You just cannot imagine how hard it is to judge this contest

There were so many great images again this year; so many that you could make a case for that “should have been the one” and the photographers themselves keep getting better and better. It all makes the judging process even harder. Narrowing it down to just 10 finalists and one winner from entries literally all over the world — it’s just very challenging. Especially since they are so many things to consider when looking at an image.

After a considerable amount of blood, sweat, and tears, I’m delighted to present to you this year’s 10 finalists and our 2019 Worldwide Photo Walk Grand Prize winner.

Note: If you want to learn more about the judging process, and how I came down to picking these images, scroll to the bottom of this post. 

Here are this year’s Top 10 Finalists (in no particular order):

By Nevena Mrdalj (Marana, Arizona)
The color, the lines, the graphic feel of this image all came together to create an image that doesn’t look like it was taken in the US. That little bit of blue sky at the top, and the top of the tower peaking up, give the image a sense of mystery, without it being a dark image. Nicely done.

By Kari Hämäläinen (Lappeenranta, Finland)
There is just such joy in this shot — it makes me happy just looking at it. Their gestures, the colors, the gorgeous shallow depth of field, the leading lines, and the composition all come together so nicely, yet it’s such a simple image. I loved this image from the moment I saw it.

By Birgit Ableitinger (Vienna, Austria)
Red is just such a powerful color, but this image is much more than just a clever use of red. It’s the contrast of colors and tone; it’s the composition, and honestly, it’s the beautiful post-processing as well. It looks like a soft, gentle scene, even though we’re surrounded by concrete and metal and wood. So well done from start to finish.

By Sian Kerr (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
I love a photo that tells a story, and I like one even better that makes us curious about the parts we don’t. I don’t know what’s on that cell phone…but this photo sure makes me want to know. It’s so interesting it made the gentleman in the back put down his newspaper. I love this little slice of life; this moment in time, and I love the composition and post-processing as well. Nice use of black and white, and great timing on the part of the photographer.

By Jim Winninger (Palm Coast, Florida, USA)
This is a very well crafted image; flawlessly pulled off, and beautifully composed. It can be very challenging to pull off an architectural image like this, but I think the photographer did a marvelous job. I could see this really large, hanging in the lobby of a beautiful high-rise. Very nicely done!

By Luigi Miguel Alonde (Biñan, Phillippines)
The shadows are so key in this wonderful image, and there are so many of them — our subject is in shadows; he’s casting a shadow, the underside of the umbrella is in shadows, and the umbrella is casting such an interesting shadow, and then you have long diagonal shadows raking across the image. On top of it all — add the red wall and the red umbrella and it’s a really captivating image. Nicely crafted.

By Martin Taylor (Leicestershire, England)
There’s just so much going on in this image graphically, and our subject breaks that plane so nicely. The black and white conversion works so well with the image, and I love the gesture of our subjects. This is one very clever image. Nice job!

By Hadis Sharifi (Rafsanjan, Iran)
This is such an intriguing image. I love the way the reflections play on the windows and how it plays into the woman’s expression. It tells a story of its own. The colors all work so well, with so many warm tones coming together without them taking over the image. I just love it!

By Prajith Scaria (South Lyon, Michigan, USA)
This is a really fascinating image for being such a simple one. I love a photo that makes me want to know more, and this one looks like it was taken on a movie set. My hats off to the photographer for capturing the scene and for the very appropriate post-processing. Everything just works.

By Khaled Suleyman (Cairo, Egypt)
This was another of my favorites from the start. One thing I think makes this such a strong image is the perspective. It’s almost like the photographer is standing on top of something to get this view from up high, and I love the way the participants are all interacting with each other as if the photographer isn’t right there with them in the small room. The colors are wonderful, and while that initially drew me in, it was the perspective that kept me there. The scene is so inviting — I would have loved to have been there myself; not just taking the picture, but sharing in the moment.

…and now for the 2019 Grand Prize winner:

By Jakob Ebbinger (Malmö, Sweden)
The drama. The mystery. The lighting. The symmetry of the whole composition. What a great capture — one that draws you in and makes you want to know more. I think some of the most powerful images are the ones that are so simple, and this is a perfect example. There’s such clarity in the composition, and nothing to distract you or lead you away. It’s one I wish I had taken because I’d be hanging it on the wall. I’m so impressed with the whole story, and the way the photographer tied the whole image up in a bow. It’s a present from the artist, and we were honored to be able to unwrap it. Congratulations on creating the winning image. Well deserved.

How I do the judging

I look at every single winning image from all the walks around the world. I do find that the great shots jump right out at you, and I mark those as picks to go back and look at again. I was able to get down to 112 shots after going through the first pass at all of them. That’s a big cut, but still, a very long way to get down to just 10 finalists and one winner.

I try not to be swayed simply because an image was taken in an exotic location or somewhere I’ve never been or never seen before — 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 color, or story or a combination of these — I search for whatever that certain something is that makes me come back to it again and again — and I strive to give every image fair and open-minded consideration.

What makes this process harder is that these are already curated. Each image was already judged and chosen as a “winner” by the local walk leaders, from nearly 1,000 walks. Narrowing it down — it’s quite a difficult task, and you wind up second and third-guessing 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. It is literally one of the hardest things I do each year, but also one of the most rewarding because I get to see so many great images during the process. I hope that gives you a little insight into my judging process.

The winners of the Leader’s Competition are Next

We still have our Leader’s Competition winner coming next week 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.

We could not do this without Canon USA

We owe a very special thanks to our Premier Sponsor, Canon USA, for their support for the photo walk each year. Without their help and support, there would be no Worldwide Photo Walk, so you can imagine how grateful we are to the folks at Canon USA, who also provided some amazing cameras and gear as prizes for our contest winners. We couldn’t ask for a better sponsor — thanks to Kevin McCarthy, Mike Larson, and all our friends at Canon USA who make all this possible. You guys are the best!

Also, thanks to our additional official sponsors: Adobe Systems, Peachpit Press, Westcott, Skylum, Rocky Nook, Platypod, Drobo, 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 an awful lot of work (ask anyone who has led one), 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 walks; working and wrangling their walkers, judging the local contest from their walk, and making the whole thing happen on the local level, and that means a lot.

My personal thanks to our own Jeanne Jilleba, who did an amazing job again this year of keeping the communication flowing, working with the leaders and managing walks in nearly 1,000 locations all over the globe. It’s a very challenging job, but she does it like a boss and I’m very proud of the job she does. Thank you, Jeanne — we are all indebted for all your hard work and dedication to making the photo walk a success.

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

More to come as we reveal winners in more winners next week. :)


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