Best of 2014 Photo Contest

Every month jpeg2RAW holds a themed Photo Challenge, except for December.  In December, we hold a Best of the Year Photo Contest.  In this Best of 2014 episode, Mike and Tim are joined by A.D Wheeler to analyze each of the finalist and to announce the winner entry.


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Best of 2014 Photo Contest

 

 Judges:

Kathleen Bowie
Kathleen BowieNewborn & Children Photographer
Former Co-Host of jpeg2RAW, Kathleen is a professional photographer specializing in newborns, children and family portraits.

A.D. Wheeler
A.D. WheelerLandscape Photographer
Award winning New York based photographer specializing in landscape and a style called “abandonscape” photography.

Andy Bloxham
Andy BloxhamFictional Photographer
Creating what he considers photographs made through a smirking camera, his personal work has appeared throughout the world in numerous group and solo exhibitions, publications, and online media.
Mark Johnson
Mark JohnsonPhotographer & Adobe Photoshop Liminary
Mark’s tutorials appear regularly on the KelbyOne and Planet Photoshop websites, and his imagery and articles have been featured in Photoshop User, Photo Techniques, Nature’s Best, and After Capture magazines. He is a contributor to Dewitt Jones’ heartwarming Healing Images campaign and a Trey Ratcliff Flatbooks author.
Ron Clifford
Ron CliffordProfessional Photographer
Fine Art and Wedding Photographer, Ron is also a Master at the Arcanum. He is a mentor, educator and community builder. He has been featured in the top 1% most endorsed Canadian Fine Art Photographers and is the Most Followed make on G+ in Canada.

 

Note:  judges listed below are NOT in the same order as above!

Winning Image:

Best of 2014

Donnan J Laskaris

Judge’s Feedback:

Wow! This image is so powerful that it brought tears to my eyes. I absolutely love the emotion in the scene…crying newborn and smiling mother. Beautifully composed, timeless capture. In a perfect world, both of the baby’s eyes would be tack sharp. I might also consider slightly darkening the lower right corner.
A moment cherished. Great for a stock image. If you for a parent you would want the mothers emotions as well. More than just a partial smile. Technically well done. Great emotion in the newborn. Probably could have gone a step further with aperture to give it a shallower depth of field. The mothers and baby’s face are nearly on the same plane. That would have softened the moment even further. Again, a lack of creativity though.. Images these days need that extra push to make them stand out. With the advance in cameras and photographers alike, only the super strong (and creative) survive.
An exceptional image with strong emotional charge and very good composition. A memorable and wonderful image. (i am doing my best to look past the watermark) Documentary portraiture at it’s finest
Technically this image is well executed. I’d love to have both eyes of the baby tack sharp…but that is personal preference and not technically incorrect…so I still gave a 9. My creative score was a 5. This is more journalistic than creative. The emotion from the image is beautiful..10 and emotion is everything in photography so that’s why this image got a great overall score from me! Composition is great, the only reason it did not get a 10 is because I like to shoot down the nose and not up it…but I understand this is more journalistic and it’s a great capture in the moment! This is a great image!
There’s something special about the moment when a mother is first united with a newborn. This also captures the relationship between the giving of a parent with the self-centric nature of a small baby, and how that relationship eventually evens out. As a photo, I was a bit lost at first with the bright background behind the baby’s head, and am still not sure what I’m looking at. The watermark, though I understand its usage, is a direct counter focus point to the crying baby. The photo captures the moment of what it is, though I’m not sure it exists powerfully as an image beyond documentation.
 

 

2nd Place:

Best of 2014

Gina Parry

Judge’s Feedback:

Spectacular photo. So touching. Flawless lighting. Beautiful composition. The subject matter and lighting draw my eye to the subject and it lingers there for quite some time. Excellent color rendition, too.
Good image. Could use a bit more toning. The more creative of the bunch but still not quite there for me. I need to see the photographers creativeness really come out. So I can identify the image with the person immediately. Any number of good photographers could have taken this. Don’t take that the wrong way. Where is your signature here though? What makes this photo scream that it was taken by you? (No watermarks please. 🙂 Good image overall. The most well rounded of the bunch.
Technically very well exposed and excellent focus on the eyes. good skin tone and good choice of strength of the vignette. I am quite distracted by some of the peeling skin and even though it’s accurate does not really contribute to the image. It would have been good to have retouched some, or all of the more obvious skin peeling on the babies hand/arm This is a solid image and one I am sure the parents are very proud to display
10’s almost across the board on this one. Technically it did not score as high for me, because in newborn photography, posing is essential and i would like to see the front hand pulled back and placed under the babies cheek and not out in front. Also, the image is being lit from the “wrong” direction. The light is not exactly UP the nose…but it’s not down the nose either and the light should be coming from the other direction…going Down the bridge of the nose.
The lighting is my favorite part. Just the spot of soft light on the child is really well done. The strength of the mother’s arms tell the whole story, without the need for the full body to be present in the background. Great technical lighting skills. I feel like I’ve seen this image before in various newborn photo sets, but not typically often with this type of lighting.

3rd Place:

Best of 2014

Doug Curran

Judge’s Feedback:

Spectacular capture of a swimmer in motion. This is not easy to do and you’ve done an excellent job! To add even more impact, you may want to add a little more light to the swimmer and subtract a little light from the top and bottom of the scene. Selective sharpening on the subject and the water immediately around him will add even more drama to this image.
Strong image. A great stock or sports reporting moment captured. Emotion is strong and the image is technically correct. Upon close inspection the image is over-sharpened. Selective or masked sharpening would have been the better way to go. His color is great, I think the blues/vibrance could have been boosted a bit to put this over the top for me. Also, I could see this in super large format at a sports complex if the crop was changed to something along the lines of a 10:4 ratio. Super wide, super focused. Great image.
A very good composition and good sharpness, it not a little over sharpened This is also a common view and so falls short in creativity but is non the less a strong well exposed professional level image.
Technically sound image. The emotion is nice…you can feel the rush. I’d like to see the edit have a little more punch.
Great timing on the capture. This photo appeals to me on a technical level firstly, from the patience and attention it requires to achieve it. All of these components come together to show a real commitment to his sport. Some of the outlying compositional elements, like the close but not quite symmetrical framing, make me wish it were more precise to compliment the wonderful timing.
Here’s a link to a page with a presentation (slow-loading) where I show how to add a dramatic “bleach bypass” effect that would look really cool on this scene – http://bit.ly/1Km7THh

Finalist:

Best of 2014

Dean Stone

Judge’s Feedback:

What I love most about this capture is that I can see the emotion in the gorilla’s expression. Beautiful work! Using Photoshop, I would consider adding a little more light to the eyes. You might also want to slightly darken the chest to draw more attention to the face. A small amount of blur in the fur in the lower right corner would also help draw attention to the face.
Technically a great image. Where is the creativity? Animal images from zoos are a great subject. This gorilla shows great emotion. But to be a winning photo you need to take it to the next level. It takes more than just a well shot photo to take the prize these days.
This is a solid image and is technically well done but lacks the impact and connection that are possible in images of this kind.
Technically the image needs a bit of work. The over all image needs some levels or curves work to bring out the details of the image….the eyes, the fur and because there is not enough interest to the image. It is also slightly underexposed. It you looked at each area of the image in PS with the histogram…you would see that there is lots of room to more to bring more impact to the image.
This image is all about the eyes. There’s a direct connection, and the photo feels very compassionate. The high angle adds to this feeling. I don’t know if it’s in a zoo, in the wild, or somewhere else, but it feels like a makeshift studio regardless. When scrolling through the images, this is the one I kept wanting to rest on and take in. There’s a subtle power to the image that I’m drawn to. I wish the chest weren’t so comparably brighter than the face, but otherwise, love it!
Here’s a link to a tutorial that shows how to add more light to the eyes – http://bit.ly/1s5BZJ0

Finalist:

Best of 2014

Gordon Rufh

Judge’s Feedback:

Technically, this image is impeccable. The lighting and color are absolutely gorgeous. In a perfect world, I would like to see more emotion in the subject. The composition could be stronger if the subject’s eyes were placed on a powerpoint (where Rule of Thirds lines intersect). Although I like the drama created by the black background, the scene could be even stronger with a more compelling, story-supporting background. The subject would also benefit from just a tiny bit more light in the eyes.
I want to love this image… but. Its a bit soft, not tack sharp. The subject is in the middle. Her skin, for a child is quite blotchy. The sparkles on the mask handle are a nice touch but so much more could be done with this image. A creative Victorian background added, subject moved to the 3rd. Toning. For me, this is a beautifully missed opportunity to have won a photo contest. The photographer may want to check their monitor calibration as there is quite a bit of out of gamut blacks/grays around the child’s head. Turn up you monitors brightness a bit to see it.
The concept is excellent though I don’t often see a child in this roll. the focus on the face is good if not a bit too intentional and without any type of separation or kicker it takes on too strong a contrast in all but the skin. The retouch is impressive on the skin but a bit too aggressive, even for a styled image like this but the look and overall impact make up for it in the end. The composition being central is safe, but average and having her off to either the right or left (I would say off to the left would be ideal here) of the frame would be more creative. Well done!
Technically it’s nice. I think the whites of the eyes are overdone a bit. Nice creativity with the purple eyes and the diamond sparkles. It’s not very emotional to me. It’s sweet…but does not tug on my emotional heart strings. Emotion is everything in photography.
I appreciate the isolation of the figure from any recognizable background. Nice soft lighting, particularly on the mask without the harsh reflections. I appreciate the subtle gradient of light coming up from the bottom. I’m not particularly drawn in to the expression. Fairly static, that doesn’t move me in any particular direction. Also, the positioning of the figure could perhaps be enhanced if on the right side of the frame.
Here’s a link to a tutorial that shows how to add a bit more light to the eyes – http://bit.ly/1s5BZJ0

Finalist:

Best of 2014

Mark DeMint

Judge’s Feedback:

Compelling composite! Gorgeous colors. Amazing sky capture. Creative idea. I like the way the fire ties the foreground and sky together. In a perfect world, the foreground subject matter would be more interesting and engaging. To really sell the composite, you will need to eliminate the halo running along the edges of the horizon.
A good attempt. A fair amount of haloing and over processing around the tree line. Just not a strong enough setting. A bonfire leading to the milky way is a GREAT idea if it were out in Arches, or the Rockies or a remote location with an interesting foreground. This photo wins for best attempt. And the idea should be pursued further as well as the technique. Shooting the milky way takes not only timing but location and the equipment to handle it. This is a fairly low resolution shot and I can still see a ton of sharpening in the sky. Without seeing the EXIF I cannot comment on the equipment used but I would be willing to bet this was not shot at f/2.8. Either way, with this entire group I would just like to see more creativity. I think its a great bunch of shots but you really have to push it to the next level with your creativity to get a winner in these categories.
This image is nice and the fire helps it be a little more different than many I’ve seen. Technically the sky is processed well but the foreground is not as well done and the halos at the transition of land to sky really hurt the final score.
Technical…I see lots of halos around the tree line…so that hurt this images technical score. Nice creativity with adding the starry sky in post and having the heat from the flame more into the sky. I like it. Makes me want to go there, relax, roast marshmallows and look at the stars. I can feel the heat from the flames. So emotionally this image did well. Composition is fine….I could do with a little less foreground.
Imagery like this really remind me how small we are in the scope of the universe at large. A family having a bonfire, meaning the rest of everything in existence continues to happen in the background. I appreciate the combination of the illuminated foreground with the harder to see dark elements of the sky made visible. I do wish the halos weren’t surrounding everything on the horizon line, which takes me out of the image and into pondering HDR processes. Overall, fun image that puts things into perspective.
Here are links to several tutorials that may help with the halo-removal process – Video 1 – Video 2 – Video 3 – Video 4 – Video 5 – Video 6 – Video 7 
All images submitted to the Best of 2014 Photo Contest:

 

See also the Best of 2014 album in the forums – http://www.jpg2raw.com/forums/index.php/gallery/album/70-best-of-2014/

 

Discuss the show in our forums! – Forum Post

You can also see and comment on these images over in our Forums – Best of 2014 Album

Albums from previous episodes can be found here – Podcast Images

 

LINKS:

A.D Wheeler

 

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