The next generation

I had the privilege once again to be the judge for the San Joaquin County fair’s annual photography show. This year, show coordinator Mark Findlay asked me to judge pictures in the Youth Division, and I eagerly agreed. After having to make some tough decisions in last year’s adult show, I was looking forward to something a little easier.

The youth division was held under Danish judging rules (the first I had heard of it) which meant I could give any number of firsts, seconds and thirds. I simply divvied up the photos in each category into thirds. The top third got blue ribbons, the middle third got red ribbons and the bottom third got white. Gotta love the Danish for making it easy on me. There were plenty of times last year where I wished I could have awarded multiple firsts, seconds and thirds.

As you would expect, the younger age group were the least sophisticated, and as the ages increased, so did the level quality, but many photographers really stood out, regardless of age. There were many photos, across all the divisions, that could have easily done well in not only the adult amateur category, but even the more advanced adult open division.

After all the Danish judging came the hard part. I had to pick a “best of division” for each age group. No more giving a blanket of awards, I had to pick the best in each of four age groups. After much teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling, I was able to come up with 4 division winners. But after all that, Findlay informed me that I had to pick a “best of show.” So much for something easy.

Photo by Isabella Franzia

The first- through third-grade division winner was Isabella Franzia’s elegant photo of a rooster. Its nearly monotone scale of black, white and grays made the splash of color in the bird’s comb, beak and feet pop out. The graceful turn of its head completed the composition.

Photo by Liza B. Perkins

Liza B. Perkins’ portrait of a puppy captured the fourth- through fifth-grade division. The, tight shot of the tan and white dog’s face was simplicity itself, yet Perkins was able to catch the right moment to give him some personality. The in the way she captured him, he was no longer just an animal, but a pet that was part of someone’s family.

Photo by Brianne C. Hayn

A perfect moment was the signature of Brianne C. Hayn’s photo of a horse and rainbow in the sixth- through eighth-grade division. I loved the composition: how everything is so well balanced in the photo. From the other horses in the background to the main subject dominating the photo, to the faint arc of a rainbow leading to the horse’s eye, it’s the epitome of what legendary photogapher Henri Cartier Bresson called the “decisive moment.”

Photo by Heaven Kern

Creative vision is how I would describe the ninth- through 12th-grade winning photo by Heaven Kern. Appropriate to Kern’s name, at first glance the picture looks to be something celestial, perhaps a nebula of cosmic gas with a bright star shining through. There’s even a lens flare that looks as if it could be a rogue planet. Upon closer examination it’s actually the sun and clouds reflected in a shallow puddle on the ground with a leaf in the lower left corner as a reference point to the real world. It’s a perfect example of thinking creatively and seeing something that others would not even give a second thought.

It was really tough to pick just one winner, but in the end Hayn’s rainbow horse won out by a hair’s-width over Kern’s creative cloud reflection. If you’re out at the fair, check out the youth photography show, there are some great pictures there. Just make sure to make a note of the names of the young photographers, for they could be the next generation of contest winners.

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