The glories of nature: We announce our September Photo of the Day monthly winners


posted Monday, October 13, 2014 at 2:23 PM EDT

Sometimes our monthly Photo of the Day contest winners and runners-up have a common theme to them. We certainly don't plan it that way - we simply vote on the ones we like and then the votes are tallied. But when it happens, it's interesting to take note of it.

This month, the central theme is clear -- nature! And we have some splendid examples of nature photography on display below, from a wonderful macro by Abeselom Zerit taking the top prize to a few excellent examples of nature photography at its finest from two of our acclaimed regulars, Jimmy Marz and Debra S. Dorothy. These are followed by two more amazing photographs covering a few serene, majestic scenes by Graeme Chow and Bill McFall.

Thanks so much to everyone who enters our Photo of the Day contest, and congratulations to the winners this month! The top three all receive gift certificates from Adorama of $300, $200 and $100, respectively. Please keep the wonderful submissions coming our way!

Below are the winning images from September with comments from Imaging Resource publisher Dave Etchells:

First place • Milkweed Beetle by Abeselom Zerit • Nikon D800

As you might expect, we get a lot of macro photos of bugs among our POTD submissions. And why not? They're interesting critters, macro shots of them and their world are almost inherently interesting, and they're everywhere, so there's no shortage of subjects.

Given so many bug-photo submissions, though, it takes more than a little to stand out. Abeselom's shot of this milkweed beetle is pretty exceptional, though. The framing is great, focus is tack-sharp on the beetle and leaf, yet the background is beautifully blurred. Not only that, but it's a great composition. The shape of the leaf and large central vein immediately direct your eyes to the subject, and we particularly like the way the beautiful curving edges of the leaf draw the eye. There's another subtle, but I think very important component to the picture, which is the way the structure of the soft background reinforces the central composition. Even blurred as much as they are, if the lines in the background were, say, horizontal, or at some constant, straight angle, they'd detract greatly from the composition. As it is, they serve to further frame and direct attention to the central subject. All in all, a gorgeous shot, kudos to Abeselom for capturing it!

Second place • Fox and Friends by Jimmy Marz • Canon 70D

Once again, nature photographer Jimmy Marz' local family of friendly foxes have led him to the winner's circle.  We've featured photos of what we assume were different members of this same fox family multiple times in the past. This one is a great group portrait of four of them, and we loved the way the multiple subjects are positioned in the frame. There are nice textural and tonal contrasts between the rippled reflections in the foreground, the pebbled beach in the same plane as the subjects, and the blurred green and grey background. The greenish background provides great contrast against the foxes' red fur, as does the light-grey beach pebbles against their black legs. There's also a sort of a "horizon line" that the foxes' bodies rest on (the streak of grey in the near background). Leading lines in the foreground reflections initially direct our eyes to the pair roughly in the middle, but then the way the other two stand out in such dramatic relief against the background pulls our eyes over to them. (It's interesting to note that there's both a color contrast and a very strong textural one at work here; part of why the foxes stand out so prominently is the contrast between the crisp details of their faces and ears against the soft background shapes.) There's a tension between the two pairs of subjects that keeps our eyes engaged much longer than they would be if this were just a portrait of the central pair in isolation. All in all, another great photo from Jimmy.

Third place • In His Element by Debra S. Dorothy • Canon 5D Mark II

This is another re-appearance by IR POTD regular Debra Dorothy, whose specialty (one of them, anyway) is bird pictures. We found this shot unusual and prize-worthy in a couple of ways. First, it's a very unusual shot, in terms of the wing angles and the angle of the bird relative to the camera. The wing angles in particular set it apart from most bird shots we've seen. The general shape and lower edge of the left wing (our left, not the bird's) both directs attention to and frames the bird's head and beak, and everything except the right wing creates a very strong, angled composition. The bird's bill and underside of its body extend the line of the left wing, strengthening the diagonal orientation. Then there's that right wing. It juts out at a sharp angle from the lines established by the rest of the composition, and also has much stronger, contrasting detail than any of the rest of the bird's body, save the head. I confess to slightly mixed initial feelings about it, but the more I've looked at and studied the image, the more I like it. It adds contrast and tension, and if I consider what the picture would look like without it, I find that much less interesting than having it there. It's kind of interesting - I started liking it more once my eyes discovered that it's almost perfectly perpendicular to the strong, nearly horizontal line created by the upper edge of the left wing and the bird's tail. There's some detail in the left wing that also creates a vertical line, and the two verticals together frame the bird's head more. It's odd; until I saw the almost-right angle created by the right wing, it seemed disjointed and at odds with the rest of the composition. Once I saw it, though, my whole impression of the picture changed, to the extent that my eyes now scan it entirely differently than they did at first. Whatever the case, leaving all this perhaps slightly belabored analysis aside, it's another great photo from Debra!

• • •

- And here are our two worthy runners-up for September; a lovely scene with Red Dot Cranes flying into the sunset by repeat winner Graeme Chow, and an idyllic Wild West cabin-in-the-wilderness shot from Bill McFall. Congrats on the two great photos, guys!
First runner-up • Red dot cranes in sunset by Graeme Chow • Nikon D800E

Second runner-up • The Old West by Bill McFall • Nikon D50


For anyone wanting to know more about our competition please visit this news story which describes our contest and also offers some useful tips to help you succeed. To see camera and exposure information on this month's winners or to visit previous months please visit our POTD winner's gallery.

[Ready to submit a photo of your own? Just click here! And to compliment these photographers on their submissions or offer your own analysis, please use the comments section below.]