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Alain Schroeder, Incredible Sport Category Winner
2019 Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year Awards

Alain Schroeder is no stranger to the winners' circle, winning the Incredible Sport category last year and now his travels see him shooting a series on 'Kid Jockeys' in Sumbawa, Indonesia. And like a number of our category winners, Alain entered quite a few images, from upside-down portraits to action shots like this. The trick, as always, is trying to second guess which photos will appeal to the judges the best and while most of his other images scored well, it was this one that scored the highest in the Incredible Sport category.

What all the judges loved is the sense of action and movement in the frame. You really feel as though you're crouching next to the race track, the horses thundering by, only centimetres away from your camera. The wide-angle lens emphasises the rider and his steed in the foreground, yet you can see the following horses much smaller in the background. It's a wonderful story, creatively told with a rich black-and-white palette - and the high contrast works incredibly well, giving strength to the main horse, yet revealing a concentrated expression on the young boy. Once again, our winner has used the light beautifully to craft the image.

However, when choosing the overall winner, we start comparing one photo to another and what is worthy of high marks from one judge might be a cause for complaint by another. From my perspective, I liked the fact the legs of the horse were slightly cut-off as this gave me a sense of immediacy, of speed and time. However, David and Tony didn't feel the same way, feeling they wanted to see some space below the hooves. They also had an issue with the tree on the right, especially the light branches and wondered if they had been toned down, would our attention be better focused on the rider. My counter is that the tree becomes one of several 'centres of interest' they guide the eye around the photographs composition, but I agree they could be toned down a little.

So, what does this tell you? It says that judging is subjective and that the most important person to make happy is yourself! Like politics and religion, there will always be different opinions - and understanding these opinions may lead you to better outcomes as you learn how people view your work. Sometimes comments like these can be incredibly helpful, revealing aspects of your work you hadn't noticed before (or chose to ignore).

Said Alain, "I wanted to show the unique features of Sumbawa racing, which are the notoriously small horses and fearless child jockeys, aged 5-10, who mount bareback, barefoot and with little protective gear. Racing at speeds of up to 80 kph, their only protection is the 'Sandro', a spiritual healer who protects young jockeys by performing elaborate rituals and guiding them in training."

Alain used a Fujifilm X-Pro2, shot at ISO 1600 which when converted to black and white in post-production, gave him the grainy feeling he wanted.

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