Full Moon, Scoresby Sund, Greenland.
200mm lens, 1/800 second @ f4.5, ISO 2200
Next year I'm returning to Scoresby Sund in Greenland on a wooden schooner! It sounds incredibly enterprising, but all the arrangements are being handled by Better Moments in Denmark, a provider of world-class photography tours and workshops. I'm being hired with Magnus Elander to lead the voyage which is entirely within Scoresby Sund, so no fear of rough weather or sea sickness (we fly in from Iceland and I have another shorter tour there as well)!
As this photograph shows, the sound is surrounded by towering peaks and dotted with icebergs - it's an incredible location to shoot. I shot this from Aurora's Polar Pioneer a few years back when we were lucky enough to have both perfectly clear weather and a rising full moon. Mind you, the sun doesn't go down until very late, so this was probably taken at around 10 p.m.
The challenge we have as photographers is retaining detail in the moon. As you will see from the original photograph before processing in Capture One, the raw file retained a hint of detail in the moon, but it required a number of adjustment layers to darken down the sky and, in so doing, darkening the moon as well.
To see the original file without any processing, click through to the website for the full article.
Congratulations to Graham Morgan for his amazing Revealing Nature photograph which won not only the category, but the $5000 cash first prize in the 2016 Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year awards.
There are six categories into which photographers can enter and each entry is given a score by three judges. The highest aggregate is deemed the category winner. However, to win the overall prize, the six category winners are presented once again to the judges and asked to nominate first, second and third (even though there is only the first prize on offer). Interestingly, all six entrants were nominated by at least one of the judges to be in the top three. And all three judges nominated a different photograph as the overall winner!
So, what does this all mean? Well, we’re pretty sure Graham will agree that the other category winners are extremely good and that there is an element of luck, especially when it comes to taking out the main prize. The same could be said for winning the category because second, third and even tenth place were often only a few points away. Let’s face it, it is difficult to say categorically that one photograph is better than another – better in what way or for what purpose? In the end, there is an element of personal bias and that’s why we prefer to have three judges, not one, so that any individual bias is removed. Interestingly, three of our category winners (Graham Morgan, Kath Salier and Krzysztof Browko) have been previous winners or category winners of the Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year award, so there is an element of consistency in the winning photographers.
First of all, they enter competitions, because unless you enter, it’s rather hard to win! Second, over the years they have developed a style and approach to photography that is of a high standard – and no doubt entering competitions has assisted them. Third, they don’t enter just one photograph, because who knows exactly what the judges will like? By entering a number of photographs, they have a better chance of finding themselves at the very top.
There are a couple of differences in the way the Better Photography competition is run. First, the competition uses the same judges each year, again for consistency. Peter Eastway, Tony Hewitt and David Oliver are all AIPP Grand Masters of Photography with 30 to 40 years’ experience. This certainly makes them dinosaurs, but hopefully dinosaurs with the type of experience that makes them good judges. All three have won major photography awards as entrants, have judged nationally and internationally, for both amateur and professional awards, and have a huge breadth of experience. Even better, they have quite different views about what makes a strong photograph, meaning a wider range of photographs are likely to receive awards.
Another difference is that every photograph entered receives a judge’s comment. Sometimes that comment is simply well done because the entrant has won a Silver or a Gold Award. And it’s true that the comments are predominantly pre-set suggestions, but it allows the judges to give entrants invaluable feedback. Sometimes it’s as simple as the photograph is too light or too dark, or encouragement to look at the framing or composition. When entrants look at their score and personalised comment, it’s fantastic feedback for any photographer wanting to improve his or her work.
So, what about the awards? Out of 981 entries, there were 547 Bronze awards, 385 Silver awards and just 10 Gold awards. That is the majority of entries winning something, so what does this mean? The judges were instructed to give photographs that showed ‘signs of promise’ a Bronze award. In other words, reward the entrant if they are on the right path. And when you think about it, people entering photography competitions are likely to be quite good photographers, so a high number of Bronzes is expected.
However, Silver awards were handed out a little more frugally. Around one third of entries earned well-deserved Silvers and these are genuine scores. So if you managed to get a few Bronzes this year, then maybe your challenge is to get some Silvers next year!
And what about those 10 Golds? Well, Golds are very difficult because although there might have been 50 or more photographs where one judge scored it 88 or higher, you really need at least two judges in the Gold range to make it happen. And given the judges are quite different in their outlook when it gets to the higher scores, this is challenging. It’s interesting that the judges are generally all within the same range when it comes to Silver, Bronze or no award, but Golds are something else!
Congratulations to all the entrants and we hope you enjoy viewing the winning photographs.
To see the top 20 images in each category, visit the competition website here: http://www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com/index.php/2016-winners
Moving sheep, Middlehurst Station, South Island, New Zealand.
Phase One XF 100MP, 55mm Schneider lens, 4 seconds @ f8, ISO 200, 3X ND
Regular newsletter readers may recognise this location as I posted a colour version a couple of months ago, after Tony Hewitt and I had run our exclusive Art Photography Workshop at Middlehurst Station in New Zealand.
I confess that at the time I wasn't overly concerned about the photograph - there's an image in there for sure, but I felt there was still room for improvement with a different camera angle. It's a good reason to go back again, of course (and we are next year if you're interested), but it also points to how much influence our current thinking has on how we view our work. Or maybe I should only speak for myself.
When I took the photo, I had an image in mind, but I didn't quite get what I had in mind. It was something different. However, with the passing of time, I returned to these files with fresh eyes and thought, maybe it's not so bad after all.
Certainly that panel of five wonderfully sophisticated and educated judges at APPA this year scored it well (yes, a Gold he modestly writes), so you can be lucky every now and then.
So, what did the image look like before I started work on it? And does the finished edit look better with a little introduced colour? You'll have to click the Read More link to the website to find out!
Christian Nørgaard from Better Moments just sent us a link for their new brochure, all about a photography tour in Greenland and Iceland with Magnus Elander - and Peter Eastway! However, there's one significant difference: the Greenland section is on a wooden schooner!
Said Peter, "I've been to Scorsby Sund before and it is a wonderland for landscape and wildlife photography, but don't take my word for it - you can check it out here!"
Tony's tree, Tones River, Middlehurst Station.
Phase One XF, 80mm Schneider f2.8 lens, f11 @ 30 seconds/1/80 second, ISO 50
Is this one or two shots? I love posing questions like this! Up front, it's two shots, but two shots of the same subject (camera locked off on a tripod), taken a few minutes apart.
A couple of days earlier, Tony Hewitt and I had been at this location with Barbara, Gary and Jim on our Middlehurst Art Photography workshop. Middlehurst is an amazing Tolkein landscape tucked away in New Zealand's South Island (and we're repeating the workshop next June if you're interested...).
We started well before dawn and were enjoying our time, exploring the area. Tony disappeared 'somewhere', but as we were all heavily engrossed in our own little worlds, it didn't worry us.
At some stage, I looked around from my camera to see the top of the tree above just catching the brilliant sunlight! Even better, from certain angles the background was in shadow. However, the worst part was seeing Tony in position with his camera, nailing a great shot as the light got better and better.
This bugged the hell out of me. How did he know? Was he just lucky? Or smart? Or just smarter than me?
Over the next couple of days, I dropped hints to everyone that we should go back to this location and all shoot the tree - I mean, I couldn't have Tony not sharing such a great location!
However, my version of the tree is more of a grand landscape, but I took two photos to make it happen! Click through to the website to see the two images I used.