Will I Ever Take a Good Picture?

My journey trying to take good photos.

Photo competition at Camera Club

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Participated in my first photo competition at the Camera Club I joined a while back. There were three categories; prints, digital, and snapshots. I had no idea what to expect but at the New England Camera Club Council competition they gave a number out of thirty for each photo so I as expecting the same thing but this competition was run differently. First the judge just looked at all the photos in one of the categories. Then on a second pass a photo was either in or out. On a third pass all the in photos either got a blue or red ribbon with blue being better than red. I think the goal was to have approximately 1/2 the photos get ribbons. 

On the second and third passes the judge would explain why he was making the decision he was making (in/out or blue/red ribbon). The judge was Alan Kidawski and I thought he did a great job. He gave insightful comments on every picture he looked at. I found it very interesting commentary. What was very interesting in my view was I don’t think he mentioned the rule of thirds once! Everything was about the subject and the feeling he got when he viewed the photo. 

I submitted two photos in the digital competition and three photos in the print competition. The digital competition was first and one of my pictures was one of the first ten or so shown. Here it is:


Alan did not like this photo at all. Didn’t like the green stem. Didn’t think there was a strong subject.  I thought the subject was the whole flower and I liked the green stem because I thought it kept the flower from ‘floating’. When I was editing I didn’t like the photo without the stem! So my first photo was out. Worse than being out was the fact that some of the reasons that the photo didn’t do well I intentionally made part of the photo! I was thinking oh no the judge hates flowers:) and two of my pictures are of flowers and a third is of an empty seedpod.

My next picture was my weakest submission and I didn’t have high hopes for it.


I like the picture but I didn’t think it was great and after viewing the other pictures submitted if I ranked all the pictures I would put this photo near the bottom. Needless to say Alan agreed. No strong subject, the clouds being the subject (we agreed on that!!). So my second picture was out.

What I find interesting is if I ranked all the pictures I submitted I would rank these two photos as 4 and 5. So if I was the only one in the competition and all 5 of my photos were in one category I would expect 2 or 3 to be out. I would have picked these photos also.

Next up was the print competition. There were not as many photos in this category as the digital category but there were still quite a few. Some of them were REALLY good. I enjoy printing my photos and had saved my best for this category but I have to say since two out of three of them were flowers/plants and I thought Alan didn’t like this type of picture I didn’t have high hopes. I believe Alan did pick a few flower/plants in the digital competition but a lot got kicked out. I might have the order wrong here but I believe the first photo that was shown was this.


I thought this was my second best picture that I submitted so I had high hopes and yes it made it in. I don’t think I could enter this in a nature competition for a few reasons; 1) it is in a flower garden (Tower Hill Botanic Gardens), 2) it is a focus stack (two of the same picture with different focal points merged together in Photoshop), and 3) I used Nik software to add the light to emphasize the flower. I believe though that the emphasis on the flower is one of the reasons it did well. You knew what the subject was! I was also proud of this picture because it was windy and it took a lot of patience to get a shot that wasn’t blurry because of the wind. In the third pass thru this was awarded a blue ribbon so this photo did very well.

Next up was this picture. What I considered my best photo.


I bring a lot of my pictures into work and make anyone who comes into my cube look at them and give me an opinion; maybe this is why I don’t get many folks visiting me. This was either a love or hate picture although more people liked it than not. This is taken at Hodges VIllage Dam and has one bit of editing that I wish I remembered doing before entering it because I would have entered the unedited version. The edit is on the left of the picture. I added a bit of background. If you look at the top left you can see it. The stem straightens. That part was actually the edge of the original picture so I added a bit to the left of the milkweed since when I did it I thought that made the picture look better plus I was practicing in photoshop using a method of doing this I found on youtube. I know it’s hard to believe I forgot I did this but I did. So how did Alan like it? He liked it a lot. Said that it just worked. I think some of it is that folks who photograph love getting a background like this and in this case it helps make the milkweed plant the obvious subject with no distractions This was in and on the third pass was awarded a blue ribbon. I was very happy because this is one of my favorite photos.

Now for the last photo i entered. I like this because it was taken at NECCC2013 so it reminds me of going to that conference. In the mornings I get up early and go take pictures on the UMASS campus and this is my best photo that I took that year.


When this was put up for viewing Alan went silent for almost 30 seconds. I thought, oh no he doesn’t like it and is trying to figure out something nice to say. I think his initial reaction was hey I like it but then he thought maybe not. There really isn’t a strong subject. I think it is actually the reflections of the buildings and the trees in the pond and so it is tough for the eye to zoom in on one thing. Alan thought the subject was the building in the middle and therein lies the issue; the photo doesn’t have an obvious subject. I still like the photo. Almost everyone at work who comments on it likes it but no one really loves it. Alan tossed this one (ok he just says out) but he did comment the printing was done well. With this picture it is almost like people want to like it rather than really like it (I am not making my point very well here). The other thing is this is an HDR shot (it is 3 photos at different exposures put together in Photoshop). if you look around the trees on the top left of the picture you see what looks like ghosting around the trees. I don’t think there really is but it does look a bit off. Not enough to scream Hey this is HDR and my trees were moving when I took the pictures but i think the mind  thinks something is off when it looks at the photo. Still I like this photo a lot. It is the photo I have hanging in my office at present! If a picture is supposed to invoke emotion this does for me since it reminds me of NECCC 2013!

I didn’t enter anything in the snapshot category and couldn’t get a good look at the photos while they were being judged so I don’t have anything to say about that competition.

I learned a lot by listening to the commentary by Alan. He did a great job. I didn’t agree with his commentary on some of the photos but hey that is what makes it interesting. Not everyone will like the same things!  

It will be very interesting for me to see what other judges look for when the club has its next competition. I already have one photo almost ready to print.

Well that is it for now.




One thought on “Photo competition at Camera Club

  1. I showed your competition photos to Dad, he liked the one you won the ribbon on and the one of the UMass campus with the reflection of the buildings on the water. I liked them all but the one of the clouds, trees & road was too busy, but I thought it would be a nice picture to hang on a wall. Love, Mom

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