One of the things I find so interesting about photography is it’s subjective nature. An image that may speak to one person says nothing to another. This fact is reinforced when you ask a group of people to pick their one favorite photo from a group of photos, like what I did last week as I prepared to submit one of my Napa Valley photos to the Napa Valley Mustard Festival Photo Contest.
After requesting feedback, some provided on the original posting comments while others were emailed to me directly, here is how the voting broke down (click through on each photo to view a larger version):
I find it interesting, and a bit confusing, that multiple people felt the lack of depth of field for both #2 and #3 was distracting. Traditionally, the shallow depth of field usually focuses the viewer’s attention, but it seems that it worked just the opposite for some people. It also seems that the way I framed #1, with the fence drawing the viewer’s eye form the lower right corner into the photo and the path falling on the right third of the photo, was favored by a number of people.
Initially, I prefered #2. It was something about the whole feel of the image, the way the photo broke up nicely into thirds (mustard in the bottom third, the vines in the middle third, and the barn in the top third). So that was the first photo that I printed at 18×12. As it hung in my office for a few days, the yellow of the mustard started to overpower the photo and resulted in my attention always being drawn to it. This was also the aspect of the photo that bother my wife.
I really liked #1 but found it difficult to adjust the color and luminosity masks to give the photo the pop but also keep the light brown of the posts in the field, they ended up darker than I wanted and I ran out of time to play with the image. I also thought that a person or some other item in the photo would help add more feeling to the photo.
In the end I decided to submit #3 to the competition. The balance of the yellow of the mustard and red of the barn played nice together. Also the fact the photo contains mustard, vines, and a well known Napa building (Frog’s Leap Winery’s red barn) encompasses the photo contest’s subject well.
So this morning, my wife and I drove up to Napa to submit a framed & matted 18” x 12” print. Today was the last day of submission and my entry was number 196; I’m expecting there to be close to 250 entrants for the contest! Categories are Film, Digital, and Artistic (heavy editing). Luckily, the photos submitted to date were all lined up along the walls of the gallery so you could view the competition. With your total frame size limited to 24” x 24”, I was shocked that most photos were 8×10 size or smaller. The result was that most of the landscapes that were printed small really didn’t jump out at you, so in this case bigger was definitely better.
However, there is always an exception. The one photo that absolutely jumped out at both my wife and myself was a small photo of a weathered hand holding a shear about to prune a grape vine. The image was taken from above with yellow mustard filling the blurred background. Even small, that photo just leaped out at you. The reason being that the photographer did a wonderful job adjusting the tones within the hand. The weather hand just leaped out of that page at you due to it’s texture and tonal range. Perhaps the photo could have been improved by pulling back a bit and showing more of the mustard in the background and not filling the frame with the hand and shears. Regardless, my wife and I both left thinking that particular image was the winner in the digital category.
If you happen to be in the Napa area between now and May 1st, make an effort to stop by the Mumm Winery’s Photography Gallery to view the contest. Most of the entries are for sale, so if you see one you like do yourself and the photographer a favor and purchase the print. Half of the proceeds go to support next year’s photo contest.
I’ve decided to make a Limited Edition Fine Art Print of my submission available for purchase. The print run will be limited to 10. Watch for more details within the week. The framed and matted version of my submission is available for purchase from the Mumm Winery’s Photography Gallery for $200, in person visit needed for purchasing.