Strobist Photos of the Year, 2007 -- 2nd Place Winner

Three down, two to go.

For each of the previous winners, we have given comments as to why they were chosen. We'll do that after the jump, but for the final two I also want to post some of the comments of the other Flickr users left when they first came across the 2nd-place photo on its Flickr page:

"Wow. Amazing. Is this real?"

"Superb!!! How did you get the light on her legs?"

"Absolutely stunning lighting and POV."

"This is amazing! Truly original concept. I like that it looks like a fantasy painting."

"I thought about wow! but then I see so many others expressing the same sentiment. What the hell... WOW! Just WOW!"

(See the 2nd-place winner and judges' comments after the jump.)

2nd-Place Photo: Woman Playing Volleyball at the Beach

Second place goes to California-based photographer Robert Benson, for his cross-lit shot of a woman playing volleyball on a beach.

From Robert's comments, some thoughts on the setup:

"To turn outdoor bright sunlight to a controllable dark, you first have to put camera on slowest ISO setting (50 or 100), go to your camera's fastest shutter synch speed (usually around 1/250th), and dial aperature down to around f16 or f22," he says.

"Then set up your off-camera lights. Outdoors they will have to put out enough power to light subject at that small F16 or F22, and with moving subjects, the duration of the flash should be short, to prevent motion blur."

(As most of you know, you can duplicate this technique by using a camera which allows hi-speed synching, which gives you the ability to do this with a pair of speedlights. This method also keeps the flash duration way down, which eliminates motion blur.)

Chase Said:
Nicely executed shot here.

The certain je ne sais pas (I know not what) of this image is actually that there is no je ne sais pas at all. We know it all. It's a very classic formula for making a great image and it deserves to be recognized as such. 

The formula is:

A) The timing: Peak action with some tension in the moment; 

B) The light: I'm guessing it's what I call the "sandwich" technique (strobe left, strobe right, and backlit with the sun. Also, the use of the sun to draw the viewer to the focal point and the overall underexposing of the image to amplify texture in the clouds and the sand is a wise move. And finally,
C) The composition: The subject position in the frame generally is pleasing; the separation from subject, ground, net, sun, and ball creates beautiful tension (and simultaneous fluidity); the camera angle adds drama and accentuates the athleticism of the subject.

I Say:

This photo is so much more than just lighting technique, which of course was well-executed. As Chase said, many factors come together to make this a very dynamic moment: The tonal gradient created by the obscured sun drawing the eye into the compositional center frame, the tension, the way the light defines the muscles, the simple (yet dynamic) composition, the timing.

On that last point, a tip for aspiring action shooters: The moment just before something happens has much better tension and timing than when the thing is actually happening. And if has just happened, you missed it. And for you portrait shooters and wedding shooters, how much more interesting the fractional second before a kiss actually happens than the kiss itself.

Finally, the icing on the cake for me on this one is the sand: Frozen, defined by the crosslight, and looking for all the world like a nebula shot from the Hubble Space Telescope.


Congratulations, Robert, on the photo. If you would be so kind as to choose your top two prize choices, in order, from the list below and stick it into a comment on your photo's Flickr page, it will greatly help to speed the process of distributing prizes to the five winners after they have been announced.

Thanks again to the following sponsors for contributing such great prizes:

• An AlienBees ABR800 Ringflash, courtesy AlienBees.

• A pair of Pocket Wizard Plus II's courtesy the MAC Group, facilitated by Midwest Photo Exchange.

Elinchrom D-Lite 2 Kit, courtesy Elinchrom and facilitated by The Flash Centre.

• Two Nikon SB-800 Speedlights, courtesy Nikon USA.

• A Canon Powershot G9 Digital Camera, courtesy Canon USA, facilitated by Midwest Photo Exchange.


Discussion, including details on the judging process and the honorable mention (6-10) photos, here.


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