Entries at Kilmaurs PC were once again well up for the club Annual competition, when a total of 130 high calibre images were presented across the three categories – mono prints, colour prints and digitally projected images. The judge for the event was Colin McLatchie from Eastwood Photographic Society.
Bronze awards in the mono section went to Colin Robinson, Jim Stevenson and Bill Stitt. Martin Clark’s stunning Mig 29 image earned him a silver award, where he was joined by Jim Stevenson and Bill Terrance. Top monochrome image was Jim’s stunning “Misty Belvedere” image which netted him a well-deserved 20 points.
Jim’s ‘Chameleon Strike’ was the top digital image in a field of 61 very strong images. He also achieved a silver award in this section where he was joined by Bill Terrance, Joanna Myszkowska, Robin Patrick, Dale Powell, Stevie Rafferty and Fiona Wallace.
But the event star was Joanna Myszkowska who gained a bronze award for her colour print “Norway”. She quickly topped this when her fabulous image ‘Skagsanden’ scored the maximum 20 points and earned her both a Gold award in the colour print section and the overall Best in Show award. Joanna is a regular in the top awards in our competitions, so I thought it was time to find out more about her photography background.
Meet the Mysz-tery
Joanna started taking her first photographs aged 7. Of this time she says: “I had a small Zenit film camera but only ever used auto settings, supervised by my father. I then “helped” and learned how pictures were developed in our darkroom at home.”
She continued her childhood fascination with capturing nature and people stories for some time, before other activities intervened. Says Joanna: “I continued my childhood fascination with capturing nature and people stories for some time, then went to music school to play classic piano and guitar, which simply didn’t give me time to continue with photography. I did however miss it.*
After graduating from Medical University, Joanna revisited photography after becoming a mum. She laughs: “As all parents do, I really wanted to photograph my children, so I bought a Canon EOS 300V film camera, and continued taking pictures on auto settings for years.”
But it was after her children were bigger that Joanna started to think more about Photography. “I started using all possible settings on my camera, taking account of the light situation/type of picture etc.” This found some success but it was when somebody commented adversely on an online photo critique group that she realised it was time to move to digital as her machine-processed negatives were simply not good enough.
Joanna tells us: “I joined a website called “Our Class” where I reunited with loads of friends from the schools and Uni I went to. This portal had become an amateur photography space. I was sending my film to labs and scanning them, to upload and share my love of nature and people stories..
One day somebody asked me “Joanna, why are all your pictures so noisy? They lack contrast and are in general of poor quality?… This was about 2009, and digital cameras were out there getting better. I realized my scans from lab (machine processed ) negatives were simply not good enough..
So, despite being very reluctant to give up my beloved old EOS 300V, I bought my first digital camera – a second-hand Canon 20 D.”
About that time, one of the portal members, Miro Pajak, a Polish photographer, then invited her to a semi-professional website. Giggles Joanna, “There I met plenty of people “crazy like me”, talking only about photography, and keen to give and take constructive criticism. I also realised I knew nothing about post-processing.”
After a short sharp lesson in dealing with constructive criticism which she describes as often “painful” (“The picture of your daughter is nice Joanna, however the composition really doesn’t do her face any favours) Joanna realized quickly that if she really wanted to take good pictures, she had to listen, learn, and most importantly, keep taking pictures. She laughs: “Some say you become a bit better photographer after taking your first 5000 pictures. I translated that as to get one good picture a week, I needed to take 100 a day. Taking kids for a walk, playing in the garden, kids jumping on trampoline – everything became a photo opportunity.”
An added impetus was the “Picture Of The Week” competition established by Miro. Subjects were classics like portrait, landscape etc but with other more unusual ones thrown in. Says Joanna: “I had to learn a lot very quickly to be able to enter some decent pictures. The more unusual subjects were challenging but also great fun, and an opportunity to get creative.”
A consultant in General Medicine, Joanna came to Kilmaurs PC while she was working in Crosshouse Hospital and a colleague suggested joining a club. Since then she has become a stalwart, always showing her willingness to enter competitions, in order to receive constructive criticism, and continue her progress.
Her first encounter with Kilmaurs PC was a little less than fun. She laughs: “I entered the Kilmaurs Masonic club hoping to meet the club members, but nobody came! After spending 40 minutes in the pub waiting for the door upstairs to open, and nice photographers to invite me in, this didn’t happen… Members of the Masonic club told me that the opening meeting must have been scheduled for a later date. I was devastated… Was it a sign? Perhaps I wasn’t ready yet? I decided never to go again…but I did. The following Monday I joined the club, and expressed my willingness to enter competitions, in order to receive constructive criticism, and continue my progress.”
She further states: “Being a member of a camera club gives you the best opportunity to meet very nice, friendly people, who share your passion, and are happy to teach you or learn from you. I really enjoy our club meetings/outings, even if only for a friendly chat or a laugh. I got some great pieces of advice from other club members about printers, lenses, post-processing etc. Our club is special, very friendly people taking better and better pictures.”
Joanna now favours a Canon DSLR 5D mark III to shoot her favourite genres of portrait and landscape. Despite her many wins in club competitions and a bronze medal in the Scottish Photographic Federation’s Digital Championships, she sees herself as more of a passionate photographer than a competitive one She states: “I haven’t entered national competitions, as I do not want to become too competitive and therefore associate photography with stress. I like things the way they are.”
Continues Joanna: “Photography is my hobby, and a fantastic way of spending time off after busy week at work. It takes me to places, where I meet people, and still learn from them.”
Busy Joanna of course has other hobbies: “My other passion is cycling, which is a great way of dealing with tension after a busy day, and I cycle almost every evening. I also enjoy travelling, cooking and baking and my gran taught me some secrets of knitting and crochet so I often do one of those.“
Joanna’s advice to aspiring photographer is simple: “I would say if you really want to achieve something – you will. It all depends on how long it takes you, and how disciplined you are to learn, as at the beginning everything seems impossible to understand or even remember. Joining a club will only make it easier!”