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Bhutan's Remote Phobjikha Valley

Early morning, Phobjikha Valley overview, BhutanPhase One XF 150MP, 110mm…

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Foyn Harbour Weather Study #3, Antarctica 2020Phase One XF 150MP,…

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Water gums from Paul Curtis's book, The Heritage of Trees.…

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Tolkein Rock, Awatere River, Middlehurst, New Zealand
Phase One A-Series, 150MP IQ4, 23mm Alpagon lens, f5.6 @ 30 seconds, ISO 50

I'm still working my way through this image, but its genesis might surprise you! While working with our photographers on the recent Middlehurst Art Photography Experience, Tony Hewitt and I pull out our video cameras and phones to shoot a little behind-the-scenes for future promotional clips we never seem to finish! The sun had disappeared and it was getting quite dark when I looked down on the tiny screen of my Osmo Pocket. If you know the video camera, you'll also know how small that screen is.

However, looking at that screen, all I could see was the ribbon of blue water and the sky. The landscape was in deep shadow and looked really dramatic! Although I'd packed up my gear for the night, I couldn't help myself but take another couple of photos.

The correct exposure for the highlights at f5.6 was 2 seconds, but using the new exposure averaging feature in the Phase One IQ150 back (it's similar to the feature found on the latest Olympus cameras), I took around 30 seconds worth of exposures, blurring the water still more. And given the incredible dynamic range of the IQ4 back, there was still lots of information in the shadows!

But I'm not quite sure I'm finished. The colour palette is a little strong and although I have tamed the blues in the water several times, maybe they should be tamer still, or maybe I desaturate the wonderful yellows in the Middlehurst hills? I'll live with it for a little while and see how I feel!

If you'd like to see a large print of this image, come along to the AIPP's Australian Professional Photography Awards at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney (10-12 August - entry is free) and check out the LaCie stand. And while you're there, spend an hour or two watching and listening to the judging. It's an experience that could transform everything you think you know and understand about photography - and just maybe you'll understand why so many of us are addicted to the experience.

And don't forget to enter our own Better Photography Photo of the Year 2019 awards. Entries close 15 August and every entry receives a judge's comment designed to help improve your photography! It's also great fun! Click here: https://www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com/

Gold Award by Timothy Moon, winner, Classic Landscape category, 2018 Better Photography Photo of the Year Award

The Better Photography Photo of the Year Award is judged by the same three AIPP Grand Masters of Photography every year. All three of us have over 30 years’ experience as photography judges, all three have judged amateur and professional competitions, all three have judged internationally – all three still enter photography competitions. And we’ve all won awards over the years as well.

So why have the same judges each year? Surely they're not on a senior's pension? Why not mix them around? 

There are arguments for and against. An argument for using different judges is that the competition is less likely to become stale with the same ‘opinions’ every year, but a look at the variety of winners we’ve had over the years doesn’t support this.

In fact, one of the reasons we keep the same judges is to introduce a level of consistency – so as entrants improve from year to year, it is more likely to be because of their photography, rather than the views of new judges.

And the overall standard? I find that as judges we’re a little more lenient when it comes to bronze awards. If we see aspects of a photograph that are good, we’re likely to award a bronze as encouragement: you’re on the right path, but there is still room to grow. On the other hand, if you earn a silver, you’re on a par with how we judge at the professional awards. And those golds are every bit as good as the professional golds.

Entries into the 2019 Better Photography Photo of the Year Awards close on 15 August 2019, so there's still time to enter - and who knows, you could be part of the $17,000 prize pool too! For more details, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com now!

Gold Award by Hymakar Valluri, winner, Revealing Nature category and overall winner, 2017 Better Photography Photo of the Year Award

In another competition I’m involved with, we were accused of giving priority to composite images over ‘real’ subjects. When I sat down and did a count of the winning images, 70 percent were single capture photographs of real subjects with ‘appropriate’ use of post-production.

Composites don’t necessarily beat straight shots.

However, there are two reasons you enter a photography competition. One is to test yourself against a standard, determined by the judges, and you succeed based on the bronze, silver and gold awards. There is no limit to how many of these awards are handed out – it’s based on how good the entries are.

The second reason is to win a prize and that’s hard. You can control how good your own entry looks, but you have no control over how good the competition is. A ‘straight’ photo may struggle to beat a clever ‘composite’, but similarly a composite can look overworked and fabricated in comparison to a beautiful ‘straight’ shot.

My view is that judges today are much more sophisticated and have a good understanding of the techniques and approaches they see in the competition. A strong straight shot, appropriately finessed in post-production, has every chance of winning a high award and first prize as well.

If you’re in doubt, take a look at the overall winner from the last two year’s Better Photography Photo of the Year competition – a straight nature shot of a humming bird in 2017 and a travel shot in 2018!

Entries into the 2019 Better Photography Photo of the Year Awards close on 15 August 2019, so there's still time to enter - and who knows, you could be part of the $17,000 prize pool too! For more details, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com now!

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