basic or as advanced as you want. It is normally better to try to get a group of people with at least a basic understanding of photoshop involved.

I will provide a set of photoshop 'actions' that I have devised, to simplify your workflow, and show you how to generate your own, if you prefer. My entire workflow is based on 'simplicity' - actions and shortcuts. If I have to spend more than 10 minutes on an image, I get bored! Topics covered include:

Preference Settings in Photoshop
Import and image selection in Lightroom
Tweaking the image in Lightroom before editing in photoshop
Image adjustments using duplicate layers technique
Nik software filters, including colour efex and silver efex
Dealing with problems such as skin blemish
Luminosity masks
Dodging and burning
Frequency separation technique (home built 'action' provided)
Skin softening in a subtle way
Taking control of where the viewer's eye is drawn to
Digital composites - cutting out a subject and placing into a new background
Image Sharpening
Image re-sizing

Photoshop and image editing is a 'big' topic and I classify myself as an advanced photoshop user. However that does not mean I know everything - there is always something new to learn!

Please contact me if your camera club is interested in arranging a photoshop workshop. It can be done at your club or at my studio. Group size should preferably be no more than 20.

** What is a 'workshop?' **
02nd August 2016
There has been debate recently about the use of workshop images in local camera club competition. The debate has been fuelled by a very small number of begrudgers, but unfortunately their views (perhaps deliberately) cause others to have a total mis-conception as to what a 'workshop' image is. None of them have ever been on one of my workshops, because otherwise they would realise how wrong their stance is.

I have been running studio lighting workshops for camera club members for a couple of years. People attend from far and wide - just yesterday I had a photographer travel all the way from Cork, as well as Dublin, Ballymoney and Clones. From the 5 people who attended on Saturday, 3 of them had been on at least 3 workshops with me previously. Maybe that is a sign that I do them well? Several of them had already achieved either LRPS, LIPF or CPAGB Distinctions, and one was an AIPF.

The perception being bandied about by the begrudgers, is that attendees stand in line, press the shutter like little monkeys, have no idea how or why the lights are positioned where they are, and go home with award winning images that are way beyond the level of photography that they are personally capable of.
For a start, that does me a great injustice, never mind the attendees. At the start of every workshop there is a complete explanation of camera settings. Camera settings for studio photography are pretty basic, let's be fair - shutter speed of 1/125sec and ISO 100. Those never change. The only thing that changes is the aperture. The aperture is dependent on the power of the flash, and the distance between it and the subject.

I have a certain style of lighting that is easily demonstrated and totally repeatable. The main light on the subject is at 90 degrees to the subject. There you go - my secret is out! (I don't 'do' secrets by the way. I prefer to share my knowledge and my skills with anyone who wants to improve their own understanding and skill). When you stand facing the subject, the main light is not pointed at the subject - it is at 90 degrees, a right angle to the line of shooting. Simple. Repeatable. Works every time.

So attendees then have to work with the model. This is basic human inter-action. Some are better at it than others, and it shows. People are taught not to approach the model with the camera up to the eye, 'hiding' behind the lens, shooting in silence. They are taught to speak to the model; to introduce themselves; to explain and discuss with the model, the type of photograph they are hoping to take. For instance, is it a head-shot? Is it 3/4 length? Do they want eye contact? Do they want a high shoulder, a low shoulder or something more symmetrical? What type of expression do you want - sad, neutral, happy?
It is a joy to watch people very quickly get to grips with how to work with a model. They go home with a selection of RAW files that it is up to them to refine, edit, and print. Some will be better at it than others. They will produce final images that reflect their own skill level. The more workshops they attend, the more confident and the more proficient they get.

It is extremely rare for anyone to attend one workshop and never come back. Most attend again and again. They are eager to improve and know that by spending money on a workshop rather than equipment, they are doing themselves a favour. Yesterday, because everyone had considerable previous experience they were given an opportunity on 2 occasions to have complete free rein with the model and the studio, to sit with the model and discuss what they wanted to achieve. I was on hand to assist if required - and I was not needed. During this one-to-one session, all the other attendees are on the opposite side of the dividing wall - they do not get to witness what the person shooting is up to. Even I do not know whether they are shooting on the white stage background; or the grey fabric; or at the window; what props they are using, or not using; They are doing it themselves.

Editing of pictures is a completely separate skill from taking them. 3 of the attendees at the weekend were from a Dublin based Camera Club, and their camera club has arranged for me to come down next Saturday and do an all-day photoshop workshop. Again, I am totally open with my knowledge and my skills. They will be provided with images of mine, and we will work through the various steps that are essential to a good workflow. This is the 3rd Camera club in the Irish Photographic Federation to avail of this particular type of photoshop workshop.
Do I hear any of these begrudgers saying that anyone's image is not their own, because they have attended a photoshop workshop? Of course not. They have learned the skills. The exact same as when they took their pictures on the studio lighting workshop.

My studio lighting workshops also include a section on natural light. The same 90 degrees principle applies. I call it "get the light and not the shite." The model stands at one end of the window, and you stand at the other, shooting along the line of the window. As if the window is the big softbox that you set up at 90 degrees to the model in the studio. That way your lens is getting the 'light' from the window, but not the 'shite' that is outside the window. Simple. Repeatable. Works every time.

This is an example - total 100% natural light. The attendees are told to find the exposure themselves, making sure that the histogram gets as close to the right hand side as you would dare, without clipping the highlights. They then work one-to-one with the model. There is no 'paparazzi style' shooting ever!!

So in conclusion, those that 'diss' workshop images are either a begrudger or have been poisoned by a begrudger. They fail to realise that whilst they are busy bitching behind people's backs, others are actually upping their skills. People who they regard as novices, are suddenly beating them. They don't like that you see. But what they fail to realise is, they are no longer novices. They improved. They are better than you now. In more ways than you think.

Thank you for your time :-)

** FIAP Blue Badge & EFIAP Silver **
22nd June 2016
Today brought double good news!! First thing this morning I received notification that I won the coveted 'Blue Badge' for best individual entrant in a 4* International Salon - the Salon Varna in Bulgaria. This salon produces an excellent printed catalogue with high resolution images. I managed 20 acceptances, and was also awarded 2 FIAP Gold Medals for "Leap in the Dark" and "Angelic" - that is 5 FIAP Gold Medals in the space of a couple of weeks! I was also awarded a Salon Gold Medal for the best individual result in the monochrome section.
The 20 accepted images included 3 x Nature images, street, fine art nude, studio portraiture, sport and creative edits. So if anyone thinks I am 'just' a studio photographer, think again! It may be what I am best at, but I enjoy Sport, Nature and Street just as much. Also, if you are judging Distinctions Panels or International Salons, it is important to be able to demonstrate an understanding and ability in all the genres. Landscape is my 'worst' skill, but I am not slow to hit the 5 button when a deserving landscape is put in front of me. Personally, I think it is a myth, that landscape photographs do not do well in competition - in my experience it has been because they are simply not good enough.

Later in the day I learnt that I was awarded the EFIAP/Silver Distinction - the first and only NI photographer to hold that Distinction. Hopefully this time next year I will manage to achieve the Gold, at which point I will bring my FIAP Distinctions to a close - although I would continue to enter the more prestigious Salons.

Many club photographers in NIPA have little or no exposure to photography outside their own comfort zone - they should start out on the Salon trail.....hugely rewarding, and very good for improving your skills. Even if you are not successful, you get a copy of the catalogue - so you can see the standard overall, and see what you have to do to get acceptances and awards. Many Salons now have sections purely for landscape, portraiture, street, creative etc.

** East Antrim Exhibition 2016 **
13th June 2016
My fine art image entitled 'Dark Statue' was awarded a PAGB Bronze Medal by Michael O'Sullivan FRPS FIPF last week in the East Antrim Photographic Union Exhibition. This week I also received notification that it has been awarded a FIAP Gold Medal in the Inter Photo International Exhibition in Czech Republic!

I also won the Gold Medal at East Antrim for the Colour Section, with "Blue Feathers."

Dark Statue:

Blue Feathers:

** International Success **
03rd June 2016
I have been very fortunate to add more medals in the last couple of weeks - I was awarded a FIAP Gold Medal in the Great Britain Small Print Circuit for a mono print entitled "The Widow," and the following week a Silver Medal for "Elegant Beauty" in D'Almenara Salon in Spain. Another FIAP Gold Medal was awarded for "My Grandfather's Chair" in the Doube Half Salon in India!

To cap it all, I managed to get both Gold and Silver Medals in the UK National Cotswold Monochrome Print Salon with "In the Hood" and "Fredau in Natural Light" respectively. This is the 3rd time I have managed to get both Gold and Silver in National Salons - and all 3 times it has been for mono prints!

I have also been awarded a FIAP Gold Medal for 'Dark Statue' in the Inter Photo Salon in Czech Republic! My 3rd FIAP Gold Medal in as many weeks!

"In the Hood" - Gold Medal in the Cotswold Monochrome Print Salon

"Fredau in Natural Light" - Silver Medal in Cotswold Monochrome Print Salon

"My Grandfather's Chair" - FIAP Gold Medal in Double Half Salon, India

"Elegant Beauty" - Silver Medal in D'Almenara Salon, Spain

"The Widow" - FIAP Gold Medal in GB Small Print Circuit

** An Overdue Update **
18th March 2016
I have not been very proactive in posting updates on my photographic exploits this last 12 months, but am happy to report that it has been essentially 'more of the same' as far as acceptances and awards are concerned! I continue to travel all over the UK and Ireland as a guest speaker, doing Print presentations of my work. In 2016 I have already been to South Manchester Club in Didsbury, North Cheshire club in Stockport, Stirling in Scotland, and Off Shoot CC in Cabinteely, Dublin.

I was delighted to be awarded the "Blue Badge" for the best individual author in the prestigious Smethwick International in Birmingham, and I also repeated last year's performance in Southampton with another total of 5 Awards.

Recent highlights have been the performance of an all natural light image, of Fredau, taken at Bellurgan Park in Dundalk - called 'Thoughts of Leaving.' It was awarded in each of the first 4 International Exhibitions that it was entered - F2 Sociedad in Argentina; Strakonice in Czech Republic; Narava in Slovenia, and Smethwick in England. It has recently been awarded in the 5* Trofeu Torretes in Spain, and the prestigious Southampton in England, as well as a Silver Medal in the Yardley National Exhibition 2016:

"Thoughts of Leaving"

Another new image, entitled "Leap in the Dark" has also won several awards in several Salons, both Nationally and Internationally including a Medal in Bristol 2016. A monochrome studio image of the model Anna Rose, from London :

"Leap in the Dark"

"Fur Collar" scored 15/15 in Bristol and was awarded :

"Hollie" was awarded in both Smethwick and Southampton as a mono print:

Fredau won me another FIAP Gold Medal recently in the 5* Trofeu Torretes in Spain for "Hole in the Wall" - another 100% natural light, high key nude image.

"Hole in the Wall"

I hope to achieve the Fellowship of the BPE during 2016 which will bring an end to my participation in the National Exhibitions, apart from judging roles. I am also close to achieving EFIAP/Gold which is the likely end point for my participation in the Internationals, although I will continue to enter what I regard as the 5* Print Salons such as Edinburgh, Smethwick, and Southampton in the UK, Tallaght in Ireland, and of course the 5* Trierenberg Circuit in Austria.
I have recently judged the Scottish Print Championships in Stirling alongside my friends from Smethwick PS, Roger and Judith Parry, and I am also booked to Judge Southampton International 2017 and the Bristol International 2017.

At present I am awaiting results from a handful of National and International Exhibitions and I will strive to keep this blog updated.

Thank you for taking the time,

** EFIAP Bronze and ABPE Distinctions **
28th May 2015
It has often been joked that I have more letters after my name, than I have in my name! My journey up the Distinctions ladder has seen 2 new Distinctions this week - the EFIAP Bronze, and the ABPE (Associate of British Photographic Exhibitions). So thankfully it is just a change of letters, without the need to add new ones this time!

I am the first photographer from N.Ireland to achieve EFIAP/Bronze - an Award for 75 acceptances in International Exhibitions with at least 25 different images (all of which have to be completely new images since I was awarded the EFIAP last year) - and at least 3 separate images that have been awarded in different Countries. The rules going forward have changed massively if I choose to apply for EFIAP/Silver and Gold etc - I will need 700 acceptances with at least 200 different images!! And for anyone coming behind me, to apply for the EFIAP/Bronze next year will require 400 acceptances with at least 100 different images - so I suspect it will be a couple of years before we see another EFIAP/Bronze awarded in N.Ireland.

The ABPE is awarded for 400 acceptances in British National Exhibitions, and must include at least 20 awards with at least 10 different images. The ABPE has only been achieved by 27 photographers to date, and my final target is to obtain the Fellowship of the BPE - at which stage I may well start to wind down my competitive instincts! I hope to obtain the Fellowship of the BPE (FBPE) by Spring 2016.


Some of the award winning images included in my EFIAP/B and ABPE Distinctions:

** 5 Prints Awarded in Southampton International 2015 **
12th March 2015
Southampton International was one of the first International print exhibitions I entered back in 2012. I became aware of the Exhibition when I picked up a copy of its excellent Catalogue at the PAGB Print Championships at Connahs Quay, and wondered if I could ever reach the standard required to feature in such a quality Exhibition. In fact I have won awards of one kind or another in Southampton for the last 3 years, but this year was a bit special!

When I had printed and mounted my entry of 8 prints for Southampton 2015, I made my own judgement call, that the prints were of a standard that should do very well in competitive photography. (As a 'Judge,' it can be hard to assess your own work with the same level of detachment that you can assess others - but in my opinion, if you can learn to critique your own work from the same detached viewpoint, your ability to pick your own 'winners' will improve). Certainly I would have been disappointed if at least 6 of the 8 were not accepted. As it turned out, all 8 prints were accepted into Southampton 2015, and in fact no less than 5 of them received Awards!

Chainmail Profile - Southampton Medal

A Fine Pear - Commended

Play Misty for Me - Commended

Irish Harp - Commended

** 2 Images placed 'First' in a National Exhibition **
23rd February 2015
The Southport National Exhibition was the first British Photographic Exhibition I entered, back in January 2012. In the 3 years since 2012, I have managed to achieve BPE5* - 300 acceptances into BPE Exhibitions, so although I didn't realise it at the time, it was to be the start of something special for me. My results in the BPE Exhibitions have certainly played a major part in the invitations I have received to visit Camera Clubs throughout the UK and Ireland in the last couple of years. I have also thoroughly enjoyed 'spreading the word' about the BPE Exhibitions to other camera club members in Northern Ireland.

So it was a special thrill to receive the news that I have won the Southport Trophy 2015 with the PDI entitled "Holly Body Sock" and also won the Top Mono Print Award and Marshall Shield 2015 with "Chainmail Profile."

The quest now is to achieve ABPE during 2015 (400 acceptances and 20 awards since BPE5*) and thereafter the Fellowship of the BPE - by no means a formality, and something that only 18 photographers have achieved to date!

Hollie Body Sock - Top PDI and Southport Trophy 2015

Chainmail Profile- Top Mono Print and Marshall Shield 2015

"A Fine Pear" also received a Certificate in Mono Prints - its 4th award in 4 National/International Exhibitions in 2015!

* 2014 - out with a Bang! *
25th December 2014
2014 has been yet another fantastic Year on the photographic front - Winning the Will McCrum Cup for Portraiture for 2nd Year in a Row; a Fellowship from the Irish Photographic Federation (FIPF); Catchlight Camera Club wins NIPA Top Club Award; elevation onto the National UK PAGB Judges list; EFIAP Award for 250 images accepted into International Salons; Judging Edinburgh International 2014; a place on the IPF Distinctions Assessment Panel; Judging the IPF National Shield at Malahide; Catchlight becomes first NI Club to reach the Final of the UK Print Championships; Becoming the 83rd person to receive the BPE5* award for 300 acceptances into National Exhibitions; 2 visits to the UK as Guest Speaker to Smethwick PS and Wrekin Arts CC; 2 Gold Medals in Smethwick International Salon, and a full house (8/8) in the Wrekin Arts Salon, including a Medal; Getting Associate Sponsorship deal with Fotospeed.

Than to cap it all, on Christmas Eve I got the results from the Yorkshire International Salon, with 5 from 8 accepted, including a FIAP Gold Medal for "Cheeky Hanger" and a FIAP Ribbon for "Free Spirit."

2015 might be a year to sit back and take stock.....I will hopefully achieve EFIAP/Bronze in 2015, but ABPE and FBPE are my next immediate 'goals.'

Cheeky Hanger:

Free Spirit:

** 5 Awards in Smethwick International 2014 **
24th November 2014
I was guest speaker at Smethwick Photographic Society in October, and for the last couple of years I have won a couple of medals in its prestigious International Exhibition. So I was hoping to do well in the 2014 Exhibition, having been treated royally by the Club and its members during my visit - with special thanks to Roger and Judith Parry, and Tim Pile from the Smethwick Club.

This Years Smethwick International was judged at the weekend, and the results came through unbelievably quickly - arriving in my e-mail first thing this morning. I managed to get 12 out of 16 entries accepted, and won 5 Awards, including 2 Gold Medals - a very pleasing result indeed! What makes it extra special is the fact that all 5 award winning images scored the maximum 15/15 - so all 3 judges hit the '5' button for each image!

"Hollie Body Sock" was awarded a PSA Gold Medal in Mono Prints -

"Alone" was awarded a PSA Ribbon in Open Mono PDI :

"Chainmail Profile" was awarded a PSA Ribbon in Mono prints :

"Ebony and Ivory" was awarded a UPI Gold Medal in Open Colour PDI -

BPE5* Award
25th September 2014
I first started entering "BPE" Exhibitions in January 2012, and was almost certainly the first N.I Club photographer to take part. The BPE (British Photographic Exhibitions) offers patronage to approximately 18 National Exhibitions throughout the Year :

I had always had a certain amount of frustration in terms of finding an outlet for my photography - what use is it, if no-one gets to see it? The inter-club competition run by NIPA only caters for 40x30cm mounted prints, and NIPA holds a single Print Exhibition every Year. The BPE offered me an opportunity to have my work judged on a National rather than a local stage, and also gave me the chance to raise my profile within the UK amateur photography scene.
This has led to invitations to present my prints to UK camera clubs in 2014/15 - including Smethwick, Wrekin Arts and the Yorkshire Monochrome Group, as well as Clubs in the Republic of Ireland, including Dundalk, Drogheda, Malahide, Tallaght and Dublin Camera Clubs.

I was pleasantly surprised at my initial success on the National Exhibition stage, but quickly realised that it required sustained effort not only to win awards, but even to get your work accepted at all.
Such is the level of interest and competition in BPE Exhibitions, that each and every single acceptance is 'hard earned!'

The BPE Award system runs from BPE1* (25 acceptances) up to BPE5* (300 acceptances) - and I have now achieved BPE5* after almost 3 years entering the Exhibitions. I have managed a total of 87 awards which equates to an award for every 3.5 images accepted over the 3 years.
Several N.I photographer have now joined me on the National Exhibition Circuit, again, with considerable success - Bob Given, Hugh Wilkinson, Anne Given and Keith Elgin - all fellow members of Catchlight Camera Club.

My success on the National Circuit spurred me on to the International Exhibitions, run under the auspices of Federation Internationale De L'Art Photographique or 'FIAP' - and in 2015 I will become the first ever N.I club photographer to achieve EFIAP/Bronze.

I would encourage more N.I Club photographers to get involved - particularly if you believe that your work does not get featured in local competition. The NIPA inter-club competition only allows 3 advanced prints to through in each category, and in a large Club, it can be difficult to have your work selected. Much of the work that is not selected for NIPA is still quality work - and deserves an outlet on a bigger stage. If anyone from any Club wants any advice or guidance, do not hesitate to contact me.

Ross McKelvey MPAGB FIPF EFIAP and a very proud BPE5*
SRGB Print Exhibition 2014
27th August 2014
The SRGB Group in North West England organised its 2nd print Exhibition in 2014 - an exhibition purely for 50x40cm mounted Prints. It attracts a huge entry, and the acceptance rate is just 26% so in other words, 74% of the entered Prints are not accepted!
My main photographic interest lies in producing high quality Prints for Exhibitions - both Nationally and Internationally, so I was very pleased to do well in the SRGB Exhibition. I entered 16 prints and managed to get 10 accepted - giving me a personal acceptance rate of 62.5% - considerably better than the overall acceptance rate, and I also won 5 Awards.

This puts me on course to achieve the coveted BPE5* Award before the Year end, with just 22 more acceptances needed to reach that milestone.

Gold Medal for "Body Sock"

A Ribbon for "Botanic Gardens"

A Certificate for "Cheeky Hanger"

A SRGB Key Ring (Special Award) for "Snow Queen"

A Certificate for "Poppyfields Forever."