Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Now for Something Completely Different

"You don't need to outdo the competition. It's expensive and defensive. Underdo your competition. We need more simplicity and clarity.
(Jason Fried)

Photography competitions cause me convulsions. I’ve entered a bunch, and I’ve judged a handful, and I still have troubles with them. Many years ago, I got into big trouble with a girlfriend who discovered one day too late that I had thrown out a handful of photography awards. (Except for one plaque that I still have to this day. Buried in a box somewhere. I think.)

When I won I always thought, “Gee, didn’t they see the flaws in my photograph?” or, “The judges should have noticed how I could have made this better.” And when I judged them, instead of ranking the images, I would rather call the photographers and say, “In my humble opinion, this is what you did well and this is where you could improve.” That probably wouldn’t go over too well considering the egos involved (mine included), but I guess I’d rather be a teacher than a judge.

'Lake McDonald Pearls' (c) 2009 John AshleyAnyway, I stopped entering competitions many years ago, but a recent one pulled me in. Tim Grey, a computer guru who writes about and teaches Photoshop to professional photographers all over the planet, announced a little contest for the best use of a wide angle lens. The prize was a chance to borrow the lens of your choice from a company that rents expensive camera lenses to photographers. But I had other ideas. I sent him "Lake McDonald Pearls” (shot with an 11mm lens that was itself borrowed from my friend and fellow photographer, Bob). With my entry email, instead of a borrowed lens, I angled to score a scholarship to Tim’s week-long Photoshop workshop in Seattle. One thousand dollars for tuition is about nine hundred more than I can afford.

I guess my photographs are more compelling than my words. "Pearls" won honorable mention, and Tim didn’t bite on my scholarship idea. Not even a nibble. But he did have some nice words to say.

As I was reviewing the images submitted for this photo contest, I also decided there needed to be an ‘A for Effort’ category for the person who put the most effort into producing a great image. In my mind, that category was won by John Ashley… John will also receive a free signed copy of 'Photoshop CS4 Workflow.'

So I won a fat new book on Photoshop, which is great -- but did he notice the flaws in my photograph?

"I write down everything I want to remember. That way, instead of spending a lot of time trying to remember what it is I wrote down, I spend the time looking for the paper I wrote it down on."(Beryl Pfizer)

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