Tuesday, September 9, 2008

2008 Popular Photography Images of the Year Competition


You must be 18 years or older as of September 12, 2008 to enter the contest. Employees of Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Inc. and members of their immediate families are not eligible to enter or win. The contest is open to both amateur and professional photographers.

The Contest commences on April 23, 2008 and continues until September 12, 2008.


Single Entry: $10

The Grand Prize winner will receive a 50" Panasonic HDTV, HD Camcorder, Blu-Ray DVD Player, Lumix Digital Camera, and an all expense paid trip to Ireland for two. The Panasonic Prize package will be set up or installed by firedog, Circuit City's highly trained professionals. The winner will also receive a SmugMug Lifetime Pro account with full customization, $500 of free prints/gifts from the SmugMug website, entry to exclusive 2009 SmugMug Workshop, a 3 year world membership from fotocommunity.com, as well as a X-Rite ColorMunki Photo.

The winners of each category will receive a new Panasonic Lumix Digital Camera, a SmugMug Liftetime free Pro Account, as well as a 2 year world membership from fotocommunity.com.

The competition is open to work produced from September 1 2007 - September 12, 2008. Entries can be submitted by uploading the image and making a payment on the www.popphotocontest.com website.

File specifications: submissions should be in JPEG format. This compresses the size of your file and should make for quick uploads. It's important to set your JPEG compression to maximum image quality (minimum compression) in order to prevent deterioration of image quality.

In Photoshop, saving your file via Save As, select JPEG for your image type, and put the quality slider to 12 (all the way to the right).

Filename should not have spaces i.e. "blue car.JPG" instead
File must have the correct extension ().
Filename should not have slashes i.e. "women/child.jpg"
Filename should not have odd charachters i.e. "%$@#*()

Contest is open to amateurs and pros.

Employees of Sponsor, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Inc., publisher of Popular Photography and Imaging magazine and popphoto.com web site ("Sponsor") and their immediate families are not eligible to enter or win.

Entrants name, address, email address, and category must be affixed to all entries.

The judging will be done in two stages: The initial stage will be done by the Popular Photography & Imaging promo staff. The second stage will be done by a jury of outside experts selected by the editors of Popular Photography & Imaging. Entries will be judged equally on creativity, technical expertise and aesthetic value. Entries will be ranked in descending order. The decisions of the judges are final.

Winners will be notified via email or mail by October 19th, 2008.
Winners may be required to sign and return an affidavit of eligibility, grant of rights, and a publicity and liability release within 14 days of notification, or alternate winners will be selected (alternate will be next highest ranked entrant). By entering this Contest and/or accepting a prize, you agree to allow Sponsor to use your name, city and state, voice and image in connection with publication of your winning entry and for promotional purposes (except where prohibited), without review, notification or approval.

This Contest is subject to all federal, state, and local laws and is void where prohibited. Winners agree that Sponsors and Prize Contributors, including their parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors and employees, shall not be liable for injury, loss or damage of any kind resulting from participating in this promotion or from the acceptance or use of any prize awarded. HFM reserves the right to verify eligibility qualifications of any winner(s). Sponsor, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to disqualify any person tampering with the entry process, the operation of the web site, www.popphoto.com, or who is otherwise in violation of the rules. Sponsor further reserves the right to cancel, terminate or modify the Contest if it is not capable of completion as planned due to, for example, infection by a computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention or technical failures of any sort. In the event of early termination of the Contest, winners will be selected from all eligible entries received at the time of termination in accordance with the judging procedures described above. In no event will Sponsor be responsible for any damages or losses arising out of access to and use of the web sites or the downloading from and or printing material downloaded from said site.

Sponsor is not responsible for lost, late, incomplete or misdirected entries. In the event of a dispute concerning the identity of a person submitting an online entry, the entry will be deemed submitted by the person in whose name the e-mail account is registered.

8. WINNERS LIST: A winners list will be available upon request once the January 2009 issue is released.

Sponsor: Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Inc., 1633 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

Prize Contributors: Panasonic, Circuit City, FireDog, Tourism Ireland, Smugmug, fotocommunity.com

Monday, September 8, 2008

Guide to bird photography


As many of you know by now, i am obsessed with bird photography and i can easily say that 99% of my shooting is birds. this obsession began about a year and a half ago when i took my first shot of a bird (a pigeon of all thing) and ever since that shot, i have spent most of my free time chasing birds and trying to get the best shots that i can of these amazing creatures. as time progressed, i have learned more and more about how to create a good image while at the same time, i learned that photographing birds is probably one of the hardest things a photographer can do and that in order to get better, you have to really push yourself to the limits (both physically and mentally). you see, in contrast to most photography genres, avian photography is affected by almost every variable you can think of. the clothing that you were, your physical location, the angle of the sun, the weather, the wind, the height of the grass etc.. all can have serious affect on what you can and will shoot.

Everything about bird photography is dynamic so the only way we can make sure that we do come home with a few good shots is by being ready and be willing to really walk the extra miles. and yes, often times you will have to do some crazy stuff to get the right shot like sitting in the blazing sun for hours, laying on the ice, crawling in the mud and even get into the river only to get a single shot of a bird that you have never seen before.

Even though it is hard to get the right shot and we often have to suffer for it, i can honestly say without a doubt that once you do it and get a chance to really see nature at its best, there is nothing better. i often find myself starring in awe at the sight of an amazing bird or just speechless when i see what these creatures do. so in order to save you some time or at least give you some idea on what it is like, i have decided to put together this guide.


There is a reason why i decided to open with this section. all too often we get so wrapped up with getting the shot that we forget that when we do any kind of wildlife photography, we are going into the home of the creatures we are there to shoot. another thing that we often forget is that birds are very sensitive and one bad decision can cause serious harm. for example, there is nothing more amazing than to shoot parents feeding their young but in order to get the shot, some people are willing to get very close to the nest which will often result in the parents leaving the nest and leaving the young ones to die.

As much as i love a nice image, i can tell you right now that no shot is worth disturbing the subject. always use common sense and do your very best to be invisible in the field. do your best to enjoy the birds without them knowing that you are there. in times of nesting or mating, stay as far away as you can so they can do what they need to do and even if you don't get the shot, at least you can enjoy the fact that nature remains undisturbed.


I really hate to talk about gear but i do feel that it is VERY important in this case so i will make an exception. let me start with something that i am sure you all heard before: "reach is king". even though this line seems like a complete BS, it is actually very true in the case of bird photography. the main reason for this is because unlike humans or pets, birds are really skittish and will often disappear the second they see your shadow. another reason is because there is nothing better than seeing a full frame filled with a small bird which you simply can not do with a 24-70 or even 70-200 in most cases (no peter, a duck or a goose is not a good example). however, before you leave this thread cursing me for crashing your dreams of becoming the next Arthur Morris with a 70-200, let me give you hope again. there are many ways to overcome the lack of reach even though again, it is better to have the reach in the first place. by using good tracking skills, blinds and being patient, you can get VERY close to the subject. i recently shot some kingfishers in Israel from a blind and i swear that my 500 was WAY too long, a 70-200 would have been perfect!!!

now that we got the reach issue out of the way, lets talk about the more important items that can help you with your mission. the first thing that i will talk about is blinds. a good blind will allow you to become part of nature which in turn will allow you to get really close to the birds. there are many different kinds of blinds and the one you should choose depends on how far you want to go and what type of shooting you do. i personally use the kwikcamo blind which is just camo fabric you throw over yourself. this blind is VERY portable and flexible so you can use it while standing, sitting and even laying on the ground. another blind that i just started using is the doghouse blind which is just a camo tent that allows 2 people to sit in it and shoot through a window. this blind is fantastic if you plan on setting up and staying in the same place for many hours. another advantage to this blind is the fact that you are very comfortable in it because you can sit down with your tripod at a ready position.

both blind do really work and will allow you to get shots that you wouldn't be able to get if you are just standing there all exposed.

here is a shot i took from the doghouse blind:

another important piece of gear that i like to use is my bean bag and more recently the skimmer. the bean bag is a great cheap way to get a stable portable platform and will allow you to get sharp shots even when you are shooting from the ground, your car or even just shooting on a fence. the skimmer is a great little tool that allows you to do ground shooting while still allowing you to move freely on the ground. the reason why this is so important will be explained later but for now, here is a shot i took from the ground using the bean bag:

of course, there is also the matter of lenses, bodies, flashes, tripods, monopods and a thousand other pieces of gear but i will leave that to the gear section of this gear forum

Attire for the field:

this is a topic that is often overlooked but that i feel is of great importance so i wanted to talk about it here for a bit. what you wear can make or break a shooting session so it is very important to understand why you need to dress in a certain way.

i recently finished reading a book called Good Birders Don't Wear White and one of the the big things they talked about is the importance of wearing cloths that do not scare the birds away. for some reason, bright colors and white are not the colors that you want to wear while out shooting birds i personally try to wear olive/ camo colored shirts and even pants but i found that any dark color would work for the most part. another BIG thing that i found is that wearing a hat does in fact work. the main thing you want to do is to become part of the scene and wearing the right cloths will allow you to do that.

even more important than the color of your shirt is your comfort and safety. like we said before, bird shooting is very dynamic and you will quickly find yourself shooting in many different terrains and what works for one will not work for the other. for example, what you wear when you are shooting in the trails or woods is probably going to be very uncomfortable when you are shooting on the beach. also, it is important to dress for the weather that you are going to shoot in and be ready for anything that mother nature decides to through at you. i have shot in -20 temps here in Boston and even with gloves, tights and everything else you can think of, i was still very close to freezing so you can see why it is very important to be ready before you get to the field. always be ready for the worst and try to cover all bases. my bag now includes an extra wind jacket, a pair of gloves and a face mask just in case the temps do drop to crazy levels. no shot is worth losing your limbs for....

Know your subject!!!:

one of the most important things that i learned very quickly is that the only way to get the shots you want is by knowing the subject that you want to shoot. of course you can count on pure luck and get a great shot but for the most part, knowing your subject will allow you to increase your chances. for example, by knowing the terrain that herons normally like or the type of marshes a Northern Harrier frequent, you can know where to look for them and where to set up. also, it is important to understand the behavior of the particular bird because it will allow you to know how to predict what they are going to do next. for example, knowing that the Northern Harrier glides with the wind and can fly in reverse will help you predict where it is going to go next. knowing that a tern will usually stop on the spot mid air and start flapping its wings right before it dives into the water will allow you to time your shot and get the image that you want.

even though there is unlimited amount of information that you can read and learn, most of the basics can be found in any birds books/guides and can be easily found on the net.

Tips for better bird photography:

Like i said before, i don't think that i am a good bird photographer. however, i do try to read a lot about the subject and do my best to get better. along the way, i have picked up some very good tips from some great photographers and i thought that i would share them with you.

1) GO AS LOW AS YOU CAN GO!!!!!!!- one mistake that we often see is that people tend to shoot birds from a higher angle which in most cases really kills an image. there is nothing better in my own opinion than shooting a birds from eye level and in order to do that, you will have to go down to their level even though it means getting dirty.

here is an image where i was laying on the ground and managed to shoot from the birds eye level:

2) don't be afraid to get dirty- in order to get the shot that you want, you will often have to go into places that you normally wouldn't want to go in. however, once you get the shot, i promise you that even with all the mud and crap all over yourself, you will still be VERY happy.

3) got up early and get back home late- besides the fact that the lighting is best in the early morning and late afternoon, birds are also a lot more active in these hours and you will have better chance of getting a nice image instead of the usual perched bird. i know that getting up at 3am on a Sunday sounds horrible but again, i promise you that when you are out there at 5:30am with great light looking at a feeding bird, you will forget all about the lost sleep:

4) Don't be afraid to give and receive critique!!!!- not too long ago, i had a signature that caused quite a stir right here in these forums. the gist of the signature was that i would much rather get no feedback than a "great shot". the reason i said what i said is because for me, critique has been what made me get better. i know that sometimes we say "nice shot" because we are trying to be nice and give the poster some words of encouragement. this is all fine but we have to look and understand what the phrase "nice shot" can do to the very same person we are trying to help. a person can post a very avarage shot or even horrible shot and when we say "nice shot", the person can take it and think to himself "i did good, i am going to try to get more great shots like this one". instead of helping the person, we hurt them by not teaching them what they can do better and in turn, cause them to get stuck where they are. don't get me wrong, i do think that encouragement is good and should be included when you provide proper feedback. instead of saying "nice shot", we can say something like "that is a very nice picture but what can make it better is if you framed the bird on left of the frame and left some space for the bird to fly into. also, i think that a lower angle can really make this shot shine". now, the next time the poster will go out shooting and comes across the same bird, he will hopefully try to implement what you told him and guess what, the bird is in the right part of the frame and the angle is lower. i know that i posted MANY horrible shots and got tons of "great shot" posts. i will admit that i did not learn anything from the posts and instead, i had a sense that i am doing a great job. then, i joined an Israeli forum and when i posted the exact same shots, the images were ripped into shreds. instead of being offended, i decided to really try and understand the comments and guess what, my photography really started to get better. through the critique that i received from that forum, i learned about the importance of the low angle, the focus on the eye, fill flash, avoiding steel eye, proper exposure of white birds and many other great things that i would never have known unless somebody took the time to really give me honest feedback on my work.

so what i am saying is that if you really want to be nice and helpful or if you really want to learn and get better, always ask and provide the critique. of course, i have seen a few people that really didn't want the critique and that is perfectly fine. what i do now in every thread is ask for the critique and hopefully i will get it. however, don't forget that even when you do provide strong critique, you need to do it in a respectable way and make sure that you are talking about the image and not the photographer.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Photo Contest Emotional Appeal 2008

Send us your favorite photo that expresses a human emotion: happy sad tired mad - or any other human emotion.
The Photo Contest Grand Prize Winner will receive a magnificent Tamron AF28-300mm XR VC (Vibration Compensation) Di zoom lens for a Canon or Nikon Digital SLR camera.

Plus, the winning image will be showcased in the Tamron Online Gallery in the Learning section of tamron.com with up to 20 of our favorites.

The contest is judged by professional photographer André Costantini and guest judge professional photographer Emily Wilson. Deadline is 11/30/08 to submit by mail or email.

For more details:


2008 Land Between The Lakes Photo Competition

The 2008 Land Between The Lakes Photo Competition is open to all photographers, of any age, who have submitted a complete registration form and entrance fee. If under 18, a signed permission form from his or her parent or legal guardian must be included. Members of the contest committee, contest judges and their immediate families including children, siblings and spouses are excluded.

What To Enter

All Photographs must have been taken in or of the Land Between The Lakes.
Photographs will be judged in the following 6 categories:
1. Mammals - Portraits and Behavior
2. Birds - Portraits and Behavior
3. Small World – Tight Close Up and Macro
4. Connecting People and Nature - People enjoying the LBL
5. Habitat - Landscapes and plant life from wild areas
6. Digitally Enhanced *
*Double exposures, digitally stitched photos and images containing any manipulated or added content should be entered only in category # 6.

You must declare on your entry form if your photograph is of an animal in captivity, such as Woodlands Nature Center, Elk & Bison Prairie or The Homeplace.
No pets or domestic animals will be accepted, with the exception of animals at the Woodlands Nature Center, Elk & Bison Prairie, The Homeplace or animals participating with people in outdoor recreation (for example, hunting dogs or riders on horseback). Please do not harass wildlife in an attempt to photograph it.

Manipulation of images, either film or digital, should be limited to conventional darkroom techniques or basic sharpening, cropping and removal of dust spots. Images should contain only the subject matter as originally seen through the viewfinder (except for the Digitally Enhanced category).

An entrant must hold all rights to a photograph. Photos previously published or pending publication or that violate or infringe upon another person’s copyright, are not eligible. Please do not infringe on the rights of property owners in an attempt to photograph animals.

For more information;-


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ambience Photography Contest 2008

Ambience Productions is dedicated to promoting creative talent on a global scale. Through our website and contests we showcase some of this talent and introduce the world to new and emerging artists, photographers and writers.

The Ambience Photography Contest 2008 is open to amateur and professional photographers of all ages, from all parts of the world. It is an online, global contest. All categories of photography are welcome; including post processing and computer enhanced images. Let your imagination run wild and those creative juices flow. Send us your best pics and we'll place them before our panel of judges.

Who knows? You just might be the winner of the 2008 Ambience Photography Contest!
Great prize money is on offer for our winners. Winning entries will be showcased on our site along with the entrant's bio. To commemorate your win, you will also receive a downloadable certificate which can be printed out and displayed on your wall for all to see.

For more information:-


Nikon Photo Contest International 2008-2009

The Nikon Photo Contest International has been held by Nikon Corporation since 1969 to provide an opportunity for photographers around the world to communicate and to enrich photographic culture for professionals and amateurs alike.

"At the heart of the image" is not only the brand statement of Nikon Imaging Company, but it is also the theme for the 32nd contest, in which entries are invited in two categories. The first category is free subject and the second is entitled "My Planet," and entries to each category are accepted as prints sent by conventional mail or as JPEG images sent via the Internet. With this theme and these categories, we look forward to receiving expressive images from around the world that are true to people's emotions.

For more details kindly visit:


Monday, August 18, 2008

Retouching And Improving Your Photographs - Photoshop Makes It Possible

Digital imaging and more specifically Adobe Photoshop as well as other image editing software have revolutionized photography. The advances in digital image manipulation now allow for unlimited possibilities in the area of improving photographs through retouching and restoration.

What types of improvements are possible by retouching photographs with Photoshop?

Embarrassing skin blemishes like acne or scars can easily be removed using the retouching tools available in Adobe Photoshop. You can learn these Photoshop techniques in minutes.

Damage to Prints
The benefits of digital imaging for restoring old damaged or worn out photographs are one of the best reasons to learn Photoshop. Once an old photograph is scanned it can be retouched to remove tears in the paper or water marks. You can also restore colors that have faded over time. Once you have retouched your image and it is like new again it will last forward because digital images do not deteriorate over time like prints.

Closed Eyes
This is one of the most common problems with group photographs. You finally got the entire family together for a family photograph including Aunt Martha only to find that she closed her eyes. Closed eyes are not a problem for a skilled user of Photoshop. You can easily open her eyes and no one will ever know.

Removing unwanted Subjects
Not only can you remove blemishes in Adobe Photoshop but another common use of Photoshop’s retouching capabilities involves removing unwanted people or objects. Old boyfriends can be forever removed from photographs quickly and easily if you know what you are doing.

Retouching photographs has never been easier than it is today. Photoshop and other photographic editing software applications have made it a breeze to open closes eyes, remove blemishes and scars, change colors, restore old damaged photographs and remove unwanted objects.