I was back in town for the May competition, but now the pressure was on, as this was the last competition of the season and I was currently the top point earner of the year in both the color prints and digital categories. I needed to come up with winners to retain that standing!
Prints: Open color
Windblown flowers in Arizona
I have been playing with techniques to make my photos look more like a piece of art than a straight journalistic photograph. In editing this shot from Arizona last year, I wanted it to look like a painting to emphasize the swirling colors of Arizona in bloom.
I love it, but the judge did not. He couldn’t figure out what to focus on.
Salt River horses
When I came home from Arizona with a couple decent shots of the Salt River wild horses I decided to enter one of those instead of the print I had originally planned to enter this time. I thought it would be a stronger entry and I hadn’t entered any animal prints yet – and there is no chance to win the Julia Herl award for the best animal print at the end of the year if you haven’t entered any!
There was really only one good image, so selecting a shot was easy. (The horses were hidden behind some bushes almost the whole time I watched them, or else they were just grazing.) Cropping was the challenge. With a bit of brush covering the hind quarters of one horse I didn’t want to crop into the brush and have this weird blob at the edge. I couldn’t Photoshop it out either. That meant trying to use it as a compositional element. I also had to crop to a standard dimension I could print and mat. (Digital images can be cropped any size, but I use stand sized mats for printing, which imposes some limitations.) But I like context in my photos anyway, so left the mountain in the shot too, all of which clearly places the horses in the Arizona desert.
As usual, cropping was my downfall. The judge liked it enough to give it a 9, but said it would have gotten a 10 if I had cropped it tight.
It’s another reminder that competition judges really don’t like photographs that include context!
Earlier this winter I wasn’t planning to enter this final digital competition. I knew I would be really busy and I wasn’t coming up with any images I really liked. But of course, now that I have a top score to defend, I had to come up with something.
Enroute to the sea
I loved the dramatic sky behind this statue from San Juan, Puerto Rico, but the light was such that there was no way to expose for the sky without losing the details in the sculpture. Of course, that is exactly what you want for a silhouette.
I actually spent a lot of time editing this to get it looking as perfect and dramatic as I could. That was time wasted, as it turned out, as the judge absolutely hated it. Mostly he seemed to dislike the sculpture – so the subject of the picture itself.
Sandhill crane skies
While a flock of birds silhouetted against the sky seems like a rather common image, it’s really hard to get a shot where the birds are nicely aligned and none of them are superimposed atop another. So, while this shot seemed a bit ordinary (and I expected there to be others like it), I decided the alignment and colors in the sky were good enough to make it a worthwhile entry.
The judge pointed out that it is surprisingly hard to get a shot like this. He then gave it a super low score. Why? No idea, as he didn’t give a reason.
As far as I was concerned, being one of the top point earners for digital images had been a fluke anyway (shooting for a theme isn’t my strong point), so I was disappointed, but not particularly surprised to do so poorly tonight. And then there was the fact that one of the top scoring entries didn’t actually meet the rules for the competition . . . another reminder that competition is always a bit of a crap shoot.