“WHO AM I TO JUDGE?”

By Suzanne Mathia

I was recently asked to judge another photography competition.  Whether it is at a camera, club, an online competition of a fair I always enjoy seeing submitted images from different areas of the country – I am always blown away with the creativity and talent.  I get to see a different range of photography, things I don’t ordinarily see,

images that are totally unexpected, locations that are unusual and perspectives that are unique.

I love to see where people are taking photography, especially the youngsters. (That didn’t make me sound old!) It’s really refreshing and inspiring to see their vision and passion for the craft!

Fran Yates – Best in Show Northern Gila County Fair

Being asked to judge someone else’s art is not an easy task and one I don’t take lightly.  I may take a slightly different approach to this process but I wanted to share some thoughts and observations.

For me the most important part of a photographic image is IMPACT.  That cant be judged purely by the technical aspects.  Some guidelines for the judging process require each image to be awarded points or gold stars based on a long list of technical criteria. Some don’t.

Deborah Burd _First Place Winner

When I look initially at a group or collection of images I am looking for the ones that stand out for me for whatever reason.  Compelling images always stand out from the crowd, rise to the top upon viewing for the first time. That process of doing a visual scan helps me to find some of the best pictures and eliminate others — pictures that are simply “me too” , “same ol same old” or pictures that just fade into the background.

After that initial visual scan, I go in closer and look for WHY.  Why did this image stand out above the rest? That can be subject matter, creativity as well as composition and technique, post processing and presentation, overall excellence. A photograph must convey attention or intent.  I look for an image that is about something not just of something.

Deborah Bird – First Place Winner

One can give points for following all the rules, but often the most memorable images are those that flaunt the normal conventions…with purpose .  I look for creativity, simplicity, emotion, composition and impact. After that I look for exposure, focus and sharpness, tonal separation, framing, leading lines, light and shadow. Are the horizons straight, no intruders along the borders, chromatic aberration, banding, flare, noise and over processing, those are the things that can distract from an otherwise compelling photograph.

Some of the biggest mistakes I see are multiple versions of the same image.  A different crop or a slightly different treatment. It dilutes the originality of one of the images and indicates the photographer was undecided about their vision.

Overuse of HDR and filters, presets and plug ins.  If the category is creative, manipulation or composite this can be fine and a creative use of the available software programs. However, it can be over done and may ruin an otherwise pleasing image.

Over Sharpening- image sharpening is a powerful and necessary tool for emphasizing texture and drawing viewer focus. It’s also required of any digital photo at some point. However, over sharpening can cause that “crunchy” look.

Happily and thankfully, over time, I have seen less and less of these obvious mistakes.

Fran Yates – Best in Class

It is painful to reject a photo. I know I try to find the best in every image. Behind that entry is a photographer who loved making this image, was so proud and so hopeful as well as brave and confident enough to put there work out there. I am very conscious of some of potential biases and preferences and try not to let them cloud or influence my decisions.

I know that not everyone will agree with my choices and some will definitely have differing opinions.  I am OK with that….who am I to judge!? Judges of photo contests have a unique perspective because we see so very many photos. Sometimes the difference between being a finalist in a contest and being rejected comes down to minute differences, personal preferences, innate biases and opinions.

Get your work out there.  Enter contests, submit to publications, have an online presence, participate in art shows , fairs and exhibits. Work hard at your craft and never give up. You may not have won a fist place ribbon this time but keep showing your work and most importantly, love what you do.

Suzanne Mathia is an Instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Lens Rental

By Esther Shavon Thomas

Thinking of buying a new lens?  Need a Particular Lens for a special occasion, outing, or event?  Try Renting a Lens

I rent lots of camera equipment and am often asked 2 questions:

What’s the benefits of renting a lens?

How do you go about renting lenses or any camera equipment?

Potential Benefits:

One of the obvious benefits is cost. Renting allows you to obtain often expensive equipment for a fraction of the cost. Especially if you only need a particular lens for a specific event or time period.

The second benefit of renting is it’s a great way to “try before you buy.” If you are considering purchasing a lens, renting prior to purchase gives you a chance to explore your potential purchase and really get some hands on feel to how it handles.  There is nothing like taking a lens out and shooting with it in the field to determine if it is right for you as a photographer.

The photos included in this article were taken on an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop “Shoot the Zoo.” I shoot mostly macro so I needed a decent telephoto for the workshop.  Also, given how quickly animals may move or change a particular action or behavior, I wanted a lens that could cover most of my shots. I I rented a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens and found it a versatile option to cover the variety of animal habitats and environments within the zoo.

Best way to go about renting lens/equipment?

The two most common ways to rent a lens are either online or through your local camera shop. Your neighborhood camera store is convenient and allows for immediate possession. It also allows you to view your item before you rent it. Often your local camera shop may have offers to apply your rental fee to equipment purchase.

Online is the other option for renting equipment. There are several reputable companies that rent camera equipment. You can do a simple internet search for “online camera rentals.” Online is a great option for those who do not have a local camera store near, or for increased availability of particular items. I would suggest reviewing each website and their product offerings and fees.

If you are interested in renting a lens, sign up for their respective email newsletters. Newsletters often alert members to attractive deals and coupon codes!  Below are a few online lens rental companies I have used in no particular order.

www.atsrentals.com
www.lensrentals.com
www.lensbowwers.com

Happy Shooting!

Esther Shavon Thomas is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Stabilizing Your Camera

By John Frelich

How many times have you heard that you need to avoid camera shake? About every time you discuss cameras with any of your friends and/or colleagues. But are tripods and monopods the only way, especially when out and around? Generally nothing can beat a good tripod with a remote shooter.

But if you attend any of Nikon’s or other camera manufacturer’s lectures you realize other means are available. One Nikon presentation I attended they included all types of tricks and techniques e.g. leaning a camera against a wall, laying it on a rock or other flat surface.

So here are a few others. Below is an image of a miniature tripod made by Kenko. It not only lets you get flat near the ground but also will allow you to tighten it around a pole or small tree. It is not easy to find in the States but I did find it in Japan for $35.

Too much money? How many of you have travel pillows filled with rice or man-made filler e.g. Styrofoam balls? These were popular years ago and will allow you to place them on uneven surfaces or an engine running vehicle. If not in your storage area, you may also find them at Garage Sales.

Finally, why not try a piece of foam pipe insulation? If you have some left after wrapping the legs of your tripod against hot and cold temperatures this is a great way to use some scrap.  Because it opens to wrap around a pipe, that opening can be used to put on the sill of your car door window so you don’t have to “brave” the elements or challenge the fortitude of some wild animal you want to photograph. It is also said that it will help stabilize an image while performing a “panning” function without leaving the vehicle.

John Frelich is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.