Wednesday, 30 November 2011

CPAGB


Sunset afterglow, Trebarwith Strand (25/30)

Last Sunday, I presented my portfolio of 10 photographs for the award of CPAGB – Credit of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain. The PAGB is an umbrella organisation that represents all the photographic societies around the country; it has a series of Merit awards to recognise achievement by members of photographic societies. You're put forward by your own society or club to your local county federation; county federations put you forward to the PAGB providing there is evidence of contribution to federation activities. In my case, I've submitted pictures to and have had them accepted by the KCPA Annual Exhibition over the last three years.



For the CPAGB, the pictures are judged on a scale of marks from 2 to 5. 2 indicates that it is not up to standard, 3 a near miss, 4 is a pass, 5 is well above the standard required. (Clearly, they could be rated on a scale of 0 to 3, but it's more humane to give people a couple of points for just putting them in!) Marks are awarded by each of six assessors, so each picture is rated out of a total of 30 marks, and 20 is the pass mark. Since there are 10 pictures, the overall pass mark is 200 out of a possible 300 marks. The standard for passing is meant to represent "good club photography", by which they mean that the pictures might do well if selected to go into inter-club or inter-federation competitions.



The venues for the assessments move around the country: unlike the RPS, they do not have a fixed base. Last Sunday's event was held at Llanberis in North Wales. I turned up with my pictures at 9.28 a.m. – two minutes before the deadline, so well ahead of time by my standards :-) – all duly labelled according to PAGB specification and waited until all was ready.



51 portfolios were to be marked – a total of 510 prints. That seemed like an awful lot to me, and I wasn't expecting to get out any time before dark. However, when it came to it, it didn't take the judges more than five seconds to mark each print. They gave no explanation or commentary just the mark. Each print was displayed on an easel with good illumination in front of the judges. The prints had to fit into amount no bigger than 50 cm x 40 cm (mine were printed at 33 cm on the long side): although the judges were positioned well to see them, I was sitting at the back of the room and it was quite hard to tell anything about the quality of the image. As each image was displayed, after about five seconds the judges pressed the button for a mark, and the scorer announced the total for that image. I was quite surprised at how tough the standard is. A mark of 20 – the pass mark – really does represent very good photography. Although I could not tell if there were flaws in, for example, critical sharpness from where I was sitting, quite a number of what I would consider to be good pictures were not given pass marks.



The pictures come up in an order that is effectively random. Everybody's pictures were mixed together, but remaining in the order they were numbered; so, if your first picture was the ninth to appear for judging, your next one would be the 60th (as there were 51 entrants). There was somebody immediately before me who did record photography of church interiors, so I knew to look out for mine when I saw a nave or a pulpit. I kept a note of my scores as they came up, so knew roughly how I was doing. In the end, all my pictures were given passing marks, with one exception, which was given a 19 (and, naturally, it would be a picture that I like!) In the end, I had a total score of 222, a sufficiently comfortable pass that I didn't have any panic along the way. Of course it was helpful to know that my pictures were getting reasonable scores, but, nonetheless, I found it most enjoyable to sit and look at pictures for the morning. Having been awarded the LRPS and the ARPS in the last 18 months, I must be getting used to sitting anonymously in a darkened room having my work judged (hmm ... what does that say ...?).



The judges got through the marking at such a rate that we were done for prints by 1.10 p.m. Some going! I tried to give my own marks as the pictures went through, and found that for the most part I was giving a mark within the range that the judges must have been awarding. Occasionally they gave a 12 or 14 to a picture that I thought looked okay, i.e. they must have been giving 2 or 3 when I would have given 4, so I can only assume there were faults that were not visible from where I was sitting. Occasionally as well, I would give a mental 3 when they must all have given a 4 or 5 – I think that must be a matter of taste (for which there is no accounting, especially on my part). The sustained concentration from the judges is extremely impressive – admittedly it was not my job to do the marking, so I would probably survive the experience if required, but I could not help simply zoning out from time to time.



After lunch, the names of the successful candidates were read out; mine was among them.



At that point, it was on to projected digital image portfolios. They are, of course, projected much larger than the prints so it was easier to tell what was going on. I came away with a strong impression that there was a lower pass rate for projected images than for prints. I had seen this previously with the LRPS too. Although it's quite probable that people's screens at home are not calibrated exactly the same as the projector the PAGB uses, I can't help feeling that the extra trouble it takes to go to make a print means that the photographer has to take extra care to get the image exactly right, which is why prints have a higher pass rate than projected images.



At the end of the day, all the successful candidates were called up to get a blue badge. Bit of a waste on me – I don't do badges! Maybe I'll attach it to my camera bag. A certificate ought to follow in due course.



Just a final comment on choosing the pictures. I must acknowledge advice from JohnWigmore on this. He has sat on PAGB judging panels, so knows what they’re looking for. I had gone to see him a few weeks ago, with a pile of prints. Talking to him, I got a very good feeling for what was and was not likely to work. One other comment from him was that judges can get bored when they are presented with the same subject time after time, so I decided to do half aircraft and half other stuff. I chose some pictures from my ARPS portfolio that were somewhat pictorial, some others that had been accepted in exhibitions and a couple of new ones that I liked. 

I have put the resulting portfolio on Pbase. One picture from it is at the top of this post. It shows sunset afterglow at Trebarwith Strand. I'm particularly pleased this picture did well because it was taken in Cornwall in March at the time that Wonky Horizons came into being. (Incidentally, Martin got a much better picture than this at the time – being much braver than me at making his way over extremely slippery alginated rocks, he got a much better angle. Anyhow, the judges seemed to like this one well enough.)



In all, a most worthwhile experience. I have already told Phil and Martin that they should consider putting in for the CPAGB – I'm sure they've got plenty of pictures of the requisite standard.

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