Judging the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards

MPA POTY 2013
One of the winning images from photographer of the year, Yaman Ibrahim.

Sometimes, choice can make life difficult. A couple of weeks ago, five judges and I sat down (virtually, since everybody was in different parts of the world) to decide on the category and overall winners for the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards. I had the privilege of working with Raghu Rai from Magnum; Mike Yamashita from National Geographic; Jim Liaw and Manny Librodo. Submissions closed on 31 October after three months, with a grand total of nearly 70,000 entries from 9 ASEAN countries. Shortlisting these down to approximately 1,500 final contenders was a panel of secondary judges, with myself overseeing.

Winning images and detailed results may be viewed here at the Maybank Photo Awards website.

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B&W Challenge results!

Firstly, a big thank you to all of the entrants in the competition – there were 760 images submitted in total, which is a far greater response than I expected. Not only were there a lot of images, but the overall quality of submissions was incredibly high; one comment posted was along the lines of this being one of the best collections of B&W work on flickr. I’m inclined to agree with that: the submission restrictions were enough to make you want to enter, but not so frequent that you would post an image without thought. It’s clear that every single image in here had a considerable amount of thought put into its execution. I would say that almost all of the images scored 2.5 or higher on my usual evaluation criteria – light, subject, composition/ execution and the idea – many 3.5 or higher, and a considerable number managed all four; there were a lot of photos I would have been proud to include in my own body of work. This is in stark contrast to another recent photo competition I judged where very very few images hit three, let alone four.

We had to go through the entire pool several times to ensure we didn’t overlook any images; originally the process was supposed to take one afternoon, but it landed up being dragged on for a few days as we had to debate the merits of each image, especially those that were either very close or contentious. And let me tell you…this was no easy process. I apologise for the delay in results, but at the same time there’s no way we could have done it faster and maintained the integrity of artistic intent of the competition. There was consistency, though: the ones that stood out for us the first time were also the ones that stood the test of subsequent passes. The most attractive were those that were tonally rich and made the most of this to add depth and dimensionality to their subjects. High contrast – aside from being scarce – just looks somewhat crude.

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Last day to enter – win the multispectral Sony NEX-5!

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Today is the last day to enter the Mingthein.com black and white challenge. The prize is a Multispectral Sony NEX-5 (complete with kit lens and everything else a new one comes with, except the strap which I can’t seem to find) that shoots in UV, IR and Visible light – modified by yours truly. It is an outstanding machine for B&W photography, and has no anti-aliasing filter to boot.

I’ve created a new group on Flickr here: The Mingthein.com B&W Challenge specifically for this purpose.

1. Like the site’s Facebook page – title your submission with your Facebook username so I can check. Entries without Facebook usernames will be disqualified.
2. To submit an image, enter it in The Mingthein.com B&W Challenge Flickr group pool.
3. Your image must be in black and white; toning is NOT allowed.
4. Any subject, medium or cameras is fair game. You can shoot large format sheet film if you are so inclined.
5. Postprocessing is allowed, but anything overly done will almost certainly not win on aesthetic grounds.
6. Judging will be by me and the anonymous donor of the camera; our decision is final. The best image will win. And yes, it’s subjective etc – but this is a photography contest, photography is art, and art is a matter of taste.
7. Images will have a better chance of winning if they meet most or all of the important factors; you can find a lengthy discourse here…
8. You must own the rights to the image you submit.
9. The competition will run until the end of January 2013; closing time is 00:00 1 Feb 2013, GMT+8 (i.e. the end of the 1st of Feb when it hits midnight in Kuala Lumpur; easier to give the people in odd timezones a fair chance)
10. Multiple entries are allowed, but I’m going to restrict the pool to one per person per week: think carefully before you submit. You can remove and replace if you shoot something better.
11. You will need a flickr account to post images to the pool, but it’s free to sign up.
12. By entering, you give me and the mingthein.com site the right to re-post your image as part competition announcements and posts.
13. The winner will be announced in the first couple of weeks of February 2013 – depending on when I can meet up with our donor for the judging. We’ll ship the camera to you by EMS shortly thereafter.

Shoot me an email if there are any questions. I think that’s about it – good shooting, and good luck! MT

Competition: Win the multispectral Sony NEX-5!

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In yesterday’s post, I recounted the journey of modifying a digital camera with the intention of creating something that would deliver outstanding out-of-camera black and white results; I had the rich, deep shadows and light but subtle highlights of film in mind, plus the crispness of the best non-AA-filtered cameras. The result, after three days of work and testing – on a camera generously donated by a reader – is a Sony NEX-5 that has no filtration in front of the sensor other than the Bayer pattern – no UV or IR or anti-aliasing. You’re looking at bare silicon if you stare down the lens mount.

Today, I’m happy to announce a competition which will give a reader a chance to own a camera personally modified by me. The camera is as-new cosmetically, is complete with box, kit lens and all accessories as sold (except the strap, that seems to have gone missing); it is out of warranty though (and will be anyway since I ripped out the filter pack).

Since this is a photography site first, and this camera was supposed to be a monochrome machine, it can only mean one thing: a black and white challenge!

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I’ve created a new group on Flickr here: The Mingthein.com B&W Challenge specifically for this purpose.

1. Like the site’s Facebook page – title your submission with your Facebook username so I can check. Entries without Facebook usernames will be disqualified.
2. To submit an image, enter it in The Mingthein.com B&W Challenge Flickr group pool.
3. Your image must be in black and white; toning is NOT allowed.
4. Any subject, medium or cameras is fair game. You can shoot large format sheet film if you are so inclined.
5. Postprocessing is allowed, but anything overly done will almost certainly not win on aesthetic grounds.
6. Judging will be by me and the anonymous donor of the camera; our decision is final. The best image will win. And yes, it’s subjective etc – but this is a photography contest, photography is art, and art is a matter of taste.
7. Images will have a better chance of winning if they meet most or all of the important factors; you can find a lengthy discourse here…
8. You must own the rights to the image you submit.
9. The competition will run until the end of January 2013; closing time is 00:00 1 Feb 2013, GMT+8 (i.e. the end of the 1st of Feb when it hits midnight in Kuala Lumpur; easier to give the people in odd timezones a fair chance)
10. Multiple entries are allowed, but I’m going to restrict the pool to one per person per week: think carefully before you submit. You can remove and replace if you shoot something better.
11. You will need a flickr account to post images to the pool, but it’s free to sign up.
12. By entering, you give me and the mingthein.com site the right to re-post your image as part competition announcements and posts.
13. The winner will be announced in the first couple of weeks of February 2013 – depending on when I can meet up with our donor for the judging. We’ll ship the camera to you by EMS shortly thereafter.
14. There is no time limit on when images have to have been taken.

Shoot me an email if there are any questions. I think that’s about it – good shooting, and good luck! MT

One day left to enter the competition…

A huge thank you to all of the entries so far – I honestly didn’t expect to get this many (85). Let’s try for a hundred! There’s still a day left, so please get your entries in by midnight GMT tonight. MT

Details on how to enter here.

Final call for entries – the inaugural Mingthein.com photo contest closes tomorrow at midnight!

If you haven’t done so already (and thank you to everybody who has) – today is your last chance to get your entry in for the inaugural Mingthein.com photography contest!

The theme is ‘The Human Element'; $5 gets you a chance to win the pot. Remember, the more people who enter, the bigger the prize pot!

Full details here. Thanks for playing! MT

A gentle reminder: three weeks to go until the first Mingthein.com photography contest closes!

If you haven’t started shooting, now’s the time to do so. Remember, the more people who enter, the larger the pot…

Full details here.

Calling for entries: The inaugural Mingthein.com photography contest!

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I’m happy to announce a new and (hopefully long-term) feature for the site; something that’ll foster more active participation, buy me time to add more content, and of course, give back more to the readers: I’m going to run a photography contest.

The basic principles:
– It will be 100% merit based. I will be judging.
– There will be a cash award for the winner and runner up!
– The prizes will be supported by a small entry fee of US$5 – the more people who enter, the bigger the award pot becomes. So share it with your friends!
– You will learn something: the final 10 images will be given a detailed critique on the site.
– Unlike just about every other competition out there, I won’t keep the rights to your images; all you need to agree to is allow me to publish the image here if you win, or if you make the final 10.
– There are no restrictions on equipment or date the picture was shot.
– You do of course need to have shot the photo, and own the rights to the image.
– Images must be in the theme of the competition.

This is designed to be a competition by photographers, for photographers.

First theme: The Human Element

Judging criteria: The winning photo must be compositionally strong, have an obvious subject, be technically well executed in a manner that supports the subject, and above all, it must generate an emotional response in the viewer. There’s got to be a person in there somewhere. Color or black and white are both equally acceptable, as are posed and candid images. It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur or professional, I’m only looking at the quality of your image.

Closing date: Midnight GMT, 31 July, 2012.

How to enter:
– Each participant is allowed to enter one image.
– Images must be in jpeg format, 1500 pixels wide on the long side.
– Watermarks are fine but must not obscure the subject (obviously)!
– Send an email with “July 2012″ [space] plus your name in the subject line to mingthein2(at)gmail.com. The body of the email should contain your paypal address (payment is required for participation), name, your image and its title.
– Send your entry fee of US$5 via Paypal gift to mingthein2@gmail.com
– I will confirm receipt of both to the email address the image came from.
– Judging will take place in the first week of August, with results to come thereafter.
– Multiple entries are not allowed.

The fine print:
– First place takes 50% of the total entry fees received.
– The runner up takes 20% of the total entry fees received.
– The balance of 30% will go towards running and supporting this site.
– You must own the rights to the image submitted.
– Rights for all images submitted remain property of the photographer, but in order to be eligible to win, the photographer must grant mingthein.com the rights to publish the image either as part of the final 10 critique, or as the winner.
– The judges’ decision is final.
– Photoshop allowed, but digital editing is limited to adjustments to color/ contrast/ dodge & burn/ sharpening/ minor retouching including spot removal etc. Changes of substantial portions of the image in order to alter the overall impression of the photograph are not allowed, and if detected are subject to disqualification.
– Your email address and other personal data will remain confidential and not be shared with any third party.

- Entries are welcome from any country, it’s an international competition!

Remember: the prize grows directly proportional to number of entries, so share this with your other photography friends and on Facebook!

Good luck, and may the best image win! Looking forward to seeing all of your entries. MT

POTD: Photography is a team sport…and a commentary on competitions

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Canon Photomarathon, Kuala Lumpur. Olympus Pen Mini E-PM1, ZD 45/1.8

This isn’t a recent event, but a group of photographers running around the streets of KL in a pack yesterday reminded me of this shot. The aim of the event is simple: it is a competition with several categories of prize, but everything must be shot on the day, in the same location, and you’ve got to wear the same damn shirt as everybody else. Editing is permitted, but everybody submits prints for judging, made on one of those dye sub printers.

Several thoughts:
1. There’s a HUGE market for photography equipment in Malaysia. This relatively small segment of the population was at least a thousand-strong, with easily $3,000 or more of gear for each person on average. There was more than one person going around with 1-series bodies and 300/2.8s.

2. It’s commendable that somebody bothers to organize something on this scale at all.

3. How on earth the organizers expect to see good results when you restrict the participants is ludicrous – it just makes you look bad because the level of photography is is low.

4. You’re not going to get any good reportage style images or candids when you’re milling around in a pack of hundreds or thousands of very conspicuous people. And more often than not, if you try something that looks out of the ordinary, a whole bunch of people will follow you immediately afterwards and it ceases to be unusual. And in the end the entire event just turns into an equipment masturbation session, with plenty of mine-is-bigger-than-yours. Or maybe that’s what the organizers want, so they can sell more cameras.

5. Postprocessing is as much part of the modern photography process as darkroom work was for film. So treat it as such, not an aberration or ‘cheat’. If you’re going to do something unnatural like HDR, it’ll be obvious to the judges (we hope).

6. Dye sub printers produce horrible color. Perhaps processing doesn’t matter because you won’t be able to appreciate the subtle tones anyway.

7. My final point is a criticism leveled at the organizers of almost all competitions, not just this one: yes, I can understand why you’d need limited rights to republish the image afterwards, but why on earth do all competitions result in the photographer having to surrender any and all rights to all images entered? Don’t the organizers realize that the really good photographers and pros will never agree to do this? I certainly would not enter my best images if I know I’ll have to surrender the rights to them. And if I’m not going to enter my best images, then why bother entering at all? If you’ve got a whole pool of people who think like this – and I know a lot of pros and talented amateurs do – then you’re just lowering the standard in general.

What I’d like to see – or perhaps even organize – is a competition based solely on merit; with no rights transferral or ownership, so we’d see people putting their best foot forward. Anonymous entry, so we don’t bias based on names or fame. Something to think about for the future, perhaps. MT

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