2014 Epson International Pano Awards
August 28, 2014
I’m delighted to have received a number of awards in this year’s Epson International Pano Awards, including a couple of rare silvers. Well, I say delighted but it didn’t start that way. However it soon came to light that the judging was very tough this year and that my “disappointing” scores were actually rather special. I’m a bundle of nerves as I wait to see if my silver images place in the top 10 of their category, as is rumoured due to their scarcity.
I will confess I was hoping for some top 50 placings but top 10 never in my wildest dreams. Final statistics are yet to be released but it’s usually about 1000 entries per category. It’s the largest panorama contest out there.
The nature of art is that the judging can be highly subjective and very dependent on personal taste. 5 judges on each panel helps to ensure everything stays fair. I entered 5 images in a mix of the open and amateur categories. Some images I entered in both categories due to a combination of curiosity, indecision and, dare I admit, inattention.
My photo of the Church of the Good Shepherd , “For the non-believers”, received a very respectable 83 from the amateur judges but a full 10 marks less from the open panel. Now on the open panel sits acclaimed New Zealand panoramic landscape photographer Andris Apse whose work I really admire so that 73 was like plunging a sword through my heart (I have a literary license to exaggerate). But I was really left asking - well was the image good or bad? I thank grand Master Photographer Peter Eastway for providing his perspective. He made a point that colourful skies are likely to be penalised in competitions as it looks like it is all the work of nature and what did the photographer add? Amateur category judges might be more forgiving of this sin, a newbie mistake, so to speak. To see what he really said you can look here
Smart guy, but I don’t mind the idea of my images giving 100% credit to nature. I hope as I evolve as an artist my images will become more powerful and compelling. However there is something inside me that feels that they should still resemble the landscape I wish to inspire the viewer to love and protect. If my message is to leave the landscape untouched shouldn’t I mirror that when I present the image? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this especially if "the love of the land" is your inspiration for taking photographs.
Fortunately the other images I entered into both categories were more evenly received and I even managed to win an elusive silver in the open category.
Anyway in my initial disappointment of my scores I was mulling over my options either to throw it all in or work like crazy to up my game. Now the first approach sounds defeatist but it’s actually common sense. It gets harder and harder to get better and better images which means one must take more and more risks. A female running alone down an icy mountains in pitch darkness after a shoot just isn’t that smart (even with a personal locator beacon). Being scared shitless that you might bump into someone undesirable in pitch darkness just isn’t that much fun. There's a third option - change my genre, yep I've considered that too.
However lets assume I plan to go on with landscape photography. I decided to educate myself a little more about photo competitions by reviewing 1000 plus of last year’s AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photographers) awards images. Wow the phenomenal talent just shines through but what a vast number of melancholic images. Are photographers really such tortured souls? Perhaps people just choose their darker images to submit to competitions. The beautiful, cheerful images I love may have less depth to them, tell less of a story. What do you think?
Anyway, in case you were wondering, despite the awesome offering of nature I did do just a little work for my image of the church. I slept in my 4WD so I could wait as many days as I needed until conditions were spectacular but without needing a high-roller budget. And while I have progressed technically to the point where I shoot manual, focus at the hyperfocal distance, check my histogram often, check focus on a magnified image on my LCD and rotate my pano head exactly X degrees around the predetermined nodal point etc etc this is in ideal conditions. Give me pitch darkness, icy cold fingers and gale winds and there are times when I fumble with just attaching my camera to the tripod. So from a technical point of view I’m still having to work very hard.
My stitch was from 40 images, that’s 10 images bracketed 4 stops to capture the full dynamic range. Believe me I tried but the only way to make it integrate was by a creating virtually a pixel by pixel mask (over 20,000px wide).
Nature also worked quite hard to gift me my silver award winning image of Lake Tekapo (taken from Mt John) "Chasing dreams" however it actually represents severe photographer's hardship. While it was safe to ascend through the icy forest up the mountain it came to my attention that descent was likely to result in at least a few broken bones and some damaged gear (appreciating that I have a complete absence of mountaineering skills or appropriate gear). I would have to descend via the road (horrors - a 2 hours walk instead of the usual 15 minute run). This strategy would put me a severe risk of missing buffet breakfast!
I would like to thank the organisers of the Epson Pano Awards for their wonderful efficiency and the constant sympathetic communication to all the photographer entrants. Putting ones favourite images up for peer review and waiting for results is somewhat stressful and they seemed to appreciate that.
The Epson International Pano Awards showcases the work of panoramic photographers worldwide and is the largest competition for panoramic photography.
September 2014 update
It’s very exciting to have received my first ever gold award in a competition. The 10 finalist images in each category are rejudged before determining the final placings. Following this “For the non-believers” received a gold award and placed 5th overall. “Chasing dreams” was placed 18th in the open nature competition.
Competition statistics for 2014 were Participating countries : 54 Open entries : 2108 Amateur entries : 1652 Total entries : 3971 Photographers : 870 Gold medals : 44 Silver medals : 123 Bronze medals : 675