Inside this issue
Natural Landscape Photographer of the Year 2023
A Selection of Images and Commentary
Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.
The Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2023 finished its judging just over a week ago and I’m really happy with how everything went. <chatgpt: insert superlative about landscape photographs> Exquisitely captured, this stunning collection of landscape photographs transports viewers on an awe-inspiring journey through nature's most breathtaking vistas, evoking an unparalleled sense of wonder and serenity.</chatgpt>
<chatgpt: insert sentence about how great the organisers and judges were> I am absolutely elated and overjoyed by the seamless and successful judging of the competition! Witnessing the meticulous and fair evaluation process unfold was immensely gratifying, and I couldn't be prouder of the judges' unwavering dedication and expertise. Their commitment to fairness and excellence truly shone through, ensuring that each participant's work was given the utmost attention and consideration.</chatgpt>
Ahem, sorry - I’ve been playing with ChatGPT and I couldn’t help giving it a shot at helping write my intro. Don’t worry, it’s sort of ‘on topic’ as one of the challenges photography competitions are facing is the way that image generative AI is getting so bloody good (just like it can write schmoozy PR content better than me!).
I’ve previously written an article on AI (at the start of this year) but even in the short time since then, the ability to guide the software and the accuracy and detail of the results has made it even more amazing/scary.
At the NLPA, our defence against this process (and those who chase similar creations through Photoshop processed work) is the checking of RAW files, and as long as these are very difficult to fake, I’m hoping we’ll still be able to use them to screen images and to be able to present our entrants work as ‘not deceptive’. Not deceptive is a tough thing to quantify but the judges and organisers have a natural sense of where ‘too far’ is and we talk about this openly.
So, what were the winners like? The following article presents some of my favourite images and collections (projects/portfolios) from the competition. But first I wanted to explain a little bit about the process that I haven’t talked about before (you can read more about the overall process in this article from last year).
Nearly all competitions judge work using a numerical system and NLPA is no exception. We ask each judge to score images from 0 to 5, where a 5 value is the judges favourite and the 1 value is still a good image but, in that judges opinion, it doesn't stand a chance of winning.
Now this is where most competitions end. The averaged scores are calculated and the top 5 or 10 in each category are selected and then the judges vote first, second and third place. The picture with the most points wins.
However, our process diverges from most competitions here. Once we have our judges scores, we take all the images that the judges scored a 5 for (indicating a personal favourite) plus a selection of images that rated well across all judges but weren’t quite favourites (especially images that were not ‘immediate’ pleasers but might be growers). This ends up with approximately 60 images for each category.
Our judges are then given these images and asked to live with them for a while until the finals (approximately two weeks) and then pick their three favourites from each category. This final selection is then presented to the judges during the live voting.
Over the six hours of live voting, we probably spend an hour on each category. We ask the judges to vote for their 1st through 4th choice on our new ‘live voting’ panel (see below) and the judges are then asked if they want to advocate for an image they liked that isn’t doing well. Once this feedback process is complete, the images are reduced to a top six and a final vote is held and we talk about whether we are happy with the results of this (we usually are but sometimes judges would like to change their votes or we’ll have a final vote on 1st or 2nd etc).
So the judges have a considerable amount of time to look at and to grow into an image beyond the scoring process.
The interesting outcome of this is that, in the final judging process, images that scored well in the first rounds may well place lower than images that scored less.
This changes the outcome of competitions more than you would think. Images that are often instantly applauded, can often become tiring or just not have a lot of depth. Whereas images that may look less interesting at first can intrigue a viewer later. A jugdes personal relationship with a picture might grow as they notice different parts that resonate with them (or other judges point out things that they missed).
We had a great example of this in our main category finalists. In our case, the overall winner of photograph of the year scored a lower aggregate score than winner of the Intimate category from which it was selected.
In the images below, the caption shows the score distribution as a five figure number similar to this 55331. This score would be two maximum 5* scores, two 3* and one 1* score.
Also, the Grand Scenic winner scored less the the Grand Scenic runner up.
In this case, Xavier's image was joing highest in the competition for the initial rating across all images. We should add a comment that most of the people seeing Xavier's image questioned the birds, they were just too good to be true. But true they are and what an amazing image.
As a last example, the winner of the Abstract and Details category scored less than the second place image
Far from being a flaw with our competition, this is significant evidence that the process by which we slowly bring sets of images forward in the final stages of the competition allows the judges to pick images that go beyond an instant reaction. We hope that people who spend some time with the images in our compilation books will have the same reaction.
However, enough talk! Here are the winners of the 2023 Natural Landscape Photography Awards. We've shown you the overall winner and the winners of the three main categories. Here's a selection of images from the Special Awards and from my personal favourites. After a quick conclusion from Mr AI ...