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'Outdoor Sculptures' contest winners

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  June 12, 2012 02:00 PM

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By Paul Marotta
Perfect Bokeh Photography

For me, there are, perhaps, two ways to shoot sculpture: straight documentary style, cleanly capturing the work by the artist in a technically proficient manner; and a more interpretive manner, adding some additional emotional dimension to the work already created by the artist without losing its meaning.

In both of these, all the technical issues discussed in the terrific links Teresa posted in the initial contest outline come into play to some degree or another: background clutter, separation between subject and surroundings, interplay of light and shadow, composition, color, does the structure of the photograph enhance the form of the work, use of positive and negative space, rule of thirds, depth of field, and more.

There were lots of very interesting submissions, but as I travel around town and the suburbs, I know there is much more sculpture out there than folks realize, and I would have liked to see more submissions, say, from the suburbs.

Those pieces that didn't advance to the Top 10 sometimes had minor flaws. For example, when you are shooting up close, make sure you've taken into account depth of field; i.e., what is the central portion of the sculpture that you want the eye to focus on? That section should be in focus if there is not enough light, and some portion needs to be out of focus.

One of my favorite artists is Jaume Plensa, who did the "Alchemist" numbers sculpture on the MIT campus here in Cambridge (left).

A photo submitted for this contest, of the sculpture "Nomade" in France, by the same artist, is terrific. The contestant who shot it had beautiful conditions, warm sun, nice clouds, etc. However, the submission leans toward a snapshot as it's taken from a distance, people are just milling around, and the details are not accentuated.

I would love to see this photographer go back (who wouldn't want to revisit the south of France!) and work with it some more. Plensa's work is perfect for detail work, compositional fun, straight-on documentary photography, night vs. day, children staring at the details, tourists discussing the finer points, and more.

The Top 10, I think, take into account many of these issues in some way.

The HDR effect in "Partisans" was tastefully done, and I love how the work fills the frame. However, the building in the background creates some clutter.

"Following Joan" is interesting in that the composition is perfect, but there seem to be some issues with focus and crispness around the area of the horse's legs.

The "Brockton Firefighters Memorial Statue" is a terrific composition and conversion to BW, but the helmet in the bottom portion is a bit distracting to the eye.

I really like the angle in the "Christopher Columbus" statue on the waterfront, technically very proficient as well, very little to quibble with here.

The "Massasoit" at sunset has terrific colors, and added meaning with the gorgeous sunset, but I'm seeing some softness around the edges. Here's a hint: Focusing in these conditions is notoriously difficult, no matter what camera one uses, so it may be better to switch to manual focus mode to get a clean shot.

Zak's shot of a rusted and "patina'ed" piece of a sculpture against a clear blue sky was interesting. It's a nice example of both form and color. Don't hesitate to shoot even a small slice of a larger piece of sculpture.

And finally, I like the "Up Close to Continuum" shot. The confusion and energy created by filling the frame with a portion of the work is fun, but I might have considered shooting the center section as a vertical to balance the shot; it's weighted to one side.

All of these comments are small quibbles of some really nice work.

The Top 3, now, have some very interesting things to discuss.


01 a.jpg

"Sweat & Tears"
Photo by Suzanne Davis McMahon of Newton

The statue of three servicemen at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. is an amazing piece of sculpture work in and of itself. A piece with this kind of strength of emotional impact has to be approached very carefully by a photographer so as to not dissipate the emotional strength and meaning. To do something that adds to its meaning is even more risky.

But here - nicely done.

First, the color is faithfully captured, the overcast nature of a cloudy day provided good light to work with, the composition of the shot fills the frame for great tension, and there is a nice close-up of the soldier's intensity of his gaze. Overall, very, very well done.

But what catapults this forward to the top for me is the addition of the rain drops. The amount of rain is not too much, and it is dripping in just the right amount on his face as to provide an additional element of reality. Is it raining in the jungle? Is he sweating profusely from the heat and humidity or the fear of the moment? The light on his face is just the right amount, not too much with no overblown highlights.

I think the artist's intention is beautifully captured here. Well done.


03 b.jpg

"Roger Williams"
Photo by Jonathan Flynn of Pawtucket, RI

In its simplicity, the Roger Williams statue photo is fabulous. The edge of sunlight on the rim of the statue's face is fantastic, the color is warm, the statue perfectly splits the frame diagonally, creating negative and positive space, and the fact that the piece fills the frame so well creates additional tension and drama.

I would even venture to say it would make a terrific black and white conversion with some gamma adjustments to the highlights. Terrific, well done.


04 c.jpg

"Gettysburg, Little Round Top at Sunset"
Photo by Ken Panciocco of Danvers

"Gettysburg, Little Round Top at Sunset" is really quite interesting. Not everything about a Top 3 has to be perfect, and the one imperfection here is that the composition is a bit disorienting.

Remember the Rule of Thirds contest some time back? Positioning the sculpture in one of the thirds positions would be the missing piece that would perhaps move this up higher in other contests, either in the left, right or center sections.

That being said, the sunset glaring through General Warren's sword as he surveys the battlefield is terrific. This was an amazing, and quite frankly, awful time in our American history, with wounded and dead at Gettysburg numbering approximately 46,000 on both sides. The emotional impact of this moment at sunset is terrific. Nicely done.

Here are all the winners as well as the full field of entries. Congratulations to everyone.

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