Photographers working in black & white often say that colour is a distraction. When we remove colour from the equation, the rules of composition, framing and lighting shift their parameters and require the photographer (and viewer) to see the world in a different way. With everything pared back we tend to focus on the graphic elements of a scene in the form of angles, shapes, lines and textures. Light is another key factor here. When black & white and atmospheric lighting combine, the result can be very powerful. To hone your black & white skills it can help to look at the work of monochrome masters such as André Kertész, Bill Brandt, Michael Kenna and Sebastião Salgado. Toning is completely acceptable in this round.
Close-up photography allows us to explore elements of nature that might otherwise remain hidden from the naked eye. Subjects such as plants can provide a beautiful canvas of colour, shape and texture, and getting in close can reveal how seemingly disparate elements function together to form a cohesive whole. But we don’t just want you to focus on plants – we also want to see your close-up images of insects, shells, feathers, food, jewellery or anything else you care to scrutinise. When shooting a close-up picture, select your point of focus carefully and bear in mind that depth of field will be very limited, so take your time and use a tripod or beanbag where possible.
For this round we are looking for images containing people, whether that be in the form of a portrait, candid street scene, or carefully considered selfie. Bear in mind that there are expectations attached to portraits that can be somewhat intimidating. Drawing out the hidden qualities or character of an individual is not always easy. There are a number of things to consider, such as ensuring the correct focus and making sure that your images are not full of superfluous background detail that ends up fighting with your subject for attention. Great people pictures can be found in all walks of life, from family and friends to local shopkeepers as well as strangers.
If you like cityscapes or landscapes then this round is for you. The brief is purposefully loose, and we are happy to receive images featuring anything from contemporary architecture to grand, mountainous vistas. From the early morning sun throwing shadows onto a skyscraper, to the undulating form of hills receding into the distance, the possibilities are endless. Don’t be afraid to be abstract in your interpretation: architecture, for instance, is full of curves, lines and other interesting details. When it comes to shooting the landscape, light is everything – so pay attention to sunrise and sunset times, the weather forecast and tide timetables, where appropriate. Whether you go urban or rural, planning is a must.
Recording action and movement can be tricky, so be prepared to spend time experimenting. We are looking for shots of anything in the process of moving, from cars to animals, waterfalls or sportsmen. Alternatively you might decide to move your camera up and down or from side to side during the exposure to create an ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) shot. The choice is yours. If you want to transform water into a milky blur slow down your shutter speed and keep checking the results on screen. It can help to include a static object, such as a rock, in the shot too. Capturing movement is largely about trial and error.
Visiting somewhere new, whether it’s another city, country or continent, can really get the creative juices flowing. Every location has its own unique feel and photographing the buildings, landmarks, and people you encounter will help to convey the real spirit of a place. If you are looking for inspiration visit the oldest part of a location, and then the newest part. Alternatively, climb to the highest point, and look down on your temporary home. Get up early and visit a local market, or stay out late and shoot lights reflected in water. Talk to people – a smile can go a long way towards securing willing subjects. Try not to ‘steal’ a shot; be patient and courteous.