How do you move on from an international title? Is there any way to beat that or should you just retire and hang up your camera? I had shot a few images in the weeks immediately after the 2020 international entries closed which I did want to put forward, but more than that, I wanted to use the Regionals to test a few things.

Always a data geek. What can I say?!

So my test was simple – enter some safe shots, then push in 4 different directions with dogs only. Those directions were all technically sound, but visually they were different or potentially controversial in some way. They were:

  • Image with bright light bokeh behind the subject
  • Image of an urban pet portrait
  • Image of a “fun” studio action shot
  • Conceptual “fine art” type shot

The test was super interesting because I got a surprise! Amazingly, I ended up with these two ? but we’ll take a look at the images below:

So, the curveballs one by one as introduced above were as follows:

Test 1: Image with bright light bokeh behind the subject

Although this image achieved a merit score, interestingly the judge critique was not focussed on the background bokeh. I have tested this image in 2 other judged locations and it was binned off in the first, and deemed too distracting in the second. It was nice to see it do “ok” somewhere for once! Good test.

Verdict: Inconclusive – more to do ?

Test 2: Image of an urban pet portrait

Not placed with an over 80 score, this urban portrait of Bryt was shot in the December YouTube video – no specific faults but little in the way of impact which I think is what probably cost it. There was a note about the blacks detail under B’s head, on her neck, so definitely something to keep an eagle eye on next time.

Verdict: Worth an exploration, maybe with some additional scale or interest points, but unlikely to place well in this type of competition – potentially one for niche-specific awards?

Test 3: Image of a “fun” studio action shot

Not placed with an over 80 score this one, two comments in the critique were that the chorizo was little big and it was a shame Bryt’s back legs were not in the shot.

Verdict: Worth an exploration, but unlikely to place well in this type of competition.

Test 4: Conceptual “fine art” type shot

Well, this one went well. This one was a category conflict for me – portrait, or open? I spoke to some very experienced award guru’s and they felt that there was not “enough” added to switch it from portrait to open, so in portrait it went. Finn & the Fairy is an important piece to me but it’s probably a love/hate/marmite one for most people.

It ended up being liked enough for a high score, achieving merit, finalist and the winner in the pets category!

Verdict: Conceptual portraits are something to enter and test further which is probably a good thing given that I have a few in progress at the moment!

Alfie, Pippi & Twiggy were the other two Finalists in pets and equine respectively, and Mia with Solo took the Equine category win. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to recreate that shot of those two with anyone else!

Final results in the gallery here:

Thank you to the MPA President, Panikos, for such a great learning experience.

Two more titles to add to the list in the last 12 months – 2021 Northern Pet Photographer of the Year and 2021 Northern Equine Photographer of the Year.

It’s been a blast! Onwards!