However, the more you sit and listen to the comments being made about other panels, the more neurotic about your own forthcoming panel you become! I arrived at the NEC uncertain about one of my images. By the time my panel was put up for assessment, I was worrying about three!
As at the advisory day I attended in January, there was a vast range of subject matter across the various submitted panels, and some of them really had the 'WOW' factor for me, while others were interesting but didn't necessarily appeal to my own taste. At least one other person who'd been at the same advisory day as me submitted a panel for assessment, and I was really pleased to see it pass. It struck me that it must be interesting for distinctions panelists who advise on the advisory days to see re-worked panels subsequently submitted for assessment. I know that my final panel looked much better than the one I took to the advisory day, even though there were actually only a few changes made between one and the other.
As each panel was put up, the 'judges' viewed the panel as a whole, from a distance. Then they considered each picture from close to - sometimes lifting an image down so as to see it more clearly. After each panel had been assessed, a comment or two was made about it to the audience by one of the panelists. In the case of failed panels these comments included reasons as to why the panel hadn't been recommended for the 'L'. Reasons for failure included colour casts, lack of sharpness (although over-sharpening was also warned against), and issues with tonal range. By far the most regularly occurring issue was that of 'blown highlights', resulting in loss of detail in the images.
When one beautiful panel failed on blown highlights in an image of a horse's head my 'worry level' went up another notch. I really felt for the person who'd submitted that particular panel, as in every other way their pictures were fantastic, and I felt quite gutted on his (or her) behalf. But it did confirm what I'd been warned of - that wow factor alone is not enough and you only need one problem in one picture to end up with a 'fail', even if all your other images are spot on.
One thing I found encouraging was that positive comments were made about each failed panel. There was no 'tearing down' of any candidate's work, but helpful criticism and comment. Therefore I hope that although disappointed, no-one failing to achieve their goal on this day would go away feeling ridiculed or made small.
When my own panel was put up, I couldn't watch but found myself scrutinising the carpet. I was amazed by how nervous I was - I could feel my heart pounding and realised I was holding my breath. When my name was announced with 'congratulations' I couldn't contain a huge smile! Well, it was a lot of work and effort, so why not show that I was pleased! Some nice comments were made about my panel, which I noted down as I knew I'd forget them in the euphoria of the moment otherwise.
To see the panel I submitted, follow this link: http://www.annerogersphotography.co.uk/section382203.html
So what next? Well there's the 'A', of course, and I'd quite like to submit a few competition entries this year. So watch this space...