Every year it’s a big challenge. Looking at images from more than 1,000 walks all over the world â” ones that have already been selected as the best from each local walk â” and then trying to narrow things to just one grand prize winner, and 10 finalists. There’s just so many great shots that it makes the process really tough.

The Process
I take this judging role very seriously â” I put a lot of thought and careful consideration into each selection. Every image gets viewed, and reviewed and considered and reconsidered to death because you can make a great case for so many of them. Think about it â” this is a group of photos from every corner of the world, and there are a lot of captivating, fascinating, cute, fun, and very serious images, and so I view every image full screen size, and then tag the best of the first round.

A lot of images actually make this first cut. Then I look at just those tagged images, and narrow things down to just the best of that group (this year I got down to around 79 images at this stage). Then I do it again and again until I have just 11 left. One of those 11 will wind up being the winner. That’s when it gets really tough. It takes a lot of time, and I sweat every decision, but in the end a decision has to be made.

Even though this round of judging is over …
You'll still get to make your own picks in our People's Choice Award, 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.

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

By Macbeth (Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea Photo Walk)
This shot just looks happy â” even though you can’t see the expressions on the people walking down the hill, the vibrant colors, and sun beams, and the whole thing makes it look like a scene from the Teletubbies, and I just loved it. I love the placement of the people on the hill, and just the overall vibe of the shot.

By  Jean-Christophe (Lyon, RA France Photo Walk)
This shot has a lot of graphic appeal on its own, with its angular lines in either direction, but the placement of the man on the stairs really made it all come together. Very simple, but very cool.

By Tinnakorn (Chiang Mai, จ.à¹à¸Šà¸µà¸¢à¸‡à¹ƒà¸«à¸¡à¹ˆ Thailand Photo Walk)
What a great scene! I just love the juxtaposition of those three large hero photos above with this gentle looking man just having a beer â” it really caught my eye right away. I love the colors and how it all works together. Makes me wish I was at the next table over having a cold one myself. Nicely done.

By  Joseph (Charleston, South Carolina, USA Photo Walk)
OK, I know this isn’t a technically perfect shot, and that plant on the far left is distractingâ¦but it’s still a great shot. It’s so simple, and casual, and I like the post processing and it was so different than any of the other entries that it really stood out to me. It’s not the typical type of shot I’m drawn to, but I sure do like it.

By Phongphanich (Bangkok Thailand [Rattanakosin Island] Photo Walk)
This is just a wonderful combination of color and composition, and I love the post processing on this shot. It makes me want to know more about the shot â” what’s the rest of the story. Who is the guy in that picture? There’s a lot going on here for such a simple photo.

By Sonata (Kaunas County Lithuania Photo Walk)
The first time I saw this shot, it was like looking at a still shot during a movie. It has a real cinematic feel and I love the way our subject, and the birds, are all back lit, and I love her position in the frame. Really makes you feel like you came upon a moment in a movie and that was all I needed.

By Eman (El-Gamaleya, Cairo, Egypt Photo Walk)
What captured me about this shot was the light. From the light beams streaming behind our subject, to the soft light on his face, to how the overall scene is lit â” the lighting is just really wonderful. Plus, I really like the subject’s expression and care that’s being given to his work. Very nice capture.

By Mark (Hoover, Alabama, USA Photo Walk)
This is another one of those shots where the first time I saw it, I loved it, and of course what I loved the most is how the mushroom is lit. It just stands out so beautifully in the otherwise dark scene. I wish that little spot of white wasn’t there at the top of the frame, because it does draw my eye a little, but it’s such a lovely shot that I’m willing to look the other way on that, and just enjoy the beautiful scene. Nice!

By Andrew (Seoul, South Korea Photo Walk)
This shot just cracked me up, only because it’s such a real scene. I love how the women are in very traditional outfits, but they’ve got a cell phone up on an “extender for selfies” pole and they’re flashing peace signs. It’s kind of surreal, but at the same time, you’re looking at something very real. Great shot!

By Daniela (Haarlem, The Netherlands Photo Walk)
First, there’s the subject â” a young girl on stilts, which is something you just don’t see every day, but the lighting in this shot is so subtle and beautiful without the scene being dark and dramatic. I feel like I walked in upon a quiet moment and I want to know where she’s going, why she’s wearing stilts, and how she’d get so lucky to be learning to walk on stilts in such gorgeous light. One of my favorites for sure.

â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”â”-

AND NOWâ¦THE GRAND PRIZE WINNING IMAGE IS:

By Michal (Warszawa, Mazowieckie Polska Photo Walk)
There is just something about this shot. I kept coming back to it again and again. I love the overall tone of the image, and how you see these individual drops frozen in time like that. There’s not enough water so that it looks cheezy (which can happen when freezing water in a fountain), and I love the composition with that wide open area to the right. I wish I could give you a better technical reason why I like it, but I think it’s 100% an emotional response. If you keep coming back to it again and again, then you just know there’s something special there, and I think this is a very special shot.

A Big Thanks!
A special thanks to Canon, our Premier sponsor (and provider of amazing Canon prizes) and to flickr, Adobe Systems, Peachpit Press, Tamron, KeepSnap, B&H Photo, and Wacom â” thanks for all your support and for offering such awesome prizes to our winners (we are very grateful).

Thanks to our Walk Leaders who did such an outstanding job once again of giving of their time and talents to make their local walks happen, and to the wonderful photographers from around the world who created such inspiring, creative, and beautiful work.

P.S.: We still have the unveiling of the Honorable Mentions (images that didn't win a prize, but that are so good that I felt they needed special recognition), so make sure you stop by on Friday 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 your Walk Leaders, so there's more to come. :)

 

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About The Author

Scott is a Photographer, bestselling Author, Host of "The Grid" weekly photography show; Editor of Photoshop User magazine; Lightroom Guy; KelbyOne.com CEO; struggling guitarist. Loves Classic Rock and his arch-enemy is Cilantro. Devoted husband, dad to two super awesome kids, and pro-level babysitter to two crazy doggos.

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