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Without a doubt, we saw more submissions last month than in any other month this year. Most were good, too.  It was incredibly difficult to narrow down the field, let alone select the top three. If you took the time to enter, good for you! Success, as they say, is 80% perspiration and 20% inspiration. It’s great to know so many of our readers are out there trying their hand at taking photos they can sell. Indeed, many of the entries are of salable quality — including the three winners… Without further a-do, here they are… ** First Place goes to jimemery for “Zebra Quad” ** Second Place goes to for cam2yogi “The Saints Red” ** Third Place goes to for Sophie4 “Friendliest Turtle” Our guest judge (who chose our first-place winner) was Rosalie Dale, winner of the prior month’s challenge. Read on for her insights about the top pick. FIRST PLACE — ZEBRA QUAD Fins, Fangs, Feathers and Fur “Without a shadow of a doubt, I can say I have never seen so many cute/appealing/fun animal photos together in the one place! What a challenge. “Knowing how difficult it is to snap great photos on the hop (as animals are not known to be the most cooperative of models), I take my digi-hat off to all who entered. There are some amazing catches. “While I ended up with quite a list of favorites, I must say I kept coming back to jimemery’s Zebra Quad. “Yes, there were others with more ‘cute factor,’ and some shots were very clever, but this one pulled together a heap of elements, which make the work a winner in my eyes. “The composition of the scene is simple — the sky, the zebras, and the long grass, all taken from the unusual low angle.  It would be difficult to top this photo, even with a staged setup. “To have all four animals making eye contact (I know eyeballing the camera is not always desirable, but in this case it really draws you in), and in a nice orderly group (notice the shorter zebras are on the ends AND they are standing in a dip in the grass!) is a coup.  The softer lines of the dry grass complement, rather than conflict with, the highly defined lines of the zebra-stripes. The sky works as a simple backdrop. “Depth of field is spot-on, colors are natural. “One of the things that really appeals to me is the sense that this is a strategic moment captured — they have stopped to stare out of curiosity, and now will they turn and bolt? Will they decide to ignore us and bend to crop the grass? Will they scatter and stir up a warthog and birds in the grasses? “If I had one ‘druther,’ it would be a slight tweak of the saturation levels, and a small crop off the right hand side. But on the scale of things, they are minor edits. “So congratulations jimemery — you have captured a moment in time that is truly unique. I’m finding myself continually composing captions for this shot — it will live with me for quite some time!” I quite agree with Rosalie and appreciate her in-depth look into her pick for first place. SECOND PLACE – THE SAINTS RED I loved this shot the moment I saw it, even as a tiny thumbnail. This past month’s contest was dedicated to the animal kingdom, but a few entries, like this one, included human animals as well. A big part of why I love this shot is that little girl. This shot has “story.” What I mean by that is that this image is more than just the pigeons and more than just the girl — take either one of them away and what do you have? You might still have a cute and or interesting shot but I am not so sure you would have the story factor. I also really like the post processing that has been done (Photoshop or Lightroom I am assuming). That along with the motion in the bird’s wings gives this shot a magical, dream-like quality. I would wish for only two small improvements with this photo — bear in mind that with this type of shot, “perfect” is rarely possible, much less achieved. But since I’m here to leave you with some lessons: I wish the little girl were one inch more visible so that her left ear and the curve of her face were all in the shot. And I wish the white pigeon and a few of the larger pieces of paper on the ground were not there or at least not where they are. But, as I said, those are small details and not deal breakers for me in this case. THIRD PLACE – FRIENDLIEST TURTLE The title of this shot really feels right to me. I think that turtle actually looks friendly. But regardless, the reason I picked this over several others (I had 15 shots in my “top 10” this time) was that it works in every way. The lighting is nice — something often hard to accomplish with the reflectivity of water. The shallow depth of field is wonderful, bringing us right into the friendly turtle’s face. And the tone of the image really works with the shallow depth of field to bring our eye right to the turtle’s eye. (Remember, our eyes are drawn to the greatest point of contrast in a photo. In this shot, the darkest point in this mostly light-toned shot is the eye.) And finally, this shot has really nice composition. The turtle has a place to stand and room to breath — notice how the turtle’s head (which is really the main subject here) is just about at the thirds line — that’s great positioning. Congratulations to all three winners! October is a freebie month — no theme to shoot for.  I’ll be busy looking through this year’s contest entries and deciding whether or not I want to add a few honorable mentions before we vote on the grand prize winner. Next week, I’ll send you instructions for voting.  As long as our website cooperates, you and your fellow readers will all have a say in who wins the $2,000 grand prize. [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

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