SHARE: Monthly Photo Challenge | Popular Photography

SHARE: Monthly Photo Challenge

Popular Photography's monthly photo contest.

april11myprojMain

april11myprojMain

Brian Parillo has aimed his wide-angle lenses at tall buildings throughout L.A.. He titles his images after songs he listens to when shooting.

Brian Parillo

April 2011 Photo Challenge

There are many ways to capture the beauty and power of urban landscape. Photographer Brian Parillo's images of skyscrappers are proof of this. Send us your best skyscraper image by April 30th for a chance to win $100, have your photo printed in the magazine and secure a spot in our Winners’ Circle.

****Deadline:** March 31st. ****Winner’s will receive $100 and have their photo printed in the magazine. Get the rules and entry info below. **

Photo Challenge Contest Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: How do I enter?
A: Send digital images -- JPEG files of up to 1MB -- to PhotoChallenge@bonniercorp.com.

Q: How many photographs can I enter each month?
A: You may submit up to 5 digital images each month.

Q: Are there any special file requirements?
A: Yes, if accepted for publication, a 3MP or higher (9MB file size, uncompressed) image will be required. The bigger the better.

Q: How exactly should I name my files?
A: Please use your name as your file name, and if you're making submitting multiple files, number them consecutively. So if your name is Paul Jones and you're sending three photos, name your files pauljones1.jpg, pauljones2.jpg, and pauljones3.jpg. Also, please include title of the specific Photo Challenge you are entering in the subject line of your email.

Q: Do you only accept "straight" photos, or can I manipulate my images?
A: Either is fine but be sure to tell us what you did. We expect you to make your photos look as good as you can through ordinary techniques such as cropping, color correction, and contrast adjustments. If you're submitting a composite image, please inform us when you send it. But if you're more into photo illustration, check out our annual Digital Wizard contest instead.

Q: What kinds of photos win?
A: Our editors love all kinds of photography, so take a look at our web galleries of Photo Challenge Contest winners and finalists. We want to see the best you have to offer. But we don't publish nudes, so keep it clean.

Q: Can I send slides or prints?
A: No. You can only e-mail digital images.

Q: Will you acknowledge receipt of my entry?
A: Sorry, but with the large volume of entries, that is not possible.

Q: What can I win?
A: If your photo is selected you will win $100. And your photo will be published in Popular Photography magazine and may be showcased in a gallery on the Pop Photo website.

Q: What information should I send with the photos?
A: Your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. Also, any technical information you can supply about the photo -- camera, lens, settings, film, software, and printer. Submitting a composite? Tell us! If you win and we need more material, we will contact you.

Q: Is there anything else I should know?
A: Yes! It's all in the "Official Rules."

The Photo Challenge Contest (the “Contest”) is sponsored by Popular Photography Magazine, a publication of Bonnier Corporation ("Sponsor").
MONTHLY PRIZE: ONE (1) Winner will receive One Hundred Dollars ( $100)
All federal, state and local laws and regulations apply; void where prohibited.
ELIGIBILITY: The Contest is open only to individuals. Employees of Bonnier Corporation and its parent companies, subsidiaries or agents, their immediate families (defined as parents, children, siblings, spouse and grandparents), and those domiciled with any of the foregoing are not eligible.
TO ENTER: Submit your digital photographs: 50-75KB recommended, 1000KB maximum, JPEG format only; if accepted for publication, an image file size of at least 9MB (uncompressed) will be required. Each file should be named with your full name. Multiple entries should be named with your full name followed by consecutive numbers. E-mail your submission to PhotoChallenge@bonniercorp.com. Include your address, phone number, and e-mail, plus any pertinent technical information (camera, lens, exposure, film, filters, software). All information provided by entrant must be complete, true and correct. All submitted entries become the property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned; Sponsor is not responsible for lost, late, inaccurate, incomplete, damaged, illegible, or misdirected entries. All entries may be published on the Popular Photography web site. Nothing in these Contest rules obligate Sponsor to publish or otherwise use any photo submitted in connection with the Contest. Each entry must be submitted on an individual basis (i.e., no team, joint, or corporate entries) and all components of the entry must be the original creation of the submitting participant. Only non-commercial work may be submitted. Entries may not contain profanity, nudity, pornographic images, violent images, anti-competition messages, illegal material, or material that violates the rights of third parties. Entries may not include confidential information, trade secrets, trademarks or copyrighted material belonging to any person or entity other than the participant absent a suitable license or permission agreement (proof of which is required). Entries containing any forbidden matter or material otherwise deemed by Sponsor to be inappropriate will be disqualified. Online entries will be deemed submitted by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address submitted at time of entry. Sponsor will accept five (5) entries per person per month; entries in excess of that will be disqualified.
JUDGING: A panel of judges consisting of Popular Photography editors will select the winning entry based equally upon the criteria of skill, originality, and relevance. By entering, you agree to be bound by these Official Rules, and that the decisions of the judges are final and binding in all respects. Judging will be completed by the 15th of each month, and potential winners will be notified by the 20th of each month. Sponsor reserves the right not to select any winning submissions based upon the quantity or content of submissions. Potential winners will be required to sign and return a sworn Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability and Publicity Release. If required documentation is not returned within seven (7) business days of notification, or if notification is returned as undeliverable, any prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner will be selected.
PRIZE AWARDS: Prizes will be awarded within sixty (60) days after winner verification. No prize substitution or transfer is permitted, except that Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value for any reason. All taxes and any other incidental expenses on Prizes are the sole responsibility of each winner.
GENERAL RULES & LIMITATIONS: By entering, you represent that: (i) your entry is your own original work; and (ii) you own or have the rights to convey any and all right and title in any material submitted as part of your entry into the Contest. By entering, you grant to Sponsor a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to edit, publish, promote, republish at any time in the future and otherwise use your submission, along with your name and likeness, in any and all media for any purpose, without further permission, notice or compensation (except where prohibited by law). By participating in the Contest, you agree to release Sponsor and its parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, employees, directors, officers, and agents from any and all liability, claims or actions of any kind whatsoever for injuries, damages or losses to persons and property which may be sustained in connection with the receipt, ownership, possession, use, or misuse of any prize. Sponsor is not responsible for technical, hardware or software failures, or other errors or problems which may occur in connection with the Contest, whether computer, network, technical, mechanical, typographical, printing, human or otherwise, including, without limitation, errors or problems which may occur in connection with the administration of the Contest, the processing or judging of entries, the announcement of the prizes, in any Contest-related materials, or that may limit prize fulfillment or a participant's ability to enter the Contest. Sponsor reserves the right to amend these official rules and to permanently disqualify from the Contest any person it believes has intentionally violated these official rules.
PRIVACY: By entering, you agree that the information you provide may be sent to promotional partners of the Sponsor(s). You may be contacted by the Sponsor(s) and/or promotional partners with future promotional offers. Information provided by you to participate in this Contest is subject to the privacy policies of the Sponsor(s).

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Photo:Justin Gurbisz
“I have always been enamored with wide-angle photography,” says 21-year-old Justin Gurbisz (vacantnewjersey.com), an earth science student from Bloomfield, NJ. “I like to experience and capture the grand scale of architecture as opposed to a specific detail.”

Still, the details helped him win our December challenge to capture ruins—the rays of late-afternoon sun beaming through the rafters of this abandoned New York power plant, dust from a flock of fleeing pigeons glittering in the light.

Gurbisz’s biggest challenge was navigating the walkways of the decaying turbine hall. Shoving his tripod legs through the rusty grates beneath him, he contemplated his mortality as he peered through his Sigma 10–20mm f/4–5.6 EX DC lens set to 14mm (a 21mm full-frame equivalent on his Nikon D40). His exposure, set for plenty of depth of field: 1/8 sec at f/14, ISO 200.

—Matthew Ismael Ruiz

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Photo: Pat Miller
A Recreational scuba diver for more than 20 years, Pat Miller (patmillerphoto.com) has a healthy love and admiration for the ocean. So while we challenged readers to send us an adventure photo with a sense of danger, he wasn’t afraid.

“I don’t fear diving with sharks,” he says. “They are not mad-dog killers, ready to attack anyone; they are apex predators, necessary to maintain healthy oceans.”

While this particular reef shark was lured with fresh chum, Miller says the sharks typically leave humans alone. For this shot, he mounted a 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye lens on his Nikon D200, using a dome port with his Aquatica underwater housing to allow for the fisheye’s protruding lens.

He took several shots, careful to control his buoyancy so as not to crash into the reef and damage the fragile marine ecosystem. “I learned a long time ago not to chase fish for pictures, because if you do, you generally get pictures of fish tails,” he says. “They don’t stop and pose.” —Matthew Ismael Ruiz

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Photo: Laurent Chantegros
Some Photographers traverse oceans to find inspiration. But for Laurent Chantegros, 41, of San Diego, inspiration follows him around and calls him Daddy. “I spend a lot of time with my daughters,” he says. “And I always carry my camera.”

On this particular night, Emma, 11, and her sister were dancing with their umbrellas on the front lawn after ballet class. Chantegros saw potential in the scene, but didn’t want to kill the mood with a full-on blast of flash: “I wanted to light the scene creatively—something out of the ordinary.”

By mounting his Nikon SB-600 Speedlight inside of a studio umbrella and firing with a PocketWizard wireless remote, he captured the girl’s youthful innocence, turning the umbrella into an eerie streetlamp of sorts.

His biggest challenge? Balancing his flash output with the ambient light for the perfect exposure. But in the end, it only took three shots with his Nikon D200 to get exactly the effect he’d imagined. —Matthew Ismael Ruiz

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Photo: Heidi Hopwood
Heidi Hopwood, 32, works in software support for Ford Motor Company, and “almost 90 percent” of her photography is of automobiles and infrared landscapes. But once a month, the Melbourne, FL, native takes a short drive up I-95 with her camera gear to the Brevard Zoo to photograph its residents.

Queenie, a king vulture, is one of her favorites. “She loves the flash,” Hopwood says. “I was popping a fill flash, and every time I did, she would flip her head—her wattle is flipping from picture to picture—and pose.”

Hopwood originally shot in color to capture Queenie’s vibrant plumage. But after converting her image to black-and-white, she noticed all of the detailed lines that had been obscured by the bright colors.

But it’s the vulture’s personality that shines through. “They’re hand-raised and very charismatic,” says Hopwood. “They kind of act like puppy dogs. They’ll look at you and follow you.”—Matthew Ismael Ruiz

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Photo: Priska Battig
Priska Battig was “thrilled” to see our August challenge to take an intimate portrait. A part-time occupational therapist in Oceanside, CA, Battig, 39, owns a photo studio specializing in child portraiture, launched after family and friends urged her to turn her obsessive documentation of her own children into a business.

And no wonder: Her portrait of her son Kai won the People category in our 2010 Annual Readers’ Photo Contest. This winner? Her daughter Anya, taken on a beach near Quebec on a family vacation. “The way the sunlight reflected off the sand made it a perfect time for an improvised shoot,” Battig says.

When Anya ran out of the water for a sip of juice, Battig was struck by the way her wet eyelashes brought out her eyes, and quickly brought her under the shade of some trees to snap a few images. In Adobe Photoshop, she converted to b&w, decreasing reds and yellows to emphasize the freckles. Now it’s one of her favorite images.

“The eyes are what make it,” Priska says.—Lori Fredrickson

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High school art teacher Adam Oliver has found that abstract images in nature find him more often than the other way around. “I can’t go out looking for them—they just show up,” explains the 35-year-old resident of Saugus, MA.

So it went with his winning photo for our July Challenge to capture a pattern in nature. On a sunset beach outing in nearby Gloucester with his family, Oliver stumbled across this vein-filled swath of sand in the wake of a receding tide. “There were very few people, so the pattern had remained unspoiled,” he recalls.

With his Olympus E-510 and 14–42mm lens, he quickly composed and recomposed until he found an angle that perfectly caught the glow of sunset with the picture in perfect focus. Later, mild adjustment in Adobe Photoshop brought out the shadows.

“I love the image because it’s a pattern that lasts moments and can’t be replicated,” Oliver says. “And I was in the right place at the right time.” —Lori Fredrickson

Adam Oliver

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Photo: Clane Gessel
Seattle-based wedding photographer Clane Gessel (www.clanegessel.com), 26, loves portraiture, he says, because “it’s about faces, and each one is completely unique.” The challenge of this draws him to try new techniques in photography—and made him the winner of our June Photo Challenge to shoot a high-key image.

Capturing this bride, he noticed that the soft curves of her face might be accentuated by a high-key approach, and as a result shot several close-ups of her at f/1.2 for shallow depth of field, overexposing slightly. “I got lucky with this composition,” he says, “catching her at just the right angle, with the wind catching her hair.”

Later in Adobe Photoshop, he used a Curves layer to enhance the overexposed look while also adjusting contrast to bring out the shadows and retain a sense of form. A b&w conversion sealed the photo’s beautiful simplicity.

He loved the result, as do we—most important, the bride loved it, too.—Lori Fredrickson

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Los Angeles-based Greg Tucker, 50, has never let living in a big city hamper his nature photography—as his natural spin on our May Photo Challenge for a 5-sec exposure proves. “I’ve found that visiting local public gardens is an easy way to find interesting subjects without having to travel,” says this commercial real estate agent.

One overcast day, he decided to shoot at Descanso Gardens. Crossing a footbridge, he noticed camellia blossoms falling into the water below. “I’ve always admired long-exposure images of autumn leaves in swirling water, and thought this would be my opportunity to give it a try,” Tucker says.

With a polarizing filter on his 28–105mm f/3.5–4.5 Nikkor lens to enhance saturation, and his Nikon D200 mounted on a tripod, he carefully composed, then reviewed his shots to find a shutter speed that best emphasized the streak and swirl pattern of the moving blossoms. Five seconds produced the best match and made it this month’s winner.—Lori Fredrickson

Greg Tucker

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“I like your Pop Photo Challenges because they feel like a great way to pretend you’re on assignment,” says 25-year-old Jonathan Steele. The Pittsburg-based law student has long been using these challenges and others to hone his skills at photography.
He also studies the work of photographers such as Michael Kenna and Michael Levin. “I love their black-and-white minimalist style, but they achieve it partly by using the clean lines of coastal horizons,” Steele explains. “I wondered if I could achieve it instead with buildings.”
So one morning he went downtown to try. The PNC Bank Firstside Center first caught his eye for the curvature of glass windows along the exterior. Unable to find a good horizontal perspective, he looked up instead, trying to find a repeating pattern, and finally shot this.
The finishing touches came in converting the file to b&w in Silver Efex Pro 2. It was an assignment Steele enjoyed, and, he adds, “the first b&w image I’ve made that I really love.”—Lori Fredrickson

Jonathan Steele

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For a backlit picture, our March Challenge, Phoenix-based Paul DeCesare had a perfect subject: cholla cacti. “The spines are nearly transparent, so when illuminated, they glow wonderfully,” the 49-year-old software architect and photographer says. “Daytime photos of cholla don’t do that justice.”
He shot during a series of early-morning visits to the foothills of the McDowell Mountains. An iPhone app, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, let him plan where and when the sun would rise.
Scouting the mountains, he ran across this unusually dense cluster of cholla and recognized that they not only made a great fore- and midground subject, but that a golden backdrop would light them the way he wanted. Just before dawn, he composed as quickly as he could with his Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 16–35mm f/2.8 lens on a tripod, then shot eight exposures at sunrise for an HDR image. It took all eight in Photomatix to make a final composite. But he made the transparent spines luminous, the look he was after. —Lori Fredrickson

Paul DeCesare

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For February Challenge winner Jeff Jones, abstract photography is a means of exploring abstract ideas; specifically about time and space. The image here, “Beginnings,” is from a now six-month series of images of his collection of crystal paperweights, inspired by his interest in the stars.
“I like to envision what it might be like to be inside of physical matter, such as a galaxy or planetary system, as it’s created,” the former marketer turned photographer, 59, from Brownsville, PA, explains. “Capturing the space inside of crystals, with their mercury-type reflections, relates that idea.”
For a tabletop studio, he placed Paul C. Buff 5000- and 10,000-series White Lightning lights around the paperweight¬—one high above, one below, and one to the left side near the top—with white reflectors to bounce the light.
The main work, however, was the hours before this, spent analyzing the crystal and deciding how best to capture it. The time was well worth it for this image of space. —Lori Fredrickson

Jeff Jones

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The winner of our January Challenge to use off-camera flash for an action shot, Danny “Pod” Podkowa, previously took the prize for Action in our 17th Annual Readers’ Photo Contest. And the 38-year-old skateboarder, photographer, and offset printer from Portland, OR, shoots for his ’zine, Sauce (www.sauceskateboardzine.com). But this photo was tricky.
“It was taken at Burnside Skate Park, under the Burnside Bridge,” he explains. “Light blocked out from the overhead bridge, plus backlight from the street, makes photos difficult without flash.”
But he was determined to get a shot of his friend Rocco performing on a new bar prop in the park. “The trick is called a ‘crail grind to revert,’ which means he grinds the rail, then spins 180 degrees to come down backwards,” he says.
Standing on a small deck just above eye level and facing down, he set one Nikon Speedlight SB-800 on a tripod to his right and the other on the ground to his left. As Rocco grabbed the bar to swivel his board, Podkowa snapped—and lit the skater perfectly. —Lori Fredrickson

Danny “Pod” Podkowa

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Our December Photo Challenge, to photograph from a moving vehicle, was certainly not the easiest assignment—it takes intuition to know a great photo op as it’s flying by, and it takes skill to capture it in seconds. But 29-year-old John Harke of San Diego had both.

On a road trip with a friend from Ohio to Washington, DC, the database developer kept his Canon EOS Rebel XSi in his lap in the passenger seat. But traveling at midday, in harsh lighting, “I wasn’t finding any shots,” Harke says, “so I’d turned my camera off, waiting for city landmarks.”

When the car first turned into the Fort Pitt Tunnel towards Pittsburgh, Harke knew he had the potential for a fantastic shot.

Quickly swapping his lens for a Tamron wide-angle, he placed the camera in shutter-priority mode, wrapped the strap around his wrist, and positioned the lens barrel into the crack between the car window pillar and side mirror. Using his 2-sec timer, he exposed first at 1/2 sec and then at 1/3 sec.

He got five shots in before the tunnel ended. One, after a bit of tweaking in OnOne PhotoTools, is this winner. —Lori Fredrickson

John Harke

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What’s tough about zoo photos, says Martin Knippel, is that the animals always look so bored. “It’s a challenge to give them a spark of personality,” says the Milwaukee pediatrician, 51, who has focused on photography in the four years since taking his practice part time.

Knippel generally does nature photography—a series on the nearby cattail- and bird-filled Horicon Marsh, for instance. He’s also visited the Milwaukee City Zoo to try to find a spark in more exotic animals, especially the big cats. “The enclosure is very brightly lit in comparison to the viewing area,” he says, “and the animals come right up to the glass.”

This lion, though, indeed seemed bored. “He was just hanging out,” Knippel says. “But that allowed me perfect focus on the eye.” He shot the picture with a Sigma telephoto zoom on his tripod-mounted Pentax K20D. And, with a later conversion to b&w in Adobe Photoshop, he captured an image that lends depth to the lion’s princely nonchalance—our Animal Photo Challenge winner. “When it’s close and focused like that,” Knippel says, “you feel connected.” —Lori Fredrickson

Martin Knippel

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Shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 28–70mm f/2.8L Canon lens at 1/125 sec, f/6.3, ISO 500.

Photographing people in their element often nets the most revealing picture—one reason we asked for an environmental portrait in our October 2010 challenge. But it’s not easy, as Lior Patel of Haifa, Israel, discovered.

“I first saw this woman in Bangkok two years ago,” says Patel, 31, a graduate student in political philosophy and street photographer (www.liorpt.com). On Khaosan Road, he was fascinated by this vendor: “She spends every day at the center of tourists filled with excitement, and her newsstand is also filled with excitement—surrounded by glamour and bored by it all.”

But as soon as he aimed his camera, she jumped up and screamed at him.

Fortunately, another photo from his trip won a contest for a return to Thailand. This time he was determined not to miss the shot. He metered in advance by shooting from the hip as he passed her. Then he walked by again, stopped, quickly composed, clicked three times, and continued on his way. The vendor never noticed. “You find something important in people when you capture them just as they are,” he says. —Lori Fredrickson

Lior Patel

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An avid photographer since high school, Dave Stoetzel, 57 (www.davestoetzel.com), resisted trading film for digital. But, having fallen for the versatility of DSLRs, the painting contractor from Buffalo, WY, got his first compact—a Canon PowerShot G11—earlier this year. One of the first landscapes he shot with it won our September Photo Challenge.

On a trip to San Francisco last spring, he left his Canon EOS 5D at home in favor of his new G11. “I wanted to be forced to use it and try out the different features,” he says.

Stoetzel’s first test run? A drive down the San Mateo coast. Shooting blooming ice plants on the side of the road, “I found that you can shoot from crazy angles using the swiveling LCD,” he says. “But even better was the super depth of field.”

When he noticed the fog rising over the cliffs in the background, a few shots revealed he could keep both the cliffs and nearby flowers in focus, thanks to the compact’s tiny sensor. “The flowers were just 6 feet away, and the background miles away,” Stoetzel says. “I was amazed by what this little camera could do. —Lori Fredrickson

Dave Stoetzel

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Francois Cleroux loves a photo challenge. As president of the Delta Photo Club in Delta, BC, he often comes up with such exercises for club members. So when the 48-year-old software consultant, a former pro shooter, saw our August Challenge to make an unusual self-portrait, he says, “I decided to make it an assignment.”

First, however, he knew he needed his own example to show them. “I’d been reading up on polar panoramas, so I decided to try making one that’s also a self-portrait,” he says. He first went to a local bird sanctuary and shot a series of overlapping images in a 360-degree circle. Next, he mounted a long extension pole on his tripod and photographed himself. Later, in Adobe Photoshop CS4, he stitched together 12 overlapping photos and composited himself in the center. Last, he used the Polar Coordinates filter to make it a my-planet portrait.

The result? A Pop Photo winner, and inspiration for a camera club exercise. And for their next exercise, he says, “We’ll see what’s in Pop Photo.” —Lori Fredrickson

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Maryanne Nelson of Durango, CO, knows how hard it can be to get a great underwater shot—the 60-year-old scuba enthusiast has been taking cameras on dives for decades.

“You have currents pushing you, a wetsuit impeding your movement, and all that scuba gear,” says the former teacher. Still, she snapped this rare photo of an open giant clam, our underwater Photo Challenge winner, on a trip to Australia, where she got married last summer.Her final stop down under was the Great Barrier Reef. “We saw groupers, lion fish, and many giant clams, all shut tight,” she recalls. Then she spotted this one, just 30 feet down, in perfect light.

“I swam to its side to try to sneak up on it,” says Nelson. She got off two shots with her underwater-housed Canon PowerShot G9, just before her subject clammed up.—Lori Fredrickson

June 2010 Winner

June 2010 Winner

George Cady has always been fond of travel posters from the ’20s. “There were some great Art Deco posters that featured cruise ships,” says the retired computer scientist, 68. And they inspired him to shoot this winner of our June 2010 Photo Challenge.

Cady and his wife, who live in Brookings, OR, had been touring Greece and Turkey. “After visiting the Roman ruins at Ephesus, we returned to the harbor in Kusadasi to reboard our boat,” he says. With a bit of time before boarding, the couple wandered the dock. “We passed this cruise ship and noticed how much, at sunset, it looked like an old travel poster.”

He mounted his Konica Minolta Dimage A200 on his mini tripod to shoot from below. With the sun setting out on the water, he exposed twice—once for detail in the ship, and once for the sky.

Later, Cady combined the two exposures in Adobe Photoshop Elements, then edited out a distracting rope that threw off the symmetry. The result: a winning take on a classic picture.—Lori Fredrickson

May 2010 Winner

May 2010 Winner

Lu Zhang, 44, saw our May 2010 Photo Challenge to use a flash outdoors in daylight, he’d already been using a Phoenix Smart Flash for about eight months. A photographer of three years, he thought, “I can do this.”

Zhang, a software engineer based in Kanata, Ontario, walks to work each day on a trail alongside Beaver Pond. “I carry my camera with me,” he says, “and look for interesting things to shoot.”

One morning this May, he spotted this dandelion. “I wanted to shoot it very close up, using the smallest aperture possible for maximum depth of field,” he explains. “Natural light wouldn’t have been enough.”

Behind it he placed a piece of black tissue that he keeps in his camera bag to isolate small subjects. He spotmetered and set ISO to 320 for the required 1/200-sec flash sync speed and to control motion blur.—Lori Fredrickson

April 2010 Winner

April 2010 Winner

When Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld, 42, of Portland, ME, first started doing food photography in 2008, she quickly learned how to improvise with thrifty gear. Her home studio, where she shoots both for Portland Monthly and for the agency Stock Food, was until recently her kitchen table and a few cheap backgrounds and accessories—including 16x24-inch foamcore boards she bought from an art supply store for about $1.50 each.

When she saw our April 2010 Photo Challenge to shoot a still life using only indirect light and a reflector, Farr-Weinfeld says, “I started coming up with all kinds of ideas.” Searching for subjects in her kitchen, she found this margarita glass. “I thought an orange drink would make it an interesting color combination.”

After chopping up fruit, she brought out her white foamcore. “I placed one board on the kitchen table and one against the wall to make the white seamless background,” she explains.

She set up another piece of foamcore at an angle to bounce the morning sunlight streaming through her kitchen door onto the glass. With the lighting right, she rearranged the fruit for
better visibility.

Using her tripod-mounted Pentax K20D up close with a 50mm f/1.4 Pentax lens, she set a long shutter speed. This winner was exposed for 3 seconds at f/11, ISO 200. “It may be really basic equipment,” Farr-Weinfeld says, “but it does the trick.”

See more of her work at www.cwfphotography.smugmug.com—Lori Fredrickson

March 2010 Winner

March 2010 Winner

Lightning strikes the Bay Area but rarely. So when Frank Fennema, 56, awoke to a thunderstorm outside his San Francisco window, “I knew it was a one-in-a-million event,” he says. It was also a reason to use his remote trigger—which was our Photo Challenge of March 2010.

The freelance photographer grabbed his gear and drove to the Golden Gate Bridge. He’d scouted the landmark before: “I knew this spot above Horseshoe Bay would be a great angle,” he recalls.

With his poncho-protected Nikon D300 and 18–200mm f/3.5–5.6 Nikkor lens on a tripod, he shot a few tests. Then he retreated to his car and, using a RPS Studio remote, started firing.

Over the next hour, Fennema shot 116 frames using 30-sec exposures to capture as much lightning as possible. Among them, this month’s winning shot.—Lori Fredrickson

February 2010 Winner

February 2010 Winner

“I love winter photography,” says Travis Forbear (twforbear.zenfolio.com). “But after reading the [February 2010] Photo Challenge, I pushed myself to make my images more focused.” The 33-year-old photographer from Hart, MI, had shot snowflakes before, but our request to capture something frozen, he says, persuaded him to “get closer and more detailed.”

He found that overcast mornings provided the best light and car windows great backdrops. A +10 close-up filter on his 60mm f/2.8 Canon Macro EF-S lens helped bring out the intricacy. Practice taught him other tricks: “I learned to set the lens to the closest focusing distance using manual focus, and move in or out for more sharpness,” Forbear says. “I spent many hours in the cold to get the right look.”

Judging by this photo, the effort was worth it.—Lori Fredrickson

January 2010 Winner

January 2010 Winner

Dustin Stoll, 18, shoots sports events for Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, where he’s a student. And, he says, “My favorite photography is macro, especially bugs.” But he had only really photographed in color— until he saw our January 2010 black-and-white Photo Challenge.

Stoll originally shot this image in color at Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure in Salina, KS, using his Canon EOS 5D. Passing by a gorilla pen, he noticed the ape’s hands. “They have a human resemblance,” he says, “but also a really cool texture.” So he zoomed in for a tight close-up.

Looking at the image later, he was struck again by the texture, and realized that it would make a great candidate for b&w. So he converted it in Adobe Photoshop.

The result? This picture, much better than most first tries. You can see more of Stoll’s photos at stollpics.com.—Lori Fredrickson

December 2009 Winner

December 2009 Winner

Jasen Petersen, a 38-year-old realtor, has been photographing competitions at Dance in Motion, his wife’s Battle Creek, MI, dance studio, for two years. But shortly after reading our December 2009 photo challenge to capture the emotion of motion, “I started to dream up something with more of a modern-art feel,” he says.

A photo of a model covered in flour that he saw in another magazine inspired the shoot that produced our Challenge winner.

Petersen set up a black backdrop outdoors against one of dance studio’s walls, placing one AlienBees AB800 strobe facing the backdrop and another slightly behind it and to the left.

At nightfall, in 35-degree cold, he and his sister-in-law led three brave dancers to this outdoor studio. His assistants (including the dancers, who took turns modeling) would throw flour on each model, who held fistfuls of flour to pitch in the air as she jumped. “For most of their poses they would take one or two steps and then leap, so I locked focus and tracked them until they hit the peak,” he explains.

In just 30 minutes Petersen had some great images, including this one of his niece. And despite the cold, everyone agreed they’d had a great time.—Lori Fredrickson

November 2009 Winner

November 2009 Winner

When Stephan Kolb read our November 2009 Photo Challenge on light-painting, he decided to learn a new technique. The 55-year-old carpenter (www.stephankolbstudio.com) from Edgewood, NM, came up with this clever winner—and a few other images we liked nearly as much.

On a clear night, he invited a friend over and strung a rope light between two metal fence posts in his yard. He set his Nikon D200 on a tripod and composed to frame the rope light.

With the camera set to Bulb, and his friend in a pose, Kolb opened the shutter via wireless remote, then switched on a flashlight and traced his friend’s outline. He turned off the light until his model was in a new position, then traced him again. Total exposure: 139 seconds.

It took a few tries (and some cropping) to get it right—but his work paid off.—Lori Fredrickson

October 2009 Winner

October 2009 Winner

When 34-year-old Jesse Estes (www.jesse-estes.com; featured in our December 2009 Software Workshop) learned that trees in Portland’s Japanese Gardens had reached peak fall color, he didn’t let the misty weather deter him. The Troutdale, OR-based systems administrator knew, as Stan Trzoniec explained in October’s Nature column, gray days can be a foliage shooter’s best friend.

Estes says, “Wind stirring the leaves can be an issue. But it was perfectly calm, still wet from a storm.” This allowed a 3-sec exposure (at f/14, ISO 200) while keeping sharpness in the leaves.

He also got a fresh take on a favorite subject of local photographers. “Most images I’ve seen don’t include much of the upper part of the tree, with its branches snaking around,” Estes says. A Sigma 10–20mm f/4–5.6 lens on his Nikon D300 helped pack all the color in. —Lori Fredrickson

September 2009 Winner

September 2009 Winner

Christopher Wells of Detroit has long been inspired by Popular Photography. In fact, he even had his Canon PowerShot S3 IS superzoom converted to shoot infrared images because of one of our articles.

After reading “Through Fresh Eyes” (October 2009), he put his 65mm f/2.8 Canon MP-E macro lens to new use. “I’d bought it to capture detail on the small items I sell in online auctions,” he says. “But you made me think about the possible uses it could be put to in the smaller world of nature.”

The result was this “wee jumper in an abandoned wasp nest,” shot with a Canon EOS Rebel XT and macro ring flash—not the easiest shot, since the spiders kept jumping on his camera. But it paid off. “Nature at its most beautiful and creepy,” he says.

See more of his photos at www.flickr.com/photos/7896037@N07.—Lori Fredrickson

August 2009 Winner

August 2009 Winner

For five months, Rick Wetterau (www.rwetterauinfrared.com)tried to photograph a tomatillo husk. He’d positioned it a million different ways on his tabletop studio, under fluorescent lights and in available sunlight.

Then came an inspiration: A penlight. “Using a long exposure with a narrow beam allowed me to preserve the spider web detail and create a thicker shadow,” Wetterau explains.

We were pretty impressed with this image. It also reminded us of a tip on using pinpoint light sources to add intrigue to photos, which we ran in our September 2009 Picture Doctor.—Lori Fredrickson

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