Forum Champions 2014
The AP forum is a great place to share information, speculate about the news, offer advice and show off your well-honed photographic skills. Each month in our forum competition we set a theme and ask our forum members to take a photo fitting that theme. The top three are then selected, with the winner taking home a Manfrotto backpack.
Each month the entries get stronger. Here we take a look at each winner starting from December 2013 to November 2014.
December 2013 – Winter Wonderland
Miked – ‘Winter’s Passing’
The visual virtues of this shot are obvious, I think. It’s a nice decision to hold the focus on the mountains in the distance. Most of the time we hold things in focus in order to draw attention to them. With that in mind, we should be focusing our attention on the background. In fact, it’s had the opposite effect here – it actually places our attention firmly on the out-of-focus trees in the foreground. Seeing the background in this way makes it seem almost foreboding – there’s something intimidating about it.
The title, of course, refers to the fact that Miked has shot this using a slow shutter speed while moving past the scene, which lends a stark and eerie quality to the shot. Despite being captured in Yellowstone National Park in the USA, the image brings to mind the trend for Scandinavian noir we’ve seen in so many recent books and films.
January – Time For a Story
Geren – ‘Au Revoir’
This picture succeeds in both creating a visually arresting image and telling a strong story through the simplest means. A woman clasps her dog as they both watch a train speed away. That’s it. But what do we take from that?
The sight of a woman watching a train speed away brings to mind a variety of cinematic scenes, perhaps most notably from David Lean’s Brief Encounter. Train stations can be a place of both love and heartache. They can bring lovers together or they can separate them entirely. Geren’s choice to convert the image into black & white further emphasises this notion of a scene tinged with loss. Like the train station, monochrome is a thing of contradiction – it is both romantic and a medium of loss and emptiness.
February – Working With What You’ve Got
Sarmad – ‘Missing’
Would this have been everyone’s number-one image? Possibly not. But I really feel this is an image that has a great deal to say. That’s the thing that can confuse people when dealing with abstract photography. What is it trying to show, and tell us?
Sarmad’s description reads: ‘From the mountain in southern Turkey. Overlooking the sea on a dull day. An experiment that paid off.’ It certainly did. For me, Sarmad’s image communicates the landscape in flux – something that is particularly true of the temperamental, ever-shifting lands found on the coast. No two coasts ever look the same. Light and landscape are always altering and reconfiguring to reveal something new each time. Shooting the image in this way communicates that idea brilliantly.
March – In the Dirt
Catriona – ‘Misty Road’
This was definitely one of my favourite images from the forum competition. Catriona is a regular entrant and with this image she’s truly presented us with an image of absolute beauty and atmosphere. There’s so much to say about it. Let’s start with the way she’s used the tree on the left-hand side to frame one edge of her image. It curves beautifully into the path below, which in turn sweeps us into the subject – the person with the umbrella. Is our subject a child or is the perspective an illusion? I’m not sure. If it’s a child, we see that shooting from a low angle has given us a glimpse of the world from a child’s perspective.
Now add the wonderful fairy-tale quality of the toning and that gorgeous mist, and this image becomes a real winner. I even like the obscured forms in the background. Where is this person going? What’s waiting for them out in the mist? This is a seriously good photograph.
April – Look At Me
Ready To Snap – ‘Other Side of the Glass’
I really love this shot. It’s so uncomplicated, so raw and so honest. The crinkles in the brow, the detail in the hair and the arched eyebrow are all absolutely fascinating to me. I’m a huge fan of portraiture and what appeals to me is the honesty of a portrait. I look at a portrait and I want to know everything about him or her. What have they seen? What experiences have they had? The look on his face goes beyond the blank stare we often associate with these kinds of images.
Ready to Snap’s portrait has a particular aesthetic to it that I love. It’s the lighting, I think. It just works. Why leave all that space on the right? Because it functions with the way the light falls upon the wall.
May – Everyday People
Stephen67 – ‘Hide’
There’s something genuinely sweet about this image. It’s beautifully balanced, too – the angle and composition are just right. It can often be the case that when we see an image, the reason we like it is because of the subtle little elements of the scene. Our eye is drawn to one thing that perhaps everyone else viewing the image would not otherwise notice. For me, it’s the newspapers on the edge of the counter. The way the corners are hanging off the surface, for some reason, holds my attention. I think it’s perhaps because they act as a way of drawing your eye to the subject – the young boy.
June – My Favourite Image
Chrisevans – ‘Jess: the Levitating Lady’
This marvellous shot from Chris was lit with two second-hand flashguns and, as you
may have guessed, is the result of two shots.
‘The first shot was taken with Jess lying on a large plastic barrel that was supporting her in the small of her back,’ says Chris. ‘Her right foot received extra stability from a small chair. Once all the elements were balanced in position, I took the shot. All props were then moved out of the scene and another shot was taken.’
‘The two shots I had were opened into one document in Photoshop, one on top of the other,’ he continues. ‘The image without Jess and the props was on the bottom layer. I created a mask layer for the top shot of Jess and as I masked off (or deleted) the area where I could see the barrel, it revealed the underlying image of the sofa shot without the barrel. Illusion created!’
July – Playing in the Shadows
Helander – ‘Callandish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis’
Regular visitors to the AP gallery and forum should by now be familiar with Helander’s work. He’s a photographer with a staggeringly good eye for landscapes. This is another wonderful example of his ability to draw out the atmosphere of a location. In my undying quest to compare everyone’s work to that of famous photographers, I’d suggest taking a look at Tom Hunter’s latest project, ‘Axis Mundi’. It’s a lovely project and a massive departure for the artist. That’s the work that came to mind when I saw Helander’s image and, as always, I mean that as a huge compliment.
August – The World Under Moonlight
Ffolrord – ‘Sea & Stars’
Photography can transport us to places we may never otherwise visit. Images can give us the illusion of travel. But at the same time, photography can remind us of our place in the greater scheme of existence, whether that’s in society, on Earth, or in this case, the cosmos.
Our world is so polluted by light that there are so few occasions when we are afforded scenes such as this. So until society crumbles and we start eating each other under starlight, we have images like this to remind us just how beautiful the universe is, and just how small we are within it.
September – Sticking to the Rules
Avt – ‘Rules and Exceptions – 35mm film’
The question is, does this image stick to the rules of photography? The trick is to look beyond its abstract nature. If you see through that and to the image that lies beneath, there is a relatively straightforward shot of architecture. But on the surface we have a surreal view of the city.
‘This is taken from my series Moscow City,’ says Avt. ‘It was shot on 35mm film and a swing-lens panoramic camera following a workshop with the great Russian photographer A Chegin.’ Avt has made rather unconventional use of the camera. The building looks like it’s falling through time. This is a fascinatingly different take on architecture photography.
October – Breaking the Rules
Zou – ‘Tokyu Plaza’
This is an absolutely maddening shot! I have no idea where to look. As soon as my gaze rests on one thing, it’s pulled up or across towards something else. While that should be a bad thing, I can’t help but love the image for just for that reason. It’s the structure in the background that really makes it. The reflections are utterly disorientating. Then we have the lines on the road. The angle is all off, meaning there’s no way they can function as a comfortable framing device or leading line. Add to that the surreal focusing and you have a shot that can easily make the viewer a little woozy. Again, though, I can’t help but love it. Zou’s image made me confused, then pleased, then a bit angry before going back to confused. I’m not sure where I am with it now. But for that very reason, I had to award it first place.
November – Not the Taylor Wessing
Helander – ‘Donald MacDonald’
‘This old farmer obliged for a portrait as he proudly surveyed his livestock and collection of vintage tractors strewn across his land,’ says Helander. ‘His face is etched with a thousand stories of a hard life crofting in the Scottish Highlands.’
It would be a little insulting to your intelligence to go into the details of why this shot works. It’s obvious. Every element of it (pose, depth of field, monochrome) has come together perfectly. The stillness of photography allows us the time to study the subjects and this is one of those shots that I could study for a long time. There are details in the face that make we want to learn as much as I can about this farmer.