As I sit here in the early morning hours, I can’t tell you what a challenge it’s been choosing the winner, and runners up for contest part of my Worldwide PhotoWalk.

I was so impressed with the winning entries from around the world, and honestly, you could make a case for nearly any one of them being the winner, because what I was looking at was a collection of 237 local winners from around the world. These photographers images were already good enough that their local leader had chosen them as their best shot from their city, and now I was looking at nothing but winning shots. It’s harder than you’d think.

I’ve been a judge for many photo and design contests over the years, including my stint for years as one of the judges for the Photoshop World Guru Awards, and I had to lean on some of what I learned in that role. One thing that always stood out to me was now a particular image would “hit” everyone at the same time. For example, when we judge the Gurus, we sit in a darkened room and bring up the images on a projector screen one by one (with the entrant’s name hidden from view). As an image would appear on screen, usually you heard silence. Every few images you’d hear one of the judges say, “I like that one!” or “That’s a nice shot” but mostly it was silent. Then, an image would come up, and almost simultaneously, the whole room would go, “oooooohhhhh.”

It wasn’t always the sharpest image, or the one that was technically perfect, but it was always a photo that had some sort of emotional impact. Whether it was color, or texture, or composition, or whatever it was, it had it enough that the whole room was moved at the exact same moment to say, “ooooohhhh!”

So, when I was going through these images, I waited to hear my own “ooooohhh.” They’re all great photos, but I wanted the ones that made me personally go, “ooohhhh.” Each time I saw one of those, I marked it as a potential runner up. I could only choose 10 runners up (each of which wins a copy of Lighroom 2), and of course, I marked more than 10, so I then had to back through those and find out which ones moved me the most.

Then it came down to choosing just one image from that group to be the Grand Prize Best of Show. I thought from the very beginning that one single image would literally stand out from the crowd, but unfortunately it just wasn’t that easy. As I said, you could make a case for any of them, and I knew that no matter what I chose that, because this is such a subjective thing, that other photographers would say, “He chose that one?” because I’ve done that same thing about the winning choice in other competitions I’ve seen. But at the end of the day, I had to make a pick.

So, how did I make that pick? I asked myself this, “If I could only choose one of these 10 runner’s up to have framed and hang on my wall, which one would it be?”

For my Grand Prize winner, (drum roll, please) I chose Suhaimi Abdullah’s shot from the Singapore walk, of a bird flying overhead an industrial-looking street. To me, everything from its composition to its colors told a story. It looked almost surreal, and at the same time, totally believable because we’ve all been in a concrete jungle and have been suddenly reminded of nature and it’s inclusion (or exclusion), and I thought this image just portrayed that beautifully. In the end; I just couldn’t stop looking at it, and it is the one I’d want hanging in my home or office. For whatever reason, it just spoke to me.

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So, congratulations to Suhaimi, who takes home the Adobe Creative Suite Premium, Lightroom 2, a $500 B&H Photo Gift certificate, a Wacom tablet, the Peachpit Book Bundle, and MPIX prize package, and more!

Here are my comments about the 10 finalists (who each won a full copy of Lightroom 2; courtesy of Adobe Systems):

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(1) Hakon Senderland’s photo of the guards in Oslo, Norway (above)
I really like the reflection in the car’s window; the motion of the guards, and particuarly the way one is looking at the camera. I loved the dark moody sky, and the way all the colors in the photo worked so well together. I also like the fact that you could see past the reflection into the car itself. Just a very clever shot.

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(2) Emil Aaltonen’s shot from the Malmo, Sweden Photowalk (above)
This shot is just so moody, and the mix of the person with the umbrella with the modern round sculpture just really captured my attention. Normally, I don’t like images with Split-tone effects applied to them, but this image is so captivating that it wasn’t until close examination that I realized it was indeed a split-tone. Well done!

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(3) Emiliano Rodriguez’s shot from Cuidad Autonoma de Buenas Aires (above)
This is one of those ones that the first moment I saw it—I loved it. The angle adds energy, the cat adds interest, the texture builds on it, and the colors are just great. I wish I’d taken this one myself.

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(4) Christian Mortzek’s shot from the Hamburg, Germany Photowalk (above)
I saw this shot and I just immediately wanted to know what was going on. What is that place? There’s a story there. I love that. Also, although I generally don’t like shots with a lot of Photoshop work, with this shot—it works. It could be HDR, it could be Lucis Art, or it could be just some Camera Raw or Lightroom moves. I don’t know what it is, but I like it.

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(5) Gary Kilpatrick’s shot from the Barlesville, Oklahoma USA Photowalk (above)
The fact that he found this magnificent flower during a photowalk in the rain, just reminds us how great photography can still be on a rainy day. The colors, the cropped top composition, and the sharp focus just really caught my eye. Nicely done.

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(6) Lesleigh Schaefer’s shot from the Milwaukee, Wisconson USA Photowalk (above)
I love architectural photos, especially those that just capture a part of the whole, and the simplicity and composition of this image just did it for me. In this case, the lack of color really worked, and helped reinforce the lines and design. Nice work Lesleigh!

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(7) Rui Lebreiro’s shot from the Porto, Portugal Photowalk (above)
The black and white treatment really made this shot for me. It looks like a moment in time, frozen. It could have been taken 20 years ago, 50 years ago, and you’d never know. I love the angle from where Rui took the shot. Great texture, great visual interest (love the woman in the background), and it just makes you want to look at it.

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(8) Jim Howe’s shot from the Detroit, Michigan Photowalk (above)
I’m sure this building, GM’s headquarters, has been shot a million times, but here it has a surreal almost look, almost like a building in a futuristic movie set. Maybe it’s the composition, maybe it’s the Photoshop effect (not the split-toning, which again, normally I don’t like—it’s something else), maybe it’s that glint on the right side of the building, but there’s just something about it that I really liked. Maybe it’s that the building looks so shiny and clean against the dark dirty sky. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s definitely there.

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(9) Javier Aisa’s shot from the Madrid, Spain Photowalk (above)
This shot just made me smile. The subject in the shot has probably been photographed a thousand times from the opposite side, but taking it from this angle just adds a bit of both comedy, and human interest. I love the couple looking on off to the left. Very nicely done from top to bottom.

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(10) Maria Gibb’s shot from the Panama City, Panama Photowalk (above)
I just love a photo with a story, and this one makes we want to know the rest of the story. I love the items on the table, and the fact that you don’t really see the faces of the subjects. Great composition and visual storytelling.

My sincere congratulation to our Grand Prize winner Suhaimi Abdullah, to the 1o Runner’s Up finalists, and all the individual winners in the local city contests around the world, who won my Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers.

Also, thanks for the honor of seeing and judging your work. As hard as it was, it was truly a treat! :)