Calls for Entry Jan 2011

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get your photography out in the world, a few upcoming calls for entry might be just the thing you need to jumpstart your marketing efforts. I sometimes have mixed feelings about these sort of contests as some seem to be focused more on making money from photographers than any other purpose, but they are what they are. You have to look at the entry fees, judges, and expected benefits if you are selected (and don’t forget to look for onerous rights grabs by the contest organizers) to determine whether it is worth it for you.

All that being said, here are a few upcoming exhibits/shows/etc. that I am personally considering:

UPDATE (1/3/11) – I neglected to mention the Griffin Museum of Photography Juried Exhibition, entries due Mar. 31 – another very good one.

Univ. of Maine Museum of Art Photo National 2011 – move fast as your physical prints need to be there by this Friday, December 10th. This should be a great show and I’m definitely going to submit to this one myself.

Color Magazine Portfolio contest, due March 31st. Their website of course doesn’t have info on this, so check out a recent B&W or Color Magazine for details.

Penobscot Marine Museum Art of the Boat contest – entries due Mar. 15th. This looks like it could end up being a pretty interesting show.

Photo Techniques Magazine “The Photographic Experience” Call for Entries, due Feb. 28th.

Any of the upcoming contests sponsored by Vermont’s PhotoPlace Gallery…next one is due January 10th but they have them about every month or two on the average. One wonderful thing about this gallery is that you can significantly reduce costs by utilizing their framing service – basically, if you send them a standard size print, they will frame it for free for the duration of the show.

Lewiston’s Gallery 5 has a series of contests open to photographers, including an upcoming still life show due Feb. 6th and a Photography Competition with entries due Apr. 24th.

Boothbay Harbor’s Maine Photography Show is now accepting entries for this increasingly popular show – entries are due by February 1st.

And last, but not least, Santa Fe’s CENTER has their contests, including its prestigious juried portfolio review, with entries due Jan. 27th.

Something for everyone…let me know if you know of something that should be added to the list!

Does having a favorite focal length make me too much of a photo geek?

Probably so, but I certainly have a thing for the 35mm focal length.  Usually described as a wide normal, I find it to be perfect for my style of shooting.  Even for casual family snapshots, I’ve been using a 35mm prime (manual focus, no less) on my digital camera for almost all of my photographs of my fast-moving daughter (who incidentally turned 4 today).  Mind you, one of the reasons I do that is for the challenge and because the lens is spectacular, but I really do ‘see’ in that focal length for that sort of photography (see much of it at  The lens I use on my Nikon digital camera is a Zeiss ZF 35mm f2.0 – reasonably compact and fast, made of actual metal, and beautiful results.

Why do I bring this up now?  Well, 35mm focal lengths have been in the news of late.  Many of the current rash of photographic announcements this week for the upcoming international photo show seem to involve 35mm lenses.  Nikon announced their high-end 35mm f1.4 autofocus lens.  Mike Johnston of The Online Photographer is a longtime proponent of this focal length and he writes a bit about this lens here.

Nikon likely announced this lens in response to the new Zeiss 35mm f1.4 lens that is coming out for Nikon and Canon.  As awesome as the Nikon looks, this is the one I’ll likely be saving my pennies for….if it is as good as the f2.0, I will continue to lust after it.  Lloyd Chambers has one for test right now (and he is a reviewer, one of the few, that I would trust with this sort of lens) and he is ecstatic about it.  See here and here just to start.  Oh my.

Even the compact digital camera segment is getting in on the 35mm focal length.  Perhaps the most interesting camera announcement of late is the Fuji X100 fixed lens compact with, you guessed it, a 35mm equivalent lens.  And this is a surprisingly good looking camera to boot:

And, finally, just in case this isn’t enough about this focal length, here is a comparison of a wide range of 35mm (and some 40mm) lenses from Mike Johnston…

Slick Site for Astronomical Data

Any nature or landscape photographer is likely cognizant of the importance of sunrise and sunset times on their photography.  Many landscape photographers also shoot in the twilight before dawn or after sunrise, or seek to include the moon in their compositions.  I just found a great site called that quickly and easily gives you not only sunrise and sunset times for a particular location but also moonrise, moonset, moon phase, civil twilight, nautical twilight, and astronomical twilight times.  Here’s a sample image for March 2010 in my town of Camden, Maine:

This is actually a crop of the full calendar – the default seems to be showing information for an entire month.  To find your specific location, US residents can simply choose their state from this page and then select the town and month and, like magic, you get all this wonderful information.  For free.  I’ve seen this information in various other locations before but nowhere so readily available.  Highly recommended.

Plagiarism or Homage?

There is a minor ongoing Internet kerfluffle regarding the images of David Burdeny and whether or not his images, particularly his Sacred and Secular series, are copies of the work of other photographers.  (As an aside, I’m a fan of Burdeny’s work generally).  I first heard about this from the Conscientuous blog – posts here and here – and this issue is explained in much more detail, with many sample images, on the PDN blog here and here.  The details of this particular case are not what I am concerned about here.  (Though, for the record, my initial take was that the images were sufficiently different to be perfectly acceptable – but Burdeny’s own defense hurt his case in my eyes as it convinced me that he is very possibly in the wrong here.  The similarity of the gallery installations, and the remarkable coincidence of so many shared locations, also worries me.  And please note that I am only talking about the ethics of the situation, not any legal issues.)

So what am I concerned about?  I think this is an issue that impacts all photographers, particularly ones that photograph images centered on place.  If you are a serious photographer, you likely study the works of other photographers and many of those will influence you, either directly or subconsciously.  If you photographing relatively famous subjects, whether it be the Bubbles in Acadia or Half Dome in Yosemite, you certainly will be walking in the footsteps of other photographers (or positioning your tripod right next to someone else) and therefore run the risk of copying the work of others, subconsciously or otherwise.

For me it all comes down to intent.  If you study photographers and go to some of the same locations as them, many of your images will likely be similar to ones you have seen.  If you intentionally try to copy someone else’s work and pass it off as your own, however, you are the one who has to look in the mirror each day as such an action is clearly inappropriate.  Of course, many photographers emulate previous shots for legitimate reasons, such as having a record of being there, for educational purposes (what do I need to do to replicate this?), or just because of physical limitations (using the same pull-out in a national park looking over the bend in the Snake River).  Some similarities in photographs, particularly those taken from more common locations, can be completely appropriate, but photographers should take care not to mimic the work of others as, beyond any ethical issues, I believe it can stunt the growth of your own unique and personal style.

As you develop your own personal style, I believe that images will start to become unmistakenly yours even when taken from the same iconic locations.  I know for me, when I go to a well-known location, I try to take photographs I don’t think anyone else has taken – and because I can be somewhat competitive, I try to better what I’ve seen before.  Building upon the work of others, after all, is essential to the history of art itself.

So, what do I recommend?  Don’t worry about “polluting” yourself by studying the work of others – because to do so you will sacrifice one of the best ways of improving your art.  Go out and take photographs and, if you have to, get those iconic shots that “everyone has done” out of your system.  After that, though, seek out images from those locations that are different from what you have seen before.  And, with some luck and skill, maybe you can surpass those early images or provide a fresh perspective.  Or, simply try to find less iconic locations and make them your own.