By Paul Marotta
May contest judge
These Top 12, I think, really grab a viewer’s attention and hold it, making them look for all of the elements that are present: color, composition, structure, unusual subject, and even, in some cases, confusing the viewer.
Looking at a strong image that is a reflection and hard to decipher or even confusing is actually quite fun, and even technical flaws can be overlooked if the image is compelling.
The Top 12, and especially the top three, should and do make other photographers say, “Wow, I wish I had done that!”
Getting to the Top 3 winners wasn’t easy. It never is in any competition, and this was no exception.
At this stage, all the finalists have something strong going for them, and it’s usually either a tiny flaw or something subjective that creates the order. All three here had good form and structure on their side, strong technical editing, good reflections, as well as that something extra I define as having passed the “so what” test.
Congrats to all who entered, and special kudos to the top three. Herewith are more specific thoughts.
FIRST PLACE - $100
Sometimes the perfect shot is not always the most complex. The photographer may have done tons of work on an image to get it where they want, or they may have done nothing, letting it speak for itself. But if it seems effortless and elegant and powerful all at the same time, then that is perfection.
I really liked the simplicity in this image. The white background removes any distractions and focuses the eye on the bird itself. I see a very slight blue haze around the head in the reflection, implying that perhaps the background may have been brushed out? The bird is simple and elegant all at once.
The horizon line is not visible, but is implied as it splits the image. The green grasses and the yellow legs provide a subtle and elegant touch of color. The reflection is strong and clear; the image could be virtually turned upside down and not lose any effect. Is this bird a tern? Where was it shot? The bits of brown in its feathers are perfect.
In its simplicity it holds my eye for a long time; there is a lot to look at in the image despite its simplicity. Nice - bravo!
SECOND PLACE - $50
Wow, I really liked this image. There is a lot going on here. The colorful glass beads cut across the image from top left to lower right corner perfectly. The colors are subtle. The three glass beads create a perfect pattern of thirds structurally, and the fill the frame nicely.
Not sure how exactly how big these are in real life. Did the photographer shoot these in macro mode? How close was the photographer? Where are these? Was the image cropped or edited in the camera, so to speak? Where are these? Were other angles possible? This wonderfully subtle image has me asking a lot of questions, which is always a good thing in an image.
My only caveat would be that a round reflective image is always hard to shoot. It’s in essence a "fisheye", so getting out of the shot is not easy, and the photographer is reflected in the image. I wonder if moving around it would have yielded a different shot? The sky is nicely reflected as is the garden arbor. My personal rule of thumb as a photographer? Stay out of the shot!
However, well done, and this subject warrants another outing!
THIRD PLACE - $25
There is a lot going on here, and I always like to see complexity and simplicity combined in a photograph.
First of all, the colors are great, as is the strength of the reflection itself. The little bits of stuff floating in the water help define the difference between the reflection and the actual subject.
More importantly, the subject fills the frame, but the smaller boat steals the show, so to speak, just at the perfect position in the image, splitting the mid frame. And that something extra in this image is the juxtaposition of smaller boat against the larger one.
The contrast between the two, combined with the reflection and everything else going on in this image, make it a terrific shot. Well done!
ED. NOTE: The rest of the Top 12 photos are all Honorable Mentions, in no particular order. Here's a gallery of all Top 12 winners.
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