The theme for our January photo competition was "Ends and beginnings", a deliberately vague and abstract concept. The great thing about such a theme is that it opens up the competition to the imagination, with everyone is free to interpret it in their own way, and so the range and variety of the photos sent in this month was extraordinary. We had everything from spur-of-the-moment snapshots taken on mobile phones to complex carefully posed studio shots using ingenious lighting techniques and perfect timing.
Of course the downside to this is that it makes the competition very difficult to judge, for much the same reason. There are so many things to consider, including technical quality, presentation, originality and pure visual appeal, and not forgetting humour, drama and emotional impact, all of which have their place. With such a wide variety of entries choosing even the runners up was difficult, and picking three prize winners especially so. Nonetheless after much deliberation, here are the best entries for January.
Starting things off with a bang is this excellent firework shot from Ben Lowther of London, UK. We received a number of firework pictures, mostly taken on New Year's Eve, but Ben's was by far the most striking. The exposure is just right to produce well-saturated colour and capture the movement. He used a Nikon D90 digital SLR with a Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle zoom lens. ISO 200, 13mm, f/14, 1.6 secs.
You have to admire the patience with which Simon Jackson of Bolton has set up this shot. Not just the time to arrange the dominoes, but also to carefully position the light to produce the long black shadows and a tiny bit of lens flare. I was going to admire his timing as well, but since the exposure was 0.8secs at f/2.8 the lack of movement blur makes me suspect that the leaning dominoes may have owe their apparently precarious position to a small piece of blu-tac. Simon is a previous winner from last September.
We received quite a few photos on the theme of new growth from old, but the most appealing and technically proficient was this superb picture from Jennifer Walters of Enfield, Middlesex. I don't know much about this shot apart from the raw technical details, but I love the rich colour, balanced lighting and the precise focusing which brings out the rich detail in the leaves. I might borrow it to use as a desktop image. Jennifer used her Canon EOS 40D at 400 ISO, 1/60th of a sec at f/5.6 with a 55mm lens and what I assume is an off-camera flash.