Almost Weekly Photo

Back In Bolivia

Cocoi Heron, Rio Yacuma, BoliviaFujifilm X-T3, XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS…

Fashion In Bolivia

Three women, Tiwanaku Ruins, Altiplano, BoliviaPhase One A-series 150MP, 23mm…

A Little Sharpening Still Helps

Glacial Textures, Iceland. Phase One XF IQ150, f3.2 @ 1/2000…

Cocoi Heron, Rio Yacuma, Bolivia
Fujifilm X-T3, XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, f5.6 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 1600

I'm enjoying my spare time processing images from the Bolivian photo tour I did last year with Ignacio Palacios and a group of brave photographers - brave because we had some amazing adventures in many different ways.

I can remember coming back from our trip up the Yacuma River. There were two canoes and we were in the last one when our engine stopped. As the river twists and bends, the others didn't realise we were lagging behind. Worryingly, there were so many alligators along the embankment, we wondered if they knew how tasty we were. Fortunately, like all good boy scouts and girl guides, we only travelled with boatmen who had a spare oar and so slowly, slowly we limped our way back to the pick-up point.

The wildlife at this time of year (September) is highly concentrated because the floodplain waters have subsided and so all living beings seem to congregate along the river edges. I probably shot 1000 photos of egrets and herons in flight (I'm assuming this is a Cocoi Heron, but I stand to be corrected by a true birder), but this one worked the best. The background was in shadow and dark, the bird's wings were nicely positioned and, importantly, the bird was sharply focused.

In Lightroom, I darkened down the image overall until I was happy with the background. Then I used an adjustment brush to roughly cover the heron and used the highlight slider to lighten the bird, but not the background. Using the highlight or shadow sliders to adjust your exposure locally can work very well because it will adjust light values and not dark ones, or vice-versa, and this in turn means you don't always need a precise mask (or brush).

I used second and third adjustment brushes to further lighten the neck and the feet - and I like the way the little sunlit leaves on the right seem to be leading the heron on its flight path!

Some readers have asked about the 1:2 format. I am processing all my Bolivian photos with 1:1 or 1:2 format because I have a square format book in mind - a lay-flat book from Momento should present this image very nicely. However, I agree I'm wasting some image area for the A2 prints I make of each image before I send them off to be printed in book format, using my Epson SC P10070 and Canson Rag Photographique paper. No matter how good my EIZO monitor is, I still love looking at and handling a real print - I think it's one of the greatest enjoyments of the photographic process.

Three women, Tiwanaku Ruins, Altiplano, Bolivia
Phase One A-series 150MP, 23mm Alpagon, f11 @ 1/250 second, ISO 50

As you read this, the future of travel in our COVID world is looking better, but not getting any closer and it seems that some areas are struggling to free themselves from restrictions. This is disappointing on many levels and my best wishes go out to readers who are still stuck in isolation. I know we're all thinking of you.

In Sydney where I live, we're currently able to move about quite freely within New South Wales - and even over to South Australia. However, my diary is the emptiest it has been for a couple of decades, so I'm spending my extra 'free time' reviewing previous trips and processing the files I have been meaning to attend to for way too long.

And I'm loving the process.

Having spent a little time on my USA and Icelandic aerials, I'm taking a break, but staying at high altitude and moving over to the Bolivian Altiplano and Copacabana. Most of the images so far are not landscapes, but environmental or travel portraits. The image here might not be considered a portrait, but let's not worry too much about semantics! What's not to love about the colourful clothing and delightful hats the women wear. If I were a Bolivian photographer, it might just be normal life and perhaps not nearly so engaging, but for readers in most other parts of the world, the styles and designs are captivating.

We photographed these three ladies seated and after exchanging pleasantries, they walked away which is when I took this photograph. In many ways, it's doing everything 'wrong' by shooting into the light, but our cameras have such great latitude these days it's not difficult to bring out the colour and detail with the shadow slider. And I guess that's my message or tip: when you think a shoot is over, keep your camera turned on as you never know what might happen. And when it comes to people, once they think the camera has been put away, they can relax and offer you even better images.

For those reading the newsletter or on the website, I'll include the raw file for comparison purposes. You'll see that I have cleaned up a few stray tourists and a communication tower, simplifying the composition.

2020 Overall Winner and Exotic Travel Category Winner: Azim Khan Ronnie

Stunning! Not only the winning photos, but the standard overall this year was stunning – and I’m sure you’ll agree when you look around the competition website to check out the winners and the top 20 (or so) in each category (see Previous Years - 2020 Awards in the top menu, www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com).

The winning photo (above) by Azim Khan Ronnie is a masterclass in travel photography. The image has everything going for it, from the perfect gesture of a worshipper to the wonderful light and atmosphere surrounding him. It was an immediate Gold Award from all three judges.

Azim Khan wins the overall first prize which is a cash purse of AUS $2000, plus the Exotic Travel category first prize of $750, a total of $2750. No doubt this will be put to great use to extend his camera outfit or visit more exotic travel locations.

The other category winners were:

2020 Emotive Portrait Category Winner: Zay Lar Yin

2020 Classic Landscape Category Winner: Grant Galbraith

2020 Revealing Nature Category Winner: Charles Jones

Thanks also to our esteemed judges Peter Eastway, David Oliver and Tony Hewitt, AIPP Grand Masters of Photography. This year, the judges felt that the overall standard had noticeably improved and that’s great news. There were 799 entries and the vast majority scored Bronze or higher. If an entry shows strengths in one or more areas, the judges are encouraged to recognise this with a Bronze award. However, to get a Silver award you really have to show them something remarkable, and with 48% of entries achieving Silver this year, that’s fantastic! Silvers are only given to very strong images.

And the strongest images of all, the photos the judges wished they’d taken themselves? There were just 18 Gold awards this year – and a special congratulations to them.

Entrants can now log into their accounts on the www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com website to see their results. They will also be able to download a PDF of their Bronze, Silver or Gold awards and see their scores and comments. (For instructions, read the FAQ page on this website.) In addition, we will be contacting each of the entrants with a personalised email listing their entries, scores, awards and the judges’ comments.

The idea behind the judges’ comments is to give entrants an idea of where they might improve. Many of the Silver and Gold award winners simply receive a congratulatory note because sometimes there’s no need to provide feedback on what is already a very successful entry. However, for the Bronzes and many of the Silvers, we tried to isolate one main area in which the entry could be improved. Of course, there could be several areas entrants can investigate, so our comments are provided to encourage further research and advancement.

We know there is always a let-down when you first get your results if they are lower than anticipated, but take a deep breath and read the comments again in a few days, trying to take on board what you could potentially improve next year. The judges have all gone through this process themselves – and they reckon it worked for them!

Stay tuned for the 2021 awards and another chance to be the Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year winner.

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