Somewhat later than planned, we're once again catching up on our Photo of the Day winner updates. Here's a look at the winners of our May contest; 31 great photos, 3 excellent winners, and 2 fine runners-up.
"Taj Mahal," "No Retreat and No Surrender," and "Poised for Leaping Lizzard" were chosen as our May winners. Congratulations to Claude Dunkel, Solomon O, and Frank Somma!
Without further ado, here's the three monthly winners for May, and comments from the judges on what made them so great. Clicking on any image will open a larger version in a new window.
Taj Mahal, by Claude Dunkel
(Claude won a Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II Printer.)
As one of the more famously photogenic buildings in the world, it's probably no surprise that we've seen a lot of pictures of the Taj Mahal flow through the POTD submissions queue over the years. Claude Dunkel's beautiful shot is easily one of the most striking we've seen to date, though. The subject's natural interest, the framing, the lighting, beautiful contrasts and strong leading lines make for an exceptional photograph. The early-morning sunrise shining through the fog (the fog makes us think it's sunrise vs sunset) creates a really magical lighting effect; a shot we've never seen before of this subject. The fact that the details of the structure are somewhat shrouded greatly increases the visual interest: Rather than leading us to say "Oh, it's the Taj Mahal," the enveloping mist actually draws our eyes to the structure all the more. Actually, all the largest and most contrasty elements in the shot draw our eyes to the subject: The frame of the archway (including the perspective distortion of the opening), the lines in the foreground, the balance of light and shadow; all the elements combine to draw the eye into the composition. At the same time, though, there's dynamic tension between multiple elements: The stark geometry of the foreground contrasts with the softness of the fog, with the vanishing point of the foreground perspective actually hidden inside the fog bank. The bright light of the sun tugs your eyes away from the hidden vanishing point, while the bright sky and its contrast against the framing arch pulls your eye upward. The slightly off-center framing, the color balance, and the exposure are all perfectly executed as well. Just an exceptional picture, and one highly deserving of its first-place award this month. (Claude, the early morning wakeup call was clearly worth it!)
No Retreat and No Surrender, by Solomon O
(Solomon won a Canon PIXMA MP990 Printer.)
Sometimes you have time to carefully pose the subject and compose a photo, other times it's a case of being in the right place at the right time and being quick on the shutter button. This shot is clearly a case of the latter; the situation depicted couldn't have lasted more than a fraction of a second, before the bird's bill snapped shut. (Unless the muscle strength of birds' bills and lizards' legs are rather different than we're thinking.) Regardless, Solomon O managed to capture a moment that's humorous, despite it's likely ultimate outcome. The pose of the lizard's body and legs, and the look of apparent consternation in the bird's eye gave us a real chuckle as we picked this first as a Photo of the Day, and later as the second place winner in the Photo of the Month contest. A few distracting leaves could have been cloned out of the background, but they're sufficiently blurred by the lens' shallow depth of field that they don't draw too much attention away from the primary subject.
One thing important for other aspiring contestants to note here: The almost-square aspect ratio of this shot shows that it was cropped from a larger frame. This is crucial to its impact and composition. We can't tell you how many shots we get that would be daily or even monthly winners, if the photographers had just taken time to crop them to improve composition and eliminate distracting details. The cropping Solomon used in this shot is very effective, showing enough of the bird's body to make it more of a portrait than a detail shot, yet cropping close enough to focus attention on the main subject. Likewise, the inclusion of the near-background leaves in the lower left corner help frame the composition, and provide more of a base to the shot than would be the case if it had been cropped tighter, into a more horizontal composition. Congratulations to Solomon O for having the quick reflexes (and perhaps a fast enough motor drive as well), to get this great shot!
Poised for Leaping Lizzard, by Frank Somma
(Frank won a Canon PIXMA MP640 Printer.)
Yikes! This is one intense lizard! Repeat POTD winner Frank Somma did a great job with this subject, getting right up close & personal. The shallow depth of field is perfectly centered on the lizard's eyes; a quarter inch front or back from that point would have resulted in a shot that looked out of focus. (It can be really tough to get focus centered properly in macro shots of live subjects.) The lighting is great: The lack of EXIF data in the image suggests to us that Frank's worked on the image a little, post-exposure. If so, he did a great job of it: We suspect he did a little burning-in of parts of the image other than the lizard's face, to increase the contrast and call attention to the creature's gaze. It's very well-done though; the hallmark of successful retouching is that the viewer not be aware that it's been done: There are few telltale signs here, giving away the fact that the image has been retouched: It just looks like a particularly dramatic macro shot of a lizard, in which the lighting just happened to work out to emphasize its features. Kudos to Frank for another fine shot; keep them coming!
|Shine and Intent ||Graceful |
| || |
|by Raphael Macek ||by Ellen Devenny |
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 May'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!