In Yukon Territory

In Yukon Territory

Andrea Pozzi connects us with the power of exploration

Serendipity by Andrea Pozzi

In Yukon Territory

Why do we take photographs of nature? It’s an important question and one with many answers as it means many things to different people. With this in mind we asked Andrea Pozzi to speak with us about her image ‘Serendipity’, which won the Breathing Spaces category in Competition 11. Andrea reminds us how nature photography speaks to a powerful side of the human psyche.

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“I had already visited the Yukon Territory before and I fell in love with the great Canadian north. My plan was to come back during the fall to explore new areas and to photograph the incredible colours of the tundra, which are at their best between the end of August and the beginning of September. From Whitehorse I drove along the Alaska Highway first and continued to the Dempster Highway until the town of Inuvik, in the far north of the Northwest Territories. 

Along this never-ending dirt road (736km), the landscape changes a lot and offers incredible views. I took this photograph close to the Tombstone Territorial Park. This valley is crossed by the Blackstone River and is covered by the typical vegetation of the tundra. 

I was amazed by the beauty of the mountain in the background which has almost perfect symmetry. For this reason I decided to emphasise its presence by placing it in centre frame and using the bend of the river to lead the eye through the image. The vegetation in the foreground is characterized by the presence of Epilobium angustifolium which contrasts beautifully with the surrounding autumn yellow.

I waited for the sun to go down below the horizon to get the perfect light for this scene. I called this image 'Serendipity' because I never would have been here if there hadn’t been a change to my trip schedule. As a photographer we study all that an area has to offer to get the best possible shot, but sometimes we can just stumble upon the perfect scene.

Once I spotted this magical place I waited a few days to get an image that could represent the feeling of wilderness, peace and serenity that the landscape transmitted to me. I think one of the greatest satisfactions in landscape and nature photography is to capture something no one else has seen by visiting wonderful untouched places.

These images not only testify to the beauty of nature, they also encourage the irrepressible human need to keep exploring.”

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Start your journey. Enter Competition 12 now.

The Art of Thinking

The Art of Thinking

Finding meaning in macro photography

The Dance of Radiant Light by Minghui Yuan

The Art of Thinking

We all want to take photographs that have meaning, but understanding how to effectively communicate this through photography can be tricky. Macro photography offers many opportunities to say something different about the natural world and it’s this unique interpretation that is important. To help us engage with this topic, we spoke with multiple IGPOTY award winner, Minghui Yuan about his relationship with the genre.

What do you like about macro photography?

I love macro photography. I like to discover the microscopic world around us, because the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but at looking at things with a different perspective. I try to show the beauty and dignity of extraordinary species, analogous to ordinary people in the pursuit of survival and life.

How would you describe your approach?

In my work, macro photography seems to be the most profound tool to translate my visual language. It is a physical extension of my imagination. However, macro photography allows me to see beyond my imagination, breaking through the natural limitations of the eye, whilst shooting in a natural way.

What do you look for and why?

Macro photography depends entirely on your imagination and shooting techniques. To understand your subjects you must have an understanding of habitats, the environment and ecological knowledge. Through this we can better deploy equipment to get the best results.

Over or under exposure can affect the colour of the photograph whilst impacting emotional quality. I often use aperture priority mode and average metering, and combine this with exposure compensation to adjust the brightness.

For me, I want to discover more about the human experience through studying other natural forms of association. I look for botanical shapes, patterns, colours and textures. I always try to find the joy of life, through expressions of love and hope. I also look for relationships between plants, including solitude and companionship. Plants depend on each other, so it’s important to try to understand this relationship.

The microscopic world is a strange and mysterious place, where it’s easy to get lost in our own fantasies. When shooting in nature, I need to feel "the dignity of life" and "the joy of life" through what I’m seeing via the camera lens. All life has equal value so I like to use multi-level viewing angles to observe different layers of life.

What key elements make a good macro image for you?

The key elements of a good macro image consist of the relationship between fantasy and reality, simple patterns and colours used to original effect, and imaginative composition.

What equipment do you use and why?

I usually use a Nikon SLR camera body and a macro lens. The fixed focal length macro lens is my most used lens when shooting macro. This makes for more efficient shooting as you begin to understand the best distances involved for certain shots. The most important aspect is to find the optimum focal plane of your subject. The focus should grab the subject at the most crucial point; the reasoning for having something on the focal plane should be a central part of your image. It has to tell a decisive story.

A telephoto macro lens can also be useful for making interesting blurred backgrounds and proper use of backgrounds can make all the difference.

What's your advice to other photographers entering the Macro Art Photo Project?

The Macro Art Photo Project is a piece of creative performance, but it is also the art of thinking. My interpretation of this is that there is a fine balance between the conscious creative mind and the subconscious. Too much conscious processing and the power of natural observation can be suppressed. Sometimes a new perspective or new approach can just happen, without too much introspection and you’ll never know unless you start shooting.

Find your own meaning. Enter the Macro Art Photo Project before June 29.

Artistic Impact

Artistic Impact

Approaching macro art photography

Pressed Alstroemeria by John Humphrey

Artistic Impact

With a lot of art, just starting can be the hardest part. If you're having trouble finding out where to begin with the Macro Art Photo Project or need some inspiration, we asked macro art specialist and IGPOTY Royal Photographic Society representative for Competition 11, John Humphrey, to shed some light on his approach to this exciting genre.

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Art photography is not easy to define, in fact I often feel that it sounds rather pretentious. However, many photographers want to produce images that make an artistic impact rather than simply being records of their subject. For me, botanical close-up and macro photography is often my starting point in what I hope is an artistic journey. Whether I succeed is for others to decide!

The first step of course is to take the picture. For close-up work this can be technically challenging since as you get closer to the subject, the depth of field becomes shallower and movement becomes magnified. These issues can be addressed in a variety of ways or accommodated into the picture to add impact.

One of my early approaches in this field was to photograph pressed flowers. They are often very attractive subjects when viewed close-up and have the additional appeal of being flat, so depth of field is not an issue. Scanning across the surface of a pressed flower will often reveal pattern, colour and texture that we ordinarily wouldn’t notice, and can deliver extremely attractive photographs.

Where the subject is not flat but overall sharpness is still the objective, we now have a very clever tool at our disposal, namely focus stacking. Here, a series of pictures is taken, and specialist software identifies the sharpest parts of each image and combines them into a sharp composite.

An alternative approach is to settle for a shallow depth of field and to accommodate subject movement in the photograph. The blurring of parts of the image can lend a sense of depth and visual appeal that might not be present in a more static image.

My final step is often a venture into Photoshop. I will probably adjust levels and colour saturation to suit the desired result. I also invariably experiment with textures, usually applied via a displacement map so that the image is displaced to match the texture image, usually a picture of a separate textured subject such as tree bark or rock.

John Humphrey

John is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and presents workshops on Macro and Art Photography. Some of his pictures can be viewed on his website www.johnhumphrey.co.uk

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Let's get started. Enter the Macro Art Photo Project now.

A Winning Identity

A Winning Identity

Use of emotion in the Black & White Photo Project

Weeping Willow by Carolyne Barber

A Winning Identity

Congratulations to Simon Hadleigh-Sparks for his winning image of a magnificent maple tree at the Savill Garden. Judges were impressed by not just the composition, choice of subject and technical ability, but also by its emotional impact. The image manages to communicate something beyond competency and this is what makes great garden photography, indeed great nature photography. This emotional impact has been of pronounced quality this year throughout the winners and is worth further exploration.

‘Jumping Over Karma’ strikes us with its immediate sense of scale, character and context. In fact, these three elements help create a unique sense of identity and identity helps us emote.

The scale of the maple is impressive and whilst drawing us in, we are struck by its complexity, its twists, turns and textures, each punctuated with the piercing tips of its leaves.

This formation of character is built up in layers of contrast, and black and white is perfect for creating these nuances.  Context then emerges and we see the jumping, leaping forms of a proud and ancient arboreal spirit.

‘Weeping Willow’ by Carolyne Barber also displays these processions of scale, character and context. Scale is established through a thick, central trunk with an almost impossible number of hanging vertical branches.

The highlighted white areas of these branches are made to look and feel like running water, which goes onto form the overarching character of the image which invokes a melancholy yet stoic defiance of winter and the passage of time.

The context is made even more poignant by the dark outline of another tree in the background and the foreground of smaller plants, framing the shot and focusing the scene.

As a final example Minghui Yuan’s ‘Damselfly Umbrella’ has a sense of explicit scale which works harmoniously to create a relationship between natural elements in the composition. The meaning and poetry of the image only really becomes apparent when we notice the third and tiny character of the scene. This then forms a highly effective emotional aspect, the context of which complements the plant rather than detracting from it.

Using these three terms then can be helpful for analysing emotional quality and impact. Look out for how scale, character and context has created a winning identity in the other winners and even in your own garden photography.

Creating this identity of course isn’t exclusive to black and white. Give it a go in our next Photo Project of the year: Macro Art. Enter now.

Black & White Photo Project

Black & White Photo Project

See the winners

Black & White Photo Project

Macro Art Photo Project Competition 12

Macro Art Photo Project Competition 12

Now open for entries

Macro Art Photo Project Competition 12

Glorious English Landscapes

Glorious English Landscapes

Winners of the Humphry Repton Special Award – Celebrating 200 Years

The Last Rays of Sun by Simon Lea

Glorious English Landscapes

Championing Copyright

Championing Copyright

New competition partnership with ImageRights

Synergy by Siyuan Ma

Championing Copyright

At IGPOTY we take copyright seriously and have always championed the work of photographers, ensuring credit remains with the artist. But our responsibilities shouldn’t end here.

We believe photographers shouldn’t have to worry about neglecting promotion because of the threat of online theft. We believe in the fundamental value of creative work and we believe this should be respected across all mediums, particularly the internet.

That's why we're proud to announce a new partnership with ImageRights.

Ever been worried about who might be using your images on the internet without your permission or a purchased licence? Well, ImageRights is a copyright enforcement subscription service that tracks your images across the internet (using clever fingerprinting algorithms), fronts the initial legal expenses, manages and pursues claims through their global legal network, and registers your work with the US Copyright office.

If you publish or share any of your images online, this service is vital, especially if you derive a large part of your income through photography. (For more information on their services and what they offer, read more here: https://www.imagerights.com

As part of the partnership, ImageRights are offering levels of their subscription services to 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place in each of the nine main categories. Yes, each of the nine main categories.

Let’s take a closer look at the prizes:

1st Place:

ImageRights Ascent

The Ascent service is the premium package worth $588 per year. It is designed for photographers with a large online collection. This 1 year prize subscription is awarded to photographers who come 1st Place in a main IGPOTY category.

The service includes:

  • ImageRights Discovery
  • Protect up to 25,000 images
  • ImageRights Recovery
  • Keep 50% of net recovery
  • Copyright Registration
  • 3 free USCO Copyright Registration filings
  • $34 + USCO filing fee
    (66% discount off normal rates)

2nd Place:

ImageRights Launch

The Launch service is ideal for photographers with a significant online presence and is worth $388 per year. This 1 year prize subscription is awarded to photographers who come 2nd Place in a main IGPOTY category.

  • ImageRights Discovery
  • Protect up to 1,000 images
  • ImageRights Recovery
  • Keep 45% of net recovery
  • Copyright Registration
  • 1 free USCO Copyright Registration filing if paid annually
  • $34 + USCO filing fee
    (66% discount off normal rates)

3rd Place

ImageRights Pilot

The Pilot service is a bespoke 1 year prize subscription for IGPOTY photographers who come 3rd Place in a main category.

  • ImageRights Discovery
  • Protect up to 1,000 images
  • ImageRights Recovery
  • Keep 45% of net recovery

These prizes hold no additional cost to the winners once awarded. ImageRights takes on legal and financial risk and takes a percentage of the final settlement figure. For more information on the service and how it works, please read more at https://www.imagerights.com/

Take advantage of this industry leading partnership, enter the main competition and get your images protected.

A Different Way of Seeing

A Different Way of Seeing

Infrared use for black and white

Ancient Oak by Michael Hudson

A Different Way of Seeing

Thinking about an infrared capture for the Black & White Photo Project? Michael Hudson, winner of last competition’s, talks us through his capture.

How much planning was involved? Did you go out with an idea of the kind of shot you wanted?

I was on holiday with my family in the area and I had read about the Wood where the shot was taken and was hoping to photograph it. But it was hard to find on the map and I had just about given up hope of finding it when I realised it was a field away from where we were staying. I actually walked there twice that week. I had an idea for the type of shot I was looking for. I’d made images of trees from a similar angle, looking up the trunk at the full branches with a wide angle lens, but each one is different. What I like about this one is the moss covered branches and trunk, and the bright backlighting.

Can you tell us a little more about the image and the kit/techniques used?

I used to shoot a lot of infrared film many years ago, which was tricky and temperamental to work with, but if you got it right, the results were very beautiful. I’ve hired an infrared converted camera a couple times now and I really like the look that the infrared camera gives me. I always convert infrared to black and white in post processing as I don’t usually like the effects it has on the colours.

What do you like about the picture?

I like the full feeling of the image, the way the tree fills the frame. And because it’s an infrared image, the leaves don’t dominate the picture, but instead, the branches do. It’s a simple image, but there’s a lot of detail in it at the same time. I also liked how the branches, covered in moss, have a very old, weathered look.

Did you do much to it in post-processing?

As a raw, infrared image straight out of the camera, it needs a fair amount of processing. First I converted it to black and white, then I boosted the contrast and clarity, to give some sharpness to the details in the branches and the leaves. I brought back some detail in the highlights, but not too much as I like the backlit feel to the image.

Do you have any tips for capturing infrared imagery?

Look at a lot of other infrared images to see what infrared does to the landscape. In nature, leaves and grass turn white and blue skies darken. Become familiar with it because it involves a different way of seeing. Once you begin to know what infrared does, you can look for appropriate subjects. Unlike infrared film, where you
often wasted a lot of film to get one good shot, it’s easy to experiment with digital infrared.

Enter the Black & White Photo Project now.

Layers of Realism

Layers of Realism

Why black and white photography has immense story telling value

Gracefully Grassy by Rachel Chappell

Layers of Realism

Black and white has so much to offer the genre of garden photography. In fact, the thought process behind many black and white images reveals how photographers are encouraged to engage with subjects in a nuanced, emotional and somewhat deeper way, accessing a rich narrative of artistic story telling. But why?

Rachel Chappell helps us answer this as she talks us through her award-winning black and white photograph, from Competition 11. 

What drew you to shoot this image in black and white?

I wanted to create an image which was distinctly minimalist but still had enough detail to be interesting. Although the image is all about movement with the long wavy lines I also wanted it to be calming and restful. I had been looking at the black and white landscape work of Cole Thompson and Michael Kenna. Both of these photographers use black and white quite expertly and are not afraid of using both true black and true white to dramatic effect.

How did you achieve the desired effect?

I am sure the day was not windy but looking through the lens close-up there appeared to be a small gale blowing! Also the part of the grass I was interested in was at the top of a very long and bendy stem. To ensure that I could compose the image as I wanted, and to have a range of aperture options open to me, I set up my camera and tripod indoors. The grass stem was clamped in an old clamp stand (remember those from science lessons?).  As I wanted a minimalist effect I placed a sheet of plain white card behind the grass. Ultimately I chose the mid aperture of f/9. Working at a close distance of around 6 inches this allowed me to have some sharp areas but also some softer edges. I often like the combination of hard and soft edges to tell a more rounded story and leave some work to the imagination.

Did you use any special equipment?

I do a lot of macro work and the lens I use most of the time is a 105mm macro lens. This allows me to get up close to the flowers and isolate the part of the flower which I am most interested in.

My best bit of ‘special’ equipment is a small 4 inch square of card wrapped in silver foil. I can hold this in one hand without creating too much draft as I reflect the light back onto the grass.

What plants do you think work best for black and white photography?

I feel that creating a black and white photograph allows the photographer more scope to tell a story. The removal of colour takes away a layer of realism which allows you to take a different approach and put emphasis on another aspect of the image. Flowers which photograph well in black and white tend to be those with definite features of shape, texture, lines. When working in black and white it is even more important to be aware of the light and composition as it will add to your story. If your story is about lines, as it was in this image, then the composition needs to be arranged so that lines really stand out.

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Ready to tell your story? Enter the Black & White Photo Project now