Photo and camera clubs run competitions, it’s a good incentive to make their members to learn the basics of composition, exposure, and so on. Sometimes, judging seems to focus more on the subject matter than the photograph, the photographic information offered becomes secondary or even forgotten. At other times, the judge put in a position to say something, focuses on first something good (encouragement), then on the mistakes (educational).
Today, I received a whole bunch of photographs apparently selected by the National Geographic Magazine as the pictures of the year. In the spirit of spoofing the above-mentioned competition judging, I am presenting you these images with my commentaries on each, as if I am judging these images in a club competition.
It is meant to be satirical and does not speak of the habits of any judge at any competition. Like all satire, points are exaggerated to bring them over the top to the humor side rather than being somewhat believable and leaving them on the serious commentary side. I have not checked whether these photographs are indeed selected by the National Geographic or not, but they are suitable for this purpose and they arrived in my mailbox with that heading.
Here is the gallery with commentary under each. The titles are entirely mine, and the species identification is highly dubious, quite possibly totally wrong (I will bet on it!)
Note: The comment text blocks are rather long and may not fit in the allotted space under each photograph. I included them as itemized text below if you open two browser windows you can look at the photograph in one and read the text in the other. Have fun!
Pictures of the Year Judged In the Style Of Photo Club Competitions
Judge’s comments, so to speak! (imaginary, and with occasional editorial asides from me!)
- Cheetah (standing). The cheetah, be careful not to crop the tail of the animal next time, the feet are touching the bottom edge, edge merger. I hope the photographer has taken lots of shots, they are cute. Go there again, it is promising.
- Leaf (really). It is passed its prime, the corner merger is a boo-boo, there is no center of interest, my eyes go all over the place. The background is nice though, you managed to throw it out of focus, good thinking. I hope the photographer has taken more pictures there, the background is great. Visit the location once more and find a leaf in pristine condition.
- Trees in Water, too much information, the trees are too close to each other, no center of interest, my eyes go all over the place. Good sky color, promising, I hope the photographer has taken more pictures there.
- White Bear and Baby (Somewhere North), too much empty space around it, the main subject is the animal, focus in on them. They are very cute, I hope the photographer has taken more pictures there. Clone out the dead branch stems. Go back there again, bring some bear food with you, they may cooperate.
- Colorful Peak (Of What?) The colorful sky, the color at the peak is gorgeous, but too much sky above, eliminate and consider paneling it. I hope the photographer has taken more pictures there, great sky color, soft and out of focus, that’s neat. Go back there at different times, you may get lucky.
- Shark Feeding (That’s what you think). The proper name is, of course, Selachimorpha, and this one is a female judging by the third tooth from the center, and maybe even pregnant. The position of the Selachimorpha indicates that it is not interested in eating anymore, obviously full already. The eyes indicate that it has a mate nearby. The small fish is a school of purporea minimalis and they typically behave this way, as if taking pleasure from this encounter. Their passivity indicates they know their fate and instinctively moving around. The photo is not bad, I hope the photographer has taken many more pictures there. Visit the site again, Selachimorpha has a habit of being more docile in early morning hours as it is difficult for them to wake up generally. Compose better next time with a hungry Selachimorpha, more action that way.
- Two Tall Finches (Finches come in all sizes and shapes). The background is great, you had the right idea to throw it out of focus, it is probably F/6.345 just the right stop for this shot. You caught the finches in their mating ritual as the male brings an olive branch for peace hoping for some action later on. The female here is not very interested, judging by the position of the feathers around the neck. I hope the photographer has taken a lot of photographs of this ritual which is known to last as long as 8 hours or more. Next time move more to your right and get the full body of the long-necked finches in your frame. Promising with that background.
- Ape Jumping (Big deal), they jump all the time. This one is a young one, quite possibly a male based on the position of the separated toe on the right hind foot. I hope the photographer has taken a lot of pictures there, their antics which may include jumping while chest pounding and somersaults could be interesting. Go back there at sunrise, you will have warmer light in the background replacing this dull gray. Hope for shots where both of the ape’s arms are stretched out, this one is almost coming back to touch its head, which is not a natural behavior for this species.
- Northern Lights. This looks like Aurora Borealis but judging from the colors it is actually Boreal Areola an even rarer phenomenon. The photographer has made a very good attempt to record it, I hope he (or she) has taken many more of this interesting subject. Go back there again and try to catch more colorful ones, they are more interesting. Make sure that the center area Corona Areolis section is not as hot next time.
- Kissing Mooses (Meese?) Well, how would you feel if I cut off your rear end, be careful in composing, include the full animal. The background is nice and soft, that’s great, you picked the correct f-stop for this shot, which is not always easy. Let me tell you about one time … Oh, we don’t have time? OK, next time.
- Whale Blowing Air. Oh, look at this whale, a young one judging by the stripes under the chin. It has just eaten and now blowing air for joy. They do that most of the day sometimes, the noise may bother the villagers if the animal is close to shore. Because of that, they are also known as the
- Gazelles in the Sunset (For sure). I am fluctuating between two subjects, the silhouetted animals, and the gorgeous sunset. If you bring the sun directly above the animals it will create an interesting composition. Use the clone stamp to move the sun directly above the area formed by the horns, bring it closer to the horizon and panel crop the photo, that’s it. It will be great, I would have done that. I hope the photographer …. well you know… Go back again and wait for the sun to go down 1 more degree azimuth and move your tripod to the left. I tell you, it is not glued to the ground you know; lift it up and move it. Don’t be lazy. Also, fix that horizon, it is tilted.
- Baboon and her Baby (Maybe something else). The mother’s face is in the dark, there is no catch light in the eyes, ask a friend to hold your flash off camera and aim it to their face. The background is distracting, Throw it totally out of focus, use a smaller numbered f-stop. Ask the other photographers whose pictures we saw earlier how they got the background so gorgeously out of focus. I hope the photographer has taken lots of pictures there, this mother looks like she has two more babies. I learned that at a wildlife refuge workshop I attended.
- Snow Monkeys. These are snow monkeys AKA The Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata), a terrestrial Old World monkey species native to Japan, although an introduced free-ranging population has been living near Laredo, Texas since 1972. It is the most northern-living non-human primate. Individuals have brown-gray fur, a red face, hands and bottom, and a short tail. There are two subspecies of this macaque. They are Macaca fuscata fuscata and Yakushima Macaque, Macaca fuscata yakui. They have very rich fur and it is very soft. This photograph would be better if there was no snow on their faces, clone them out and show their gorgeous red faces. A little catch light in the eyes will improve this a lot, you paid for that pop-up flash on your fancy camera, remember to use it. A great photographer remembers all the tools in the tool chest and knows when to use it. I hope the photographer has taken a lot of pictures of these romantic animals. This may make a nice Valentine’s Day card too. Use your creativity and bang out a few cards to experiment.
- Beach with Charcoal Cliffs. This photo comes out better in October. The photographer should have waited a little more or gone there earlier. The main picture is on the left, the charcoal cliffs are distracting in this photo. Focus on the left side and clone out those two vertical wispy things in the sky; one has a merger with the cliff anyway. It’s a shame to go all this distance and end up with a merger. I hope the photographer has taken lots of pictures there.
- Giraffe. I like the panel crop and the out of focus background, it is gorgeous. Next time try to catch the animals in a more friendly relationship, the one on the left seems to be uncomfortable. I am not an expert on giraffes, but on my last trip to Kenya… OK, I will cut the commentaries short. Run the focus, please.
- King Penguin. The king penguin, do you know how long they travel to find the right spot to mate (bird brains!) The little chick is very cute; the father on the right (you know it is the father, right) is relieved after long months of standing guard. Compositionally, it is OK; if you caught the sunrise or sunset the dull gray would disappear and your photo would be gorgeous. A few catchlights in the eyes will also help. Go back there with a 1200mm lens and crop them a little tighter.
- Manatees. Did you know that in the old days the sailors thought they were mermaids? Their habit of seeking warm waters took them near nuclear power plants, possibly because of the radiation leakage, the one on the right looks strangely colored and formed. Go back there again and find similar looking ones and get the whole image of the animals. Guys, you have to be careful when you crop, check the edges of the frame. That is very important.
- Iceland (Maybe). This looks like taken in Iceland (in some languages they call is Islanda, did you know that) It is a bit underexposed by probably 0.3245 f-stops. But that’s OK, in Photoshop you can increase the exposure and eliminate the hot spot in the center. You may also try to make the angle of the water sprays the same but in opposite directions. The horizon is tilted by 0.0231 degrees. Guys, no excuse for this kind of errors. Go back there when there is a bit more light or use big California reflectors to throw some light on the scene. Under these conditions, it is OK to use gold colored reflectors, but never use them improperly, it is a cardinal sin.
- Smiling Whale. The photographer attempted abstraction here, it’s good to experiment. Use the underwater flashlights to create catchlights, it may even smile more when the flash fires. The line formed by its mouth has a corner merger. Guys, make up your mind, choose one side or the other. I hope you have taken many more they usually move in pairs, maybe you have a dancing one.
- Eyeless False Shark is a deep sea fish and is totally harmless to the fish around it. Actually, they are feeding on the microorganisms under the scale of the large specimen. Because of the way the scales are formed, this fish develops something similar to warts, the small fish feed on them and the large one feels comfortable. This is called a symbiotic relationship. The photo is OK. The diver on the left is distracting, you should have asked him to move out of your picture, carry a spear gun with you, when you aim at them they will not know it is not loaded and get out of the scene. Clone the green monster out. Brighten the scene a little. Go back with some goldfish in your net and feed it to the large one, they will come surprisingly close. On my last tr…OK, next.
- Seals (Cute). Seals, now this is cute. Although the tail is cut off and you did not brush off the sand from the eye of the little baby, I will give you a 30. Next time change your camera angle and eliminate the merger on the head with the land mass offshore. It is cute, how can you not score it 30.
- B & B. OK, you have that long lens, what are you saving it for. Pop it on the camera and come close on the nose and the bee. The sticking tongue and the bee will make a nice contrast. You have thrown the background nicely out of focus, a little more will be better next time. The bee is a stray one, not belonging a nearby hive. Those from a nearby hive would have flown with a different wing movement pattern. Ask me after the competition I will tell you how to identify them.
- Albino Long-Necked Finches. These are albino long-necked finches. The clouds in the background are fine but wait until the sunset for a little color. That will really set these albino species off very nicely, throw it out of focus for even greater impact.
- Red Fox (at least a half of one) The red fox looks like you planted a plastic model there if you use a little slow shutter speed the feet may show some movement and blur, indicating action. Go back there again, try different shutter speeds until you get it right.