April 2012 forum competition

Theme: In the garden

If a man’s house is his castle, his garden is his realm: his land where his subjects go about their business. Like any realm, if you don’t visit enough, you loose touch with what is going on there. While things might look quiet from the battlements/bedroom window, when you get down in the grass on your belly you’ll discover the mass of life you didn’t know was there.

Unless you are a gardener you probably view gardens from afar, seeing the space as a whole that pleases or makes you feel nothing at all. But when you stop and pay attention you’ll see the life: the bugs and flies, the leaves and odd shaped petals, the stems and sticks, the stones and the muck. This round is about rediscovering those things, remembering that they don’t just exist on TV and in books, and that you don’t need David Attenborough to point them out to you – you have your own, you just have to notice them.

The results for this competition are excellent once again, with a wide variety of interpretations of the theme – some indeed so wide they slightly missed the mark J. Sticking to the theme is important, of course, but only if you really care about winning. Off-theme shots can make the shortlist for being good pictures, but they can’t make the top three. It’s for fun remember.

And the shortlist is full once more, with 24 first-rate images making it – and honourable mentions this time go to: AndrewBeasley, Devon_Eric, betinalap, Fen, Taryn, mike_morley, sr1867 and Jacqui Jay.

Third place – PhilW for iPhone Dafs

With all the clever frames and effects that iPhone apps offer it is easy to dress a crap picture and make it look like something. People do it all the time, and post the results on-line and wait for their friends to admire their genius. But as more and more people get these apps and effects they realise they can do it themselves. Then they see that what they have been looking at were bad pictures presented in a groovy way. I love camera phone photography, and I like the creativity these devices offer – but you still can’t make a good picture out of something that wasn’t good in the first place.

Here PhilW has used a border, and boosted the contrast and saturation, but that only adds to the clever framing, the unusual angle and the exposure that shows the petals backlit and glowing. He had made a good picture already – with parallel stems, imposing height and some nice flare and a cleverly placed tree – and the effects just make the most of it. It’s a lovely shot.

Second place – corado for Fire in the backyard!

Wow – what a completely striking image! That Sony-Alpha-orange just bursts from the black background and demands that we pay attention. It is so easy to get the exposure wrong in this kind of shot, but corado has managed to handle it perfectly – the subject has just the right strength of highlight without things burning out, and just the right depth of shadow so details don’t fill in. We have a three-dimensional form, very well described.

I love the curves and the shapes, the chromatic contrast, and the sense of elegance and majesty corado conveys in this shot. Excellent.

First place – IanJTurner for Spring Sunshine

This is the kind of picture that is so perfect that you think that it must be constructed. The arrangement of the heads, and the perfect depth of field that makes the stamens stand out but which still allows the defining shapes and colours of the daisies to be described, look very organised. The perspective is close-to, as from a standard lens that allows big foregrounds and exaggerated differences. But at the same time it is all believable – though strikingly different.

The colours, pastel but bold at the same time, are simultaneously vibrant and relaxing. They remind me of something I can’t quite put my finger on, they take me somewhere and make me feel something – and I can’t identify what. Their distinctive characteristics are strangely familiar – unusual and typical in one.

It’s a very pleasing picture, and I like it a lot. IanJTurner has clearly thought about what he wanted to do, and has done it in a deliberate manner. It’s very good. Well done.

A quick crit

I sometimes see a shot in these competitions that has a magical element that the photographer has obviously seen but has not made the most of. AdrianSadlier shot these caterpillars hanging off a leaf, and while the shapes they make are amazing and eye-catching Adrian allows us to be distracted and confused by all the other elements he has included in the frame. I’ve just quickly cropped out the part of the image that contains the essence and excitement of the scene. I flipped it over, as if I were holding the camera the other way, and I lightened it in Levels and increased the contrast with a curve.

That my version is there at all is testament to Adrian’s having seen the scene and noticed the potential – but the potential wasn’t realised because he didn’t concentrate on what he wanted to say. And that is the most common cause of missed opportunities – know what you want to say, say it, and nothing more. Well spotted though Adrian.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter this competition, and well done to those that made the places, the mentions and the shortlist. It is a great set of pictures, and I’ve really enjoyed looking at them all.

You can enter this month’s round, see the other entries for this round and chat about the results in the monthly competition section of the Amateur Photographer forum.