Photo Contests… Should You Enter?

•August 25, 2016 • 8 Comments

Infrared Home

Photography for some is a giant competition.

Do I have the latest camera body? Is my lens the sharpest out there?

You only need to browse a few of the photography forums to see how competitive some people are. Brand X makes the shapest lens, has the best bokeh, has the fastet autofocus and on and on and on.

It’s pretty funny really because anytime I have googled one of these forum warriors to see what their photos look like I quickly realized that their photographs didn’t come close to meeting the expectations that they had painted in my mind.

We watch the Olympics every four years to see who is the fastest or best at their sport. Take sprinting for example, the winner really is the winner. You cannot deny that the person who crossed the finish line first is the winner. So what about photo contests?

It’s not the same for any kind of art competition. There really isn’t a definitive best picture for one simple reason, my idea of best might be different than your idea but both of our ideas are equally valid.

Many years ago where I worked they had an annual photo awards for western Canada. I entered them for a couple of years not because I needed or wanted to be labelled best or worst photographer in western Canada but because it was an effective way of getting your name out there. Again who can say this photographer or that is the best? There isn’t any such thing in my mind.

I am long retired and haven’t entered one of those work related awards/contests in many, many years but the idea of a photo contest is kind of appealing to me still.

For a few years it was difficult to enter any contests at all for the simple reason that almost everything that I shot went to stock photo agencies and with it the rights to those photos. It would be impossible for me to enter a photo and have it used by the contest in some kind of promotion and yet have exclusivity with the stock agency when selling to a client.

I have not submitted any photos for stock for a few years now. One of the agencies that I used to submit to seems to be on the verge of bankruptcy and I still have money owing to me from a couple of years ago. Why then would I submit more photos to them? I would be crazy to do so. The other agency? They pay regularly but stock fees have become so low compared to what they used to be I make more money selling prints than I do through stock for the past couple of years. My main reason for selling prints/stock these days is because it provides me with a tax break on photo equipment and related expenses.

I entered a contest last year, a very well known one with a few black and whites and had completely forgotten about it until I got a reminder in email last week that they deadline for the current years contest is about a month away. Because the last few years of photos I own exclusively I am able to enter without any restrictions but the question is WHY ENTER?

I am certainly not entering to become famous. Fame is something that I could not care less about. In fact, I do all that I can to remain semi-anonymous. I am about as low profile as can be on the internet.

No fame is not the reason. Being retired I’m not looking to get my name out there and garner more work. So then why?

I am only entering because there is a nice cash reward. I am not losing the rights to the photos that might place or win. No one is going to use the contest as a cheap way to get photos. It’s just the cash.

So, having said that what should you look for before deciding to enter a contest?

Rights. Usage.

NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. Never give up the rights to your photos.

Make sure that if you do win and only if you win that the company can use your photo for promotion for a limited time.

Lastly, remember that this isn’t the Olympics. There really isn’t a true winner only someone that the judges chose based upon their tastes. Given a different set of judges or a different year, this years winners might be losers in any other year. Don’t let your ego get tied up with winning or losing and for God’s sake DON’T go placing the little badges that you get for winning or placing in the contest all over your web site. Nothing is tackier than that.

On another note, the weather here has been foul for photos and I have been itching to get out. My creative fire is burning and I am going to explode. Soon.

Happy shooting,

Dan

Why Am I Here

•August 14, 2016 • 1 Comment

Why I Am Here

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.
— Henry Ward Beecher

From a young age I can remember wondering where I came from. Oh the physical part I know all about. The mechanics of the biology are easily put to words.

No, that isn’t what a young Daniel used to daydream and wonder about. Where did “me” come from? How long was I here for? What was I hear for? Why was I here?

These thoughts kept churning through my mind even before starting grade school.

Even though I was raised under a strict Pentecostal, fire and brimstone doctrine, at a very young age something about it seemed amiss. If all the love why the eternal damnation if I erred? It made no sense to me. What was I missing?

Questions, so many questions and so many years later those questions still remain with me into my sixties.

As I often do I go to Youtube to find something interesting to listen to and then do a similar query for reading material. It’s always amazing where I end up whether it be luck or preordained I don’t know.

The music ended up being Tibetan healing and meditation sounds. The reading landed me onto a page of quotes about creativity and the soul. I think that I got down to the fourth or fifth one and it hit me like a brick in the face. “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” As I read it, it answered at least one of my many questions, where does this all come from?

Why do I feel a need to create something abstract? Why do you? How is it that my dog is content to go for walks, eat, sleep, be comforted and cuddled but not create?

When I decided to write on this topic I started going through some of this summers unposted photos and the one above of the cemetery seemed to resonate within me.

We are all here for a brief moment in time. I know all too well from the loss of my little brother a couple of months ago who little time we have and how we take for granted too often the time that we have here.

When we leave this earth like my little bro did what will remain of us? For all the years he walked the planet what remains of him now? Memories? Relationships? Love?

I have come to realize that our time here is limited. We forget that too often and like my dog go no where very fast chasing our tails so to speak. What should we/I be doing?

In one hundred years I hope that someone might see one of my photographs and see a little bit of me.

In one hundred years those that I know will also be gone. None will remember me.

What will be left of us? Is it important?

I don’t know. All I have are questions.

Happy shooting,

Dan

The Real Beauty Is In Your Imagination

•August 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The Beauty Of Our Imagination

The other day I got an email from a fellow Canadian and blogger Flynn Marr, his blog is here http://flynngraphics.ca/home/

Flynn had some very flattering things to say that were really too kind and generous. He posted a few paragraphs and photos about my blog and website. Flynn wrote about what a beautiful place that I live in and while that is true, it is beautiful and wide open, there are so many more beautiful and photogenic places in the world.

BTW, check out Flynns blog, he has some very beautiful images and wonderful things to say.

Where I live I am lucky because every country road that I drive provides me with a slightly or sometimes drastically different view than where I just came from.

With color photography I tend to be more true to what the landscape actually is. With black and white there is a greater ability to get crazy, to really use my imagination.

Depending upon the weather which can be so variable even during the same day, the geography and the quality of light the same scene in black and white can look a myriad of different ways and that is where I delight in taking landscapes.

The other day I was driving out of town and remembered a broad valley with rolling fields. This same field was featured on a magazine cover in color and also in a calendar that was produced in Europe. The basic elements for what I look for are there so on that day I stopped my vehicle got out and took a few eight minute exposures not knowing what the result would be.

I have as much fun on the computer “getting crazy” in Photosh0p as I do taking photos. In fact, there might be more creativity and imagination involved in post processing than in the actual shooting.

The final product is at the top of this post and a very basic output from my RAW converter is below to give you an idea of where my black and white photos come from.

Before Photo

Yes indeed, Alberta is beautiful but our imaginations… well, they have a beauty all of their own.

Happy shooting,

Dan

From This To This To This

•August 9, 2016 • 8 Comments

Fenceline Trees

I figured that since this really is a photography blog that I should probably write more about photography rather than the stuff that occupies the rest of my life so here goes.

When shooting infrared it is not obvious when shooting or even in post processing which images will work out.

Firstly, the display on the back of my camera is good for checking focus, compositon, ie, balance and exposure. To actually see how purple and dark the RAW image is can be discouraging but there is much to be gleaned from the RAW. It really is only through trial and error that you will get a feel for what is workable.

RAW Infrared Image

Above is what my previews usually look like. What I am looking for is that the highlights aren’t blown away and that I have shadow detail. I always bracket my infrared photos. Five exposures. Two over, one under and one that the camera meter recommends. Depending upon what I am shooting, I will often set the camera to over or under expose in order to either retain highlights or keep shadow detail. A quick glance is all that I give the preview and continue shooting.

Once I have edited the RAWs from the back of the camera deleting the bad compositions or the over or under exposed images I transfer them to my computer.

I use a RAW editing program to then make rough corrections, ie, noise control, removing the purple color cast and getting the density close but not quite there.

RAW Converted

The image is exported as a TIFF which I then open in Photosho for further refining. The TIFF then has the shadow and highlight detail that I want.

Overall it looks dark but I know from experience that I can lighten the image overall and still keep the highlight detail.

Still the image looks a bit flat. By using a dodging tool in Photoshop I selectively lighten the trunks of the trees and alternately lightening the foliage. The foliage before is all of the same tone, something that I don’t want. By using a smaller dodging too set to only lighten highlights I can lighten the grasses and leaves.

A little sharpening in Photoshop for the web and voila. Done!

A large part of the creative process is in the visualizing while shooting and continuing the process in Photoshop. As you can see a straight print would not look as good as one that has been tweaked.

There, my first actual photography post in a few weeks. LOL

Happy shooting,

Dan

 

Finding My Happy Place

•August 7, 2016 • 1 Comment

Finding My Happy Place

I have always told those close to me about my angel. Is it an angel in the heavenly sense? I don’t know. Is it real or is it imagine? I also don’t have the answer to that.

Still I feel or have felt for as long as I can remember that someone close is watching over me. That doesn’t mean that sad or difficult things haven’t happened to me because they have. I have endured the struggles that most of us have endured throughout our lives. My father died when I was in grade two leaving my widowed mother at 32 with five children. Too young to work and leave my youngest brother with us while at work, he was nine months old at the time we lived on what was delicately called at the time Widows Allowance.

We did without lots of things that most people take for granted like extra helpings of food. I never knew until later that mom often waited until we finished our supper so that she could eat the leftovers. I tell my girls who have everthing that in junior high in grade seven I had one pair of pants and two shirts to wear through the school year. I suffered the humiliation of walking to the front of the class at the beginning of each school year to have my teacher sign my welfare requisition for school supplies. It was something that I always dreaded as summer holidays came to an end.

We never had material luxuries and still I remember my childhood as being full of happiness, love and companionship. Mom was my greatest fan often telling me that I would always succeed at whatever I did. I never believed her though. LOL

All through our childhood, my brothers and sisters could find our happy place with one another, with friends, with family.

Now a retired old man who has his own family, I still consider each day a blessing. Each day my angelic companion travels with me while I walk the dog, make supper for the family and travel with me on my photographic journeys. My angel travels with me through my happy places of life.

Creativity is something that I can’t explain with words. Is it me that does the creating? Is it my angel that guides my hand and my eye? Is it my angel that takes me to where I find these heavenly places to photograph? I don’t have an answer to that either.

What I do know is that we are not alone in life. Someone or something is guiding us to where we are going.

Finding my happy place has always been easy but then, I have always had help.

Happy shooting,

Dan

 

Painting With The Wind

•August 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Painting With The Wind

I don’t have a plan.

My photography takes me where it will and I follow silently and unquestioning.

It’s amazing how if you just let go and let things  happen they often turn out far differently and better than if you had planned something.

The wind on the prairies is forever moving clouds and grasses and leaves. Trees sway to it. Old wooden farm granaries fall over in it’s presence.

Lately I have been photographing clouds. Long exposures. Four minutes. Eight minutes.

Letting the wind paint the clouds across the canvas that the sky is.

Never knowing how it will gift me. It surprises me. It delights me.

The wind is special here. It has a palpable presence. I feel it cool me under the hot sun of summer and it chills me to the bone come winter.

I love painting with the wind.

Happy shooting,

Dan

 

An Award Winning Photographer

•August 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

 

Church At FedoraA little while back I was doing my daily editing of one of the groups that I created and moderate on Flickr. When I say moderate, all that I mean is that it is I that ultimately accept or reject photos that get into the group.

My only criteria is that the pictures be technically sound and interesting. You could never guess how many middle of the day, boring photos I see annually of the most photographed places on earth. If you want to get a picture accepted it MUST be interesting and not something that shows no creativity.

I seldom if ever look at the names of the photographers when editing. Since I get upwards of four or five hundred submissions a day and I have a very short attention span I usually only just see a thumbnail and decide from there if it is yay or nay. If a picture is sitting in the middle I accept it only to look at the larger version when it is in the group and decide stay or go. There really is no right or wrong for photos but I am trying to maintain a certain look or aesthetic to the group. If it’s not interesting it’s not in.

I did a double take on one of these photos the other day that was one of the “middle” pics. When I viewed the large version the description of the photo was below it and read it. It was disappointing.

Essentially the photo description was an advert for the photographer’s landscape workshops. Nestled inside the paragraph was a line describing the workshops as “award winning”. Huh, I thought to myself. Whatever happened to modesty? Was it really necessary to do a hard sell on the tour? Firstly, who gave out the award? What is that supposed to mean? Why do I care about what the people giving out the award care?

The same goes for the “award winning” photos that I see posted on Flickr. Sure it’s nice to win an award but really, I’d much rather have the cash prize that goes with the award rather than the recognition that might or might not go with it. It’s the same as when I took photos for a living, I could not care less if I was given a photo credit. What I cared about was getting paid for what I had done.

I like to make comparisons to make my points sometimes and I have one that goes like this. If you like your eggs prepared a certain way and absolutely love them what does it matter if your spouse, better half, etc. doesn’t like them that way? The eggs like your photos really are for your consumption. That is unless you are cooking for someone else and never eat your own cooking.

Happy shooting,

Dan

 
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