champion silver trophy over grey background

The Walk Leader competition is always one of the hardest to judge because there are so many great entries from so many talented leaders, and this year there were such really wonderful entries, that it made my job a whole lot tougher for sure.

Although there’s only one winner, I felt there were some images that were so good that even though they didn’t win a prize, they still deserved some recognition, so I’m displaying those first, then we’ll reveal our winner.

Without further ado, I present our 10 Walk Leader Competition honorable mentions (in no particular order):

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Leader / Photographer: Bart Baylon
Photo Walk: Pastrana Park, Philippines

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Leader / Photographer: Cheryl Hoffman
Photo Walk: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Leader / Photographer: Sandip De
Photo Walk: Lausanne, Switzerland

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Leader / Photographer: Matthew Armsby
Photo Walk: Windsor, England

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Leader / Photographer: Hany Fouad
Photo Walk: Suez, Egypt

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Leader / Photographer: Allan Pinedo
Photo Walk: Malecon de Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico

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Leader / Photographer: Christiani Berer 
Photo Walk:
Graz, Austria

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Leader / Photographer: Paul Gotiong
Photo Walk: Pasil Fish Market, Cebu, Philippines

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Leader / Photographer: Rachel Bilodeau
Photo Walk: Montréal, Canada

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Leader / Photographer: Gustavo Barrios Ramirez
Photo Walk: Xalapa, Mexico

AND NOW…FOR THE 2016 LEADER COMPETITION WINNER!
When the images are this good, any one of these above easily could have been chosen as the winning image, but I could only pick one, and I think it’s an awesome image, so please join in congratulating our 2016 Walk Leader Competition Winner:

during the 2016 NFL Season in a game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Leader / Photographer: Mohammed Saeid
Photo Walk: Cairo, Egypt

Comment: This shot is wonderfully composed, and I love the low angle; the texture; and the man and child on the left, but what I think really makes this image special is how all the colors work together — the warm tones outside and then that fantastic blue inside the shop, and that splash of orange to the right of the man — it all works so perfectly. Add in the perfect placement of that foreground chair and it takes it right over the top for me. Really a well-crafted image.

Mohammed will receive a Westcott Ice Light with Barn Doors; a $200 Gift Card from B&H Photo; a Drobo 5Dt (Turbo) Hard drive array; and a $50 Lensprotogo.com Gift Certificate for winning this year’s Leader Competition.

Congratulations to all the Photo Walk Leaders Competition honorees and our winner!

All my best,

-Scott

Ana Andres-Arroyo, from the Southbank, London Photo Walk received the most votes for her wonderful image (below):

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For having her image chosen as People’s Choice winner, Ana will receive:

> A $250 Gift Certificate to B&H Photo
> An Apple TV
> A 1-year membership to KelbyOne Online Training
> The Exposure X2 Bundle From Alien Skin Software
> Tether Tools Case Relay Power System

Congratulations to Ana for this great capture (that reflection is awesome!), and thanks to everybody who voted in the official “People’s Choice” voting this year. :-)

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We still have the Photo Walk Leader’s Competition winner announcement coming on Monday. :)

Have a great weekend everybody — here’s wishing you one with lots of great images.

Best,

-Scott

P.S. My wife Kalebra and I are collaborating on a new personal photo project, and we have our first location shoot in the series on Monday. Very excited to tell you more about it next week. :) 

scottlrslimsystem

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Photo by Conrad Meyer

Capturing the Shot of a Lifetime

On July 26, 2016, after several weeks of slowly progressing miles down from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent on the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, lava entered the Pacific Ocean creating the world’s newest land. This was the first time in nearly three years that lava had returned to the ocean. It was a moment that I had waited oh so patiently for years on, and when it happened, the frantic search for flights began. Photographing an active volcano was the number two item on my bucket list, right under photographing the aurora borealis.

Unfortunately, money was a bit tighter than I had hoped for at the time, and with a few previously planned trips to teach, it looked like my excursion wouldn’t be able to happen for at least a month. It was an extremely hard pill to swallow. Would the lava still be flowing in a month? Would I miss capturing the shot I waited years for? Who knew, but I have always believed that everything happens for a reason and patience pays off.

In early September, I was finally able to catch a flight out to the Big Island in hopes of seeing the lava ocean entry up close and personal. During that painstaking month of waiting, I did an ample amount of research on how to safely approach the ocean entry from both land and sea. Needless to say, both were dangerous, and to be honest, I was never very good at the game “the floor is lava,” when I was a kid. There was definitely a bit of anxiety and fear on my behalf when the time came to actually head out to the lava flow.

With only three days to be able to visit the 61G lava flow, I put together a shot list of what I hoped on capturing. It was quite simple, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing like what I captured on one of my last frames out in the field. I honestly just wanted a nice long exposure of the ocean entry, a close up shot from the boat, and some sort of surface flow with a nice sunset. I wasn’t asking for much in my opinion.

On the first two days, I was able to document the lava entering the ocean from the cliffs near Kalapana, as well as from the ocean thanks to a ride from Ocean Lava Tours and Captain Shane. During those days out though, surface flows were non-existent except for a distant flow just coming down the Pulama Pali, a good couple of miles away from the ocean entry. That area was my only chance of being able to get close on foot to the lava, as any chance to get close to the surface flows going over the cliffs was impossible due to the area being closed off for safety reasons. The hike was going to be long and included crossing some areas that may still be hot from recent flows, vents with volcanic gases, and collapsed lava tubes. Needless to say, it had its risks. After consulting with some local photographers and national park rangers about the trip out there, I felt I had enough of an understanding on how to safely make the trip.

On the evening of the last day of the trip, it was go time. The trek began with a four-mile bike ride down the emergency access road from Kalapana to the ocean entry point. After that, it was another two-and-a-half mile hike across the old lava flows where with every few steps, you risked twisting an ankle or falling and getting cut (which happened several times). Once the bottom of the Pali was reached, almost all hope was lost as the lava that was seen coming down that morning, was nowhere to be found. I used a pair of binoculars to scope out the area in hopes of seeing even the smallest of red glow coming from somewhere accessible.

About fifteen minutes into searching, it happened, a small breakout about 300 yards away grabbed my eye. It wasn’t the river of lava that I was hoping for but dang it, it was lava. I quickly made my way across the terrain and when I turned the corner around an area of uplifted lava rock, I was greeted with the crackling sound and scorching heat of a slow moving surface flow. The lava, at nearly 2300ºF, was so hot that I could only stand within a few feet of it for about five seconds before the hairs on my legs would begin to singe. It was an amazing moment to see something so beautiful and powerful, right there in front of me. I began to shoot away and as daylight faded, the fiery sunset I was hoping for was nowhere to be found, as the sky was cloudless from horizon to horizon. I was left longing for a more interesting shot than just a surface flow with a blank sky.

In the world of a landscape photographer, many of us know that it is a love/hate relationship with clouds. We want clouds for that stunning sunset, but then we want clear skies for our astrophotography images. With the clear skies available for the taking, I decided that it would be nice to try and create an image with some stars above the lava. After analyzing the sky, I noticed that there was a small crescent moon off to the southwest and it was still Milky Way season, so the celestial center should be off to the south somewhere. The question on my mind though was, would the crescent moon be too close to the Milky Way and wash it out, or would it be the perfect amount of light to add a nice element to the sky while being able to retain detail in the Milky Way core?

As twilight faded, I began to set up my composition and quickly realized another issue. The surface flow in front of me was way too bright and I wouldn’t be able to properly expose for both the Milky Way and lava in one frame. As easy as it would be to shoot the image in two parts, one for the Milky Way and one for the lava, I didn’t want a blended image if I could avoid it. I decided to move away from the larger surface flow breakout and towards the area of the lava that was cooling but still had a glow from just beneath the crust. This worked out perfectly.

The lava was bright enough to show through the cracks in a vibrant red color, all the while allowing the night sky to come through beautifully. I rattled off my first frame and then encountered another problem. The glow from the larger surface flow area was too bright and was flaring my frame so badly that the image wouldn’t be useable. I was shooting on a Nikon 14-24mm lens, so there was no lens hood, which meant I had to create one myself. All I did was simply stand a few feet to the left of my lens and positioned myself until my shadow covered the front element of my lens, and boom…human lens hood.

I rattled off my second image and noticed that I needed to move just a tad further back to be completely out of my frame, but besides that, everything was technically exactly where I wanted it to be. I took note of where I should stand, triggered my timer on my camera, and then stepped into position. The shutter opened and I took in the moment. Listening to the lava crackle like Rice Krispies, the moon and Milky Way shining above, and then in the blink of an eye, I saw a meteor streak across the sky. It was too good to be true and I almost ran to my camera to see if I captured it all before the shutter closed. Thankfully, I caught myself before I moved, which would have resulted in the whole image being lost due to that evil lava flare.

When I heard the shutter close, I quickly ran over and waited for the noise reduction to render out. After what seemed to be the longest 25 seconds ever, the LCD lit up with the image and had all the elements there, perfectly tack sharp. An active lava flow glowing up from the surface, the moon shining above, the Milky Way glowing brightly, and a meteor streaking through starry night sky. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I knew I couldn’t top that shot, no matter how long I stayed out that night. So with that said, I packed up my gear and began the long seven-mile trek back.

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After posting the image online, the shot went viral. It was published all around the world, including National Geographic – Russia. With the image getting so much attention, comments and messages began rolling in questioning the reality of the image and claiming that even if it were real, there would be no way possible to capture all those elements and differences in light in one shot. Well, as the guy who melted part of his shoes off while standing as a human lens hood near 2300ºF lava, I can attest…it is 100% real and 100% possible. It simply took an understanding of light and how to work with it. Oh yeah, and a little bit of luck and dedication.

The image you see here was shot at f/2.8, ISO 2500, and 25” shutter. Basically the settings that were needed to properly expose for the night sky. For post processing, minimal adjustments were made. I corrected the white balance, added a bit of clarity and contrast, and did a bit of dodging and burning. I hope this article enlightens you all to how this image came to life with so much planning before the shutter was even clicked.

You can see more of Mike’s work at MikeMezPhotography.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Picking the winners — it’s one of the toughest things I do
…and this was among the hardest ever, because the entries were just so strong this year. It’s why I’m posting the winners so late today — I’ve struggled all day with picking the right one.

I didn’t want to be swayed simply because an image was taken in an exotic location or somewhere I’ve never been, or never seen — I wanted to pick a photo, simple composition or not, easy to capture or not, post processed  brilliantly or not — that is simply special. Maybe it’s the right light, expression or mood, or story or a combination — I searched for whatever that certain something is that makes me come back to it again and again — and  I want to give every image fair and open-minded consideration.

Each image I considered was already chosen as a “winner” by the walk leaders, from over 1,000 walks all around the world. Narrowing it down to just 10-finalists and one Grand Prize Winner — it’s just so hard, and you second and third-guess your choices along the way because you want to give every image a fair shake.

You could easily make a case for hundreds of images to be chosen as finalists, but you only get to choose 10, and one Grand Prize winner, and you finally just have to make a choice, and that’s what I’ve done today.

Even though this round of judging is over …
We still have our People’s Choice Award coming and we have a Leader’s Competition, and I always list my ‘Honorable Mentions’ (images that are so good that even though they didn’t win a prize, still deserve recognition). So, while this is the official announcement of the Top-10 Finalists and the Grand Prize winner, the competition phase still has a few more components left.

Now, let’s reveal this year’s Top 10 Finalists (in no particular order):

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By Fatemeh Rowshan (Mashhad, Iran)
There’s so much more going on there than you see at first glance. Everything in this image — all the graphical elements — they all work together so beautifully. The round shapes up top, and the triangles below, placing the gentleman in the valley between them — in all that white space — it’s just so graphically pleasing. The color of the sifter, and then his purple shirt and coat (why is he wearing a dress shirt and sports coat in this environment — it’s beautifully out-of-place), and then the green pyramids on either side of him — I just love it.

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By Joonas Radland (Turku, Finland Photo Walk)
I love shots where you just want to know what the story is. Take that, and add interesting light, and now I’m really intrigued and that’s how this shot wound up there. What’s going on in that room to the left? Who are those people? Are they in court? Is it a funeral? A museum perhaps? Who is she texting? I so want to know the rest of the story.

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By Ashwin Chathuruthy (Lambertville, New Jersey, USA Photo Walk)
A lot of folks submitted photos of cute kids, cats and puppies, and this shot of course has a very cute kid, but there’s so much else going on here than just that. The colors are just too perfect — the red and yellow with the green in his sleeve, and his blue eyes, and the super soft-light on his face, and his expression, and the leading lines, and…it’s just a wonderful picture. I’m glad I saw it.

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By Cindy Nielson (Tooele, Utah USA Photo Walk)
Take dramatic clouds, add beautiful color — mountains like an island in the distance and add a wonderful reflection and it adds up to a breathtaking photo. It makes you want to be there, and I think that’s quite a compliment for any image. Nicely done, indeed.

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By Kellie Carey (Georgetown, Kentucky, USA Photo Walk)
The color and composition caught me right away on this shot, and I think the post-processing is spot on. The sun is perfectly placed in the scene and the shadows it casts, and the way it falls makes it almost look like a painting.

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Ana Goncalo (Covilha, Portugal Photo Walk)
This one stopped me immediately with its arresting colors and wonderful composition. The photographer took something so simple and really made it interesting with their sharp angle of attack. Also, the way the window on the left is cracked open — it’s so subtle, but it adds that little extra something. In the end though, it’s the contrast of colors and their bright pop (and those extra bright shingles near the top). Really a cool shot. Wish I’d taken it.

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By Gremaud Thomas (Johannasburg, South Africa Photo Walk)
The light here is just so awesome, and the black-and-white treatment works so well with this picture that you can’t even imagine it in color, and you wouldn’t want to. It may well be up for “Leading lines photos of the year” but it’s much more than that — this is really an image about graphic shapes and light, and it’s beautifully executed. My hat’s off to the photographer.

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By Juan Francisco Mananares (Montreal, Canada Photo Walk)
I would have been tempted to rent a white Rolls Royce and just have it pull up in front of this amazing cathedral so I could make a picture like this. It’s so moody (great post processing), and the way the automobile stands out from the background is just too perfect — like something straight out of a movie. That’s how it feels to me — like the viewer stumbled upon a classic movie scene. That’s quite a compliment.

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By Don Johnson (Boise, Idaho USA Photo Walk)
I generally don’t go for the wild artsy stuff, but there’s just something about this particular shot that I just love. It’s a bit crazy, but not too over-the-top, and I really love the way the curvy lines all work with each other. It’s like the artist showed a certain amount of restraint with the effect — they could have taken it way too far, but stopped in a place that helped a certain amount of realism where it goes between photography and painting. Of course, the whole thing could be a reflection in some other object, in which case, I’m even more impressed, but no matter how the artist got here, there’s something here.

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Mac Oliver Lingat ( Pampanga, Philippines Photo Walk)
I know you may think this type of shot is “done to death” because there’s always a number of shots submitted, and in the running each year that have this dark, smokey, Blade Runner-esque kind of look, but there’s more to this one. I want to know what’s going on, why is there smoke coming in (is somebody running a smoke machine out there?), and I want to know what the numbers mean on the far right, and I just want to know more, and I think that says a lot for the image.

And the GRAND PRIZE WINNER is…

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Lisa Jones (Dallas, Texas USA Photo Walk)
There’s just so many wonderful things going on in what appears to be such a simple photo. From the light, the texture, the contrast in colors — everything just works together, but what I think makes this image so great is the oval shape of the flying dough against this backdrop. Everything in this image is a rectangle — even our subject here in black — it’s all rectangles, from the bricks to the light switches, to the table, to the straight lines of the electrical conduit — then you have this flying oval and that makes this such a captivating moment. It’s just too perfect. Look at the light falling on the flying dough itself. Then, the way the photographer gave room for the dough to move above the dough itself (instead of cropping it too closely) — just very well composed and wonderful timing on the photographer’s part. Add in the “Dallas” tattoo on his arm, and the dough on his apron, and the way the brick wall just happened to turn dark near the top making the dough stand out against it — it’s a very strong image  — one I kept coming back to again and again, and if something keeps drawing you in, there must be a reason.

Congratulations, Lisa — You are our 2016 Worldwide Photo Walk Grand Prize Winner! 

Thanks to Canon USA and all our sponsors
A special thanks to our Premier Sponsor, Canon USA, (who gave us some amazing Canon prizes, and helped us launch our new video category) and to Adobe Systems, Peachpit Press, Tamron, and B&H Photo — thanks for all your support this year and for offering such awesome prizes to our winners. We are very grateful.

Thanks to our Walk Leaders
It’s a lot of work, and a thankless job, so let me be the first to say “thanks.” We couldn’t do any of this without our volunteer walk leaders around the world, who do such a great job of creating the walk; working with the walkers, and making the whole thing happen on the local level, and that means a lot.

A personal thanks and shoutout to this year’s awesome Leader coordinator, our own Jeanne Jilleba, who totally kicked butt keeping the communication flowing and things moving in a 1,000+ cities around the world. Thanks Jeanne!

Lastly, thanks to all the talented photographers from around the world who created such inspiring, creative, and beautiful work, and a special thanks to those of you who contributed to the Springs of Hope Orphanage — it means more than you know.

P.S. We still have the unveiling of the Honorable Mentions (images that didn’t win a prize, but are so good that I felt they needed special recognition), so make sure you stop by tomorrow for that. Don’t forget: Although this phase is over, we still have the People’s Choice Award to pick, and a special competition for our Walk Leaders, so there’s more to come. :)

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Happy Monday, everybody! It’s Worldwide Photo Walk winners week, and here’s our schedule:

Today: Our new Video Category (for video taken during the photo walk).
Tomorrow: The Finalists and Grand Prize Overall Winner of the 2016 Worldwide Photo Walk
Friday: The People’s Choice Award Winner
Next Monday: The Photo Walk Leaders Competition

This is the first year we’ve added this new “Video shot during the photo walk” category, and Canon USA (our sponsor) was gracious enough to make a pretty amazing prize available for the winner of this new category. The Video Category winner receives:

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The Canon Video Creator Kit (seen above). The  kit includes the new Canon EOS 80D Body; their new 18-135mm lens;Canon Power Zoom Adapter; RODE VideoMic Go; a 32G SD Card, and all the other goodies (battery, charger, strap, etc.). High-five to Rob Altman of Canon USA for his vision, support, and for helping us launch this new category in such a meaningful way — Canon has been an absolutely AWESOME sponsor!!! 

OK, let’s get right to it — we’ll start with the winner, and then I’m going to share a few other videos that, while they didn’t win any prizes, I thought they deserved some attention.

AND THE WINNER IS…RICHIE REYNAN  TAN for his video “Camaraderie” 

Congratulations to Richie Reynan Tan — that looks like an awesome photo walk! :)

Other videos that, while they didn’t win any prizes, still deserve a mention:

This one is from Christopher Arnold from Stuart, Florida

This one was just so cute! Susie Lee with her video: “Her First Roll of Film.”

From Adam Carter with this video Out Photo Walking 2016. I like this guy (you have to stick with this one — it gets stronger as it goes)

From the Gamcheon Cultural Village PhotoWalk, South Korea Photo Walk, by Carlos Vasquez. It just looks like a fun time! (and isn’t fun just the best thing to have?)

I liked this one from Egypt by Kahled AboBakr— they look like a great group of photographers. :)

OK, last one: This is from the Ft. Worth, Texas Stockyards by Brandi Korte (I actually did a photo walk there once as part of a conference I was speaking at). Great area for a photo walk.

Thanks for letting me share all of these with you; congrats once again to our prize winner Reynan, and a big, big thanks to the 2016 Worldwide Photo Walk Official Sponsor, Canon USA, for making this new video category a reality. :)

See you tomorrow for the big reveal of the 10 Finalists and the overall Grand Prize Winner! Somebody’s getting an amazing camera! :)

All my best,

-Scott

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