PetaPixel

Crop Don’t ‘Shop: How One Photog Had His Winning Nat Geo Contest Photo DQed

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Winning the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest is a pretty incredible feeling. Being disqualified 72-hours later for a minor editing decision… that one doesn’t feel quite as good. But that’s what happened to photographer Harry Fisch who, for a few glorious days, was living every Travel Photographer’s dream — shortly followed by their worst nightmare.

The story goes something like this. Shortly after returning from his latest photography expedition with Nomad Photo Expedition, he received an e-mail from Nat Geo. For a moment he let himself believe he might have been lucky enough to make the top ten, only to open the e-mail and find out he had won the entire contest.

Of over 22,000 entries from 150 different countries his photo (above) had been chosen as the best. The next few days flew by in a blur as Fisch sent off the required materials to Nat Geo and began telling his closest friends. He was even preparing to write a press release for when the prize was officially published. But then he received another e-mail — this one told him he was disqualified.

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It turns out he had removed a plastic bag from the right edge of the original photo (above), something strictly against the the contest rules. He could have cropped it out. He could have darkened or burned the bag into near non-existence. The only thing he wasn’t allowed to do was digitally remove it.

He immediately sent out several e-mails to Nat Geo photographers and even senior photo editor Monica Corcoran, but the damage was done. Corcoran’s reply was sympathetic, but there was nothing she could do.

Ultimately it’s a lesson to us all: read contest rules carefully. Even Corcoran admitted that cropping the bag out or even leaving it in would have “had no impact either way,” but the rules are the rules and other photographers in the past had been disqualified for similarly minor alterations, no exception could be made.

Still, the photo remains as an example of exceptional photography, validated by the highly critical eyes at Nat Geo even if it was ultimately disqualified.

National Geographic, how I won and lost the contest in less than one second [Nomad Expediciones Fotográficas Blog]


Thanks for sending in the tip, Leigh!


Image Credits: Photograph by Harry Fisch


 
 
  • http://twitter.com/inrsoul Kevin Lee

    I agree. If it doesn’t appeal to the casual viewer and only just to other photographers, what value is there? Photographs should hold meaning and value to everyone and not just photographers, pros and enthusiasts alike.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Rafael1720042004 Rafael Barajas

    looking trough both photos he cropped out part of another boat on the left side.

    idk about you guys but it seems like he raised up the contrast and the vibrance to take off some of the mist that you can see trough out the photo. (looking trough mbp retina screen)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Rafael1720042004 Rafael Barajas

    looking trough both photos he cropped out part of another boat on the left side.

    idk about you guys but it seems like he raised up the contrast and the vibrance to take off some of the mist that you can see trough out the photo. (looking trough mbp retina screen) its still a nice photo though.

  • Matt

    At first I thought he was disqualified over the lighting.

  • http://www.commatose.ca/ Nikki Comma

    I like this photo. It’s too bad he was disqualified for something so trivial. Rules are rules I guess.

  • Marcusclicks

    He had it in the bag!!!

  • Robertjm

    There is ZERO way that a 72dpi photo posted on the web can be compared in any way to what must have been submitted to the contest. Web quality and high res quality aren’t in the same ball park.

    That said, I’m surprised he didn’t crop out the bow of the boat on the far left side. It could have been removed at the same time as cropping removed that blasted bag, and perhaps a small amount of the foreground.

    In any event, it’s a pleasant photo to look at.

  • Joel Wexler

    Where do you draw the line? If I change white balance, curves or sharpen, am I not a photographer? Adams manipulated negs, I supose he’s not a photographer.

  • jtmon

    72dpi, the OLD standard. Most monitors these days show 100+ dpi, adjust your editing accordingly and try to keep up with the changes.

  • jtmon

    Yes, learn that while Trey Ratcliff got famous after cheating at a contest and not getting disqualified for his edits. Think I’d rather take my chances.

  • Robertjm

    Not exactly sure what you’re talking about with the phrase “your editing.” This isn’t my photo. And I was referring to the webpage, which typically has content displayed at 72dpi for the web.