Is This Photograph Worth A Silver Award?

December 13, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Festival time at Gangte Goemba, Bhutan
f5.6 @ 1/100 second, ISO 2000, 14-24mm zoom @ 14mm.

I'm not 100% sure about this photograph. There are aspects that I really love, but also one or two points that bother me - but they bother me more as a photography judge, not as someone viewing the photo, so should this really matter?

The photograph is taken in Bhutan during a festival. Everything and everyone is frantic during festival time and so guests get great access to locations that are generally closed. This is a back room where the ceremonial dancers were getting ready before their performance and it was a hive of activity. As I understand it, the male dancers are all monks who live at the dzong (a combination monastery and fortress). And usually they are the younger monks (like the gentleman in yellow) and so the older ones, having served their time, move into administrative roles - you can see them walking around in their standard red robes. The women are from the surrounding villages and their clothing is absolutely immaculate.

I love the colour and the soft light. A large, bright yellow curtain was hung over the outside doors, filtering the light and creating the moody atmosphere. The column in the middle can be read many different ways - men vs women, religious vs secular - but really it was just a way to give the image some structure. So what is it I don't like?

The monk walking towards us, on the left of the column, has an oddly distant look on his face. He's also in between postures and just doesn't sit (stand) quite right. I took lots of photographs while I was there, but this was the closest I came to an image that was correctly balanced in terms of standing positions, so I had to put up with the awkwardness of the monk - if there is one. It could just be me. Other people don't have trouble with the monk - certainly the Canon AIPP APPA judges put up with it and gave the print a Silver Award.

The second issue is the bright area on the left of the image, behind the bell. As this was entered into the travel category, I am not allowed to 'significantly alter' what was really there, and so all I could do was darken down the image. It looks a little cooked to me. However, this is a bright highlight from sunshine and the file has no detail in this area at all. If I use the image in a different context, I will copy and paste some wall texture from inside the room and hide the deficiency properly.

David Oliver and I are leading a small group of photographers to Bhutan in November 2016. We have four places left. I've prepared a small brochure outlining the photo tour and you can read all about it here.


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