"Lauterbrunnen Valley from Wengen," "Barn Owl," and "Farne Island Puffin" were chosen as our December winners. Congratulations to Robert Taylor, Tim Cossins, and Terence Stares!
Without further ado, here's the three monthly winners for December, and comments from the judges on what made them so great. Clicking on any image will open a larger version in a new window.
Lauterbrunnen Valley from Wengen, by Robert Taylor
(Robert won a Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II Printer.)
We see a lot of nice landscape shots in the POTD contest, so it takes a bit for one to stand out. Robert's spectacular shot of the Lauterbrunnen Valley is really exceptional, though. The framing is perfect, and the lighting excellent. There's enough of the silhouetted foreground trees to frame the composition nicely, without dominating, and their arrangement along the bottom left corner forms a visual triangle, the hypotenuse of which parallels a diagonal arrangement of highlights across the middle of the image that serve to draw your eye to the mountain in the upper left. It's a subtle effect, but the result is very pleasing. We also liked the progression of tones, from darker through lighter as your eye moves up the image, while the notable exception of the cliff in the lower right corner lends visual balance against the white mountain peak in the background that's the main subject. The layers of clouds also add greatly to the sense of depth in the image, and add visual interest without distracting from the main subject. All in all, a gorgeous landscape shot, and a worthy winner in this month's competition.
Barn Owl, by Tim Cossins
(Tim won a Canon PIXMA MP990 Printer.)
Bird shots are another category we see a lot of in the POTD, but they're tough to get really right. It's particularly difficult to lose the background in them, as birds' natural camouflage tends to make them blend in. Looking at the shot parameters here (f/7.1, even at 500mm), we suspect Tim may have softened the background in Photoshop after the fact (which is perfectly OK by the rules), but it's also possible that there was enough distance between bird and background that even an f/7.1 aperture was enough at a 500mm focal length to drop it out. However he achieved it, the bird is very nicely separated from the background, and the contrast between soft background shapes and the sharply-rendered detail in the bird's plumage makes for a more dramatic photo. The use of color is also very effective here, with the background colors harmonizing nicely with the bird's coloration, while the cooler hues on the underside of its wing help to further separate it from the background. The green in the lower right could be a little distracting, but when combined with the strip of blue sky at the top actually serves to better frame the subject. We think the cropping of this shot was particularly skillful, as it leaves a comfortable amount of space around the bird without the composition being too loose, and also includes just the right amount of sky at the top and green foliage at the bottom. If Tim had cropped it more tightly, the green at the bottom would have looked like a distracting fringe, rather than lending weight to ground the image, while cropping out the little strip of sky at the top would have made a less interesting and less balanced image. We normally *really* don't like frames or borders on the photos we judge, feeling they're a visual gimmick that often obscures the merits (or lack thereof) of the image. In this case, we felt the photo itself was strong enough to forgive the border, and it's nicely executed anyway, the brown complementing the colors in the shot. Oh, and it goes without saying that the pose/moment in time is perfect, too, conveying a sense of both motion and grace. Congrats to Tim for a fine photo!
Farne Island Puffin, by Terence Stares
(Terence won a Canon PIXMA MP640 Printer.)
Yes, we *do* get a lot of bird pictures, and would normally somewhat shy away from picking two winners in the same month with such similar subjects. Terence's Puffin shot here just couldn't be passed over, though. The pose is really remarkable; a hundredth of a second before or after, and the resulting shot wouldn't have been nearly as good. The rock beneath the bird accentuates the horizontal composition and angle of the bird's body, and the position of its wings is absolutely perfect, again echoing the horizontal arrangement of other elements. The position of the bird within the frame is perfect as well: note that there's a bit more space ahead of the bird than behind it. That reinforces the sense of forward motion, and also helps draw your eye to the bird's face, rather than the middle of its body. The one negative mark the judges had to make against the photo was its slight softness, particularly in the bird's beak and face. It could be motion blur, but looking at the image carefully, it looks more like it's simply the effect of a 70-300mm zoom being shot close to its maximum telephoto setting: Most consumer 70-300mm zooms tend to be rather soft at full tele; we suspect this was one of them. It's also possible that the image was cropped to improve the composition.
If so, that's a good thing; we'll take a slightly soft but well-framed photo any day over one that's sharper, but with too much extraneous detail. Overall, a fantastic catch, one of the best-captured moments we've seen in a bird photo. Kudos to Terence for a remarkably timely shutter finger!
|Team of Two ||Nishville 1 |
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|by Linn Smith ||by Goran |
As always, 31 great daily winners made it hard to select the three very best, but that's a happy chore here at IR. Congratulations to all the daily winners, and thanks to everyone who submitted photos for December's contest. The consistently high quality of images submitted to the Photo of the Day contest are what makes it the success that it's been!
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!