Jilly and Jeremy Ball from Hurst Green Gardening Club contacted the Surrey Horticultural Federation to talk about the subject of online horticultural shows. Here’s their message….
Most horticultural societies have had to cancel their shows, but there is little information available as to anything that we can do to keep members engaged.
We have also been working to increase the interest and the number of entries in our shows, against a downward trend across the country. It is our feeling that shows are important and we need to do as much as possible to keep them alive. While we have been successful in regenerating our “live” shows, we were aware that a year without shows would cause a loss in interest and momentum – it is very difficult to get them back once they start to fade, and we know of a number of clubs that have cancelled shows permanently, which seems a shame. We therefore decided to try holding an online show, and virtually had to make it up for ourselves, owing to the lack of information that is out there. While the RHS has suggested online shows, they have little practical advice on how to do so, or what the end result might look like.
Our online Summer Show has now completed and has been published to the web, and we thought that it might be of interest to you and other members. We do not presume to suggest that this is a model of how to do it, but we thought there might be some interest in what is possible, and whether other groups might like to try something similar to keep their clubs active. The overwhelming reaction we have had is that members have enjoyed having something to do, and that a show is indeed possible, even in a different form. Given that many members are elderly and currently locked in alone, we have found that they are pleased to have some activity to keep them occupied.
For the show photographs, Jeremy simply resized everything we had so that the largest photo dimension (depending on portrait or landscape) was 1280 pixels (I started at 1024 but 1280 gave a better result and is a bit more standard). Most photos submitted were of much higher resolution than this, but some were lower and I left these as they were (typically 640 highest dimension either 640×480 or 480×640, and which is a multiple of the 1280). In future, we would ask for photographs of a higher resolution.
Our advantage was using Blogger (blogspot.com) as you simply upload the photos and create the entries using their own editor, and if they have all been sized the same (which does take a lot of time), the platform deals with it for you relatively silently. It is really designed for this type of post from the outset. Also, if you click on a photo to enlarge it, it is their platform which handles the resize and presents all the photos in that post for you. We used one post per class. More importantly, Blogger (and I’m not associated with it in any way) allows you to draft all the posts without publishing, so you can add entries to classes over a period as and when, and then publish them in the order you want at the end, all together. I think that if you use your own website editor, it can get rather complicated as they are designed for much more general use and layout! Incidentally, in order to resize them I used the native paint application in windows, which has a resize option, but using a copy of the original picture as a security measure.
As a matter of policy (and to make it easy (!)) we did not do editing or cropping – pictures were supplied exactly as they were sent. In the interests of full disclosure, I do have a Ph.D. in computer graphics and animation, but I don’t think that was necessary to the result!!
To judge, we loaded them onto an Ipad (any tablet would work). The judge could scroll through them full size and could zoom in and out as required easily using their fingers – we found that a 1280 maximum dimension gave a pretty good idea of the exhibit. I think that an ipad was more friendly than a screen, and to be fair the judge can only do the best they can and it is all a bit subjective on photos anyway – it probably wouldn’t be ok for a national show, but a local one is a different proposition. I actually used an app called Albums (rather than the inbuilt one) which allows a folder for each class, and you can load each class easily one at a time. This could also be done with the full size originals if you really need to zoom into detail. We also gave the judge a cream tea while she did it – she said it was a unique afternoon of judging!
We will not bore you with the details, but if there is any interest we are quite happy to field enquiries and to pass on any information that we have learned.
The show may be found on our blog, www.hggardeningclub.blogspot.com
Jilly and Jeremy Ball
Hurst Green Gardening Club