Winning a photography contest last week took Kirsten and I by surprise. We enter lots of online contests, and although we’ve received votes in the past, we have never before placed in the top three, let alone won. This time, the subject was lighthouses. As a fellow artist on Pixels.com pointed out, there are herds of bellowing lighthouse pictures roaming around the internet. In this contest, 181 artists submitted 316 pieces of lighthouse based art.
To top it off, our winning submission was of a very common tourist attraction lighthouse. Namely, Portland Head Light, from Cape Elizabeth, Maine. It is a beautiful light, for sure, but one that has been photographed thousands of times.
I’ve been trying to determine why this picture did so well in competition among so many other lighthouse pictures from other artists. I’ve seen many spectacular pictures of this very lighthouse, taken during storms or sunrise, some with snow and ice reflecting and splitting the early morning light into refracting rainbows. A lot of the contest images were extremely vibrant, rendered in high dynamic range and looking almost fantastical, as if they were from some mystical storybook fairy tail.
In contrast, our image is simple. It’s a calm scene, taken from some distance from the light using my 8mm manual Panasonic fish eye lens. I think it was this decision to stand back and capture the cove in wide-angle that sets our image apart, and perhaps caught the eye of voters. Here is Portland Headlight, but off in the distance. The arc of the cove stands in the foreground, its curvature enhanced by the uncorrected distortion of an oddball convex lens. When looking at the thumbnail images of all the submissions, our picture was one of the only ones where the lighthouse wasn’t immediately visible. Perhaps it was this apparent lack of a lighthouse that caused people to click on it to view it full screen.
No matter the reason, we’re thrilled to have won our first photography contest. We’re looking forward to entering many more, including well known New England photography contests (both online and in print magazines).
Have a great weekend!
-Chris & Kirsten