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Tips for winning the photo contest

Posted by Lace Thornberg at Sep 23, 2010 12:05 PM |

Pssssst! Here's how to win the Northwest Exposure photography contest.

Each fall, WTA reviews a thousand or more images entered in our Northwest Exposure photography contest and selects the best of the best to showcase in our January-February issue of Washington Trails.

Here are four tips that will help your image stand out from the crowd.

Capture the Sweet Light.

2nd Place Hikers in Action - Spary ParkPeruse the images that have won in past year's and you'll notice the words  "Sunrise in the ..." or "Sunset behind ..." in many of the captions like this photo by Andres Caldera.

You'll shoot better images when you shoot during "sweet light" - the short window of time from just before to just after sunrise or sunset. Sweet light is warm. It softens your shadows and contrast, but it is still directional enough that the landscape remains defined.

Take Us Someplace Unexpected.

1st Place Wilderness Landscape - Park Butte

Are those palm trees in front of Mount Baker? We loved Deborah Richardson's image of Park Butte because the colors lent it a surprisingly tropical feel.

Show us a slot canyon just begging to be explored or the underside of a single leaf. Photos that take us into an unexplored corner of the landscape, or show a familiar landscape in a new way, seem to fair well with our judges.

Capture a Fleeting Moment.

1st place flora and fauna - Green Heron

A diver just moments from entering an icy lake. A frog trapped in a heron's mouth (see right, by Michael Myers)

It can look like a stroke of luck when these moments are captured in a photograph, but it's not. Ten-to-one, the photographer had staked out the scene, set up their camera and waited patiently (very patiently) for the drama to unfold.

Try to anticipate where the action will happen. Position yourself so that your image has an interesting background and appropriate light. And, then wait.  Remember that a 125th of a second is the slowest shutter speed that will stop action.

Enter the Family on Trail Category.

Honorable Mention - Young Hiker

This tip doesn't have anything to do with photo technique. It's all about the odds. Our Families on Trail category is new to the contest this year and, so far, it has far few fewer entrants than our Wild Landscapes category.

There is, however, one bit of photographic advice that is particularly relevant in this category: remember that no matter how much you may personally love the subject of your photograph (daughter, son, father, wife ... ), you still have to look at the image objectively. Solid composition and good light are still key. Rich colors and an unexpected twist are still appreciated.

Now that you are armed with insider advice, what are you waiting for? Get out there, send in your best work. Your next photo could be on the cover!