FREDERICKTOWN — Judges came together Tuesday evening to weed out the best photos taken by Fredericktown citizens in the annual Tomato Show amateur photography contest sponsored by the Mount Vernon News. All photos will be on display during the Tomato Show in the Fredericktown Senior Center.
Contestants were sorted into three age groups, Adult, 19 and up; Juvenile One, aged 13-18; and Juvenile Two, age 12 and under.
A total of 159 photos were entered into categories including animal, nature, people, landscape, patriotic, texture, seasons, agriculture, black and white and “growing toward the future.” The number of entries is “par for the course,” according to Lesley Ruggles, the director in charge of photography, though the entries surpassed last year’s numbers of less than 90 submissions.
Ruggles explained that the black and white categories and the theme category “growing toward the future,” which is this year’s Tomato Show theme, were both new.
Carolyn Grimm, a long-standing judge of the photography competition and a language arts teacher at Fredericktown High School, said that black and white photos give the judges a chance to look at all the other aspects of the photo without the “distraction” of color. Though black and white photos can be rich in different ways with texture and contrast, first-year judge Joshua Morrison, photographer of the News, explained.
Each category, in each age group, was awarded first, second and third place, though some categories were not fully awarded due to unfocused photos. In all three age groups a “best in show” photo was chosen and two photos were additionally lauded with a “best use of color” award and a “best use of lighting” award.
Photos were judged on a multitude of aspects of composition including the framing, cropping and placement of subjects, or in some cases the negative space, within each photo; the focus and lighting; color and depth of field; the story each photo told and how the photo fit in to the category in which it was entered.
Grimm said that one of her struggles as a judge is looking beyond the “cute” content of a photo to look at the technical aspects. For judge Judy Divelbiss, a former News editor and a judge since the contest was started, the most important part of judging is finding the good qualities in each photo to see the vision that the photographer was trying to achieve. Though she noted that this can make the decision harder.
The judges worked together discussing each photo’s positive and negative points and sometimes compromising to pick those that they felt were award worthy. Photos that received best in show were often chosen for the level of difficulty exhibited in getting the shot.
A photo depicting a water skiier in the adult people category received best of show because it was an action shot that was well framed by water, giving a sense of location, that was also well composed in spite of being a very difficult photo to get, Morrison said. A photo showing chickens walking on a swingset received best of show in the Juvenile I Division because it was composed well and the subjects were not “dead center” in the photo. It told a story and drew the viewer in, and, most importantly, was sharp and in focus, which is one of the first things that photographers in the 13-18 age range should be doing, Morrison explained. Like the surfing photo, Divelbiss explained, this shot would be difficult to get just right with moving chickens, making it all the more impressive. Finally, a photo, also lauded for its technical skill, taken in a low light concert setting was awarded Best In Show for the Juvenile Two age group. Low light photography, Morrison explained, is very difficult because it requires a shallow depth of field to keep the subject in clear focus, which this young photographer achieved.
Both Grimm and Divelbiss started out judging in an age before digital cameras. This meant that photos had to be very intentional when taken because, unlike with digital cameras, extra photos couldn’t be deleted. While this gives digital age photographers a slight edge, Morrison said that the understanding of what makes a photo great still needs to be in place to successfully capture the moment. Each photo in the room, Morrison said, represents one one-thousandth of a second which he guessed meant that 20 seconds total of the lives of Fredericktown’s photographers were represented in the contest.
“Digital cameras do a lot of the work for you but then there’s still a lot more work to be done,” Morrison said. “You’ve got to frame your shot, you’ve got to check your corners, you’ve got to make sure it’s in focus. With a digital camera, sure, you can pop off 16 photos in a second, but if they’re all out of focus, that moment’s gone. These [contestants] captured good moments. It’s just getting them to learn — you know — do something different with their framing, their cropping, their composition.”
Awards will be announced at a later time.