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American Photo Open 2019: Meet This Year's Finalists

By David Schonauer   Tuesday October 15, 2019

The judges have spoken.

And today we reveal the ten finalists of the American Photo Open 2019 competition. Congratulations to Hardijanto Budiman; Julia Fullerton-Batten; Dean Gibson; Corina Howell; Zay Yar Lin; Rebecca Moseman; Tomas Neuwirth; Ernesto Ortiz; Md Tanveer Hassan Rohan; and Alain Schroeder.

All will have their work spotlighted in a variety of online venues and at a photo industry event in New York City. They will also pick up some very nice prizes from our partners: a Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD (Canon or Nikon mount), value $599, a SanDisk SD card, Skylum’s Aurora HDR, a PhotoShelter 1 year standard account and a Fujifilm XP130 camera.

And one will soon be named the grand-prize winner of the contest at our annual American Photography Party in New York City on November 7, taking home $5,000, plus a Tamron SP 70-200 F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 (Canon or Nikon mount), value $1299, a SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD, a Skylum suite of software( including Luminar, Aurora HDR and Photolemur, a Fujifilm X-T3 camera, a two-hour business consultation with The Photo Closer and a PhotoShelter 2 year Pro account.

This year as last, we received entries from all over the world, from photographers at every level, from amateurs and enthusiasts to pros. And, as last year, we were very impressed by the execution and imagination we saw. We want to thank everyone who entered. And remember, the AP Open 2020 contest will kick off next March.

Herewith, this year’s talented ten:


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Hardijanto Budiman: “Ping Pong Club”

“When I was young I used to be a ping pong player in my hometown club,” says Hardijanto Budiman, a visual artist based in Jakarta, Indonesia, “so when I thought of creating a personal photo series based on ping pong, I straight away executed the project." It was one of the colorfully conceptual images from that series, titled simply “Ping Pong Club,” that Budiman submitted to the AP Open 2019 contest. “I needed to provide all the accessories. That included a ping pong table I had to make,” he says.

An Indonesian Nikon Ambassador, Budiman shot the scene with a Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera and a 24-70mm lens. “I don't classify myself as ‘pure’ photographer,” he says.  “My works mostly is about representing imagination and emotion using a camera and other elements.”

See more of Hardijanto Budiman’s work at Instagram.


Julia Fullerton-Batten: “Tower Bridge”

“The River Thames is not even the longest river in the British Isles and a mere pygmy in comparison with many other rivers in the world, yet its significance to British and world history is immense,” notes fine-art photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten, who lives in West London, “just a short walk from the river.” Her proximity to the river and her interest in its history led her to create a series called “Old Father Thames,” a unique reimagining of true stories told through illustrative images shot in the visual style Fullerton-Batten is known for: richly detailed, meticulously staged, and cinematically lit.

One image from the series tells of a beach created in the shadow of London’s famous Tower Bridge and opened to the public in 1934. Fullerton-Batten chose to represent the beach in its 1950s heyday, with a cast of women and children in vintage swimwear and period dresses.

See more of Julia Fullerton-Batten’s work at her website.


Dean Gibson: “Strange Things”

Based in Lebanon, Ohio, digital artist Dean Gibson and his photographer wife Tracey are hoping to set up a commercial photography and videography business. “We decided to combine our talents and create something unique,” Dean says. The image they submitted to the AP Open 2019 competition certainly puts their talents on display. “We wanted to create something with the look and feel of the Netfilx’s show Stranger Things, without copying or using anything from the actual show. Everything we do is original content created by us,” says Dean, who spent  two weeks this summer scouting locations around Cincinnati. “I was looking for places that seemed like they were stuck in the ’80s,” he says.  He found what he was looking for in the town of Carlisle, Ohio. “Our ideas always start with an concept and then a sketch. We approach our photography much like an illustrator might,” he notes.

Gibson’s children pitched in: His daughter is the main character in the image, and his son is seen wearing a hazmat suit. Gibson created the third character in the image — the monster — using the ZBrush digital sculpting tool and the Octane Render rendering application. The final image was finished in late August — on the same day, Gibson notes, that he sent in the piece to the contest.

See more of Dean Gibson’s work at his website.


Corina Howell: “Jim Carrey at the Toronto Film Festival”

A professional photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, Corina Howell was covering the Toronto Film Festival on assignment for The Wrap, a Hollywood trade publication, when she photographed Jim Carrey, an actor renowned for his elastic visage, in a makeshift studio. “I had about five minutes with Jim to try to make something special,” Howell recalls. “He was very collaborative. He liked the idea of combining motion and still and would spin in circles, each time giving me a different face when turned towards me.” Howell shot with Canon 5D SR and a combination of Profoto strobes and an Arri SkyPanel LED light to achieve the motion-blur look.


“The biggest challenge with this kind of thing is the timing — you work with hundreds of actors a day, and each for only a few minutes at a time, during which you have to try to make them feel comfortable and at ease,” she says. “I joke around and try to get them to be as natural as possible. I really feel that you can tell by looking at a portrait whether the photographer and subject had a connection or not. My goal is always authenticity.”

See more of Corina Howell’s work at her website.


Zay Yar Lin: “Colors of Inle Fabric”

The winner of the inaugural 2018 edition of the AP Open competition, Myanmar-based Zay Yar Lin is a seagoing ship’s captain by day — a job that affords him the opportunity to refine his craft as a talented travel photographer. His winning image last year, ”Mending Fishing Nets," was taken in a fishing village in Xiapu County, Fujian Province, China. He earned a spot among this year’s finalists with a photograph shot during a trip to Inle Lake in Shan State, Myanmar, known for its handcrafted fabrics. “I saw local people drying colorful fabrics under sunlight near my friend's home. It was so beautiful to see many colors in one place and I asked permission to take photos with my DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone,” says Lin.

“It took me a while to find the perfect point of view because I wanted to get all of the fabrics in the frame. I had to imagine first and then flew my drone quickly because its battery life was only about 28 to 30 minutes.

See more of Zay Yar Lin’s work at his Instagram page.


Rebecca Moseman: “The Car Boys”

Based in Virginia, Rebecca Moseman is a graphic designer by trade. “But,” she says, “photography has almost become a secondary job for me. I took an Advanced Photoshop Techniques workshop at the Maine Media Workshops about eight years ago and had no idea it was focused more on photography than software. By the end of the week, I knew I found a new passion.” For the past three years she has been photographing Irish Travelers along with an Irish photographer. “We visit Traveler halting sites, roadside encampments and illegal encampments, as well as the Ballinasloe Horse Fair, the oldest and biggest horse fair in Ireland,” she says. It was at the Carrowbrowne halting site that she captured three Irish Traveler boys, Billy, Stephen, Paddy.

“They were using this abandoned car as their playground. They stood atop it, laid across it, hit it with baseball bats and sat inside of it. I think it was their way to combat boredom and vent frustration,” she says. During a moment in their play, Moseman asked them to engage with her. “Visiting and photographing the Travelers can be difficult at times. The children are sometimes uncooperative or unwilling to be photographed, but once you have spent some time with them, they become very trusting and friendly,” she says.

See more of Rebecca Moseman’s work at her website.


Tomáš Neuwirth: “Road Between Seasons”


Czech Republic-based landscape photographer Tomáš Neuwirth bought his first drone eight years ago, and it changed the way he works. Last January he used a DJI Phantom 4 drone to create an aerial image from about 100 meters over Vidly pass in the Jeseniky Mountains. “I took the winter photo at -10°C [about 14 degrees Fahrenheit]. Frozen fingers meant I could hardly change the parameters on the display. This place is very windy, quite unsuitable for drone photography, but I chose it,” he says.

Later, he thought about shooting the same pass in the summertime and combining the images. “For a long time I drove unsuccessfully to that place. It was either too windy or much sunny, with unwanted shadows,” he notes. In June he finally got the photo he wanted, using a DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone. Post-production, he adds, was a demanding task. “But nothing was done to the images themselves in Photoshop — the photos are only intertwined at the edges.”

See more of Tomáš Neuwirth's work at his website.


Ernesto Ortiz: “Holi Festival B&W”

“All of my life I have been a visual person and a storyteller. Photography is a way for me to tell a story,” says Ernesto Ortiz, an international personal development speaker and serious amateur photographer who divides his time between Miami and Guatemala. In 2018 he traveled to Vrindavan, India, to attend and document the annual Holi festival at the Banke Bihari temple. “Holi is the celebration of the love between Lord Krishna and Radha, and everyone goes to the temples to celebrate,” says Ortiz. Key to his success was his perspective on the event: “I was fortunate — by paying a little money, I was able to get to the balcony where I was able to take this photograph,” he notes.

He shot with either a Fujifilm X-T2 or X-T3 camera — he can’t remember now — and an XF 16-55mm f/2.8 lens. Technically speaking, he says, it wasn’t a difficult photo to shoot, as lighting conditions were good. “The hardest thing was being pushed and shoved by the huge crowds at the temple,” he says.

See more of Ernesto Ortiz’s work at Instagram.


Md Tanveer Hassan Rohan: “Red Chillies Harvesting”

Born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Md Tanveer Hassan Rohan currently lives in Los Angeles. “I am a dedicated professional photographer with seven years of experience,” he says. “I love to travel to different places and meet new people and enjoy the experience that photography offers. Children have always been a great source of my inspiration. Children are like blessings. Their innocence reminds me of the boundless character of mother nature.”

In 2015, a friend suggested that Rohan visit Bogra, Bangladesh, known for its production of red chillies. “He knew that I love to take photographs of workers. When I visited Bogra, I discovered that I could continue a personal project on Bangladeshi workers. Bogra's men and women work in red chilli farms on daily basis. They earn nearly $2 per day after 10 hours of work.” Rohan used a DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone to photograph women collecting red chillies that were drying under the sun. “I didn’t face much of a problem, except the hot weather. Sometimes it's very tough to stay all day long under the hot sun,” Rohan says.

See more of Md Tanveer Hassan Rohan’s work at his website.


Alain Schroeder: “Saving Orangutans 4”

Brussels, Belgium-based photojournalist Alain Schroeder has had his work published in more than 30 books focusing on China, Iran, the Renaissance, ancient Rome, the gardens of Europe, Thailand, Tuscany, Crete, Vietnam, Budapest, Venice, and more. His series on kid jockeys in Indonesia took first place in the Sports, Stories category of the 2018 World Press Photo competition. From October 2018 through April 2019, he was in Sumatra, Indonesia, to work on a project about the plight of the area’s critically endangered orangutans. While there he documented the work of SOCP — the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program, which provides medical care for orangutans that are rescued from the jungle or confiscated from private owners. Among other scenes, he photographed Dr. Andreas Messikommer, a renowned orthopedic surgeon from Switzerland, operating on a three-month-old female orangutan named Brenda, who had been confiscated from a villager on the west coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province. The humerus bone in her left arm had been snapped in two. Schroeder photographed the three-hour operation with a Fujifilm X-Pro2.

The main challenge he faced, he says, was obtaining permission to follow the SOCP team. But the project was also emotionally difficult — “especially,” he notes, “when a baby orangutan the team saved died in our car on the way to the hospital.”

See more of Alain Schroeder's work at his website.

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