Amateur Photographer forum competition results for the October 2012 round. The theme was Above your head/Looking up

November 5, 2012

I don’t know about you but I don’t look up nearly as often as I should – in photographic terms at least. In our busy daily lives we scurry around with our heads down and don’t always make time to look at what’s around us. This month’s round encouraged AP photographers to break the mold and take a new perspective on their surroundings. We didn’t mind what the subject was as long as it resulted in an exciting image that presented an interesting take on the theme. From swirling staircases to shoals of fish, spindly tree branches and even a rollercoaster, the entries blew us away. Read on for comments about some of the shortlisted entries and my top three images.

Samsung has kindly provided a 32GB Micro SD card, with SD adapter for the winner, and 8GB cards and adapters for the second and third places. Second and third places also get an Amateur Photographer Loves My Pictures mug.

The AP brief for this round suggested entrants angle their cameras in a new way – namely upwards rather than shooting from eye level or down at a subject. It may sound an obvious and simple thing to do but it takes skill, thought and careful framing to capture a subject in a dynamic, powerful way when pointing the camera upwards. Spotting a potential subject is one thing but creating an image that wows the viewer is quite another. There are lots of things to think about such as fine-tuning the shooting angle, ensuring the camera is steady perhaps using a tripod to adjust the angle, balancing elements in the frame and making sure the exposure is spot on. We had little cause to worry that AP entrants wouldn’t rise to the challenge however, and Forum posters have come up trumps yet again. Much to my chagrin! While I’m thrilled to see so many fantastic images, it makes the judging process so much harder.

I’ve made quite a long ‘shortlist’ for this month’s competition as there were just too many good images to choose from. Images that stood out to me included AdrianSadlier’s mesmerizing mechanical flowers on top of a local fire station (I love the surreal, graphic quality of this image, the light is beautiful), LesleySM’s image of a boy taken from beneath the Millennium Bridge in London on an AP masterclass (the subject is looking down but the photographer is looking up) and lollipoplass1’s image of seagulls (again a great use of light, although the clipped top right-hand bird’s wings is a slight shame but there’s no denying as a viewer you feel immersed in the action). Caledonia84’s graphic black and white image looking upwards inside a lighthouse reminded me of the opening sequence to the James Bond movies! I also loved Stevet’s image Old and new with its converging diagonals and soft light – this image just narrowly missed out on a place in the top three. Without further a do, here is that top three.

3rd place
FuzzyLens – “Meshing the Old with the New”

I believe this may be the interior of the British Museum in London. The famous ceiling with its tightly woven triangular pattern is immediately identifiable and has become iconic. It has of course been photographed to death so FuzzyLens’s decision to choose such a popular subject is a brave one. But the gamble has paid off – this is a superb take on a subject we have seen many times before. I feel quite dizzy just looking at this image as I try to work out how it was taken. The camera looks as though it was angled directly upwards and FuzzyLens has taken great care in adjusting the framing so that the old building balances with the new structure on the left (I don’t believe the British Museum allows the use of tripods without special permission, so the precision of the image is even more impressive if has been taken handheld). There is something Escher-esque about the composition and the image has an air of an optical illusion about it that I love. This is a great study of shape and form, excellently realised in black and white. To my mind the decision to convert the image to black and white is a good one as stripping away the colour allows the viewer to fully take in the wonderful shapes and patterns on show.

2nd place
Mike_morley – “Boys in a playground”

I love this image. As I was scrolling through the entries it stood out to me straight away. The boys’ relaxed expressions and their gigantic feet accentuated by the low angle perspective caught my eye immediately. While many entrants chose an architectural subject or a subject from nature, Mike opted for a human subject – two boys playing in a playground photographed from below. Not an obvious choice but one that has resulted in a fantastic candid image. What I love about this photograph is its spontaneous feel – looking at the image I can imagine the photographer ‘in the moment’, spotting an opportunity and seizing it with both hands – although I imagine a good degree of thought went into its composition. For example the clean background proves that Mike thought carefully about how to minimize distracting details and ensure his subjects stood out in the frame. There is a naturalness to the image that works brilliantly and the two boys are perfectly framed in the centre. The image has a cool feel to it, which I would have been inclined to warm up (but that’s just personal taste), and it looks as though there has been some vignetting added around the edges. While I don’t mind this (it helps to contain the picture within the frame), my feeling is that any more tweaking would have taken things a little too far. What I mean is that sometimes knowing when to stop fiddling and letting a picture ‘be’ is as important as taking it in the first place.

1st place
Yebisu – “Shinjuku, Tokyo”

This is a stunning image. Where to start? Perhaps by commenting on the presence of the bird, frozen in mid-air as it soars through the sky. Certainly without it the image would be sorely lacking and not half as striking as it is – the bird anchors the image and provides a vital focal point. I wonder if Yebisu found this scene, framed the shot and then waited for the bird to fly into the frame or whether it was a happy coincidence that the bird appeared. Either way it is a vital component in the composition. There is more to say about the presence of the bird – its juxtaposition with the towering, overpowering buildings for me at least, highlights a tension between man and nature – the industrial, mechanised world (represented here by the skyscrapers) and the natural world. The bird could also be read as a symbol of freedom and hope, which gives the image an intense emotional charge. And this for me is why it is my first-placed image. This is no ‘record shot’ that lacks punch – there is an underlying sense of emotion in this image that Yebisu has so brilliantly captured. It is not easy to create an image that stirs emotion in the viewer, and Yebisu has achieved this with aplomb in a most effortless (although I imagine it wasn’t as easy as it looks) way. On a technical note, this is an excellent image and it is clear a lot of thought has gone into the composition’s design – the interplay of the light and the material of the buildings, and the buildings’ leaning angles for example. I also love the traces of grain you can see in the buildings and sky that contributes to the image’s authentic, timeless feel, and the subtlety of tone throughout.

Thanks again to everyone who took part in this round. I know I say it every time but there were some really strong images and it was a genuine pleasure looking through them all. I look forward to reading your comments for this round’s results and seeing what next month has in store…

Enter our November competition here.

See all the entries for this round

See the comments from this round

Leave your comments for the winning pictures here

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