Revealing the Best (and Worst) Candidates from the 2024 Calendar Survey!

by | Sep 15, 2023 | Updates & Opportunities | 0 comments

The results have come in! A big thank you to all who participated in the survey of candidate photos for the soon-to-be-released Lenspiration 2024 Calendar. Seeing your ratings and reading your comments was extremely helpful. It was like getting good critique on my photos!

To see how I processed the results from the survey to determine what were the best and worst photos, I used the exact same formulas as I did last year. You can read more about them in last year’s blog post.

But there was something I did do a little differently this year. I included some comparisons in the survey that I hoped would give me some intel for future surveys.

Like, perhaps you noticed I included two very similar photos in the survey.

220815_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200220815_James Staddon_5525 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24 mm, 1-4 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200

Same scene, same basic angle. Candidate #14, the brighter one, is a single exposure, exposed for the foreground. Candidate #13, on the other hand, is a merge of three exposures that allows for one to see the epic sunrise that I had climbed half an hour straight up the mountain in the dark to capture. Since the “light and airy” effect is so popular in portrait photography, I wondered how folks would respond to the same effect in landscape photography. Here’s how they scored:

First comparison

“True Star” is the actual star-rating of a photo in comparison to all other photos in the survey, 0.0 being the lowest rating and 5.0 being the highest rating.

For this scene, with participants being able to see both side by side, the traditional high dynamic range won out handily. Since this is a survey of potential calendar photos, I think people want to see the frame filled. They want something they can look at and enjoy for an entire month. Portrait photos have a clear subject, so washing out the background is a good way to minimize distractions. But for landscape photos, the sky is often an integral element. And just like any other compositional element, the sky should be purposely composed to prevent it from being a distraction.

Now, this doesn’t mean that bright, washed out skies should not be a tool in the landscape photographer’s back pocket. Candidate #15 underscores this fact. It scored almost as well as the multi-exposure merge of the previous scene.

2nd photo

Here’s another comparison.

3rd set

Three very similar scenes, all taken on the same beach on the same evening. Each one has its own look and feel, and I was having a hard time deciding which one I should use for a calendar. I obviously couldn’t use all three!

Well, this time the survey didn’t seem to be all that helpful at first. Candidates #24 and #25 both score at 3.2 of 5 stars. However, the fact that #24 received four 1 stars and fewer 5 stars than #25, which has zero 1 stars . . . that’s fairly significant! It’s not the highest rated photo in the world, but I can choose #25 over the other two with relative confidence now. For a calendar, at least.

A third comparison was candidates #10 and #11.

4th comparison

Before getting anyone else’s input, I knew I liked #10 better. I purposely include foreground elements to help fill the frame and provide depth perception as best I could. I threw #11 into the survey to see what other people thought, though. Was I the only one that thought the foreground elements were a good thing?

Nope. It appears that, for a calendar, the majority were thinking along the same lines. #11 is a gorgeous photo and would make a fantastic wallpaper, but because of the depth-less composition, it lacks the wow factor needed to get it hanging on a wall.

In addition to seeing the results from the comparisons, it was really neat to see some common threads come out in other photos.

For instance . . .

220627_James Staddon_5187 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-10 sec at f - 22, ISO 100

For candidate #1, multiple people mentioned the fact that they didn’t like the water for a couple different reasons. That, combined with the composition, influenced multiple people to use the word “basic” in describing their impression of the photo.

220720_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 64 mm, 1-13 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

Multiple people mentioned that Candidate #6 didn’t feel level. Believe it or not, before reading those comments, I never noticed the trees leaning out or the horizon not being level!

221015_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 200

I also loved some of the comments made about candidate #20. “My eye tries to follow the stairs downward and right, but I know it should go up. Feels contradictory.” And, “I feel like I’m falling!” And, “I don’t understand this one; it confuses my brain.” Of course, being there on location, standing on the fire tower enjoying the mesmerizing sunrise, none of these thoughts crossed my mind. So grateful for critique!

201013_James Staddon_0898 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 97 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 100

And this last one, I thought it was uncanny how many people, of their own accord, completely separate from each other, said the exact same thing about it. “It almost makes me feel sad when I look at it.” “It’s a thoughtfully sad picture.” “Nice picture, but sad.” Wow. That will surely influence any caption I decide to write for that one in the future!

But, high time to reveal the best and worst photos from the survey!

The highest rated photo of all, the only 5.0 star rated photo, is this gorgeous photo taken in West Virginia. Standing on the side of the road.

221015_James Staddon_7173 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 65 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100

Close behind, at 4.5 stars, was the following shot taken late morning at one of the most picturesque places I was in 2022, Letchworth Falls State Park in New York:

220712_James Staddon_9530 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 16 mm, 1-1600 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 100

And which candidates were the worst? At least, for a calendar?

Receiving zero 5 stars and a record 19 1-star ratings, this fantastic wallpaper (ahem) photo was taken in Arizona. Along the side of the road.

220720_James Staddon_9701 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 34 mm, 3.2 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

And these other 4 got the next lowest scores. What do you say, shall we recycle them as wallpapers too? Smile

6th comparison

I’d show you more of the highest-rated photos, but that would give away too much ahead of my calendar announcement! Stay tuned. In next week’s blog post, I’ll announce the 12 winning photos that I decide to use in the Lenspiration 2024 calendar!

If you didn’t know about this year’s survey soon enough to be able to participate, you can sign up for notifications about future calendar surveys here.

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