The #ShareMondays2018 Weekly Twitter Competition

On Monday, photographers can enter a weekly Twitter competition called Share Mondays. Using the hashtag #ShareMondays2018 (and previous to 2018 just #ShareMondays), photographers submit an image that was taken during the previous week. Once all submissions are in, the winner of the competition from the previous week then choose their favourites usually in the form of a long list, then a short list, before announcing their #ShareMondays2018 winner. The winner then has the honour of judging the entries the following week. 

The idea for it came from photographer Dylan Nardini (@shutrrelease on Twitter, his website with rules here) and it's really caught on in the community.

Dylan collected the images from the winners in 2017 into a book which was available for purchase. It has some fantastic images in it and I've shared a couple of them below along with links at the end of this post to the photographers mentioned and their Twitter pages too.

There are a couple of other weekly photography competitions also held on a Monday run by Fotospeed (using the hashtag #fsprintmonday) and Wex Photo and Video (using the hashtag #wexmondays). Often photographers will enter all three with the same image or different images. The two other competitions offer weekly and annual prizes and have their own set of rules which you can read about here for Fotospeed's and here for Wex's.

There are a few things I really like about the #ShareMondays2018 competition.

The community

Entries come from far and wide, the UK and overseas and from professional and non-professional photographers. There are no barriers to entry, no restrictions to what photographic genre is allowed and the winners include photographers who have won some of the big competitions as well as those who just do photography in their spare time. It encourages photographers to interact and look at each other's work and I know there are plenty of people who don't enter and just enjoy looking through the entries each week. Through my interest in the competition I have come to know a few photographers and be a part of a friendly and exclusive online community. 

The judging

Having a new set of eyes judging entries each week, in my opinion, makes this the best among the weeklies (as they're called). There are no preconceived notions of what will or won't win, it purely comes down to what the judge for that week likes. This can result in a real variety of images being shortlisted and winning and I think that keeps this fresh and interesting.

The quality

I have only been aware of the competition since later in 2017 but even in that short time I have been amazed at the quality of the images that are submitted each week. It's sometimes like having a new issue of Landscape or Outdoor Photographer of the Year every week! Considering that it is a weekly competition and maintaining standards week in, week out can be difficult, I'm always impressed by what is being entered and what images have been captured during the week. 

No pressure

You can pick and choose when you want to enter. Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and see what everyone else has been capturing in that week. If you don't enter, there is always the next week. The community nature of the competition means that you are not expected to enter and you can interact with those that do with your thoughts and comments. Sit it out for a week or two, enter if you want, it's a relaxed competition!

Inspiration

I think the competition encourages people to go out each week and photograph. I know I have been encouraged to do so to try and get something that may be worth entering. Even if I haven't captured anything worthy, it's still helped me to get out there and shoot some photography. I think it also encourages people to experiment and submit things they wouldn't under more rigid competition guidelines. I've submitted things I've been experimenting with and enjoyed the feedback I've received.


As I've mentioned previously I only came across the competition late last year and managed to pluck up the courage to drop in an entry or two, which people were kind enough to provide encouragement and feedback on. Since then I have submitted quite a few times, making a few long lists and shortlists and I'm delighted to say winning it twice so far this year!

My #ShareMondays2018 winning entry from January this year

My #ShareMondays2018 winning entry from July this year

Winning has really helped with my confidence as a photographer and I can safely say it's been one of the most rewarding photographic experiences I have had.

Of course winning means judging the next week and I am not ashamed to admit that I was really nervous about it in January. However, it was another fantastic learning experience and I would say another reason why I think every photographer should give the competition a go. Being the judge of a competition has given me a very different perspective on photography and how to consider images. Should I look at technical mastery? Should I pixel peep? Should I go with my gut? In the end, I went for the image that caught my eye and spoke to me the most. As a result I actually find myself not pixel peeping or being too technical about my own photography, instead trying to produce images that speak to me. I definitely think it has changed my photography for the better.

I had the pleasure to judge the competition again last week and this time I felt a bit more relaxed about it. You can see my long list selection below:

#ShareMondays2018 Longlist Monday 16th July 2018

Some incredible images in there and narrowing it down to a top four and a winner was not easy but in the end I went for an image with incredible energy from Tammy Marlar.

Tammy's winning #ShareMondays2018 image from July 16th 2018

Good luck judging next week Tammy!

I'd highly recommend photographers to enter #ShareMondays2018 with their images. It has had so many positive effects on my own photography as well as giving me the chance to get to know other photographers and discover work I'd likely not see otherwise. 

 

Links to the photographers mentioned in this post:

App Review: ViewFinder Preview on iOS

In my review of the Fuji GW690iii camera here I mention that I have had issues framing accurately with it on some occasions due to the lens blocking out the lower portion of the viewfinder. 

So when I heard about a new app on iOS called ViewFinder Preview ($1.99 USD on the App store) which is designed to help photographers frame their images, I was keen to try it out.

I was invited to take part in the beta program for this app and was able to see how developer Adam Fowler took on board feedback, adding features and tweaking the interface for usability. Mind you, I was already impressed with the design and simplicity of the app when I first opened the beta version.

When you open the App for the first time you are greeted with the main interface or "Viewfinder". In image 1 below you can see this is currently set up for my Fuji 6x9 camera and its 90mm fixed focal length lens. On the screen you see a box which is the frame for my camera and my focal length. You can choose in the settings whether to have this box as I have it (Rangefinder on) or whether to use the entire phone screen as the frame. I prefer the Rangefinder on so that I can see just around the edges of the frame and tweak a composition to remove/include things I don't want. This was one of the suggestions I put forward to Adam during the beta process and I'm pleased that he included it in his next update.

Clicking on the bottom left icon lets you choose from the camera system you want to preview in the app (Image 2 above). You can customise this completely in the settings menu and Adam has added many of the most common camera types in here, including digital cameras - this app isn't just for film photographers.

Clicking on the bottom right icon lets you choose the focal length of the lens you are using (Image 3 above). Again you can have a variety of lenses here to choose from with plenty of defaults included. If yours isn't in there, no problem, just add it in the settings menu. I should note that there is a limitation for some focal length and film combinations brought about by the limitations of the iPhone camera itself and what it is able to display. For example, users of the Fuji GW690iii with the fixed 65mm lens will notice a red box (Image below) denoting the frame edges which are outside the range of what the iPhone camera can display. This is not a limitation of the app itself I should point out and framing is still possible.

 Image 4 - the red box shows the limitations of the iPhone camera at certain focal lengths although you can see that framing is still possible

Image 4 - the red box shows the limitations of the iPhone camera at certain focal lengths although you can see that framing is still possible

The menu system (Image 5 below) is where you can change options including having the Rangefinder box on, changing the histogram and pretty much any information you want the app to display. It's customisable completely to how you want to use it.

Going into the Film Format menu (Image 6) you will see the presets that come with the app. If yours isn't there you can click the "+" button and add it in. Included in here are most of the film formats available along with the digital systems out there.

Heading into the Focal Length menu (Image 7) gives you the lens choices. There are some presets or you can again add your own with the "+" icon on the bottom. I think this makes it an incredibly powerful app allowing for almost any combination of camera system and focal length to be set up by the user. The only limitation being what the iPhone camera is able to show. That said, for all my needs, I'm covered fine.

Once you have found a composition, you can use the app to take an image recording the main information for the exposure in the gallery. You can see this in Image 8 where the format and focal length are recorded along with the shutter speed, aperture and ISO - these are all things you can set on the main ViewFinder screen depending on how you want to create your image. In fact, ViewFinder itself has a built in light meter. For the example in Image 8 below, I set the aperture to F/8 and ISO for the film at 400 and the app gives me a shutter speed of 1/10s. I have found this to be accurate enough in a pinch, as with all iPhone light meter apps, but still use my main light meter. The date and time of the exposure is also recorded. This gives you, in effect, a film note taking app alongside the main viewfinder part. There is also a place where you can add your notes on the scene and any special considerations you had to take e.g. exposure compensation, filters used, reciprocity notes.  (Image 9)

As you can see, there are a lot of extra features available making this more than just a preview app. As a preview app though it excels. I have found the preview to be extremely accurate in showing what I'll be getting in the viewfinder of my cameras. I have tested this with my Fuji and also my DSLR. I can imagine it would also be great for larger format cameras like the 4x5's and 8x10's too where getting a composition can take a long time to set up correctly.

The interface is easy to use and I love the Rangefinder box for showing what's just outside the frame. In terms of using this app I have found there to have been plenty of occasions where I haven't wanted to unpack my bag, get my film camera out and lug it about trying to find a composition whilst looking through the little viewfinder. This is especially true in bad weather where the app allows you instead to move about and try out different compositions without the need to be fiddling around with a camera or tripod set up initially.

I haven't really used it as a note taking app. I have already provided suggestions to Adam for making this a bigger feature but I appreciate that it isn't the primary function of the app, just more of an added bonus at this stage. He said it is something he may look at for a later version. I know that for me, this would make the app perfect. In particular, if I was able to record images into specific rolls indicating their film types, I would find that very useful. Especially so if I could add other custom data or calculate things such as reciprocity in the same app. However, these are all features for later or even another app. What is great is that Adam is open to suggestions and has been quick to add things during the beta. I'm confident that this is an app he will keep up to date.

I highly recommend ViewFinder Preview. This is not just for film camera users, although this is where I have found it to be most useful. 

I'm not affiliated with the ViewFinder app or Adam nor did I receive payment for this review. I did receive a complimentary copy of the app as a thank you for my participation in the beta process but I wouldn't have hesitated to buy the app myself if that hadn't been offered. 

 

Update 14/04/2018

As I mention in my review, Adam is very good at updating the app and since publishing my review has tweaked the UI slightly and added a few things too.

In the settings menu the Photo Gallery is now top of the page, as this is the part of this section most people are using. Adam has also added some presets for film makers and organised the presets much too much more easily find the one you need.

There's also a huge 1500mm focal length increase in response to a request on a photography forum! I'll update the review as Adam updates the app. 

Film Camera Review: Fuji GW690iii

Last year I decided to try my hand at Medium Format film photography. After doing some research I went for the Fuji GW690iii and ordered a "Near Mint" condition version from a Japanese seller on eBay. After a couple of weeks it arrived.

This is just a review having had my initial rolls of film returned and focuses more on using the camera rather than anything else.

The first thing I noticed about this camera is that it is big! It's like an enlarged version of a normal size camera which is why I imagine the nickname for it is the Texas Leica. It's also pretty heavy - about the same as my DSLR with a normal lens attached. The build quality feels solid and being a purely mechanical camera (i.e. it doesn't need batteries) means that it has a simplicity that is pretty refreshing when compared to the latest digital cameras.

 

The camera takes 120 or 220 film and produces negatives which are 6x9 format. This means you get 8 images on a 120 roll. Not very many, that's for sure! Inserting the film is relatively straightforward - you press two little red buttons to release the spools and place the film in, feeding the film over to the empty spool on the right. One thing to make sure of is that the film is fed parallel and straight to the metal guide rails. I have been told that if you don't, the roll of film can end up wrapping around the spool end cap and cause light leaks or worse, ruin the whole roll. After rolling the film to the arrow mark you shut the back (with a big thunk) and wind the film to the starting position. It sounds a little like trying to crank a motor on a lawnmower. This is not a quiet camera!

At this point, I always check that the shutter lock on the front shutter button is in the "L" or locked position to avoid the chances of any accidental in camera bag images. So far so good...

The viewfinder offers a range finder focusing system which in my experience has been very accurate. It really does help to have straight lines in your composition to focus on otherwise it can be tricky, especially as the focusing circle is absolutely tiny! And it's dim too - not terrible but in certain conditions it has been tricky to get focus spot on, particularly on closer objects. There is another issue I have found which is that the lens takes up a good portion of the lower right hand corner of the viewfinder frame, blocking out whatever will be in shot there (in landscape orientation). This has been genuinely troublesome on some occasions when working with things like leading lines. Thankfully there are excellent apps on the iPhone which can help with framing - I highly recommend one called "ViewFinder Preview" for iOS which you can download from here.

 This is the viewfinder of the Fuji GW690iii. You can see the small size of the range finder focusing circle as well as the lens blocking the bottom right corner of the frame. This can make life tricky if you want any leading lines going in or out of that corner!

This is the viewfinder of the Fuji GW690iii. You can see the small size of the range finder focusing circle as well as the lens blocking the bottom right corner of the frame. This can make life tricky if you want any leading lines going in or out of that corner!

The lens itself, on my version, is a fixed focal length of 90mm which is about 40mm in full frame/35mm terms. The 6x9 ratio is also the same as most DSLR's. The settings for aperture and shutter are on the lens itself as is the rubber focusing dial. The GW690iii has a retractable lens hood which slides back and forth on the lens. This has been a slight bug bear of mine because it turns out that this is very loose, apparently by design. This means that it sometimes doesn't stay retracted/extended as required. This can be a problem, particularly when you consider the aperture and shutter dials are covered when the lens hood retracts. You cannot remove the cover at all. It also caused me an issue when using filters. It takes 67mm filters and I found that it was VERY easy for the filter to get stuck on the lens ring as it tightens up very easily. Oh yeah, and with a filter attached the hood is retracted so you cannot change the aperture or shutter settings. In essence you better hope that you have the settings dialed in correctly when you put the filter on, and nothing changes (e.g. light conditions) , otherwise you have to start again. I ended up holding a filter by hand which causes it's own issues with stability and getting your hand in shot (yes that happened in image 4 below). 

 

There is a top shutter and a front shutter. I have tended to use a shutter release cable personally. Once the composition is framed I take my light reader readings, dial in the appropriate aperture and shutter settings and check the focus. I then repeat this and only then press the shutter. It goes off with a bang which I really like! You then crank the film on to the next position which takes about 1.5 cranks. Probably because the negative size is so large. 

There is one other thing which I am going to need to adapt to and that is using the "T" shutter setting which is equivalent to bulb mode on DSLRs. For any exposure that is 1 second or longer you need to use this setting. For some reason, probably only known to Fuji, pressing the shutter only opens the shutter. They decided that you either need to start the film winding action to close the shutter or turn the shutter dial on the lens to close it. Either of these things is incredibly fiddly to do without knocking the camera. Especially with long exposures where you may be holding up a filter at the same time. I have read that at the end of an exposure people will throw a hat over the lens, or something similar, and then take the necessary action but when I tried this I ended up with less than ideal results. See image 4 below. 

With all that said, I really do like this camera. Its simplicity means you are going right back to basics with image taking. You have to be extra careful with your framing and composition and I really spend a good amount of time checking the light conditions and corresponding camera settings before making an exposure. With only 8 images per roll you are also forced to be more deliberate with your image making decisions, way more so even than with a 35mm camera and 36 exposures roll of film. 

I have included some of the images I have taken with the camera. These have very much been test shots as I get to grips with how the camera and film performs in different situations. I love the detail it can capture and its relative ease of use. I will share more images from this camera in the future on my site.