Honorable Mention

As many of you may know, last month, for the first time ever, I submitted photos in the local club’s quarterly photo contest.  My goal was to get feedback because the judges often provide comments on each image.

After much deliberation, the photos I chose were the three that I had the most visceral response to.

Molten Sky was my favorite.  It was one of those mornings when you get up and think it’s just another day and then step outside and the sky is doing crazy stuff.  I had to grab my tripod and camera and shoot.  I’ve never seen a sky that looks like molten lava before–or since.

As I might have predicted, my favorite image was the judge’s least favorite.  In fact, in the score sheet of all the nearly 100 photos submitted, it wasn’t pretty close to the bottom.  What was disappointed me was that the judges provided no comments on this image, so I still don’t know why my taste is so different from the judges’.

The second image in the gallery was my second favorite shot.  This was taken right around sunset one winter night when the rays of the sun shot across the clouds, creating sunset stripes in the Southern sky.  This was an image I took to a photography club critique and did some post-processing on based on feedback from other club members.  Had they not suggested I submit this image to the club contest, I would not have submitted any images.

I like this image, but I actually like some of my other shots I didn’t submit better.  Having no discernment between “contest-worthy images” and not-so-worthy images, I defaulted to the recommendation of the folks who gave me pointers on editing it.  It scored just a point or so below the top 10 images.  However, still no comments.

The third image was one I really had a hard time selecting.  I shot so many amazing images of the sky that evening.  I had about 30 shots from the same evening that turned out really well.  I guess that’s what happens when the sky does amazing things–it’s hard not to get a good shot.  There was a dramatic sunset in the western sky, the reflection of that sunset in the eastern sky, a double rainbow, and a rain storm that blew through in a line all in the same shoot.

I guess since I’ve never seen a sunset reflected in the clouds like this one before, I chose this shot, hoping it would be a bit more unique.  It got an honorable mention, meaning it scored in the top 10.  More importantly, the judges did provide comments for the top 10 images.

Unfortunately, the comments were a little vague for me.  They liked the color and the lighting that draws attention to the sky over the rest of the image given the theme of the contest.

Maybe photo contests aren’t the best way to get critiques.


I’ve decided to post about my latest adventure.  It’s not about a trip or hang gliding or my dog or birds.  It’s about the decision and process of submitting photos for a contest for the first time.

A few months ago, it would not have occurred to me to submit photos to a contest.  I thought you submit photos to a contest when you think your photos are perfect.  I don’t think my photos are perfect.  I don’t even think they’re contest worthy.  But a couple of things happened to make me reconsider.

First, I went to my first meeting of the Photographic Society of Chattanooga, which happened to also be the awards ceremony for the youth photographers contest.  I still haven’t figured out exactly what that’s all about, but it seems like they have a fantastic program to get young people excited about photography and they offer scholarships for awards.  I watched the photos submitted for that contest and realized that it was largely impossible to sit in the audience and judge what any photo looked like.  I see this as a plus.

Second, I had a conversation with a photographer about my desire to get better at it and he suggested that getting the feedback from a contest submission would be a great way to learn.  I had never considered the possibility that feedback would be provided.

Third, I had a conversation with the folks who run the contests at PSC and was told that the photos are sent out to another group for judging and that they often provide very detailed information about why the photos were scored the way they were.

Fourth, I went to a casual critique at the home of a PSC member and they encouraged me to submit one of my photos to the contest.  This encouragement in combination with the groups gentle suggestions made me seriously consider submitting for the first time.

Finally, the theme for this quarter’s contest was “Sky.”  If there is anyone who has more sky photos in their photo library than I do, I feel sorry for them.  It happens to be one of my favorite subjects.

Having decided to enter, the next problem was culling through thousands of photos to find which ones I would submit to the contest.  I got the list down to about 120 after the first pass through this year’s photos.

On the second pass, the number dropped to something around 70.  By the time I left for Vermont, I had culled this down to just over 30.  But, it wasn’t until after I returned that I found any time to really decide which ones were worthy of submission.

I spent a lot of time considering the merits of each shot.  I spent very little time picking at the flaws.  I re-processed several of them in the process of deciding what I really had.

I’ve included may photos in today’s post.  I’ll let you decide when ones (3) I submitted.