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.

Something New

Tonight I did something I’ve never done before.  I went to a photo critique.  I had no idea what to expect.  My fear was that the photos I brought were hopeless.  I didn’t bring perfect pictures.  I don’t have any of those.  But, I picked a few that I really felt I hadn’t done justice to.  A few where the subject was stunning–the kind of stunning that made my mouth drop open for a few seconds before I grabbed my camera.  Sadly for each image, when I loaded them onto my computer, I was disappointed with the results.  I felt like I’d missed something, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

We were only able to bring 3-4 images.  And of the 4 I brought, only 2 actually got critiqued.  But, I got enough pointers from watching and listening that I’m pretty happy with my newly adjusted versions of not only the two that were critiqued, but also the first one in the gallery.  The two that were critiqued show before and after versions.

Interestingly, the critique part was not really a critique.  It was more of a group PhotoShop effort.  The image was up on a big screen and people would suggest different adjustments to improve the image.  Sometimes it really made a difference and sometimes it didn’t.  When they got to my first image (the last one in the gallery), they all seemed at a loss.  Maybe they just aren’t as awestruck by sunbeams coming through clouds as I am.  I was disappointed that no one had any really good ideas on how to make the image pop.  Everyone assumed removing the contrails would be too difficult to attempt.

When I got home, I wasn’t willing to give up on that image.  I have to give Aperture a bit of a plug here.  It took me less than 2 minutes to remove the contrails using the “retouch” brush and letting Aperture auto-select what to use to replace the contrails with.  I was impressed with how easy that was.  What was harder was doing a burn on the clouds.  I spent some time trying to increase the difference between the clouds and the sky.  The image still doesn’t do the scene justice, but I feel like it’s getting closer.

The group really liked the other critiqued image.  I played with it based on their suggestions.  Seems like it’s quite grainy to me.  I tried noise reduction, but it still looks grainy.  I’m almost afraid to do any more adjustments to it in the fear that I’ll end up with a bowl of mush.  My fellow club members encouraged me to submit it for the quarterly photo competition.  I might just do that.  Another thing I’ve never done before.

Tisen was upset with me for about 2 minutes when I got home.  Then he returned to dozing on the sofa.  He seems to be getting used to me coming and going these days.