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Jill travels on !

An evening with Jill Toman and COMMENTS ON THE MONO CHALLENGE
During the past twelve months, much travelled member, Jill Toman, has been unable to follow her passion for far away places, so her regular slot in our annual programme was without the anticipated landscapes and portraits that would have undoubtedly come of her planned trip to Oman. Nevertheless, she did manage a photographic endeavour in Italy, where suitably masked and socially distanced, she was able to work the usual magic.

Members benefitted from the fact that her planned travel was disrupted and resulted in a couple of days on her own in Pisa before travelling to meet her group in Tuscany. She explored the usual sights and sounds of this popular destination, and the Tower leaned obligingly, but she also took us down the winding back streets and along the riverside, and we enjoyed the colours and the atmosphere that she captured there.

Jill is a skilled landscape photographer, and the hills and trees of Tuscany provided her with much to capture. Her days were clearly filled from dawn to dusk, ably catching the light and the mists for which the region is so famous. Used to seeing photos of the iconic, undulating, dune -like landscapes, bathed in sunlight as we are, it was interesting to discover that, when Jill visited, the land was ploughed and furrowed ready for planting, and the inclement weather made walking in the heavy clay area extremely difficult. However, the landscapes were indeed stunning, awash with unusual leading lines. We also enjoyed and appreciated the skills needed to capture the shots of mediaeval cities atop the hills from a range of angles, and in varied light. In the absence of Oman, we were entertained for the rest of the evening by the images and anecdotes that have made made the past year a very different one for all of us.

Jill’s evening featured walks in the English countryside with friends as well as camera colleagues, and visits to family amongst the rocks and hills of Yorkshire, that as a geologist, she savours. It was a light hearted evening that brought back memories of weekly challenges that took us all out of our comfort zones; we ribbed the friends we had “lost” on the hillsides, and appreciated the times we managed to spend together with our cameras between the extremes of the two lockdowns.

Next week a new judge, John Taylor, will give us the outcomes of our recent Open Competition as we begin the accumulation of points in colour and mono for POY 2021.

Jenny Short 12.02.2021

With regard to the Mono Challenge: Apologies as I will not have time for critiquing this week as I have so much on. However.........thankfully others have stepped into the breach .......

Pamela says :
I spent 50 mins yesterday writing detailed comments, on the picture my computer crashed and I lost it all. So now only bullet points.
Graham: I love the bark photo. It's like looking down on a river flowing through menacing rocks.
Jenny: . Both table top photos are good. The writing on the egg caught my eye though and I wonder if the angle of the bottles is intentional. Levels is minimalistic and atmospheric.
Lou. I love a squirrel but I find my eye travels to the black line on the right. Rain is a good composition with the bit of stem. I would have liked the central raindrops to be sharper? On the other hand the light on the side drops is lovely.
Jane R. I really like steps, the angle you've taken it from and the leading lines make me to wonder what is at the bottom.
Jan R. Firewatching is original and I think it works well. I love the soft flames. Follow leader. Good old ducks; nice spacing, not one on top on the other.
Janice. Artificial is just that and I love the artificial centre. Cathedral is very sharp and I like seeing buildings I know well from different angles.
Jill. I love both your Levels shots but if I had to choose, I would take the more minimalistic one which captures the atmosphere so well. Not sure where number 3 is I need to pay more attention next time I'm on the 173 bus, must have missed it.
Tony. Skeletal tree is a lovely shape and the light is just right. Dark tree is also good but I prefer skeletal.
Suzanne. Good contrast texture and shadow, and I like keep out. Double meaning these days. Eve light is just lovely.

Out before another crash. Speaking to Apple tomorrow.

Suzanne’s comments on Mono:
Jane L: Pastimes -your picture of the High St, showing its cafe culture I really like because it’s vibrant with strong black and whites. Taken from a good position- with menu board leading into the picture then onto the chairs and finally those people in the distance. For me, it’s an obvious mono shot with great detail/ reflections. Fire watching – an example of various shades of b/w captured in a close crop which as an image I find soothing. Just like staring at a real fire with its curvy, smoky shapes taking your eye from the bottom to the top of your picture. Follow the Leader – has good tonal ranges on the ducks and reflections also, but for me I find the expanse of white too bright.

Jane R Downside Abbey -architecture, a good mono subject. Shape and details well captured good use of tones plus the sky has some detail. Landscape format so we can see all of the bldg is good. I photographed it myself in the summer and it’s not as easy as it seems to capture this Abbey. Well done Jane. Do you think your picture maybe improved if the foreground grass was cropped? Steps – An unusual viewpoint with a lead in staircase drawing your eye in and around this really nice image. Detail in the stone work and good use of tonal ranges. Maybe use the burn tool slightly on the lighter stones of the arch curve and above to the right of the archway. I might have cropped the top a tad -to the top of the banister- to cut off what looks like the bottom of a door which I think would make the image even stronger. Lodge A tailor made mono and well spotted.

Jenny - Eggs, Line em up and On the Levels. Love the latter, with its gentle b&w/sepia tones chosen for this calm, reflective image and for me, if you cropped half the sky I think your image would stand out even more. Line em up-I really like this too because it’s so simple, sharp and graphic. I wouldn’t alter a thing! Eggs, a tabletop which is your thing and not something I really do. It works well in mono. The entire image is sharp and has impact.

Janice - Artificial. I like your square format choice which suits the angle/diagonals of this picture. Great detail in the centre petal with its dew drops.

Jill- Somerset Levels, I love this mono, misty, watery, image enhanced by your b/w process choice. I especially like the tones receding into the distance. Somerset Levels 2- Although I like this sharp, mono image, I much prefer the atmosphere captured in your first one. Yellowstone- A nice lot of atmosphere captured in this image too. I wondered what it looks like in colour!

Pamela - Anatomy of a tree, a lovely artistic image with its interesting shapes. I see a female form gliding across the fine branches. For me it works in mono because of its strong graphic form. Outlook and Looking Ahead – I think you should print and frame the latter. A natural image, full of emotion-for both of your subjects -(works well in mono) - and I am sure the title means what it says - for the two of them. Outlook- must be used to being at the end of a lens! Lots of detail in his coat and mane. All sharp and a nice mono/crop.

Tony - Dark Tree/Skeletal Tree. When I saw the former I thought Whow! I love this strong, contrasty image with its narrow band of black foreground, its toned sky and the interesting silhouetted tree almost in the centre. A dark, grainy image which I love. Then I saw, Skeletal Tree which is a great shape with interesting light highlighting some of those twisted branches and detail in the narrow foreground leaving all that space for this old tree to dominate. Nothing not to like but ... I like Dark Tree best!

Graham – Spiders Web, Birch Bark and Snowdrop. The first, a well chosen shape, works in mono with detail in the leaf sections. The edges seem sharp/leaf stands out from the background. Perhaps remove the diagonal stem on the top left which my eye kept going back to look at. Birch Bark makes an interesting mono as does your delicate snowdrop with its background soft and out of focus. Its stalk is pin sharp and the flower, which doesn’t need colour, hangs softly.

Lou – Delicious/Rain, you have managed to capture some really sharp water droplets on this flower and those on the right side have good lighting on them. From someone who struggles with garden/woodland wildlife, I find your squirrel picture lovely and wondered if a slight crop, to eliminate the black stripe on the right, might focus my attention solely on this hungry creature. Just a thought.

From Janice Cuer Graham, interesting textures in your Bark image. Spider’s Websuits mono with good detail and patterns. My favourite is Snowdrop.
The simple composition works really well and there is good detail inthe white of the petals.

Jenny, wonderful rim lighting in Eggs. Goodshapes and composition. Line em up works well. It’s simple and very
effective. I really like your minimalistic On the levels with itslovely reflection. I wonder if cropping the sky so it makes a letterbox
would make this even stronger.

Pamela, Tree Anatomy is a clever ideawell executed which suits mono. I like the strong diagonal. There’s
an obvious emotional connection in Looking Ahead and good detail inOutlook.

Lou, the squirrel is posing nicely, good capture and nice
detail in the tail. Great use of raindrops in Rain.

Jill, very goodtonal range in both Somerset Levels images. Of the two I prefer the
minimalistic one with its misty atmosphere. I love the drama of
Yellowstone. What an incredible sky!

Jane R, good tonal range andstrong triangular shapes in Downside Abbey. Perhaps crop the
foreground grass back to the wall. I like Steps with the point of viewcleverly leading you around and through the image. Lodge suits mono and
has a full tonal range. I like the contrast between the white smoothpanels and the textured stonework.

Tony, lone bare trees are always good subjects to photograph and Dark Tree is very dramatic and
contrasty. Although I like both images, I prefer Skeletal Tree, such an excellent shape. A strong diagonal in Hazel Catkins but I wonder if this would look better in colour.

Jane L, Fire Watching works well and is nicely captured with the height of the flames creating an
interesting triangular shape. The ducks in Follow the leader have good detail in the feathers and are spaced well. For me the background is a
tad too bright. My favourite image is your contrasty Pastimes with its clever composition.

Suzanne, Evening Light is just lovely and really
suits monochrome with the full tonal range and shadows. Very strong lines in Keep Out is thought provoking and makes me wonder what is on
the other side. Textures & Shadows is exactly that and is intriguing,like a still from a film noir.

Jane Lewis says :
I have looked and re-looked at this set of pics and changed my
thoughts several times. I don’t think we explored the brief as widely
as we could have done given that black & white is only one possible
form of monochrome. A conversion of a colour shot or subject to b&w
doesn’t always work as I am learning for myself the hard way. These are
the ones that interested me most.

Jenny: The still-life arrangementsare ideal for direct monochrome shots and are creative and skilful.
Like lots. Passing thoughts: in “Eggs” I get a sense of a right to left slope in the perspective and why don’t they roll away? Should I be
seeing a bit more or less LHS border to the utensils? Why is the third bottle lip lower than the first if there is horizontal symmetry? Is the
hint of a label on the left intended? The Levels is nicely minimalist.I’d prefer less sky above relative to the treeline. Symmetry vthirds?
Jill: Dare I offer a critique?! Yellowstone and the moredetailed Levels are lovely landscapes. I’m struggling to find “but” onthe keyboard but … ah there it is … I think I would enjoy more in theirnatural colour context especially as the palette is likely to besimple. That’s very me though. Likely I’d have a different view of anA3 print in both senses of the word.
Pamela: Lovely detail and texture
in both Looking Ahead and Outlook, simple composition and both lend
themselves to mono. If you lose the LHS of the former in favour of
enhancing the “triangle” format of man and dog what happens? Could thejust-in-view horse’s background be simplified? Alternatively crop sideand lose an eye?!
Tony: Skeletal Tree demos some nice sidelight to themain subject and a slightly upward perspective. There’s extra tree andcloud detail well placed on the skyline to reflect the time of day.
Preferred this to the other one which is too much effect for me butthat’s Marmite for you.
Lou: Despite my preference for snowdrops to bein limited colour, I like Rain for its uncluttered composition, sharpraindrops and viewpoint. I wonder if some dulling of the top right
brightness would benefit it whilst retaining some context. Given it isa white flower (Leucojum?) I think it is under-exposed but has a
brooding quality so does it matter?
Janice: Artificial is really good.Can almost feel the texture. The slight out of focus leaves adds to the
strength of the flower’s depth of field, exposure and detail. The sharp
droplets add to the image. No complaints! The Cathedral punches outfrom the picture and is at a slightly more unusual angle than the many.
Jane R: I love Steps because of the spiral made by the rectanglesand great choice for monochrome. Do the top and bottom very left handcorners need to be there or would removal reduce some of the 3D effect
leading me down to bottom? Nice. Downside is dramatic, sharp andcontrasty. Good texture on roof and wall. It leaves the grass a bit
soft perhaps. I might crop the bottom and leave more image % for thebuilding. Could the sky be enhanced (if only I knew how) but I likethat the clouds frame the tower.
Suzanne: Textures & Shadows and Keep
Out are interesting to explore and meet the brief of seeing and
creating in mono from the start. If the dark left of Textures wascropped and the top space reduced in KO would they be more impactful?Evening Light has atmosphere and the tree shadows invite the viewer
into the picture. I am wondering if the sky is too light (cf my ducks!)or too much as I find my eye drawn upwards very quickly. The lowest
“dark” cloud (mid-rightish) is an interesting juxtaposition of the treeoutlines below so would cropping the top make that part stronger? You
can say I am missing the intended drama of the cloudscape and you could be right!