So the results are in and I’m delighted with the five images which made the final 93 being exhibited right now at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide. I was able to be present at the awards night last week which was well worth the trip. It was really pleasing to view the images so well presented by Atkins Technicolour. We tend to see so many photographs on-screen these days that the experience of a real print serves as good a reminder of how every image should ideally be viewed.
I finally snared the top prize in the landscape category. A few years back I managed to be the runner’s up. Along the way I also managed wins in the threatened species and monochrome sections over the past 3 years. But being primarily a landscape photographer, this was the one that I will treasure the most. I had two finalists in the landscape category but surprisingly the one which I had considered the weaker of the two ended up taking out the top honours. The winning image “What Dreams Are Made Of” is actually fiendishly difficult to print (as with many night photos) and the publications in the Australian Geographic magazine really paled in comparison to what was hanging up in the museum.
Before discussing my own photo, here are some other thoughts about the exhibition. Firstly, one of my favourite aspects about awards nights is meeting up with other photographers, some whom I may have already become acquainted with from online forums. It’s a nice way to spend the evening, hearing others talk about their work. It’s certainly not just about being Narcissistic, collecting your award and admiring your photo on a wall.
I thought the judges nailed the overall winner, which looked quite stunning in print. The electric blue of the bluebottle’s stingers against an inky black background under a beautiful sky would have had my vote as well. Congratulations Matthew Smith!
Another image which particularly caught my eye was the winner of the BW category by Charles Davis, a terrific animal behaviour shot in great conditions.
I also enjoyed Ted Mead’s botanical winner, a wonderful representation of the primeval Tasmanian forest in fog.
Finally, there was Raoul Slater’s stunning detail shot of a spider in rain. I loved the backlight there and the lesson that a prize winning photo may exist in one’s backyard (literally in the case – his garden shed).
There was something poignant about winning the landscape category with a composition very similar to the first photograph I remember ever taking with a D-SLR. Back in 2005, with a Nikon D70 in automatic mode I woke at dawn and captured Cradle Mountain in early morning light reflected in a still Dove Lake. During the summer of 2014 I photographed the same scene but at the opposite time of the day (around midnight) as a stitched panorama.
What the judges had to say :
“This image shows careful planning and excellent execution. The Milky Way has been photographed before, but framing it over Cradle Mountain and successfully capturing the reflection of the stars and detail of the night sky is the key to this image’s success.”
There’s a bit of irony that I finally won the landscape category with this particular photograph. Generally, I don’t do a lot of Milky Way shots – mainly because I haven’t found that many subjects which I feel warrant staying up at night rather than snuggling in bed! In Australia however, the twin horns of Cradle Mountain are so distinctive that even in silhouette its peak is quite recognizable, hence providing a strong subject. Sometimes I think people will shoot anything just as long as the Milky Way is above it but I prefer to choose my nocturnal photography carefully.
I think ‘What Dreams Are Made Of’ illustrates some important points regarding competition entries. It was one of the least popular landscapes I have posted over the past year on various platforms. If I had entered this competition based on how many likes or votes the image received on social networks, it is doubtful that I would have had this success. Let me share some of the considerations regarding my ANZANG (and other competition) entries.
- In my opinion, the most important rule of choosing images is to put yourself into the judge’s shoes. Imagine that you are on the panel and consider for what reasons the judges may single out your photograph out of thousands of other entries.
- If choosing a personal favourite, try to remove any emotional attachment you may have to the photograph. The judges’ may not know anything about the story behind the image, any of the hardships involved in its making or how technically challenging it was to shoot.
- If choosing a photograph that has been popular with social platforms, note that the same sort of images get up-voted over and over again. Subjects like Moraine Lake, Twelve Apostles and Mesa Arch often do well, even if the hundreds to thousands of versions cannot be easily distinguished from each other. If I had entered one of my Cradle Mountain images with the classic view of a sunrise reflection in Dove Lake, it would have had zero chance of seeing light of day in ANZANG. Iconic views that offer nothing new won’t get the attention of experienced judges, many who are photographers themselves or magazine editors well familiar with what imagery is already out there. On the other hand a fresh interpretation of a common subject is not something you see every day.
A final tip is not to be too hasty with sharing your best photos. I generally try to keep my competition worthy close to my chest until the entry deadline has passed. Good images potentially will have a very wide audience. I want to keep these photos fresh so that the judges will not have had time to see them beforehand and I think the anonymity is an advantage too. Finally, an original idea or a new location is really hard to come by – best to make your mark before there are hundreds of copies floating around on photo sharing platforms.
See all the finalists here. http://www.anzang.samuseum.sa.gov.au/gallery/