Who will judge the Judges?

July 14, 2017

WHEN seeing the responses to the monthly SABA photo competition I am reminded about the editor of a small newspaper in America when disturbed by someone in his office whilst rattling away on his old typewriter.

“Just hang on there, I am giving the president hell!” he said.

Thanks for giving me hell about the results of last month’s SABA photo competition. I think the debate is healthy and shows the level of interest in this competition. Sometimes the discussions can get a bit hectic and feelings are hurt but I think overall it is good for bonsai.

Just to recap a bit on the history of the competition. It was ended because the previous Exco thought Tobie Kleynhans was winning too often.

I decided to resurrect the competition because:

  1. You do not cancel the 100m sprint because someone wins it all the time; and

  2. You do not disqualify Usian Bolt because he is winning all the time.

I would also like to thank Tobie for the way he has handled this in such a professional way. He has done more to improve the quality of the SABA photo competition than anyone I know.

The fact that he is not a professional photographer makes this all the more meaningful. The only professional photographer I know of that enters photos for the competition is Kathy Steyn’s husband and that is because he is afraid of her… (Joke).

So that is one myth out of the way. Most entrants take photos themselves. The quality is up and down because some are taken with a mobile phone, others with a bad background, etc.

 It is the tree that is judged and not the photo. Maybe the name of the competition leads to some confusion but it shouldn’t. If there is any suggestion for a better name out there I would like to hear about it.

There are two categories, one for exotic and one for indigenous. Most of the time the entrants do not stipulate the category and the poor judges have to sit late at night with bleary eyes trying to enlarge fuzzy photographs to try and make out what the tree is.

They do that because I send them no information about the tree because I do not want to give any clue on whose tree it is or who the photographer is. If they are really confused they phone me and ask.

We tried to improve the judging last year by including more judges from regions and in the hope that some regions would step up their participation.  So now we have 7 judges. One judge from Gauteng has voted twice for one tree. Her last vote came in five days after the winners were announced. Natal has still not nominated a judge after months of begging them. Sometimes a judge cannot do the job because of being away, job pressure or whatever.

We also introduced a score card (thank Earl) for the judges to use. The problem is that not all judges want to use the score card because it really takes a lot of time. So some use the score card and others don’t. That leads to a tree winning on votes and not on score.

I think the score card will rule from now on. If a judge does not want to use the score card, he cannot judge.

Finally I would just like to remind everyone that we do not live in a perfect world - if you haven’t noticed. In a perfect world we would receive hundreds of entries from every region, with beautiful pictures and trees, on time. The judges will have lots of time, no work pressure and will agree to publishing their scores for all to see.

In the real world it is a struggle to find a judge and most refuse to have their scores published because it leads to hundreds of email and comments, etc.

So I want to thank the judges for their effort and to everyone who participate. It is a thankless job, with no pay, lots of stress, etc.

There is also a rule that there will be no correspondence on the outcome of the voting because bonsai lovers can really go on and on about the decision. I have just broken the rule and I am sorry.

Long live the photo competition, long live!







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