Drum roll please…
It’s been a long road putting together the first contest on this blog. First, securing the generous support of B&H Photo and Video, and then putting together a team of judges and procedures that would make the contest as fair as possible and the final set as artistically excellent as possible. I put together two judges — myself and Sam Hurd — who were very experienced in creating Brenizer method photos, and paired us with two judging teams — Nordica Photography and Feather and Stone photography — who do not regularly do these, but create fantastic portraiture and documentary work in their own genres. With very different styles and aesthetic circles, it made for a lot of healthy debate in the judging process. Interestingly, not one photo of the hundreds received an initial “YES” vote from all four judges … well, sort of.
You see, as a publisher I know that it is important not just to avoid impropriety, but also the appearance of impropriety. Since the only major place this contest was announced was on this blog and associated pages, it’s no surprise that I knew a large percentage of the people who entered, either from attending my workshops, commenting on my blog, or other work connections. To avoid bias, I fed all the e-mails into a program that scraped the photos without associating them to the sender, and have only connected them as I prepared these blog posts. But still, there were some where I felt too closely connected to the photos, and where I knew who had taken them anyway, and I recused myself from the voting. This actually penalized the photos, since the first round of judging was based only on how many judges had voted for them.
Why am I saying all this? Because two of these photos were so fantastic they won anyway. It was a weird situation where I felt I had to argue against photos I loved and the other judges said “Are you crazy? These are the winners.” And so here they are…
By: Adam Baruh
Info: 62 images with a Nikon D3s and 85mm f/1.4
Comments: Since the Brenizer method is technically challenging to pull off, we got a lot of photos with great depth-of-field but bad poses. The poses and expressions are great here, and the framing is perfect. It is not easy at all to create an interesting compositional framing when you have to completely pre-visualize the photo, and the use of the foreground plants is just perfect. Great job Adam.
By: Nessa K
Info: 17 photos with a Canon 5D Mark III and 85mm f/1.2
Comments: This both shows off the depth-of-field power of the method but maintains a sense of subtlety. The colors, processing, depth-of-field transitions, and sense of mystery are just perfect. This would have been a unanimous YES if I had allowed myself to vote on it. Worse still for the ego, this was Nessa’s first attempt.
By: Sara K Byrne
Info: 29-image pano with a Canon 5D Mark III and 85mm f/1.2
Comments: In the end, what I wanted from this contest — why I chose two judges who barely had ever tried the Brenizer method — is that in the end it’s not about depth-of-field, but doing whatever it takes to make great photos. All I’m saying is “here’s a way to have a 35mm f/0.4 lens, now what will you do with it?” And Sara has done great work here. Masculine, feminine, soft and hard. The depth-of-field contributes one part of a great photo. Also, on the technical side, long thin trees are difficult to shoot without stitching errors, and this looks great.
Congratulations again to everyone who entered! I hope this gives all my readers new ideas and inspiration about how to use the method in your own work — I know it’s inspired me.