I think I must have changed my mind at least a dozen times on both the Top 10 and the Top 3 ... so many in the Final 50 had wonderful and redeeming qualities, both in terms of technical characteristics and content.
And in the end, what it should come down to is an image taking the eye directly to the subject matter, not any of the technical issues. If the subject or content is strong enough, has enough meaning, and strikes a response in a viewer, then other things can be overlooked.
Even now, re-reviewing them, the three cows stands out as a strong image despite the fact that the Rule of Thirds concept is slightly off and a slight repositioning would have helped.
The diver flying through the air is spectacular; my eye loses its sense of place, and although it's a hard image to shoot again and again and to reposition, I would like to have seen the diver just slightly more to the lower left.
The black-and-white sailboat is terrific in its drama and the horizon is perfectly straight, although some of the details get a bit muddy.
The sunrises and sunsets on the lakes are exquisite; it's so hard to choose.
The black-and-white image of the couple and the stone wall is a wonderful moment, although the stone wall providing the lower third is off by about 1 degree - easily fixed with a crop - and I would have placed them more directly in the lower right third, providing a bit more tension in the image.
And the bridge on the river is a wonderful reflection and a subject a photographer could work with for hours, although I wonder if it might have been possible to get a bit more square on the bridge instead of just slightly off to the side.
That being said, all of these are just terrific. The element of Thirds and structure helps them all with minor flaws or adjustments easily overlooked in favor of the content, which is the goal, after all, right?
Here then, are my Top 3:
FIRST PLACE - $100
Man dyeing leather in the Chouara leather tannery, Morocco
Photo by Adam Lipson of Newton Highlands
Wow ... this is an image I just couldn't take my eyes off - it has such terrific content.
Journalistically, I love it. It says so much and illustrates a point of workers around the world, working hard, in difficult and often dangerous situations. I can imagine the risk this man has placed himself in for presumably meager wages. Leather dying and tanning uses such harsh and dangerous chemicals, and he is completely unprotected, no gloves, mask or shoes.
He's not a big man, but you can feel the strength in his legs and the power of his back. which is perfectly positioned in the center third. And the lines cut beautifully from top left to lower right. I seem to be peering into this moment wonderfully from above. I want to know more.
And in the end, this image typifies what technical structure is all about in an image ... it's simply a means to an end: the content. The top third over his head is nicely positioned, and the bottom third or the base is perfectly structured, with both with the water in the pool beneath him and his legs providing the dividing line between the bottom and middle third. Well done!
SECOND PLACE - $50
Did you know that the most common natural accidental tilt for most photographers is just slightly to the right by a degree or two?
This lovely image does the same as No. 3; the horizon line is off by exactly 1 degree. Try this if you have Photoshop: Go to "View", then to "Show" and select "Grid". This will place a series of perfectly square gird lines of the image showing the horizon to be off slightly, in this case just 1 degree, but enough for me to want to fix it! Rotate image "Arbitrary" and 1 degree counter clockwise and watch what happens.
However, I think this is a terrific example of very subtle enhancement in HDR, which is so often greatly exaggerated ... at least I think that's what the photographer did here. Sunsets like this often present their own problems with f-stop differentials that are hard to manage. The sky is well managed, the dock and water tones well managed, and the overall image is wonderful in its simplicity.
Three elements of the Rule of Thirds provide a nice balanced horizontal structure. The thirds are not mathematically or structurally perfect, but that really doesn't matter in this case, as the content is well-executed. Just be sure to use the grid lines in your focusing screen in the camera to even out your horizon lines.
THIRD PLACE - $25
Sand, lower third, good anchor. Ocean, middle third. Sky, top third. Girl seemingly suspended right smack in the middle vertical third, terrific. Fabulous moment, good structure, my eye looks directly at the girl and her leap, perfect. Almost.
This lovely image does the same as the Second Place photo: the horizon line is off by exactly 1 degree. So use the same procedure and minor adjustment, and she will seem to sit more perfectly upright and the image will be wonderfully balanced.
Overall, well done, great capture and nice crop.
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