Best of 2015 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 2015 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 2015 Photo Contest

 

 Judges:

Andy Wheeler
Andy WheelerAbandonscape Photographer
I am a New York based photographer specializing in landscape and a style I call “abandonscape” photography. The best place to see my work is here my website. I also sell limited editions of my work on metal at art festivals and galleries up and down the east coast. If you are interested in carrying my works in your shop or gallery, please contact me. I also host workshops and photowalks to help other photographers learn more about their art.
Andy Bloxham
Andy BloxhamShootapalooza
Growing up, Andy Bloxham turned to his imagination for activity. This playful, creative approach to life extended to Andy’s adulthood, where it took form in photographic storytelling. Creating what he considers photographs made through a smirking camera, his images have appeared throughout the world in numerous group and solo exhibitions, publications, and online media. He is an assistant professor of photography at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and faculty at the Maine Media Workshops.”
Blake Rudis
Blake RudisPhotographer & Photographer Instructor
Blake Rudis is an artist by trade who leaves a wake of intense Fine Art experience behind him. From Painting, Printmaking, Sculpting and Photography Blake has run the gamut and specializes in photo post processing and workflow efficiency.
Don Komarechka
Don KomarechkaNature, macro and landscape photographer
Don Komarechka is a nature, macro and landscape photographer located in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. From auroras to pollen, insects to infrared, much of Don’s photographic adventures reveal a deeper understanding of how the universe works. Exploring the world that we cannot see with our own eyes has been a common thread in Don’s career as a professional photographer.

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

Winning Image:

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Dean Stone

Dean Stone

Judge’s Feedback:

I like the saturation/contrast applied in post. There’s a grungy emotion to what should be a beautiful object. It is technically well done, but only holds me for a slight moment. It’s done fairly often, but the aesthetic considerations cause me to look longer than normal. Good choice with the placement of the yellow… lines up almost perfectly with the rule of thirds.
Tones here are exceptional. A simple subject, simply shot, with great light and impact. My only suggestion is the rule of 3’s. While there is a 3rd, 4th berry here, they are not prominent. When building a composition like this, odd numbers of subjects are better. Humans are more attracted to 1’s,3’s,5’s etc than 2’s, 4’s… Other than that, I really like this shot. I would suggest a little post process and blurring out the berry on the left… that would bring your focus to 1 berry and complete the composition. Excellent macro though, keep it up!
This is a very creative photo with unsurpassed attention to detail. While it does not tell a story or give us any real emotion, it beautiful depicts an everyday object that we take for granted.
The slight out of focus area in the foreground blueberry is a bit distracting and there are techniques to improve this (focus stacking). The droplets certainly add a lot of dimension to the berries, but I find myself asking what the purpose of the image is. Is it to document the fruit? To make me hungry for it? Being just the berries as they are it feels a little one-dimensional, though well executed as it stands. I only mean to say there is room for improvement. Put them in a spoon? Cut one of the blueberries in half to show a cross-section of the fruit ti add some visual interest and anthter colour? There are ways to make it better, but I like what I see.

2nd Place:

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Mike Colletta

Mike Colletta

Judge’s Feedback:

Beautiful photo. Wonderful control over the lighting. Reminds me of an element from an Erwin Olaf photograph. The content itself doesn’t hold me for a long time, but I highly appreciate all of the components that came together to create something so well done. The wall slopes down to the left, which is distracting and the top of the photo is cropped very closely to the hair, for some probably unintended tension. Still, wonderfully done.
Technically a good shot. Cool subject. Like the other photos submitted though, the composition is weak. You have negative space (huge) on the left and right and the frame is tight on the top and bottom. Imagine the impact if you move the subject to the right…and leave all the negative space to the left of her. Her contemplative expression now is given it’s due in the photo. The ONLY time it is okay to put your subject in the center in a portrait is for a headshot, or if you are shooting for a magazine and space is requested for text. Hair, make up, the dress, lighting, the backdrop, all great in this shot… now take your creativity to the next level and finish off this wonderful shot.
A wonderful display here for the viewer, very well processed. The treatment of the scene and the subject go very well together. The composition could be a little more focused on viewer interaction by moving the subject away from the center. The negative space on both sides distracts the eye from such a lovely subject.
Love the lighting and the overall classical feeling of this image. I’m sure there was a lot of work done to create this image, and it certainly shows. The only thing I have no hint towards is what the woman is doing, what she is thinking. Is she playing with her ring? I don’t that’s a powerful enough action here. What if she was holding a rose? The colour of the flower would directly reflect her mood. Red? Blue? White? Black? You can make a significant addition to the impact of the piece by communicating the general emotion of the person.

3rd Place:

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Christine D Hauber

Christine D Hauber

Judge’s Feedback:

I could stare at this photo for a long time. It does something often missed in long exposure night photography: it makes sure to have an interesting Earth composition, too. Wonderful job with the composition around the satellites. Technically, I love the left placement of the foreground, and balancing against a dark background while the brightness of the sky happens to the right. There’s something otherwordly about this photo that causes me to linger more and more for it.
The composition here is good. Very creative in that department. Being that the photo is uploaded so small though, makes it hard for me to judge. Initially, unfortunately all I really see is just another Milky Way composite shot. The internet is overloaded with these to the point that appreciation has really waned. The main thing with composites, is that they need to be believable. And to those of use who shoot this kind of stuff, the way light works is not being sold in this shot. Composite photography takes years to master. It goes way beyond cutting things out in photoshop. Its understanding light and the way it travels through a scene and affects everything. If that is not there the shot is not believable. This composite lacks that. The light at the horizon should be affected by the atmosphere or light pollution… it just looks pasted. I think the composition is strong here… and so is the subject matter. I would have rather seen the real sky here, light pollution, etc.
Very nice Milky Way shot as it includes much more than just the milky Way. I enjoy the composition and color quite well and am impressed with how far the photo was taken without taking it over the edge.
Love the framing and the way my eyes find balance in the scene. The sky is a bit too blue for my liking, and I know some of the other subtle colours in the Milky Way could be enhanced to balance the duller foreground palette. The image also feels a little “sterile” to me, and might benefit from a human element. Someone with a flashlight, looking up at the night sky? The curiosity of mankind starts with us, not with the machines we create.

Finalist:

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Gina Parry

Gina Parry

Judge’s Feedback:

Perfectly fine wedding photography, but I wish it brought more to the table in creativity. It’s also just really bright. White on white in a lot of areas. A deeper shadow point in the photo somewhere would have helped with the “weightless” feeling of the image. Excess head room makes the bottom feel cut off. Cute kids, perfectly fine assignment work, but still lacks the extra visual impact for me to linger longer
Technically well shot. Right aperture, lighting, etc. A missed moment though, lacking in composition and creativity. A common road block for those who have learned their camera and shot for a while. The story here is confusing to me. A vision of one sister wanting another sisters attention and not getting it? While the one not giving is taking joy in that? Portraiture is all about the eyes…we see one girl with her eyes open and a clear look of attention…while the other girls eyes while maybe open, are not enough to convey any positive emotion to the other girl. Just looks like the moment was missed my microseconds. There maybe some other story here that the photographer knows…but it is not conveyed to the audience without words. For our photos to be the most that they can, the story of the photo must be conveyed in the photo without words or titles. Yes this a portrait, most likely for a customer. So the girls and those there will know the story and that is probably enough… but imagine if the customer there knows the story and you nail the moment….that’s the key. This is a case where a tighter crop could have been used if the other girls eyes were open. Again, well captured on the technical side and well post processed..

A well captured experience in this photo with nice Bokeh and a story being told.
It feels as if the image is sliding to the right a bit with the two girls almost looking as if they are falling to the right. This takes away from the expression a bit. If you straighten the image about 10 degrees to the left the expression become more impacting as the girl on the left appear to be looking up at her rather than falling toward her.
The contrast also seems a bit too washed. While it is Black and White there is nothing Black or White in the image. A heightened contrast would really make this image pop.

There’s a narrative playing out here, and it makes me want to ask what the dialogue is. I start to imagine a conversation in my head, which shows the image has impact. Clear outlines, little in the way of distraction, and everything seems to have the right tones. Based on the dresses and jewelry, The scene almost has a fairytale-like setting, but the background doesn’t necessarily echo that. Nothing wrong with the background, but it doesn’t contribute to the narrative.

Finalist:

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Darrell Harrington

Darrell Harrington

Judge’s Feedback:

It’s a fine shot, but how does this differ from the various magazine covers I see every September? It checks off all of the patriotic elements in a technically well done image, but doesn’t leave room for discussion afterward. Also… Statue of Liberty is overexposed.
A classic image who’s content definitely evokes emotion. In that though, it has been shot a million times in this format. It takes something extra to make this a portfolio maker. Looks as though clouds were moving in, or out… but the photographer captured just a hint of them on the right, which now becomes a distraction. Define the main subject of your story and then capture that in a unique way. Maybe a move to the left to align Liberty, the freedom tower and the spotlights in one close grouping near the 3rd, with the cityscape filling the negative space to the right… Right now, the 3 main elements are spread across the composition in what I would consider a lazy grouping. If the weather does not give you something for the sky, then focus on an interesting composition. Technically captured perfectly and a beautiful night shot overall. Definitely worth a revisit.

An impacting photo, free of noise, which is great.
There seems to be a red spot, maybe a blown pixel, that my eye keeps gravitating towards. A quick Clone Stamp or spot heal would fix that.

Architecture photography is hard to do in a unique way. I would have liked to have seen the statue of liberty larger in the frame, filling in the space between the buildings. There might have been a missed creative opportunity putting one of the spotlights over the torch. Technically is good, but it feels like a lot of other images without a strong enough impact.

Finalist:

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Jayne Kostyrka Gubelman

Jayne Kostyrka Gubelman

Judge’s Feedback:

I do like reflection photos of this nature, but the extreme keystoning is distracting. It’s there and evident, but I wish it were either from a higher angle to eliminate the distortion, or if it were pushed even more extreme. Because geometry is such a big part of the image, the fact that the lines slope down to the right ever so slightly is distracting.
Great idea here. Execution is off a bit. While not an original shot, to pull it off it needs to be done with purpose. The big rectangle at the upper left where the building changes form is a huge distraction in the photograph. Moving 10ft closer to the glass building would have cured this and made this shot a winner. While you could crop this image and “fix” it, this would leave no space in the frame… When in the field our first instinct is to fill the frame. We need to leave space for the image to breath and for us to work. Maybe it would mean moving into the street to get the shot…in harms way…well if you want the shot…make it happen. Get a friend or passer by to spot for you…or pre-compose your shot, exposure, etc, wait for you moment and jump out there and get it. Technically shot well. Tones and colors are complimentary. Well worth a revisit to re-execute and practice! Keep up the good work.
Quite a nice shot of a reflection on a building, I do appreciate these shots. However, there was nothing really impacting or gripping enough to hold my attention for very long.
A technical note: the lines are almost straight. almost… the top and bottom horizontal lines run on very slight diagonals which bothers me. I like the concept of reflections in windows and the location suits this concept well. The sky is the biggest detractor for me. A more interesting sky or shooting at a different time of day would have resulted in a larger colour palette and better contrast.

All images submitted to the Best of 2015 Photo Contest:

 

See also the Best of 2015 album in the forums – Best of 2015 Photo Contest Album

 

Discuss the show in our forums! – Forum Post

You can also see and comment on images from other contest our Forums – jpeg2RAW Photo Contest

Albums from previous episodes can be found here – Podcast Images