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American Photography 2018 Open: Mermaids, The Milky Way and Hollywood.

By Jeff Wignall   Monday June 18, 2018

It’s been a really fun and exciting month as we reached the halfway point in the inaugural American Photography Open  contest. The competition has truly become a global event: In the past month we’re received entries from Europe, South America, Asia and, of course, all over the United States. The creativity that we’re seeing is quite amazing and we thought you might be inspired by seeing three of the standout images from this month’s entries:


Jose Maria Perez: Sirenas

Unexplained mystery lives not only in the deep night sky above but is hidden in the ocean deep, as well. And photographer Jose Maria Perez’s image “Sirenas” is certain to pique the imagination of anyone who has ever pondered the existence of mermaids!

The image shows a group of onlookers cautiously examining what looks like a mermaid brought ashore by a local fisherman. “It is indeed a mermaid — if you really believe in mermaids of course,” says Perez. “The shot is a part of a series called ‘fairy tales,’ and this particular element is about the myth of the mermaids.”

Perez photographed the shot, in part, while traveling in Patagonia. “I live in Buenos Aires, but the location in the background is the coast of Chiloe island, in Chile (South Patagonia),” he says. The photograph is a “mix” of both found and set-up visual elements.

“It is a collage — the boat and the beach, the wooden house (which is a church) in Chiloe, and the people from Buenos Aires where I live. One of them is actually a fisherman,” Perez says. He created the collage by cutting and integrating the elements, color adjustments, the mood and the stormy sky in Photoshop 3, he says.

So what say you? Do you believe in mermaids? Perhaps Perez has sparked your interest in the topic. You can follow his work on Instagram  and see more of his images on Flickr.


Brandon Erdman:  Lake Tahoe Nights


Of all the subjects that we photograph, surely the nighttime sky is among the most mysterious and beautiful, as photographer Brandon Erdman’s shot of the Milky Way over Lake Tahoe shows. “Night photography is one of my specialties that I am very passionate about,” says Erdman. “I make a good portion of my living as a photographer and I am hoping to transition into a full-time photo career in the near future.”

As anyone who has attempted astro photography knows, getting good photos of the nighttime sky usually requires extra effort in terms of finding locations that offer the necessary dark skies—in this case, Bonsai Rock at Lake Tahoe. “Bonsai Rock is an iconic location on Lake Tahoe’s northeastern shore. I’ve been there several times to shoot the night sky over the clear blue waters,” says Erdman. “To reach Bonsai Rock you have to find a parking spot on a narrow turnout and scramble down a steep and rocky trail to the lake edge.”

Capturing the color and the drama of such scenes also involves special technical considerations in both exposure and in editing. “For this image I took eight separate 20-second exposures back-to-back at f/2.8 at ISO 3200 and stacked them in Starry Landscape Stacker software to reduce digital noise. I then edited them in Lightroom,” he says. “I use the PhotoPills app to plan my shots and pre-visualize the alignment of the galaxy before I shoot.” Cool shot or what?

You can follow Ermand’s work at Instagram  and on Facebook. Also see his work here.


Luc Mena: Behind the Hollywood Sign


Often some of the most arresting photographs that we see are those that reveal familiar sights from an angle that we’ve rarely seen before. Take Luc Mena’s photograph of the iconic Hollywood sign, for example. We’ve all seen hundreds of photographs of the front of the sign, but when he photographed the landmark, Mena decided to show us a view that is rarely captured.

“I wanted to shoot behind the sign because I thought it would be cool to show it with a different perspective,” he says. “I had seen something similar to what I was after, but always with the fences that surround the sign in the frame, so I wanted to shoot the sign without those fences as if you were standing right next to it.”

Of course, envisioning such a unique shot and capturing it are two very different things. “Getting there was a moderate hike of about 45 minutes, but once there I realized that the fence was way higher than my tripod could reach,” he says. “I had to hand hold my camera above the fence not really sure if my shots were focused and composed properly, it was kind of a guessing shot.”

Mena says he shot for about an hour, but it wasn’t until he got home that he knew he had captured the shot he saw in his mind’s eye. “I was looking for that golden light that lasted only for a few minutes, and as soon as I saw it I knew that was the winning shot!” he says.

See more of Mena’s work at Instagram and at his website.

So what artistic and technical challenges have you mastered to capture images that previously existed only in your mind’s eye? We’d love to see the results! Remember, the final contest deadline is August 24, 2018. You can enter as many images as you want, but our special discounts are only available through July 1, so no procrastinating. GO HERE  for more information!

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