Shane Gross on His 2017 Grand Prize Win by Sophy Nathanail

I mostly photograph underwater animals and habitats for conservation purposes so taking pictures above water (especially of people) is really frightening to me. I had gone to Cuba to photograph the sharks and crocodiles in the marine protected area known as the Gardens of the Queen, but decided to take a few days in Havana to try to get out of my comfort zone and shoot the street. I'm so glad I did! I tipped the odds in my favour by checking what time sunrise and sunset would be as that is usually the best light. Then I hit the streets in search of a nice background. When I found those beautiful pastel buildings I waited for the right car to drive by while panning my camera with the car and using a slow shutter speed on my camera. I took about 300 frames and this one was my favourite. 


My sister emailed me about this contest and I thought I would try it as I was fairly happy with my recent shoot, but never thought I would win. The first thing I did when I found out I won was email my sister. Of course, she reminded me that she has a $2400 finders fee. The prize could not have come at a more opportune time as I have been wanting to upgrade my camera equipment for years. My "old" camera limited me from taking low light pictures and I'm so excited to now be able to shoot the milky way and other brilliant night time shows. Thanks so much to the organizers, sponsors and, of course, my sister Shannon for this amazing blessing.

Follow Shane here:

Instagram and Twitter: @shanegrossphoto

The Importance of Composition by Sophy Nathanail

By Steve Speer

In my experience, there are two elements (and only two) to creating powerful photographic imagery. These are composition and light. Of course there are many other aspects to photography, such as ISO, aperture and shutter speed, but I consider these to be technical requirements and they all serve the purpose of helping to refine and define the composition.

Sometimes composition can be improved “post capture” by cropping and editing in Lightroom or Photoshop (or whatever program the user is familiar with). As I practicing photographer I have always found this method to be less than optimal and my preferred approach is to compose in-camera and use editing software only to enhance the image afterwards.

Photography to me is a slow process and I prefer to use a tripod, especially for landscapes. This method of shooting allows me to slow down and be ‘in the moment’ with my photography. It gives me time to scrutinize the image in the camera viewfinder and to really pay attention to what I’m seeing on the ground glass. I look at the edges of the frame and remove distractions by either zooming in or out on the image or by physically adjusting the camera placement. By composing in camera, I shoot far fewer images which makes me more efficient when I am working in Lightroom after I have returned from a photographic outing. I would much rather have 10 – 15 strong images from a photography session than to have 200 – 300 images which I have to wade through to find the good ones.

My general rules for composition focuses on four things which I learned from a photography workshop by Taz Tally.

These include:

1.Simplicity 2.Asymmetry 3.Sight (eye) lines 4.Point of view

  1. Simplicity; keep the number of image elements in your image to less than 4. Ideally have one primary element as well.
  2. Asymmetry; be aware of the rule of thirds and place your primary image element off of dead center (this rule can be broken when necessary)
  3. Sight lines; be aware of foreground, middle ground and background and know how to adjust depth-of-field to control these. Leading lines control how the viewer engages with your image(s)
  4. Point of view; Scale – large and small, unusual angles. Also, don’t be afraid to kneel or find a higher vantage point

Another major consideration for me is  – Why am I taking this photo? What caught my eye in the image and where do I want the viewer to focus? If you are uncertain about what the focus of the image is don’t shoot it. I often will enjoy a moment without taking a single photo because the light or timing is not right. Use your photography as a vehicle to connect with the world around you. This involves getting past the ‘looking’ stage to really ‘seeing’ and taking the time to think, not just about what you are shooting, but why you are shooting.

Hopefully these tips are helpful . . . happy shooting!

Steve Speer


Tips from a WOW Contest Judge by Sophy Nathanail

By Neil Zeller

I am a part of the judging team for the Worldwide WOW photo contest. I have been asked to share my tips on what we as judges look for when selecting the winners for this contest. 

First things first, we don’t know who you are. We are presented the images anonymously on a large screen. We start by going through all the images in all the categories in a single pass, as second or two per image, without offering comment or judgement.

Once we have seen all the images we run through them again, but this time offering a majority vote to select what images go forward to further judging. In this round we are looking for images that are simply striking at first impression. The ones that haven’t made the cut are typically ones that have poor focus, confusing subject matter or obvious composition challenges. We get stuck on some images, wishing that the photographer had cropped an image in a different way to avoid unsightly contrasts or eliminated unneeded objects that draw your eye away from the real subject.

After we have selected our majority favs, we spend a great deal of time on each remaining image, within each category. We are each rating these selects on a scale of 1 to 5, in 3 different categories: Technical (composition, technique, colors, etc.), Subject matter (as relates to the category) and Impact.

The group of judges have the liveliest discussions when it comes to the ‘Impact’ scale. We all come from a wide range of backgrounds, styles and professions within the industry. We are corporate photographers, designers, artists, news makers, etc. so we all have a different ‘eye’ for what we are seeing.

The Impact of an image can be anything, really. From something that no one else has photographed, to an image that we have all seen a version of, but technically this is the best one we have seen of this subject. There are moments in time, photographed, that catch our eye, and incredible interpretations of light and shadows that will win us over. We like sharp images, we like colourful images when the image is made best by the color, and we like black and whites when the colors add nothing to a story told.

The images that win this contest are never surprising in the end, even with some images being the subject of a great deal of discussions amongst us, where opinions (these are just opinions) can be swayed too! Some of us are experts in certain fields and can help the others to know how much amazing is in a certain image that maybe others might not understand. I know I have learned a great deal from my fellow judges over the past few years.

The one certainty at the end of the day is the winners are deserving of the prize and all the participants should be congratulated for putting themselves out there to be judged. We appreciate all the work that is put forward and wish only the best to all the participants!

Neil Zeller



Neil Zeller Photography

I see the world in 4×6 boxes

When I can translate what I saw into an image, so that you can see it too. To be able to share a moment like that, exactly like I experienced it, is what photography is all about to me.

Proud Calgarian.

I want to show you what I see, the way I see it.

I am a family man first. My talented wife of 19 years and incredible 8 year old son are my world and the source of my greatest pride in life.

Photography is where I cleanse my spirit, nourish my soul and am truly happy. I see the world around me in 4×6 boxes. My eyes capture wide angles, interesting corners, beams of light and faraway things. My goal is to capture in my camera, the story my eyes could never tell you.