After looking at all of the great submissions for our April POTD contest, it took a few weeks to narrow them all down and come up with commentary for what were some outstanding photos. Like I said in the original post, it was truly humbling to have people from all over the world send us their images to view and judge against others. It was great to see images from all over the world of various cultures and places, and I'm happy to announce that we've finally settled on our top portraits and the winner of the $100.
If you're wondering just what exactly is going on here, be sure to check out the full rundown in this post. To make a long story short, we wanted to improve the site and our interaction with our users. People submitted photos from all over the world to enter the contest for a chance to be featured on the site - and many of those images racked up a few thousands views during their time on the front page.
So here's how it will work. I'm going to share what I thought were the best five images from the month and the theme (April, Portraits) and our commentary. Commentators and curators included myself, Douglas Sonders, Lauren Jonas, David Bickley, Trevor Dayley, and Chris Knight.
Here are what the FS writers deemed to be the top five submissions for the month of April, in no particular order:
I absolutely love this image sent in by Josh Ross. It perfectly captures innocence, skateboard culture, and the scene at Venice all in one great shot. Josh's color control is superb, as well, I love the addition of the soft gelled light here. The portrait is an incredible calm shot at the usually chaotic Venice boardwalk, and captures the youth and innocence of the subject perfectly. The image resonated with me as it wasn't much more than ten years ago that I would have been this same kid, in the same huge helmet (on crookedly, no less), trying to skateboard around Venice. The control of light is superb, as I mentioned, and really lends mood and feel to the image.
"Shot on a random day on the Venice boardwalk with a speedlight on a stand in a silver umbrella. I was out just making some images with no particular use in mind and it was an overcast day so I gelled the light with a 1/4 CTO gel."
"'Abigail' is a picture of my niece. For about a year leading up to that picture, she had battled anorexia. This shot was taken last Thanksgiving while the entire family was staying together in a huge rented cabin in the Smokey Mountains. I woke up early that day and walked to the back deck to try and get some landscape shots, only to find Abigail sitting by herself enjoying the serenity of the Smokies. At the time this picture was taken, Abigail was beginning to finally heal from her anorexia, and I remember that she seemed more peaceful than normal that morning (almost meditative). A totally candid shot..."
The writers all agreed - this is simply a superb shot. Intensity, honesty, simplicity, it's all there. The story that goes along with it lends much meaning and depth to the image, and there's a real timeless quality to this image. To be frank, I could see it on a gallery wall at a museum as part of a series in 20 years' time. The processing and lighting are wonderful, too. There's nothing to distract, nothing that jumps out and grabs me and says 'hey, look over here!' - just a great honest portrait of a candid moment.
Lauri Laukkanen shot this - one of the only portraits sent in that isolated the eyes, and I love the effect. Lauri says:
"Shot using a YN560 through a softbox. For me, the most important thing in a photograph is conveying some sort of a emotion. And in this photo, I feel that the eyes convey a myriad of emotions in a very subtle way."
We all thought that this image was definitely one of the most attention-grabbing in the entire contest. The gaze of the subject is just so intense! The processing also helps a bit too - it's not too cooked, but has a great surreal feel to it. It makes us wonder more about the subject, and what she's seen. Where is the photo taken? Who is the subject? What's are they wearing, and what has happened over the past few years of their life? The eyes truly have it all, and this is a great example of that. I really want to see a pulled back version of this to get some context, but I know that it would lose impact, so it's great either way.
"While scouting out a new location to bring clients, I asked my children to help me. My oldest son, while reluctant is the best model. I had him lay in a patch of wild grapevine we found and waited for the sun to peek through the trees.
Edit was a simple pre-set in Lightroom."
Sent in by Candice Hildebrandt, this ageless, timeless photograph simply speaks on another level. It reminds me of one of Cindy Sherman's famed self portraits with a modern twist. I could absolutely see this on a gallery wall. If you're not familiar with Cindy Sherman, she was one of the most prolific fine art photographers ever - and I simply can't shake that feel no matter how much I look at Candice's image. Another example that simple is sometimes best - the processing isn't overdone, there's no crazy background, it's not trying too hard to be something it's not, and the honesty is refreshing. Candice captured her son perfectly at this age and I'm sure she'll be happy to have this image for years to come as he grows older. Print, frame, and hang - another gallery piece, right here.
"My name is Julius Koskela, I'm a photographer from Finland currently residing in Chile. I'm sending this portrait I took of a friend of mine whom I visited on Easter Island. She's native to the Island and what's special about this picture is that it was taken on a swimming trip in one of the volcano craters on the Island. Tourists do not have access to this place and I was only able to enter because I was with locals. The girls insisted I'd take some beauty pics and we had a fun afternoon of swimming and shooting. Another interesting detail is about the reeds on the picture, those were very important for the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) people to make everything from rooftops to boats."
This is another image that makes me wonder so much about the subject. The gaze, the pose, and the intensity in the face just beg for more explanation. The slight underexposure adds a wonderful depth, and the simple processing doesn't distract. The color palette is beautiful, with the subject's olive skin blending perfectly with the reeds and sky. I can only imagine how tricky it must have been to focus perfectly on the eyes through the reeds, and it had to have been a tough environment for shooting.
So let's announce the winner, shall we?
We had such a tough time narrowing this down, and it's such a subjective thing. We all agreed that the simple, powerful portraits did very well in the contest, but of course, different people will have different tastes. We wanted portraits with staying power, that begged you to look at the image for more than just a second before flicking through. While all of the above images definitely do that, we thought the one that did it best was Brian Ingram's image of his niece, Abigail, and we're happy to announce that he is the winner of this month's contest.
In an era where we're inundated by thousands of images every single day, Brian's definitely cuts through the noise and insists that you look at it and take time to appreciate and understand it. Everything: the framing, the processing, the subject, and the story are simply wonderful. So, many congratulations to Brian Ingram for sending in this image and coming out on top. Brian: Be sure to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize, and we can send it over ASAP.
To everyone else who entered and especially our top five, thank you so much for making this such a great experience; we truly enjoyed looking at your images from all over the world and it was great to see the response. There were many great images sent in, but like I said, it's such a subjective process, so please don't be discouraged if you didn't make the cut, as we'd love to see you enter in future contests. Be sure to check out our ongoing May contest, the theme of which is transportation.