Winners: August 2013: Surreal

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Thank you to author Daniela Bowker for acting as our guest judge for the August contest! The theme was “surreal photography,” sponsored by Daniela’s book, Surreal Photography: Creating the Impossible

General Comments from Daniela:

Whatever the image that you are making, whether it’s a straight-up photograph or a complicated, multi-layered composite, its strength sits in its narrative. All photographs tell stories and when you set out to create a surreal image, you must be certain of what it is that you are trying to convey. Without a clear storyboard, your viewers will not be able to invest in the image and you’ll find yourself including extraneous elements and details that do nothing to enhance it, merely distract from the story. Everything has to work together as a whole in a surreal image, and this starts with the story.

Attention to detail is vital. The small, subtle intricacies are the things that will convince us of the veracity of an image and they must not be overlooked. Light should always be consistent, objects will require shadows and shading, reflections need to be accurate. Again, you need to present your viewers with an image that they can believe, however unbelievable it is. The secret to this lies in the details.

Finally, it’s said that Coco Chanel always used to look at herself in the mirror before she went out and remove one item of clothing or an accessory; it might’ve been a brooch or belt, but something was left behind because it doesn’t pay to be overdone. Before you flatten your final PSD file, look over your composite: do you really need those butterflies? Is the suration a bit overcooked? Does the contrast need to be toned down? Just because something is surreal, it doesn’t need to hit you over the head with its other-worldliness.


First Place: “Waiting for the Train”
by Corey Tucker, Canton, Connecticut, USA

What Daniela had to say:
The narrative flooding through this story makes it impossible to ignore, and despite it being far from perfect, it was my overwhelming choice for first place. To me, it exemplifies the notion of the surreal, standing us at five degrees to the world we know. The subject is doing something that many of us do on a daily basis, but surely not like that! The use of colour is also very impressive; surreal images can often suffer from being over-saturated and bold to the point of distraction or just that bit too dark and brooding. The use of colour here is distinct, but the tones are subtle and harmonise together to create a very pleasing palette.

I’m a stickler for straight horizons (unless they’re Dutch Tilts) and would dearly love to have seen this tidied up. It’s testimony to the strength of the image’s narrative that it hasn’t been kicked off of top spot because of it. A bit more rail track in the foreground might have helped, too.


Second Place: “Far Over the Misty Mountains”
by Emilis Baltrusaitis, Castlewellan, Co. Down, United Kingdom

What Daniela had to say:
This is has been very cleanly composited with good attention to detail. Again, there is a very strong story behind this image and nothing extraneous has been included in the scene. It is hanging together well as a whole.

I would have liked a little more weathering in the foremost stone head – it is very exposed, after all – and a little more differentiation (if it wouldn’t have sent the artist Far Over her or his Misty Mountains) in the stone figures.


Third Place: “Living in the Edge”
by Robert Weber, Alcadideche, Lisbon, Portugal

What Daniela had to say:
I kept on returning to this image because I loved its fantasy feel. The castle-rock rising out of the cloud, the colours, and the trickling waterfalls, makes it something beautifully dream-like. I appreciate the attention to detail in the form of the tree roots.

However, the turret is a little too perfect for the rest of the scene.

Thank you to everyone who entered!

Don’t forget to enter September’s contest!  Theme: Flash Photography

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