By Jim Reed
I think a masterful storm image should always trigger an emotional response; it should make a viewer almost instantly say aloud, "Wow," and then want to lean in for a closer look.
I expect a winning storm image to possess a skillfully composed, isolated subject. Next up are the skilled choice of lighting and contrast, followed by the use of color. Then I look for an intriguing shape or hypnotic landscape, followed by depth and texture.
Since this contest asked photographers to make good use of movement and action, I favored strong, stormy images that also possessed motion in the frame, such as a person, an object, or water or the hint of something moving, like blowing snow or rain.
It was tough selecting only 25. There were so many very good submissions so close to that. You all did a very impressive job of composing your photos. I was also delighted by the fine-art qualities of some of the frames. I was happy to see submissions in black and white as well as color, and I really enjoyed the use of post-production effects.
The images suggest to me that you are very observant, imaginative and assertive - and certainly not afraid to get wet (the earmarks of a skilled weather photographer). I was surprised when I realized that a few of the Final 25 images were captured with camera phones. In several instances, you also did a very effective job of captioning your photos.
My advice to you? Watch those pesky distracting elements, such as tree branches and power lines in the foreground. Be sure to zoom in or compose your shot to include only objects that truly matter. If you have a tree in your image and it's being hit by lightning, then the tree is a vital part of your composition. If it's a tree in the foreground, and the lightning is way off near the horizon, then the tree is likely a distraction and unnecessary.
If you return home, only to later discover a distracting element, crop it out using an image-editing software. Your computer is your digital darkroom; don't be afraid to experiment with your image by adjusting contrast, hues, and tones.
Finally, my advice is to shoot, shoot, shoot - and keep shooting! With digital cameras, there's no excuse NOT to bracket.
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