Blowing in the wind

So, the Digital Lightroom has another competition running, and the deadline for submitting is the end of this month. The theme is “Blowing in the wind”.

I’m ambivalent about the mechanics of this contest. One, I like the challenge, but two, I don’t like that the final judging might end up as nothing more than a popularity contest. I’m not saying that because I’ve never won (I haven’t; never even placed), but rather because seldom does the winner match what I thought was the better photo.

To be fair, I don’t have the background to judge photographs on technical merit, and I have a less than flattering view of “art”, so I’m not a good judge of what’s art, and probably would not recognize art if it were pointed out to me.

The winners often correlate (not always) to people who have a lot of followers. Of course, they have a lot of followers because they are good photographers, so that in itself is not a sound argument.

No, the main objection is that to my myopic view the only reason to enter a contest is to get feedback on the photos themselves. Even then the judging is subject to the whims, moods, and preferences of the judge(s), but there is impartiality in the process; the judge does not know who the photos belong to (if you are a judge for this contest, and reading this, STOP NOW!).

For this particular contest, the judge’s participation ends at selecting the finalists, and then popular opinion takes over. In that regard, that is where my expectations end for this contest . . . were I to make it to the finals, I would be happy because someone judged the photos without  knowing anything more about them than what they saw. After that . . . well, I mentioned my concerns above.

BUT . . . enough of my bellyaching . . . on with the show.

Here’s how the contest theme is addressed in the post I linked above:

” . . . the theme may be interpreted quite literally for instance by photographing wind in leaves or a rough sea or maybe even a kite sent up by some kids. But why not try a more abstract and conceptual approach?”

Ah . . . crap! They want creativity in the form of abstract and conceptual thinking effort?!

. . . can flatulence even be captured in stills? . . . not unless it’s tinted, I’d wager.

So, right there I am hampered big time. Creativity for me involves minor tweaks to my engineer’s mind, so ‘blowing in the wind’ brings up images of windmills, leaf blowers, . . . maybe soap-bubbles.

Were I to truly think creatively on this subject, I would imagine sounds of distant bells, a forlorn train whistle (or boat whistle), the passing of a playful breeze through the pines . . . and, of course, flatulence.

Unfortunately, that all relates to a different medium.

Plus, there are other limitations . . . The Rules put some restrictions on what I can do.

“Ah,” you say, “but they are the same for everyone!”

Well, maybe. Take the following . . .

  • Images must be in jpeg format and preferably no larger than 1000px in width or height.

Do you see the problem? The word ‘preferably’.

I plan to follow that to the letter (1000px as the largest size), but what if that is just a general (as opposed to a strict) guideline? Some subjects benefit, if not fully come into their own, with larger sizes. Landscapes come to mind, but other subjects as well.

Will some contestants give a different meaning to ‘preferably’? I don’t know. Do I get disqualified if I decide to go larger? I don’t know.

Perhaps I’m overthinking the whole thing. Screw it!

Here’s my short list (not that short), and you, the reader, get to help making it shorter; the final decision remains mine; this is not a popularity contest, and the photos need to reflect my likes and preferences.

Flying-related stuff

So, stuff that flies is not all that ‘creative’. However, it still intrudes into my mind, so here are my choices and a brief explanation about them (keep in mind voters in the contest won’t get the explanation).

First up . . . Landing Geese . . .

Ducks, Geese, library pond,

I immediately see a few problems with this. First, the unfortunate placement of a duck right behind the lower portion of the wing of the closest goose. Second, only the second goose is in focus.

On the other hand, I like the shot, the composition, the -frost-covered vegetation, and, of course, the geese themselves in perfect formation through the turn.

But, as I pointed out . . . not creative, is it? Just a shot of geese, and not exactly ‘blowing in the wind’, are they?  Finally, no deep existential meaning to the shot itself. Just geese landing. Not ‘art’.

Well, what better way to have art than to actually capture art? The U. S. Air Force Academy comes to my rescue in the form of a donated sculpture.


I like the way the sun (purposefully) accents the sculpture . . . but is it art?

Hmm . . . lots of art is in B&W . . . let’s see.


. . . I don’t know . . .

What about the irony of something that powered through the wind, but is now anchored, denied the freedom it once had? In B&W, of course, for art’s sake.


. . . I still don’t know . . . neither of those are ‘blowing in the wind’, although they do make statements about ourselves, nature, and the idea that we, as limited animals with unlimited drive and imagination, have not only matched, but in some ways surpassed what Nature has achieved. The only way it could be more poignant is if a hawk was perched on the plane.

This is the end of the first group . . . here’s your chance to vote.

Sailing-related stuff

I do actually have an object that is blowing in the wind, and has done so for the better part of 30 years. It’s not really sailing-related, unless one thinks of it as a ship’s bell (it’s actually an outside-wall bell), but I grouped it here for lack of a better choice.


This bell was purchased in Maine, and it has moved with us whenever we relocated. We’re never going to get rid of it, and it will likely outlive us.

We live in a fairly breezy place, and it is a comforting sound. I’m also hoping it annoys all the neighbors and their barking dogs.

Sails don’t exactly blow in the wind, at least not if deployed correctly, and having just come back from a cruise you would think I would have lots of boats under sail . . . not so. There was one worthwhile boat in full sails out in the distance, but next I looked, it was anchored near the cruise ship . . . still, I took some photos.

This is the compilation of twelve (12!) photos to make one whole shot of the ship. Of course, it’s a smaller version of the file that’s presented here, but eventually I will show it full size in a post (or link to it). 

Cruise 2014, St. Kitts,

I shot this because I planned to merge two files . . . one of the night sky, and one of this boat. It sure would have been nice to have it under sail . . . 

However, that photo has little or no drama . . . it’s just a boat. I could try a couple of things . . .

Cruise 2014, St. Kitts,

I could call that ‘Vintage Sailing Ship’ . . . or maybe this one . . . 

Cruise 2014, St. Kitts,

. . . The Sailing Ghost . . . but, ultimately, it don’t really fit into the blowing in the wind theme. Too bad.

However, I do have a smaller ship I can showcase. This one is from some photographic experiments I did with blended layers (read about it HERE)

I re-blended the shots, and did a few versions . . . 

Chromatic Sailboat . . . 


Monochrome Sailboat . . . 


Metallic Sailboat . . . 


. . . I like those shots, but difficult to choose between them. Plus, you know, the bell . . . 

So, here’s the second poll. I’m throwing in the big sailboat, but frankly, it’s not really on my radar right now.

Clouds and Cobwebs 

So, we now come to the part where one has to begin stretching their imagination a bit . . . or does one? Clouds do in fact blow in the wind. 

This one, from May 2010, was featured once before, but now it gots itself the royal treatment. Some cropping, proper processing, and voilá; we gots us a contender.


I toned down the orange tint a bit (the original was shot at sunset), but otherwise, that’s what it looked like. 

Of course, I think the B&W version might work better to capture the imagination of the judge(s) . . . 


It still ranks as one of the most awesome clouds I ever saw. There is a slight technical glitch with it . . . I clipped the right side of it. Actually, it was meant to be two photos stitched together, but the other photo is a little higher, leaving too much of the bottom right hand corner empty. 

I could fill it in Photoshop, but that would be editing the actual content of the photo, so the above is it. 

How can cobwebs possibly compete? Eh, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

cobwebs, dew

A cobweb sailboat, if you will . . . I left a bit of tint in this version, but I also have a pure B&W version . . . 

cobwebs, dew

I think it does capture the idea of ‘blowing in the wind’ as it is from the wind that it means to snare meals. Of course, I asked the spider about the seeming lack of geometric structure . . . “I was really drunk at the time” was the answer I got.

This next guy went a different way . . . 

cobwebs, dew

Not sure if it’s ‘blowing in the wind’ material, but I like the shot. I did mute the colors, and bump up the B&W spiderweb and water drops through successive layers of treatments.

. . . look at me! Talking like I’m a real artist, and stuff.

Anyway, here is the third poll . . . 

Waldo Canyon Smoke Clouds

These are probably the most difficult for me to decide on . . . the photos themselves are dramatic in their own right, and the smoke cloud does fit the theme . . . and that’s the problem. They all have their own appeal. Plus, I can’t separate my memory of the event from affecting how I look at the photos; would they have the same impact on someone who was not a witness to the event? I dunno.


From the darkened sky and ground to the smirking face that can be seen looking down on the world (the upper bright spot is the eye, the jaw and mouth just below it) this was nearly as impressive as seeing it in person. 


The wider view accents the face more, only it turns it into a dragon of sorts. This photo shows the scorching sun that precipitated the conditions for the fire trying to shine through the cloud and its edges even as the cloud obscures the landscape below.

This B&W version seems to lose some of the punch of the original . . . 


This version, some ten minutes prior, lends itself to a B&W treatment, showcasing the drama unfolding below and an unruly and chaotic cloud.


However, for sheer awesomeness this next photo has no comparison. Spanning approximately a 145º of the Eastern and Southern sky, it shows the extent of the smoke cloud.

26JUN2012_1__DSC5161 County Line one-Processed-Processed-2_DIGI

But, here’s the problem with that ‘preferably’ word . . . at 1000 pixels, this photo looses a lot of the detail, and much of the drama. This photo is amazing in larger versions. Could I go larger? I don’t know.

I can use less photos, making a smaller panorama that will then show a bit better the stratification of the smoke . . . 


. . . but at the cost of some of the spectacle.

I have B&W versions of these panoramas, but try as I might, I could not make them work in B&W . . . too much detail lost. 

Anyway, the final poll . . . 

So, that’s what I’m faced with . . . a huge decision about which photo might have a chance to compete against photographers who in the past have shown more creativity, more talent, and more ability than I will ever likely to have (not putting myself down, or wallowing in false modesty; I am content with the ability I do have; if I wanted more, I would work at it. I don’t).  The right choice might mean the photo makes the finals. If I do make the finals, it means the photo . . . 

. . . crap! . . . I just noticed something in the rules. If I do make the finals, I have to provide a full-resolution version. I mean, I knew I might be asked to provide the original, but . . . damn! damn! damn! . . . I blew away all of the processed files (they are huge; some as much as 250MB, a number of them larger, and one, the big boat, over 2GB!). 

Crap, crap, craa-a-ap! I can probably recreate most of these, but they might not be exactly the same . . . Sonofabitch!

. . . oh, well . . . I might or might not submit something, but for all the readers who are also photographers, consider sending something in . . . and remember to keep the full size original.

Edited To Add: another reason that I might hesitate to enter . . . although I have and use many of the Topaz plugins, all these photos were processed using onOne Photo Suite 9 . . . wouldn’t be embarrassing if I did win? No, but they might not want to showcase my entries. On the other hand, I do have lots of stuff using the Topaz plugins . . . perhaps I should have done all these with Topaz.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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