The 1524 Shootout competition is an annual competition that announces a theme and gives photographers 24 hours to submit a set of 5 photos on that theme.
I entered the competition for the first time this year. The theme was “Movement.” Here are the photos I entered:
As you can see, these are all photos of the D.C. Metro. The theme was announced on Monday at 5pm, and the photos were due on Tuesday at 5pm. I ended up only having time to photograph on Tuesday afternoon, and the only place that I could think of that would have motion (and be dark enough to leave my shutter open to capture the motion) was the Metro. So these shots were taken over the course of an hour at the Chinatown and L’Enfant Plaza stations, where I sat on a bench and put the camera under my feet and shot fairly unobtrusively.
I wasn’t at all happy with the photos, for several reasons:
- I wished I’d thought up, and planned for, a more creative interpretation of the Movement theme other than using the subway.
- These photos aren’t nearly as good as some of the Metro photos I’ve taken in the past – it’s a matter of luck and timing to get interesting things and people happening, and in a hour I had to struggle to get enough different shots to select a set of 5.
- I usually like to post-process my photos to enhance them, but this competition allowed only minimal post-processing (exposure and color correction but not much else).
So I came very close to deciding that I didn’t like the photos and therefore shouldn’t submit them, but then with 2 minutes short of the deadline, I decided to submit under the theory that following through on things is good for me. When I looked at them the next morning, I liked them a bit more, especially given the time constraints.
The competition was sponsored by Adorama and Visual Media One, and scheduled to coincide with Photo Plus Expo in New York, and the judging panel session was open to anyone to see live in New York, plus was live streamed. I watched the live stream with no expectations other than to see how the judges thought. But I became totally hooked as my photos unexpectedly made it through the first round of cuts, then the second round, then the third round. Finally, my set was cut when there were only 5 sets left.
There was a second judging on the photos as individual photos rather than as a set. The individual photo of my set that the judges liked was the last one. Again I was surprised that it made it as far as #4 before it got cut.
So why was I so discouraged about my photos, and then pretty elated to hear the judges praise them (“great composition”, “really artistic”, but then when cut “not enough movement”)? Well, I was realistic to think they weren’t great photos – the gap between them and the amazing photos that won was very large in my opinion. But I got quite far, I think, based on a combination of reasonably good photos and good judgment about how to comply with the theme and how to compose a set of photos. I credit that partly to my watching of Project Runway – while fashion is different from photography, the judges on Project Runway keep commenting on what makes a good “collection” and I’ve absorbed some of that knowledge and put it to use in composing the set and deciding how to order the photos in the set. And the main lesson I’ve learned is to not give up – it ended up being really exciting to enter and watch the judging, even though I knew from the beginning that I didn’t have any chance of winning.