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2020 Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year

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Stunning! Not only the winning photos, but the standard overall this year was stunning.

 

The winning photo by Azim Khan Ronnie is a masterclass in travel photography. The image has everything going for it, from the perfect gesture of a worshipper to the wonderful light and atmosphere surrounding him. It was an immediate Gold Award from all three judges.

Azim Khan wins the overall first prize which is a cash purse of AUS $2000, plus the Exotic Travel category first prize of $750, a total of $2750. No doubt this will be put to great use to extend his camera outfit or visit more exotic travel locations.

Officially, the category winners were:

2020 Emotive Portrait Category Winner: Zay Lar Yin
2020 Exotic Travel Category Winner: Azim Khan Ronnie
2020 Classic Landscape Category Winner: Grant Galbraith
2020 Revealing Nature Category Winner: Charles Jones

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Thanks also to our esteemed judges Peter Eastway, David Oliver and Tony Hewitt, AIPP Grand Masters of Photography. This year, the judges felt that the overall standard had noticeably improved and that’s great news. There were 799 entries and the vast majority scored Bronze or higher. If an entry shows strengths in one or more areas, the judges are encouraged to recognise this with a Bronze award. However, to get a Silver award you really have to show them something remarkable, and with 48% of entries achieving Silver this year, that’s fantastic! Silvers are only given to very strong images.

And the strongest images of all, the photos the judges wished they’d taken themselves? There were just 18 Gold awards this year – and a special congratulations to them.

Entrants can now log into their accounts on the www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com website to see their results. They will also be able to download a PDF of their Bronze, Silver or Gold awards and see their scores and comments. In addition, we will be contacting each of the entrants with a personalised email listing their entries, scores, awards and the judges’ comments.

The idea behind the judges’ comments is to give entrants an idea of where they might improve. Many of the Silver and Gold award winners simply receive a congratulatory note because sometimes there’s no need to provide feedback on what is already a very successful entry. However, for the Bronzes and many of the Silvers, we tried to isolate one main area in which the entry could be improved. Of course, there could be several areas entrants can investigate, so our comments are provided to encourage further research and advancement. We know there is always a let-down when you first get your results if they are lower than anticipated, but take a deep breath and read the comments again in a few days, trying to take on board what you could potentially improve next year. The judges have all gone through this process themselves – and they reckon it worked for them!

Stay tuned for the 2021 awards and another chance to be the Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year winner.

Azim Khan Ronnie

2020 Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year

2020 Exotic Travel Category Winner

Attending festivals and experiencing them is one thing, capturing their essence in a single photograph quite another. And there’s no doubt Azim Khan Ronnie has captured the very heart and soul of the devotees at a religious festival in Narayanganj, Bangladesh.

Explains Azim Khan, “Every year, thousands of Hindu devotees gather for a religious festival in front of Shri Shri Lokenath Brahmachari Ashram temple. The faithful sit in prayer surrounded by candles, named locally as Prodip. Lokenath Brahmachari, who is also called Baba Lokenath, was an 18th Century Hindu saint and philosopher in Bengal. The Hindu worshippers fast and pray in earnest to the gods for their favours during a traditional ritual, called Kartik Brati or Rakher Upobash.

“I tried to capture the feelings and emotions of the devotees.”

Azim Khan Ronnie was born in Dhaka and brought up in Bogura, Bangladesh. He claims to have ‘an utter passion for photography’ and his aim is to capture moments of life and ‘give them significance by making them static in time’. He says he loves to travel and be in different places, meet new people and enjoy the experience that photography offers. Certainly to capture this type of imagery you need an affinity with people.

“Travel photography is my main interest and I want to travel all over the world to capture amazing photos.”

Azim Khan uses a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon 24-105mm, 16-35mm and 100mm macro lenses. He also uses a DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone, but it was the Canon he used for his winning photo! For post-production he used Luminar.

Zay Lar Yin

2020 Emotive Portrait Category Winner

If you’re wondering how some of the entrants get to visit such amazing places, Zay Lar Yin has once explanation.

“I’m a seafarer working as a captain of the ship and I spend most of my time traveling during my vacations. My passion is to document people, landscapes, culture and the relationships between them. I mainly focus on daily life, portraits and culture; images that tell stories of people and provide a sense of place.

“I seek those special moments when capturing travel images, trying to use my photographic instincts to turn the ordinary into extraordinary. I believe photographers can capture powerful, story-telling images that in turn can inspire us all to make positive changes in our world.”

Zay Lar was in Ethiopia for several days last January, photographing local tribes. Talking about the subject in his photo, “I saw her in a Suri village in Omo Valley. She is 25 years old, not yet married and still guarded by her family. She is waiting for her unknown husband. A man in a Suri tribe can only marry a girl when he has sixty cattle, which are presented to the girl’s family as the price of marriage.

“It was my first time in Ethiopia and I was fascinated by the mystic cultures of Suri tribes. I found the Suri are very interesting and tough people. They will fight to the death to protect their herd and some risk their lives to steal from other tribes. Yet they are also artistic and colourful, with never-ending creations when it comes to decorating themselves. I felt that I needed to share their stories of creativity, beauty and mysticism.”

Zay Lar used a Nikon Z7 and with a Nikkor Z 14-30mm wide angle lens. His settings were 1/125 second @ f5, ISO 500. “I used Adobe Camera Raw to make some basic adjustments and then opened the image in Photoshop and converted it into black and white. I used adjustment layers and a brush to enhance the subject’s eyes and face, darken the grass and legs. I also adjusted the brightness and contrast in selected areas to highlight the expression of the girl’s face. After the adjustments in Photoshop, I used a Nik Software plug-in to extract the overall tonal contrast for the final image.”

Grant Galbraith
2020 Classic Landscape Category Winner

Although we don’t expect every entry in the landscape category to be ‘classic’ in the true sense of the word (we’re just looking for amazing photos), Grant Galbraith’s waterfall truly is a classic.

Explained Grant, “The image was captured at Twin Falls in Moreton National Park, NSW, Australia. I had been to this location when it was bone dry in the drought last summer and thought it might be nice to shoot when the rain returned. As the name implies, there are two falls at this location and it was the other one that I went to shoot after recent rain. Upon arrival, it was my great delight to see this second fall across the valley, which was full of swirling mist. It was such a magical sight and I have several captures of this fall with the mist making different patterns and effects.”

Grant says he’s fortunate to have a well-paid professional life away from photography, so for him, photography is his escape and a way to express himself artistically. “Curiously, I’ve discovered in recent years that I make better images when I shoot less. I like to spend a lot of time with my images after a shoot and I think just having the most recent shoot as my sole focus works best. It allows me to immerse myself in the mood or the story I’m trying to convey. While I’ve moved into more creative work in recent years, I still have a great love for waterfalls and portraying them in this style. This was one of those perfect mornings.”

The image was captured with a Sony A7rii and a recently acquired 24-105mm Sony G series lens. “It was my first shoot with this lens and perhaps its last as my camera fell off the tripod mount as I turned away from taking this image. The camera and lens seem to have survived, but I’m still testing to see if any permanent damage was done. A bitter-sweet morning for sure.” And for the rest of us, good to know we’re not the only ones who experience camera mishaps!

Grant processes in Lightroom and Photoshop. “I do the bulk of work in Lightroom. I usually start with the auto-adjust option to see what that offers, tweak the basic sliders a bit and then work with the radial filters. How many I use varies with each image, but I’m looking to work the light as you would with curve layers and masks in Photoshop.

“Working with radial filters like this allows me to obtain the darker mood in my images and for me, it is a more organic process than doing it in Photoshop. I also do the mono conversion here and in recent times, I have become a fan of the profiles that Lightroom introduced a few versions ago. There always seems to be one that is the ideal starting point.

“In Photoshop, I applied a monochromatic contrast auto curve layer and worked with the mask to adjust some areas where the auto curve blew out the highlights.

“Then back in Lightroom, I do my final tweaks and adjustments. Recently I’ve been applying a slight greenish tone to mono images which I think works well for the mood of this photo. I can often spend weeks or months tweaking an image, but this one came together quite quickly. Some work on the day of capture, while others require adjustments a week or so later after living with the image for a while.”

Charles Jones
2020 Revealing Nature Category Winner

Charles Jones was deep in the jungle on the River Yacuma (Rio Yacuma) near Santa Rosa, Bolivia. “I was on a trip with Ignacio Palacios touring around Bolivia and the Atacama in Chile. As a landscape guy, taking pictures of animals in a tiny little boat in the middle of the day was about as far out of my photographic comfort zone as you can be, but it was brilliant fun nonetheless. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of alligators lining the banks and when it gets hot (which it was) they open their jaws as a means of regulating their temperature.

“Conversely, the tortoises will find a log or a rock to sit on and bask in the warm sun – and work on their complexions! Whilst the alligator in the image wasn’t mid-lunge for its midday snack and the tortoise wasn’t a hair’s breadth from retreating into the sanctity of its shell, it was the product of good timing. I saw the tortoise on the log a little ways off and soon after, saw that an alligator was in an ideal spot to, if just for a moment, suspend reality and stage an enjoyable story.”

Charles says he funds his photographic hobbies by being an air traffic controller, albeit a quiet one these days. “I work behind a radar screen and not in the tower, so it’s all green dots tracing lines around a grey screen. Despite the devastating downturn, there are still plenty of planes landing and departing Sydney.”

Charles used a Phase One XF with an IQ3 100MP digital back and a 75-150mm lens, f5.6  @ 1/100 second, ISO 50.

“Shooting with a heavy and relatively slow medium format camera was a challenge. It felt kinda odd to be envious of some of the other people on the trip with all of their image stabilised lenses and bodies, effortlessly capturing ten images per second. In fact, it took a day and half to come to grips with the situation and adjust my shooting style to improve my chances of success, not to mention my highly fatigued right arm.”

For this particular image, Charles did it all in Capture One. “After a global darken and desaturation, I added some local light, colour and emphasis back onto the tortoise and a wee bit of colour back into the alligator to balance the image.”

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