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February POTD Winners Chosen!
(Friday, March 30, 2007 - 18:33 EDT)

"Sand Traps," "Coffee Klatch," and "The Storm Has Passed" were chosen as February's winners. Congratulations to Mel Brackstone, Jim Johnston, and John Conway!

Catching up slightly, we're also happy to announce the monthly winners of our Photo of the Day contest for February, 2007. (We're on a roll, should have the winners for March selected and announced by the end of next week.)

Without further ado, here's a look at February's winners, along with some comments from the judges:

First Place
Sand Traps, by Mel Brackstone
(Mel won a Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Printer.)

Often, the measure of a winning photograph is simply that our eyes keep being drawn back to it again and again. That was the case with Mel Brackstone's photo of the "sand traps" in this image. (We assume that the name is literal, and that the geometric structures shown help anchor the sand dunes to keep them from migrating.) The image is all about boundaries and contrasts: Between the yellow sand and the blue sky (yellow and blue are complementary colors), between the smooth textures of the sky and sand in the background and the abrupt, geometric forms of the man-made sand traps, and even between the rippled sand in the foreground, on the near side of the traps, vs the very smooth, uniform shading of the sand on the far side of them. The razor-sharp edges of the sand traps' shadows against the smooth sand further emphasize the contrast between the man-made and the natural. Beyond those contrasts and lovely colors though, it's a little hard to explain our eyes' fascination with this image: The line of traps tends to lead your eye off into the distance, into a relatively uninteresting area of the print, the distant shadowed area. Our eyes tend to keep following that line and then bouncing back to the foreground detail, never fully settling in any one part of the print. Perhaps that's some of the appeal here: Our eyes/brains never quite "figure out" the image, identifying and settling on familiar elements, as would be the case with a portrait or a well-framed photo of some more recognizable object. Regardless of how much we look at it, there remains an element of mystery, which draws us back again and again. - And the contrasts in color and form are pleasing to the eye, perhaps in the same way as a Japanese rock garden. Whatever the explanation, a uniquely pleasing and intriguing photograph, beautifully rendered.

Second Place
Coffee Klatch, by Jim Johnston
(Jim won a Canon PIXMA MP960 Printer.)

As we've noted before, we get a lot of animal pictures in the POTD submissions, so it takes something special to stand out. This photo of a clutch of ring-tailed lemurs has that something extra, thanks to the arrangement of the subjects, their comical faces, and their uniform fixity of attention. Photographically, the image is nicely structured too, the bright green of the background foliage contrasting nicely with the nearly monochrome fur of the lemurs, and the yellow of their eyes standing out in sharp relief. Color is what makes this photo work, as their eyes otherwise wouldn't stand out nearly as prominently, and the background foliage would just be a distracting jumble in black & white. Some purists maintain that all images need to work on the basis of tone and texture first, with color only being a tertiary consideration, but we disagree. There's no question that tonality and texture important, and this image would have been stronger if the background foliage had been blurred somewhat, but hey; we see in color, so color is every bit as "legitimate" a separate of subject and background as are tone or texture. Anyway, a great moment caught by an alert photographer. Great work, Jim!

Third Place
The Storm Has Passed, by John Conway
(John won a Canon PIXMA iP6700D Printer.)

This is another photo that we find a little harder to explain photographically, but that our eyes just kept coming back to. The dramatic colors and organic shapes in the clouds and sky contrast with the flatness of the earth, and the progression of color in the sky clearly shows the departure of the storm that's the subject of the photo. Actually, the photo lacks a "subject" in the traditional sense, as the clouds are spread all across the frame, but it's interesting that our eyes invariably come to rest naturally on the little wisp of bright cloud just above and a little to the left of the large bright patch near the photo's center. Significantly, that spot on the image is very near one of the magic "rule of thirds" points in the frame, so maybe this photo does follow conventional rules of composition after all.

There you have it: 28 superb Photos of the Day, with 3 exceptional ones capturing top honors. - So what are you waiting for? That could be your photo up there this time next month! Dig through your digital shoe boxes, pick your best and join the fun!

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