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Twelve months of Award Winning Images By Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos

Introduction

Here's my blog about the last twelve months and how I have achieved success with my photography. My name is Karen and I love photography, I shoot with both digital and film analogue cameras and enjoy the craft and skill of shooting as much as I love creating images. I have really pushed my photography in the past few months, learning lots of new skills and techniques as well as improving on some I already had. I am a member of The Guild of Photographers and have been lucky enough to join a fantastic organisation, with both the members and people that run The Guild, being extremely supportive and knowledgable. I have learnt so much as a result of being part of this. I joined originally about 3 years ago and initially didn't get too involved. Truth be known I was intimidated by the extraordinary images that fellow members were creating and lacking a little confidence, didn't feel that I was on a par with their high standards.

Image of the Month Competition

Every month, The Guild of Photographers hold a competition called Image of the Month, or IOM as it's known. This is a competition that really tests your skills, techniques, composition and standards are really high. Competitors are judged by a panel and can be awarded the following achievements , Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze Bars, or Classified images. No one to date has achieved a Platinum Bar.

I have undertaken training days and events with the Guild and undertaken some courses learning how to use flash guns, Photoshop and other software. I have acquired a lot of new skills and also have now started to create digital artwork using my photos.

In the past twelve months I have regularly entered IOM, my first attempt being in July 2016, which saw me achieve not one but two Bronze awards. I was elated to get this result and that proved a catalyst to me then entering and striving to achieve better images. I felt invigorated with my photography. I looked for every opportunity thereafter for images deemed suitable to enter IOM. IOM runs from January to October every year so starting near the end of the 2016 season wasn't ideal, but for me it was ultimately inspiring.

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos 2016. Boris Bikes photo taken near UCLH. Kiosk cafe photo taken at Kings Cross Station. IOM Results July 2016.

IOM July 2016 Results:

My first two Bronze bar awards were for some street photography I had done in London on route to my regular visits to the National Neurological Hospital and UCLH Hospital. The photo of the Boris bikes (Top photo above) was taken on the back street near to UCLH hospital. I saw the bikes perfectly lined up and what for me made the shot was the London Bus coming into view just at the right time. I was struggling to use the camera that day as it was not only very cold but due to my neurological problems the dexterity in my hands was poor and even holding the camera was difficult, let alone shooting with it. This award meant more not only because it was one of the first Bronze awards but the sheer fact that it had been a difficult shot to get because of the problems with my hands. Post production of this photo was limited with just a desaturation of the colour image and retaining just the red elements so that the colour of the bus, bikes and underground sign stood out. Camera used Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a 16-35mm lens.

The photo of the Kiosk cafe was taken at Kings Cross Station in London. I generally use the train to travel into London and this was an early morning with unusually very few people about. I really like this image in black and white and feel it gives a timeless element to it. It also has a degree of symmetry that I also like. For this shot I used a 15mm f2.8 Fish eye lens on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III Body.

IOM August 2016 Results:

Encouraged by my success with two Bronze bars I entered IOM again. I had gone to a Steam Engine rally local to me and managed to get this shot.

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer 2016. Taken at Stotfold Steam Fair, Stotfold, Bedfordshire. IOM Results August 2016.

I managed another Bronze Bar award for this and was over the moon. I did very little to this shot post production as the setting, the engines, and old caravan were all in perfect position to make the composition and there was this lovely dancing smoke from a variety of different engines which just added to the atmosphere. I desaturated the shot, warmed the tones and gently added some slight red tones back into the image. This was taken using a Canon EOS 7D with a 16-35mm lens.

IOM September 2016 Results:

September 2016 I only achieved classified. Even though this is still a great standard, after winning the Bronzes I have to admit it felt a little as though I had failed and I was quite despondent. I had also developed Sepsis during this time and had been really ill, a factor in hindsight that affected both my composition and judgment about the images to submit. So despite that fact I had a life threatening illness, I was actually quite hard on myself.

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer 2016. Images taken at London Kings Cross Station. IOM Results September 2016.

The two images above are September's 2016 results and were classified. These were taken outside Kings Cross during yet another trip to the hospital. I liked the intensity of the conversations and the body language in both these images.

IOM October 2016 Results:

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos. Left hand image, Happisburgh Lighthouse, Norfolk. Middle image, Mountain Biker at Mountain Mayhem, Gatcombe Park, Gloucestershire. Right hand image, Fair Ride at Shefford Charter Fayre, Shefford, Bedfordshire. IOM Results October 2016.

These three images were also Classified and were results received in October 2016. The Lighthouse was taken at sunset using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a 16-35mm lens on a tripod. The middle image was taken at a 24 hour Mountain Bike Race at Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera with a 70-200mm lens and the 3rd image was taken from my bedroom window whilst I was recovering from Sepsis. I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a 16-35mm lens with an ND filter attached on bulb setting to get this image. It was of a ride that was set up in the High Street in Shefford, you can see the silhouettes of some of the buildings and chimneys. On hindsight now looking with a more critical eye, none of these images were very strong compared to some of my previous entries.

Photo Hubs with the Guild of Photographers November 2016

In November 2016, I attended a Photo Hubs event with the Guild at Hemel Hempstead. It was a great event and not only did I learn a lot I made a lot of new friends also. During the training event there was a session about IOM and what the judges were looking for, this for me proved to be a revelation and had a positive impact on my approach towards IOM. I had one last attempt for entering IOM in 2016 and redeeming myself and trying to get above a Classified as that was all I had achieved in the past two attempts.

IOM November 2016 Results:

I bit the bullet and went for it. I scrutinised my entries and used my notes that I had taken at the Photo Hubs event to help me with my choice of images. Finally success, for November 2016 result, I was back in the game and got another Bronze, what a lift that was!

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos 2016. IOM Results November 2016.

The image on the left won a Bronze Bar. This impromptu portrait was taken of a guy called Billy, he is quite a character and lives in Shefford in Bedfordshire. I chose this portrait of him as I think he has such an interesting face and his features were really drawn out well. I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a 15mm Fisheye lens to get this shot. Shooting from the seating position in my wheelchair which gives a low angle really added to the composition of this image and I was really happy with this.

The other 2 images are top right, Normanton Church, Rutland. It was a really bitterly cold day which doesn't really show in the image, I shot this using a Canon EOS 7D with a 16-35mm lens, with an ND filter on bulb setting to get the slow shutter speed/long exposure. The image in the bottom right, was taken at Oughton Head in Hertfordshire and is of a sluice gate. I managed to get down into the river to take this shot again using the Canon EOS 7D with 16-35mm lens and an ND filter on bulb setting to get the slow shutter speed/long exposure. I liked the composition and natural light and to be honest was disappointed to only get a classified result for this shot.

IOM takes a break for November and December and began again in January with results coming out in February. I felt excited going into this new year, 2017 and determined to improve on my previous entries. I didn't have to wait long.

IOM January 2017 Results:

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos 2017. IOM Results January 2017.

My January results were a Classified and 2 Bronze Bars, I was thrilled. The first image was taken at a 24 hour Mountain Bike event and I really liked the quirky composition of this portrait shot, alas I achieved just a Classified for this. The next image received a Bronze bar and was of a Man who had invented a trike bike, he was a great character and had a lovely detailed, interesting face, when I asked if I could take his photo, he was thrilled, this is the middle photo of these three. The final photo above is of a dear friend Matt, and he rides for my cycling team and is a very good friend, I was so pleased to get a Bronze bar for his portrait shot and dedicated it to him. Both photos were taken using a Canon EOS 7D with a 16-35mm lens and a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a 70-200mm lens respectively.

IOM February 2017 Results:

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos 2017. IOM Results February 2017.

February proved to be an amazing month. I attended the Photography Show at the NEC in Birmingham. It was a big day for me as it was the first time since being in a wheelchair that I had travelled by myself on the train. I was lucky to have been met at the NEC in Birmingham on the platform by my good friend and fellow Guilder, Stephen Radley. We had a great day at the show, lots of interesting stands, met some great new people and caught up with some friends. It was IOM result day so at 1pm we assembled around the Guild stand to see if we could get our results. I nearly fell out of my wheelchair, four Bronze Bars, my best and unexpected result to date. I had entered for the very first time some digital artwork I had created in Photoshop using my own photos and also my own brushes, textures, and actions. These were my very first early tentative steps creating digital artwork using Photoshop so that made it even more special.

My digital artwork are known as "Sportraits". I wanted to create a great action shot that was really different to a lot of sports and especially cycling photos out there. I wanted a whole new style that grabbed people's attention. Initially it took me about three days to create a Sportrait but as I had more and more commissions come in, I was able to reduce that time down to hours. Well it worked as not only did I get 3 Bronze Bars, the top image was just one mark off getting a Silver Bar as the bottom of the bike tyre was missing.

I also received a Bronze Bar for my photo of a Steam Traction Engine that I had taken during a road run local to me in Bedfordshire. I really like this image in particular because it has a Jack Russell terrier in it, I have three of them.

The importance of feedback:

I received invaluable direct feedback about my images and it was a brilliant insight into how the images are judged, what makes the grade and what doesn't. I was so pleased to have got four Bronze Bars, I felt so inspired and motivated to keep achieving and keep building up my ever growing wider skill set.

IOM March 2017 Results:

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos 2017. IOM Results March 2017.

This month, I entered more cycling shots as I do a lot of sports photography, I entered some of my Sportaits which were taken at a recent Hill Climb race in Hampshire. I received three Bronze Bars for my digital artwork and these images were selling like hot cakes to customers.

I also submitted a photo of a Mountain Biker travelling at excess speed and caught the panning action really well. Panning when objects are just moving in horizontal direction but due to the terrain there is also some vertical movement isn't ideal but having spent two days at it I finally perfected it. Another Bronze bar bringing my tally for that month to four I was on a roll, couldn't quite believe another four Bronze bars in a month.

IOM April 2017 Results:

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos 2017. IOM Results April 2017.

Following on from my successful two months I again entered IOM. This time I decided to enter some of my Landscape shots taken in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. The image to the top left was taken just before sunset and a gorgeous colour was cast over the mountainside by the rapidly changing evening night. I stitched together two images for a panoramic photo, I received a Classified for this image. The image in the top right is of Sugar Loaf Mountain which tops the Black Mountain Range in Monmouthshire. It had been a miserable wet day and I had gone to explore the area and had gone a bit off track and was driving along this very narrow, single track road when I came around a tight corner and this was the sight in front of me. I was fortunate enough that there was a gateway where I could pull over. I again stitched together two photos to form a panoramic image, I again got a Classified for this image. I then was exploring the area near Talybont on Usk and came across this splendid waterfall cascading over the red stone rock found in that area. It took a lot of effort to not only get into the right position but to access the area altogether with my very limited mobility. I managed to fall into the river at one point and with great skill managed to save the camera and other equipment from following me in there. I got a Bronze for this and was delighted as it is one of my favourite images taken from my time in the Brecon Beacons.

IOM May 2017 Results:

I didn't enter IOM this month. It felt odd as result day approached not to have that heady feeling of anticipation.

IOM June 2017 Results:

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos 2017. IOM Results June 2017

For this month I really wanted to try something very different. I had the opportunity to capture some water sports, wake boarding to be exact. I spent a bit of time to begin with chatting to the wake boarders and then watching where and how they performed their tricks. They performed in a purpose built lake and I spent a bit of time in different positions around the lake trying to get the best vantage point. I found that the best place was a bridge on the bend which proved to be the best place as this is where the most powerful and dynamic tricks took place. Please click on the images to see them in full view. Both the top and bottom left hand side image obtained Bronze bars and the bottom right got a Classified. Not only was I pleased with the results, the clients were too.

I had bought myself a new lens, the 70-200mm f2.8 Mark II, an upgrade from my 70-200mm f 4.0, this coupled with my Canon 5D Mark III proved to be a great combination. I was impressed by how much quicker the lens reacted and well worth the upgrade.

IOM July 2017 Results:

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos 2017. IOM July 2017 Results

This month I got a Bronze and two classified. the top image got the Bronze and was taken whilst camping in a place called Wordwell in Suffolk, this was a very early morning sunrise with an inverted fog, I loved the silhouettes that were created by the backlight of the sunrise. it was a stunning location and one I will to again.

The two football Sportraits were taken during a Charity football match where a group of Celebrities took on a local football team, I received Classified for both of these. I have to say I was disappointed about this.

I had reached a point now with IOM where I felt I had plateaued and couldn't break the Bronze bar barrier. As much as getting a Bronze was a fantastic achievement I now really wanted to get a Silver.

IOM August 2017 Results:

(C) All rights reserved Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos 2017. IOM August 2017 Results.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you do get what you wish for, I finally got my Silver!!! Overjoyed, elated, blown away, emotional, and thrilled. Words couldn't describe how I felt. The sense of achievement was immense, so many times I had looked at Silver and Gold winning images and wishing I could get that standard and here I was with one of my very own images achieving just that. Even better it was a cycling one a passion as equally shared as a my photography. The image on the top left achieved the Silver and the bottom left achieved a Bronze. My spider macro catching a wasp got a Classified. I finally got there in a short amount of time from Classified, to twenty Bronze awards to now my first Silver.

What I have achieved:

It has been a relatively short journey with some high and some lows at times but the one thing I have never done is give up. I have got advice and guidance, sought training to improve my skill set, put into practice what I have learnt and above all else have never given up or thrown the towel in. I believe that you never stop learning. I also think what has helped me is the diverse styles I have achieved success in crossing many different genres. I feel immensely proud at what I have achieved over the past twelve months and despite some set backs health wise this hasn't stopped me achieving but it has added to the challenge at times.

My next goal from here is to increase my number of Silvers, gain my Qualification status with the Guild and most of all keep learning and enjoying the skill and art of photography.

Many thanks for reading my blog and thank you to those of you along the way that have supported and encouraged me. Best wishes, Karen.

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Karen Brammer
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(C) All images are the protected by copyright and remain the intellectual property of Karen Brammer of Daisy Dog Photos 2017

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