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Last month’s photo challenge theme was “Traditions” — and everyone must have been very busy with their own as we didn’t have many entries. Nevertheless, there were great shots among those who did submit entries. Here are the winners…

**First Place goes to dwphoto for “Thai Festival in Sydney”
**Second Place goes to pencraft for “Holiday Decorations”
**Third Place goes to LAGuzda for “Santa’s Snack”

Here is what Megan Wade, last month’s winner, had to say about her top pick of “Thai Festival in Sydney” by dwphoto…

FIRST PLACE – THAI FESTIVAL IN SYDNEY
“‘Thai Festival in Sydney’ was my favorite photo. These festivals are a great way to keep the old traditions of a culture alive. I fell in love with the colors first. I love the blue of the water and the glow of the candles on the faces. I also think the angles in the photo are great. The direction of the ladies and the hats draw your eye out to the lanterns as they float away. I do wish that the second lady had her head down a bit more to be in line but that most likely isn’t something that the photographer had control over. Even with that, every bit of this photo is still beautiful.”I agree it’s quite a beautiful shot, with nice lines and lovely color. The glow of the candles is particularly nice — it brings out the color in the women’s head pieces. I rather like the fact that the second woman is slightly raised up, a little more revealed, it breaks the pattern and she becomes a more dominate point of this photo, its primary subject. Had her head been down, however, as Megan pointed out, more in line with the rest, it would certainly have been interesting also.

SECOND PLACE – HOLIDAY DECORATIONS
The photo “Holiday Decorations” is wonderful in its simplicity. The shallow depth of field, with the focus on the mitten is great, yet in the background we can still make out the icicle and the snowy tree, giving this a real sense of a bright winter day. Weather it’s a decoration as the description states — and as the beaded hanging thread seem to indicate — or a functional mitten, it is certainly a symbol of winter and its many traditions.

THIRD PLACE – SANTA’S SNACK
I choose Santa’s Snack for third place for a couple reasons, first of which is that the shot tells a story. What I mean is that the image does a good job of bringing the elements together so we know on first glance exactly what this is. Cookies alone wouldn’t have done that, cookies and milk would be closer but still we might wonder… now add the note and we instantly know this story.

Secondly, I like the creative focus. This may have been done in Photoshop, but I kind of doubt it. It could also have been done with some unique filtering or perhaps another artistic approach like using a lensbaby. I mentioned lensbabies in the “fun and funky” section of my holiday shopping guide, in our archives here: http://tinyurl.com/yp93fg.

There are two things I wish were different about this shot. One is the lighting — it’s a little harsh. Though it looks like the flash was probably bounced (good) it is still a bit too strong and could use further diffusion. (More on diffusing flash here: http://tinyurl.com/232s9y .) And second, I would like to see more crop, getting in closer, or no crop leaving the front of the plate in the shot.

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Perry from Portland, Oregon, specializes in people photography, what she calls documentary or lifestyle portraits. She is known especially for her imaging of children. Shelly’s concern for people is reflected both in her sense of purpose and the images she produces. Her images have been seen all over the globe on music CD covers, books, magazines, catalogues, web sites, ad campaigns and even on TV. Her work has also appeared in several local exhibits and gallery shows.

Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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