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The July "Ripples" contest Final 50

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  August 12, 2009 04:00 PM

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Our judge, Sharon E. Lowe, has made her Final 50 choices. Here are her thoughts on your entries:

There were quite a few very nice images in this competition and I enjoyed seeing the different ways that people chose to illustrate the "Ripples" theme - landscapes, children playing in the water, abstracts, and floods, for example.

For the Final 50, I chose photos that most caught my eye, trying to select images that expressed water in motion in different ways. I had to cut out some otherwise nice shots to narrow it down to 50, which says a lot for the quality of the photos submitted!

Among the photos I didn't select, these were some of the problems I noticed:

Landscapes with tilted horizons. Having to tilt one's head to view a photo is disconcerting. We're all guilty of sometimes getting a tilted horizon in-camera, but it is an easy fix in any photo processing software. Using an on-camera (or tripod) level and a tripod will also help so you don't have to spend time to fix it.

Photos that are too centered. While I am of the school of thought that rules are made to be broken, the "Rule of Thirds" is one that should seldom be broken. "Slice" your photo into thirds both vertically and horizontally and keep the most important things on those lines rather than dead center.

If a horizon is dead center in a photo, it feels static, and I am left to think that the photographer couldn't decide which was more important - the sky or the foreground. Pick the one that is the more pleasing to the eye and put more of it in your photo.

Same goes for people - having them dead center with equal space on each side makes for a static image even if there is motion involved. Put them to one side or the other, usually facing into the photo (but not always - I like to break that rule), and your photos will look much more dynamic and interesting.

Under or over-exposed photos. I saw a number of photos that could have been great but some were too dark (underexposed) and some had hot spots (overexposed) that drew my attention away from the main subject. Check your histogram to make sure you aren't over or underexposing.

Hot spots appear in a lot of water images - using a good polarizing filter can sometimes help, or setting your exposure to "center weighted" and making sure to include the highlights in the exposure point will also help.

For underexposure, you can sometimes fix that in post processing if it isn't too underexposed. Most photo processing software has auto adjustments to help you if you aren't familiar with the more sophisticated functions of the software.

Focus. If you are shooting RAW, remember that you have to sharpen your photos during processing. Otherwise, one of the things I noticed on otherwise very interesting photos, was that the main subject of the photo wasn't in clear focus. If that subject has eyes, you want the eyes to be the sharpest part of the photo. Focus isn't a problem easily fixed after you take the shot, if at all, so you have to get it right in-camera. If the subject has eyes, focus on the eyes. With a dSLR, you might have to adjust your aperture to get more depth of field.

Distractions in the foreground or the background. Nature can be brutal with all those twigs, leaves, and other things in our way. So walk around as much as possible and try to get rid of those distractions. You can even clean up the area a bit, removing leaves and twigs that interfere with having a perfect view of your subject.

With people, pay particular attention to your background. If it is messy, if it puts a tree directly behind the head of your subject, or if it otherwise detracts from your subject, move around until you have a nice, simple background. You can also try a tighter crop or use a shallow depth of field, especially with a long lens. Point-and-shoot cameras typically do not have very shallow depths of field, so it is critical that you move around to get the best vantage point.

Hope these tips help!

Here are Sharon's choices for the Final 50. We'll post the Voting Machine tomorrow.

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