I was out of town for the November salon, but a friend of mine took a few notes for me, so I have some idea what the judge was thinking.
Prints: Open Color
Mt. Edith Cavell
I took this shot at Jasper National Park in Canada a couple of years ago after waiting a very, very long time for some teenage girls to quit taking selfies in the middle of the river. It was worth the wait though. I was really happy with the results when I had this image made into a large canvas print a few years ago, so it seemed like a good image to print myself and submit for competition.
The judge agreed, saying it had nice clear water and good composition and color. (He actually knew the location, having been there himself.) He also gave me a 10! Whoo hoo!
Inside an Ancient Palace
This is a shot taken inside Pasha Glaoui’s abandoned kasbah in Telouet, Morocco. This partially preserved, partially ruined palace is one of the coolest places I’ve ever photographed.
The judge liked the sharpness in the image, but thought it needed more contrast and vibrancy. Apparently he had trouble deciding whether to give it an 8 or 9, but in the end he gave it a 9. Another award!
Digital theme: Nature
While “nature” seems like a simple theme, this is one of the few that has a lot of rules:
The storytelling value of a photograph will be weighted along with the pictorial quality. Human elements shall NOT be present, except on the rare occasion where the human elements enhance the nature story. Scientific banding on wildlife animals is acceptable. Photographs of artificially produced hybrid plants or animals, mounted specimens, or obviously set arrangements are not eligible, as is any form of manipulation [moving/removing/altering elements, blurring backgrounds, stitching] that alters the truth of the photographic statement.
This limited my options, as I often use a healing or clone tool to remove distracting elements.
Kuang Si panorama
This is my favorite picture of the Kuang Si waterfall near Luang Prabang, Laos, because it is so otherworldly. Unfortunately, is also has the most noise of the images I shot, as it was really dark when I took it. I shot it with a low ISO and a long shutter speed on a still morning. Even so, the tree leaves aren’t as sharp as I would have liked. However, with a great scene and no prohibited elements, it seemed worth entering.
The judge didn’t think it was sharp enough, but he liked the exposure, color, and scene enough to put me in the awards with an 8. (He thought he might have been here too. I really wish I had been there to meet this judge, as he seems to be really well traveled.)
Bee and dahlia
Being totally focused on finding nature images that didn’t require any of the banned manipulations, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the other requirements. The “artificially produced hybrid plants” ruled out test-tube produced orchids. Since I didn’t have a way of knowing which were artificially produced and which were natural, I eliminated all of my orchid pictures from consideration. That was a bummer because I have some good orchid pictures.
I didn’t want to do another scenery picture (I try to enter two really different images each time), but my woodland flower pictures were boring and my birds didn’t seem sharp enough. However, I did have a recent picture of a bee on a flower that was really striking. It wasn’t a bee in flight (which I thought would be needed to actually end up in the awards), but it was a sharp picture of a bee on a nice colorful flower with a few dew drops as a bonus.
The judge loved it, giving it a 10 for its vibrant color and composition.
What a pleasant surprise!
Except, at the next board meeting there was a lot of grumbling about the judge not following the rules for nature photography and giving awards to pictures that weren’t eligible.
Which sent me back to the rules again.
To me “artificial hybridization” indicates a cross that couldn’t occur without scientific intervention, but it actually means all hybrid plants. Apparently you can’t use any kind of garden flower in your image.
Opps. My bad.
It turns out it’s really “wilderness photography” more than what most of us would think of as nature. Although the rules are a little odd: You can shoot “wild” animals in a zoo, but you can’t shoot flowers in a garden.
Fortunately I wasn’t the only award winner with some sort of insect on a garden flower.