Another month, another great batch of photos in our ongoing Photo of the Day contest. As is often the case, the first place winner this time really stood out to us, but the large number of excellent photos led to a fair bit of mulling-over and mental wrestling before we arrived at our three winners.
Without further ado, here are the three top winners for the month of October, 2005, along with some of the thinking that went into their selection:
Ambuscade, by Bojan Bonifacic
(Bojan won a Kodak EasyShare V550 digital camera)
Bojan Bonifacic's "Ambuscade" is just a fantastic action photograph. If you've ever tried to shoot action of this sort, you'll have an appreciation for how incredibly difficult it is to capture the key moment the way Bojan did here. (Dave can tell you from first-hand experience that an 8 frame/second camera does not a sports shooter make!) Not only that, but the composition is excellent as well, as are the color, exposure, and focus. (An instructive aside to other aspiring Photo of the Day contestants: We don't know whether the final shot here was cropped down from a larger image or not. The very tight cropping suggests that it was, and other contestants would be well advised to emulate Bojan's example in this. -- We see an incredible number of photos that would be easy winners of the daily contest, and strong prospects for monthly prizes, if the shooter had only taken a few moments to crop away extraneous detail. Before you submit an image, take a moment and ask yourself if a little cropping wouldn't improve it somewhat.) In the case of Bojan's winning photo, the very tight cropping adds greatly to its drama, the bikers seemingly about to burst out of the frame. It's often difficult to show detail while at the same time conveying a sense of action: An exposure short enough to avoid blurring often produces a very static-looking, "frozen" image. In this shot though, the varying positions of the bikes, the postures of the riders, and the flying dirt all combine to create a dramatic sense of motion and activity, despite the high shutter speed. All in all, just an exceptionally well done action photo.
Lanterns, by Ken Deitcher
(Ken won a Kingston 512MB memory card, in the format of his choice, and a copy of E-Book Systems FlipAlbum Pro.)
When judging these photos, we usually have a low tolerance for obvious "effects"-type manipulation of the images. We fully expect (and encourage!) photographers to crop their images appropriately, adjust color and tone, and even to clone-out distracting details. To our mind though, the goal of most photo manipulation should be to produce images that don't look like they've been manipulated. - So it frankly was with some surprise that we found our eyes being drawn back to Ken Deitcher's Lanterns time and again. It helps that the underlying photo is a well-executed still life, with good composition, lighting, and use of color. By itself though, the base image wouldn't have risen to Photo of the Month standards. Ken's clever digital treatment calls to mind the (admittedly somewhat cliched by now) practice of compositing a larger image from multiple small Polaroids or prints, shot from slightly different angles and then pasted together as a collage. That said, we're a little at a loss to put into words exactly why we find this shot so compelling. Perhaps it has something to do with the contrast between the organic forms of the still life and the rectangular/angular "lanterns," or possibly the contrast between the stark whiteness of the frames and the richness and depth of the underlying image. Both factors almost certainly contribute, but overall, they key element seems to be the odd way in which the photo plays with our depth perception. The still life depicts one 3-D space, but the frames interrupt that, suggesting instead a composition of individual two-dimensional images, themselves arrayed in 3-D space. Whatever the case, this is a very effective use of digital tools to add another dimension (perhaps literally) to an already well-done still life.
Afternoon Tea Party, by Robin Eckermann
(Robin won a copy of E-Book Systems' FlipAlbum Suite)
Your two judges (Shawn and Dave) have rather different reactions to photos of children. Shawn (who has youngsters of his own around the house these days) finds great appeal in the stories told by the photos, or photos that are emblematic of various childhood experiences, childrearing situations, etc. Dave on the other hand, perhaps because he's years removed from having small children in the house, is less interested in the emotional content, and so tends to be more moved by the composition, color, and other more purely graphic elements. Robin Eckermann's photo Afternoon Tea Party happily succeeds on both fronts, offering up both the humor of the situation depicted, as well as the compositional interest of an unusual viewpoint, not to mention an interesting use of color, creating contrast between the child and her surroundings, and drawing the eye toward the child's face. We'd have loved to have been able to see the actual photo session itself: Did Robin climb up on the kitchen counter to make the shot? If so, the result was certainly worth it! Well done, and well deserving of third place in this month's contest.
There you have it: 31 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!