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January 2005 Photo of the Day Winners Announced!
(Tuesday, February 1, 2005 - 12:08 EST)

Another month, another great batch of photos, and another round of tough decisions for our judges!

Once again, our readers have proven themselves to be one of the most talented communities of photo buffs on the planet, as witness the excellent collection of daily Photo of the Day winners we had in January.

This month, Shawn and Dave are sitting in for our celebrity judge Gary Bernstein, while Gary is out of town on business. Filling Gary's shoes is tough enough, but it's made even more difficult by the exceptional batch of photos we had to judge between. Some very tough decisions were involved.

Enough moaning about how hard life as a photo contest judge is though, let's look at the winning photos!

First Place
American Water Drop, by Scott Cromwell
(Scott won a Kodak EasyShare LS753 camera)

We just love this shot! It obviously took a lot of patience (or literally unbelievable luck) to get just the right moment captured. Scott would have had to wait for the water surface to settle down and smooth out after each drop, so taking the number of shots needed before capturing this one must have taken quite a lot of time. Compositionally, it's beautifully done, the positioning of the "stalagmite" of water in the frame, the angle of the red and white stripes, even the way the graphic elements of the flag are incorporated into different parts of the spire of water and then repeated in the individual droplets. Just incredible, a great shot, and a great testimony to Scott's photographic abilities. (And patience.) Congratulations!

Second Place
Wishes for Santa Claus, by Mikolag Kamienski
(Mikolag won a Lexar 512MB memory card, in the format of his choice, and a copy of E-Book Systems FlipAlbum Pro.)

This shot is so good, so perfectly composed and lit that it's almost too good, verging on being cliched. That really doesn't matter though, it's just a great photo. The way the light wraps around the child's face gives a wonderful tonality and richness. Mikolaj also obviously paid attention to his background, angling for a simple background (the stairs) that wouldn't detract too much from his main subject. While using a commercial portrait backdrop would have eliminated any distraction from the subject, it might have made the resulting image a little too artificial looking. - The stairs work with his title for the image too, as you can imagine the child thinking about Santa before going upstairs to bed. Finally, the straight lines of the stair treads contrast nicely with the rounded curves of the child's face. A nice, subtle treatment with the black frame and faint red hairline to set off the image, too. All in all, a beautiful shot.

Third Place
Shapes and colors in architecture, by Gustav Miller
(Gustav won a copy of E-Book Systems' FlipAlbum Suite)

Here, we're impressed by how Gustav recognized the beauty in the railing, the simple beauty of its setting, and the way he framed the shot to make the elements work together. The soft lighting shows off both depth and texture. We suspect that he tweaked the image somewhat in Photoshop, but that's perfectly acceptable in this contest. - It's OK to create the art here, as opposed to just finding it. Also, including the stairs and the door in the image tells a story of what the railing is all about. The off-center arrangement of the elements frames the scene nicely, adding a lot of visual interest to what could easily have been a static, less interesting image. Finally, the colors (whether enhanced or not) work very effectively in the composition, rather than appearing as distractions or afterthoughts. The three dominant colors divide the image and create a dynamism that's an essential part of the composition as a whole. (Very significantly too, and as a critical tip to other aspiring POTD winners, note that Gustav cropped this image carefully to exclude distracting details in the original subject. (How do we know this? Easy: The image is nearly square, matching either the 4:3 nor the 3:2 aspect ratios used in essentially every digicam on the market.) Great work!

Once again, three exceptional photos, chosen after much deliberation from a set of 31 genuinely great ones, which in turn were selected from hundreds and hundreds of "merely" fantastic images sent in by our talented readers.

It needs to be said how much we here at IR are just enjoying the heck out of this contest. Part of the pleasure of selecting the daily (and on occasion monthly) winners is the opportunity it gives us to peruse literally hundreds of truly wonderful photos every week. It's hard to describe exactly what the feeling is as we go through each week's and month's worth of images, but one of the first words that comes to mind is "rejuvenating." The hundreds (and hundreds) of hours it takes to crank out the volume of reviews we do every month can merge into a blur of controls and modes, test shots and timing measurements. The beautiful photos our readers so generously share with us (and you) help remind us what it's all about: Taking evocative, striking, amusing, heartwarming, but above all beautiful photos. Thank you!

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