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January POTD Winners Chosen!
(Friday, March 30, 2007 - 18:19 EDT)

"The Cowboy," "Darn Kids," and "All hands on stick" were chosen as January's winners. Congratulations to Edwin S. Loyola, Anupam Pal, and Morris Bennett Altman!

In the "very much late is at least a bit better than never" department, we're pleased to present the monthly winners of our Photo of the Day contest for January, 2007. It seems we're perpetually behind on the bread-and-butter work here, but that's no excuse for letting things get *this* far behind. We'll do better going forward, we promise!

At any rate, here's a look at the winners for January, and some thoughts from the judges on them:

First Place
The Cowboy, by Edwin S. Loyola
(Edwin won a Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Printer.)

This photo drew the judges' eyes for its painterly qualities, and the feelings it conveys of loneliness and isolation in the face of an impending storm, and the welcome relief of safe shelter. Faith-oriented viewers will also find a powerful metaphor for the role of God and the provision offered through a community of believers. (The cross on the building indicates it's a church.) It's not clear (nor does it matter) how much of the lighting in this shot was found in the original scene, or how much was constructed in Photoshop, but the dark clouds and general heaviness on the right side of the picture nicely phrase the sense of foreboding, and provide emphasis for the shelter offered by the church building. The position and pose of the cowboy and his horse also works well: If they were already on the path and heading toward the church building, the image would still have evoked the sense of threat and shelter, but wouldn't have been as strong. As it is, the man and horse are clearly altering their path, from a heading that would lead them into the storm to one that leads to the shelter. The implication of an abrupt change in direction in response to the looming threat adds a level of urgency that otherwise would not be present. Finally, the sepia-toned rendering of the image adds to a sense of historicity, but also removes the possible distraction of color, letting the tonality of the image do its work unimpeded. A nice shot, and very well executed.

Second Place
Darn Kids, by Anupam Pal
(Anupam won a Canon PIXMA MP960 Printer.)

We've been seeing quite a few composited photos in the POTD submissions lately, but it's tough to make such images even remotely convincing to the eye. Anupam Pal does a great job of it here: Lighting angles on the kids and the water fountain are close enough to not call attention to any differences, and the integration of the splashes of water from the kids' playing do an excellent job of bridging the scale between them and the spurt of water from the fountain. (It looks like Anupam also either manipulated the end of the fountain's water stream, to introduce some finer detail into it, or merged it with a splash of water from the boy on the left's pail, which again helps to bridge the disparate subject scales in the image and make the composite believable. The adult viewing the kids in the background is an excellent touch. Besides introducing an element of humor, the enormous face furthers the illusion of lilliputian children playing in a drinking fountain. (Our one criticism of the overall shot though, is that the large face appears to be looking just to the right of the kids, out of the photo a little. The effect would have been perfect if the subject's eyes had been directed slightly more toward the center of the image, to align with the images of the kids.) All in all though, a superbly executed composite image, with a nice touch of humor.

Third Place
All hands on stick, by Morris Bennett Altman
(Morris won a Canon PIXMA iP6700D Printer.)

We get a lot of animal pictures in the POTD submissions, so it takes something special to make it to the status of a daily winner, let alone to a monthly prize. This photo of the monkey is exceptionally well executed though, and the pose is very poignant as well. A significant part of the execution here is the lighting: The subject is backlit, yet the face, hands, and foot are perfectly exposed. The key to shots like these is effective use of fill-flash, and the trick is to provide the needed "fill" lighting in such a way that it appears entirely natural, neither over- nor under-exposing the important parts of the image. Getting the balance between fill flash and primary illumination just right has traditionally been a challenge for photographers, and is an area where Nikon's 3D matrix metering and TTL flash metering have been a particular help - So it's perhaps no surprise that Morris' equipment here was a Nikon D70S digital SLR. (Taking nothing away from Morris' photographic skills, and the time he invested to learn how to use his equipment effectively.) As to the portion of the lighting coming from the environment, the backlighting works particularly well for highlighting the monkey's hair, showing off the sharpness of the image and contributing to a sense of immediacy. The backlit fringe of hair also frames and draws more attention to the monkey's face and eyes. Very well done!

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!

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