Gillian Fintelman and her husband were “trying to have a moment on the dock,” at their Loon Lake, Ont., cottage last Thanksgiving, “and the kids came down with their fishing poles.” Gillian hadn’t planned on photographing six-year-old Madeline, “but the lighting was just so beautiful.” The photo was a success; the fishing attempt was not. “It’s actually a leaf that she caught.”
Silhouettes are common photo subjects, but this one is especially strong. It has a cinematic feel to it: There’s the flat lake, the warm sun, and the steely sky, with the action driving up and to the right. (Subconsciously, we have a tendency to compose images this way, from left to right.) The arc of the rod completes the picture. Without it, the photo would be static. Terrific job.
Near sunset, Nauni Parkinson gathered with friends at the firepit of her mother’s Marble Lake, Ont., cottage. “I said, ‘Everybody hold your legs still!’” Nauni, who likes to take shots that “tell a story,” used a point-and-shoot camera (her first digital). “Then we had to put on our socks. The mosquitoes were coming.”
Good instincts, Nauni. A lot of people take pictures of “stolen” moments; this is an “every” moment. It feels like a modern picture. Ten years ago, we wouldn’t have seen this shot. Overall, it has all of the elements of a solid photo. It’s in focus, the flames are bright, and there’s a warmth to the scene. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Dominique Zwicker, 15, took this photo of her cousin Ryan (also 15) late one afternoon at her family’s Lake William, NS, property. She chose black and white because she “thought it gave more contrast to the picture.” To hone her skills, she studies others’ images, and looks up tutorials on YouTube. “And I definitely like to experiment with photos.”
Experimenting pays off: Black and white was a great choice here. It creates calmness. We also like how Dominique used a low angle, so we’re not seeing beyond the horizon. That keeps the viewer focussed on Ryan and the water. The early evening light is lovely; it’s a side light, instead of directly overhead.
Hannah Lewis-Darnell, 14, admits that she couldn’t really see what she was doing when she shot Leo, an eight-year-old friend of the family, at a cottage on Bass Lake, Ont. “I guess it just sort of happened,” she says. Afterwards, she loved the reflection she saw in the photo, and “the fact that you can see his face both ways.”
Hannah’s right: Without the reflection, the image would not have had the same level of interest. Underwater photos are not uncommon, but this one caught our eye because of that clever composition: half underwater, half looking up from below. The soft diffused light and warm tones, and the texture of the bubbles, make the image pleasing. Good light balance is hard to achieve in this situation, but Hannah did it.
Malachai Heron, 15, a Georgian Bay cottager, was on the deck reading when he saw the spider. He got “about an inch away” and used his DSLR’s “basic starter kit lens,” which, when reversed, works as a macro lens. Apparently, this spider was not at all camera shy. After the photo shoot, “it hid in my camera,” he says.
This photo is neat because there’s no context. You can’t tell how big the spider is or where it’s sitting. Yet, there’s no icky quality to the shot. Technically, this is a very tough picture to get right, but Malachai pulled it off. With close-ups, you want to see the highest area of interest in focus; 90 per cent of the time, that’s the eyes. Who knows, maybe people won’t step on spiders so much after they see this photo!
What was supposed to be a “nice sunset photo” turned into calamity as Shauna Donaldson took this shot of her sister and a group of friends during a girls’ weekend at the family cottage on Lang Lake, Ont. “They turned to look at me on ‘three,’ and then they all fell,” says Shauna. Only Bella the dog stayed dry; all four women tumbled off the paddleboard, into the lake. (But two of them saved their drinks.)
This kind of thing happens all the time at the cottage, but we have never seen this picture before. It’s a moment gone awry, captured here in a great snapshot. The photo is nice and close, so we can see all their expressions, and the warm evening light makes the colours pop. We love Bella, off to the side. The situation has nothing to do with her, yet she’s important for the photo. She’s a foil to the action. Great job, Shauna.
“Kids tend to make good subjects, no matter what,” says Allison Forster, who shot three-year-old Adi, the daughter of a friend, at a Lac des Loups, Que., cottage. “I thought the way she was standing with her back to the light was great, so I got down low, at her level, and took the photo.”
We see a lot of kids and frogs, but this picture has it all. The composition is very strong, and the photo is backlit, so you’ve got the beautiful light in Adi’s hair. But her face isn’t in shadow because the light is bouncing off the net. Whether that’s by design or accident doesn’t really matter. Bravo, Allison. We couldn’t improve on this shot if we tried!
During an afternoon day trip from her Williamsburg, Ont., cottage, Kayla Barby wanted to show her boyfriend Sauble Beach. Then, the fog rolled in. “It was crazy. You couldn’t see anyone until you got close to them.” The McMaster University student, who says that she’s loved taking photos ever since she was little, used an SLR that her sister bought her three years ago (after winning the lottery!). “We were so cold. It was not a nice day at all. But I ended up getting a nice picture out of it.”
We agree. The photo has a great mood, and a neat, old-timey feel to it. It captures an unusual moment—everyone is going about their business, but there’s this strange daytime fog—and it makes you want to be there. Kayla achieved strong composition here by keeping the horizon low. And we love how the birds are almost arranged in the sky, breaking up the blank space. The monochromatic colour palette is incredibly appealing.
Sandi Jenkinson was at her sister’s cottage on Loon Call Lake, Ont., with son Cole, 8, when she snapped this shot with a waterproof camera. “It was one of those super-hot days, and Cole was getting bored,” explains Sandi. “So, we started tossing him into the water. He found it very exciting—obviously.” Sandi claims she’s no good with electronics. “It’s just really lucky it turned out pretty well!”
It can’t all be luck. This photo could have been shot by one of our pros. It’s that good. It captures the height of the action, it’s pin-sharp and, compositionally, it’s as though Cole is framed in the V between the trees, with a spotlight around him. We like that there’s so much “picture” in this picture: The details you see at the side, such as the boat, make it a real snapshot of cottaging now, in 2012. As for Cole, he has that “waterlogged kid” look, like he’s been in the lake for hours. That’s so cottagey.
Over March break, 15-year-old Jackson Topo, usually “too busy with hockey” to be up at his family’s Lake Panache, Ont., cottage in winter, followed his husky, Chinook, onto the lake, snapping photos with a DSLR he’d received as a gift last Christmas. “I saw her heading out towards the island, and I wanted to get that in the background. I thought she looked like a statue. She’s almost posing.”
No question, the best photo in the contest! This is a shot we’d be thrilled to have taken ourselves. Technically, it’s spot-on: Great job using depth of field. Chinook is in focus, with a little bit of softness behind her. With everything sharp, she would have melted into the background. And a centred composition, with the trees behind her, was the right choice here. Jackson has also captured a time of year we don’t usually see in this competition.
Pine Lake, Ont., cottager Brian Lytle achieved this clever shot by mounting a camera to the front of the Sea-Doo and setting it on a timer. His dog, Dexter, was completely game. “He just loves to do anything that I’m doing,” says Brian. The shot took a few tries to get right. “It’s not like I’m especially skilled,” he admits, “but I do take about a gazillion photos.”
It takes you a minute to realize what’s going on here, and then you think, Wow, that’s cool. We love it. The photo has great cottage elements: the spray of water, the bright colours; and Brian used a fish-eye lens to capture both the lake and the sky. The wide angle adds to the humour. Plus, Dexter’s wearing a PFD, so the photo conforms to all the Cottage Life safety requirements.
Bad weather meant a good photo op for Sharon Foster. “It was a grey, rainy weekend, and I didn’t feel like playing Scrabble anymore,” says the Pringle Lake, Ont., cottager, who, while wandering around the property, saw this leopard frog in a wet drainage ditch. She used an older-model point-and-shoot camera, but no special lens. “I wanted to see how close I could get before he moved. And he didn’t!”
Good work, Sharon. This shot is crisp and clear, and the depth of field and sharpness are excellent. It’s not just another photo of a frog. He’s colourful, of course, but here, it’s the background that really makes the photo a success. We like the shape of the water around the frog, and the reflection of the grass in the water. Look carefully: That reflection follows the shape of the frog. The image immediately jumped out at us as being different.
Janet Labovich was on the deck on a cold spring morning, “in my pajamas,” watching the birds, when she used a 55mm to 200mm zoom lens to capture this little guy. She enjoys taking photos at her Lee River Place, Man., property. “At the lake, there are just
so many things to see that you don’t see in the city. Here, it’s like the robin was saying, ‘Where’s my breakfast?’ It was so nice to see a sign of spring.”
Judges’ comments Absolutely! This photo gives us a good feeling: The robins are back! The muted background colour is lovely. It contributes to the mood of the image. And the branch going horizontally across the shot breaks up the vertical lines—that makes the photo more interesting. The picture wouldn’t be nearly as nice without it.