By Paul Marotta
Perfect Bokeh Photography
As an editor and curator, I look at a lot of images every day and, by necessity, have to look at them from the standpoint of their potential application. This particular contest, Famous Places, lends itself to that concept quite easily. So I thought it might help fellow shooters out there to look at their potential shots from that standpoint, and in particular for three specific applications: magazine, book, and CD covers.
Which means there are heavy technical considerations to take into account when shooting.
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There are thousands of locations around the world that are iconic places to visit not just for the experience, but also to capture an image by which to remember your journey.
And if you're a photographer, you'll challenge yourself to take that image from a different and interesting perspective.
This month, we're interested in seeing your take on famous places around New England, the United States, or the world that are popular destinations for photographers.
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Professional photographer Mark Ostow had a tough time deciding among all of your terrific photos. In the end, he chose photos where the bokeh clearly complemented the photo, or added depth or motion, or even a little mystery.
I think this is one of the best competitions, in terms of quality of photos, that we've had in a long time. So please don't feel bad if your photo didn't make it into the Final 50 or even the Top 10. The talent on display was terrific. Congratulations to everybody.
The December photo titles contest has less than a week to go -- the deadline is midnight Friday, New Year's Eve. I'm lining up the judge this week, and I've decided to ask one of the Globe's long-time copy editors who has a knack for good titles, captions, headlines, etc. to be our judge.
For our January contest, we are going to reprise last year's popular "What's That?" theme. Photograph something in such a way that it is difficult to identify. No titles, no captions. After our judge chooses the Top 10, we'll hold a second contest in which I'll ask you all to guess what each of those 10 photos is depicting ... and we'll hand out prizes for the guesses that come closest and are posted first.
Our January Challenge (not a contest) will be "Dark" and will run from Jan. 15 to Feb. 14. More details to come, but in general, let's see how effectively you can use darkness in a photo, either as the dominant element or a complementary one.
And in February, our contest is going to be a photo scavenger hunt. I can't wait!
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Photographer Mark Ostow sent comments to go along with his Final 50:
"Congratulations to all the photographers who entered! Choosing 50 out of such a strong field was very difficult.
"Bokeh can add such beauty to a photograph, as well as direct the viewer's eye to go where you want it to be.
"Some people blurred the most important part of their image, almost leaving a lot up to the imagination. In other images, the blurred areas were used to call attention to the (sharp) subject matter in the foreground.
"Since photography is an art, any way that you use bokeh to express your vision is as valid as the next person's. Thank you all for doing a great job at turning the ordinary into the extraordinary!"
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Last month I went all the way to Malaysia (not physically, unfortunately) to find a great judge, Steve Chong, for our October "Purple Power" competition. This month, I stayed home and found the perfect judge for the November bokeh contest right in Cambridge: Mark Ostow.
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Hi folks ... I'm afraid the judge I had lined up for the November contest had to back out, but I have a request out to another local professional, and hopefully she can help us. It's not a great time of year, but my bad for not lining up a judge earlier.
Meanwhile, I wanted to say something about the December title contest: Many of the titles are humorous, and that's perfectly fine, but please keep in mind that this isn't a comedy competition. I'd love to see a good mix of the practical and dramatic in there as well.
Pretend you are about to have a show of your photos at a local gallery, and what sort of titles would likely attract or intrigue would-be buyers. That's why we're doing this exercise - to force you to think about what titles would be most appropriate in a show setting.
In other news, we are going to redesign RAW very slightly either later this month or at the first of the year. We'll be able to display more entries, and will be posting more photo-related news items. We're also going to start featuring local photo bloggers and camera clubs.
So stay tuned.
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"Bokeh" comes from Japanese words meaning blur, haze, or blur quality. But true bokeh as practiced by photographers isn't just about having blur in your photo; it's making that blur pleasing to the eye, with no sharp edges on the lights or objects that are out of focus in your foreground or background.
Pleasant bokeh photos turn points of light into a pattern of fuzzy balls, or background objects into a blur of ill-defined color. Extremely shallow depths of field are part of the trick; another is an artistic eye so that the bokeh adds an interesting element to your photo that complements your main subject without distracting from it.
This is probably one of the most artistic themes we've had!
The first thing to do is to read about the technique and study examples of it. I've pulled together some good sources for you. Keep in mind that not all of the photos shown on these sites are necessarily great bokeh, but the more images you examine, the better understanding you will have.
RULES: After compelling appeals by a few of you, I've removed the this-month rule. So your photo does NOT have to be taken this month.
Deadline is midnight, Nov. 30.
One photo per photographer.
Hope you have fun with this one!
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The final results are in. No public voting this time, so our judge, the Globe's Lloyd Young, was on his own. But with a wealth of experience in the photo editing arena, this contest was in excellent hands.
His Top 10 selections:
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Globe picture editor Lloyd Young sent me his Final 50 choices from all of your Silhouettes entries, along with these thoughts on your photos:
"I've seen quite a few silhouettes over my years of editing and shooting images for newspapers. The best are aesthetically driven and technically excellent. They should be images you'd hope someone might want to frame and hang on their wall.
"I was impressed by a good many of the images submitted for this month's contest, with their attention to color, thoughtful framing, and a few with genuine moments.
"As you continue to shoot silhouettes, concentrate on the technical details by nailing the exposure on the highlights, and really pay attention to the separation between the edges of the silhouetted object and your overall frame."
As I said before, we're going to discontinue the voting according to the poll results. Therefore, we'll post Lloyd's Top 10, including First, Second, and Third Place, on Wednesday. Meanwhile, check out the finalists:
November "Silhouettes" Final 50
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The November "Silhouettes" contest judge, Lloyd Young, came to the Globe as a picture editor in 2006 to handle the daily Metro and Business sections. He also edits the weekly Globe staff Photos of the Week gallery that appears on Boston.com, and has filled in for fellow editor Lane Turner to update Lane's Big Shots blog.
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We've received 182 entries for the November "Silhouettes" contest, but only 148 of them are eligible. Twenty-eight photos were not taken during the month; another four photos are double entries from two photographers (the rules clearly state one photo per photographer), and two photos that are disturbing/creepy.
Details about the judge to come.
Remember, if you want a shot at having your photo published in the Globe Magazine's Best Photos of 2009 issue Jan. 17, then enter our special bonus contest by midnight Monday, Dec. 14.
And don't forget the December contest, with the theme "Toys".
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Lots of you must have read right past the rule for the November contest that your photo must be taken this month. Of the 40+ photos entered so far, 14 are ineligible because they were taken earlier than Nov. 1. You have a little more than 2 weeks left to get a shot this month ... and please remove the contest tags from the old photos! Thanks ...
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Back when we were voting on contest themes (I temporarily discontinued that because I had enough theme ideas from you to last a year or two!), many of you voted in favor of Silhouettes as a theme -- and I think that's a great idea.
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Of this photo, judge Peter Southwick of Boston University's photojournalism department said: "A really engaging image that earned the highest ranking because of the creative angle, and the right choice of lens and shutter speed to accentuate the action. The difficult light is handled well, and the subject's expression made it a winner. Everyone who looked at this picture smiled."
"It looks as though this image employed a lot of Photoshop post-production work, but the final result screams MOTION," Peter said. "Creativity was very much in play in the choice of camera angle and the use of slow shutter that accentuated the motion in the light sources while keeping the main subject sharp."
Peter said this photographer employed "a tried and true technique utilizing a slow shutter and zoom during exposure, but it's not easy to do this successfully. Great care has to be given to the coordination of the zoom and shutter, but even more important is the arrangement of elements in the frame so the viewer feels the effect of the motion. This photographer pulled it off very well."
Every time I show your photographs to whatever professional photographer happens to be judging or critiquing in a given month, they look them over and inevitably say, "Wow -- these are really good." Peter Southwick was no different.
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BU's Peter Southwick is reviewing the 25 photos that received the most votes in the November contest, and is narrowing the field to the Top 10. I hope to post the winners Monday afternoon.
Also next week, I'll put up a poll to choose a theme for February. John Tlumacki is writing a new tipsheet, and another Globe photographer will do a critique of somebody's work sometime in the next two weeks. And our next Photographer of the Week, to be posted Monday, may surprise you.
Meanwhile, be sure to enter the January "Cold" contest.
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All of the qualified November entries are now in this gallery. BU photojournalism director Peter Southwick has made his choices of the Final 50, and we're checking the Voting Machine right now and will post it shortly. Make sure you look over these photos at the "Full screen" size so you can better judge which photos you want to vote for.
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I hope you've been perusing your photos for good Motion shots, or going out and experimenting with this style. If you're ready, you can upload your best from now until midnight Nov. 30. (Remember, one photo per photographer.)
Remember: Motion doesn't mean simply action. There are several ways to capture motion, whether it's the streaked lights of traffic or your child streaking down the sideline of a soccer field (for you '70s hippies, no, not THAT kind of streaking).
Here are more details:
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Moving right along to our next contest ... still just one competition, but I'm hoping to add a second category and contest in December. Meanwhile, try these themes on for size:
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