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Letters & Opinion
Editors' Picks in
the 2008 Photo Contest
by co-editors Bob Alman and James Hawkins
layout by Reuben Edwards
Posted August 16, 2008


Related links
100 qualifiying photos in the 2008 contest
Finalists in the 2007 contest
Finalists in the 2006 contest


Croquet World's photo contest, in its third edition, is now a fixture of the mid-year croquet calendar, and this year's crop may be the best yet in their overall quality and variety. On the other hand, readers should know that the video part of our contest did not yield a satisfactory result; so we're deferring a report on the video results for later in the year while our expert judges prepare an on-line primer on how to produce short croquet videos - including their own productions. Once again, the final judges for the still photos are co-editors Bob Alman and James Hawkins along with layout editor Reuben Edwards, who selected the category finalists and arranged everything for permanent online display. The judges beg not to be judged too harshly, themselves, for their picks, and for being unwilling to choose an overall winner from among the excellent category winners. Can you blame us?

"Okay, everyone line up, tighter on the right, hold the trophy a little higher, now look at the camera, smile, and...." These instructions produce some really good pictures, some of which were sent to us, but we didn't choose them because it's hard to notice an exceptional photograph among the thousands of others with similar subjects snapped after the final peg-out of every tournament.

One of the judges suffers a deep aversion to "improved" photographs of any stripe; another to "arty" subjects obviously manipulated to resemble paintings; another to photographs of cute kids with mallets. At least one of the judges will not shrink from saying, "I don't know anything about photography, but I know what I don't like."

Our judgments are thus a compilation of subjective opinion, but with a single intention: showcasing photos we think are worth looking at - images that communicate something of the variety and glory and fun of a sport that is still, in this age of mass communication, much misunderstood and under-appreciated.

Most of the 100 qualifying photos were submitted by amateur photographers, a few by professionals. We chose not to distinguish them by categories of expertise: the images themselves rule our verdicts. Here are our favorites.

All the photos in this contest and article belong to the photographers and are published here by permission. They are reproduced here in low-resolution form suitable for the Web, but most are available in higher density from the photographer. If you wish permission to reprint, contact the photographer directly, or ask us for the photographer's email address if you don't have it. Click to "2008 Photo Contest Images" to view all the qualifying photos for this year, "2007 Photo Contest Images for last year, and "2006 Photo Contest Images" to view the photos from the 2006 contest.

Click on the images for a larger view. A new window will open.


REFEREE ON CALL

There’s a vogue this year for images of the “von Schmeider sweep shot”, and these two pictures together are a fine example. Ian Wright took these excellent photos with a zoom lens, in which WCF President David Openshaw both plays and referees the stroke. The only after-work was cropping and sharpening. Openshaw is on the right in both pics.

Here’s our first category winner, with Samir Patel’s clever framing. Samir describes the situation, in England's Spencer Ell "Eight", September 2006: "The player is David Harrison-Wood, being refereed by Richard Dickson on lawn 3 at Nailsea. The mallet is being squeezed between the hoop upright and David's left foot. Richard's face, while focused on the refereeing job in hand (under the old laws), just gives away the slight amusement of the crowd during the lengthy period of David's preparation. He hit."

Jeff Soo photographed his wife Eileen refereeing Marge Cramer during the 2007 North Carolina Club Teams tournament held in the North Carolina mountains - unprocessed other than standard color and exposure adjustments and sharpening.

SPECTATORS

"Let me explain the game..." "Life imitates art"
Heinz Hackl sent this superb spectator photo to us by professional photographer Brigitte Breznik, from Obersdorf, Austria, complete with a resident "expert" explaining the on-court action.
A first place rosette to Andrew Winn for this bit of whimsy from the Wrest Park July advanced tournament, 2008. A pair of white-clad figures seem to mock each other, echoed by other pairs of white balls and yellow clips. A irresistible opportunity well captured, but it’s a shame not to have Photoshopped out the ball-holder in the foreground.

GROUND APPEAL

This heavily and beautifully cropped horizontal has David Goacher on his belly lining up a rover peel to win his match with a triple in the Inter Club final between Bristol and Bowdon. By John Bevington.

Cameras love the ground positions, and so does American champion Jerry Stark, taking no thought of grass stains as he sets up what appears to be a very long rover peel in the Championship Final of the 2008 Meadowood Classic in California's Napa Valley. Congrats to Adrian Wadley for a winning image.

CROQUET BALLET

"Full body English" "The male half-pointe at apogee"
The body language seems to hint at either a narrow miss, or a narrow hit. We can only guess at what Stephen Mulliner is thinking, in what appears to be an extreme balance correction after a follow-through. By Brigitte Breznik, Austria, submitted by Heinz Hackl.
Photographer Tim King refuses to reveal the identity of the player, who on his follow-through achieves the half-pointe position often executed by male dancers, but seldom seen on the croquet lawn. Definitely a category winner.

CROQUET ART

"Escher Does Croquet" "The Hoops"
Honorable mention must be made of John Prince's photo of his own playful painting indicating what might be the mental state induced by telling your non-croquet-playing guest too much about your favorite game in one sitting.
One of two Duncan Hector shots shows hoops in alignment on two adjoining lawns with the foreground hoop framing a dynamic figure in white at the Letchworth Croquet Club.
Duncan Hector, with his prize-winning photo of "The Panther," provides a perfect opportunity to demonstrate some of the ways you could transform an "ordinary" image into one that might be created to hang with your favorite paintings. For the first stage, Hector made adjustments to the brightness, contrast and sharpness. The main effect was done using “edge enhance”. Hector commented, "The composition is very satisfying, but I wanted it to be iconic, and I think the adjustments have been successful. I particular like the angles, jaw, elbow, knee all working together - and see how he is supported by his toes, finger tips, and wrist. No wonder they call him Panther."

MACHO CROQUET

"This isn't the hoop we are looking for"


There could almost be a separate category for photos of Chris Patmore and Chris Farthing. Regular readers will recall their win in this category two years ago, wearing gorilla suits. It's another winning photo from Samir Patel. The figures are completely protected from public approbation for playing a game with an image far removed from that of football or hockey - but their suits limit peripheral vision. In addition to its macho character, the superb color palette and tone coordination of this prize-winning photo must also be commended. The photographer explains, "Stormtropper #1 (evidently Chris Patmore) has approached hoop 1 with Yellow, only to have his partner march on court to point out that the absence of clips would indicate that it’s the wrong hoop.”

REACTIONS

"There, there..." "An embarrassment of riches"
Photographer Tim King lets us know his photograph missed the full drama, when seconds earlier in the World Golf Croquet Championship 2008, Marcus Evans of England had rolled backwards in expressive disappointment, after walking up level with hoop 13 to discover that Helmi Abdelgayad (Egypt) had - incredibly - run the hoop backwards by just a few millimeters from 30 yards away and thus achieved an unbeatable position in the deciding third game of their first round match in the main knockout. Scorer Val Armstrong has walked over to offer scant consolation.
This charming pastoral composition, with its painterly quality, could easily be used as argument against a sport in which absolutely nothing appears to be happening. Only croquet players would know that having four balls all together can present an interesting challenge. One can almost see the wheels turning while the stock-still player designs his four-ball break from a standing start. By Liz Wilson, at the Crake Valley CC in July 2006.
"Ohmygodinheaven!"

Tom Anderson is a gift of a subject, and the category award goes to John Bevington, photographing the Wrest Park August 2007 tournament. He explains, "Tom Anderson had completely missed a short roquet. He does this from time to time." We all do it, from time to time, and when we do it, we feel the same pain.

IN SPITE OF THE WEATHER

"After us, the deluge" "Snow Pixie"
Mark Hamilton submitted this picture of himself at Surbiton on the Sunday of the Easter tournament, playing, he says, "just before lunch, when the heavens opened."
David Turner's oddly delightful portrait of a figure in rain gear was snapped at the Pendle Croquet Club John Beech Memorial Easter Handicap Tournament.
"Grooming the court"

Another David Turner photo at Pendle over Easter shows Dave Maugham (right center) playing a break while other players are clearing the lawn as he takes his shot. Croquet World readers may rightly infer that England's Easter weather in 2008 was not ideal for croquet.

THE NOVICE IN COMPETITION

Jeff Soo submitted this photograph by his wife, Eileen Soo, which Jeff acknowledges is not technically perfect, shot from across the court with a hand held camera in low light. Neal Deputy, playing his first tournament, has reached the finals in a handicap event at the Stoneridge Croquet Club in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His intense concentration shines through the low evening light.

THE SPORTING IMAGE

"James and Peter" "Croquet"
Photographer John Wall asks, "Which is more compelling: James Death completing a sextuple in the Plate semifinal at the World Champs in Christchurch, or Peter Parkinson driving past in his homebuilt Special?"
We endorse photographer Samir Patel's generalized title when he says, "I think this captures the sport in a single image - the precision of ball placement required, the isolation and 'you versus the lawn' feeling of a break in progress, and the color, quality and texture of the lawn." The shadow of hoop 3 can just be seen between the legs of Chris Clarke during the World Championship 2008, which he won.
"Hoop Approach" "Roll Action"
Yet again, Brigitte Breznik captures the essence with this composition showing Stephen Mulliner's close-up hoop approach in his winning bid to win Austria's 2007 "Wine Cup."
We've seldom seen the dynamic elements of the roll so clearly illustrated and well composed. This is yet another of the professional pictures of Brigitte Breznik, of Austria, submitted by Heinz Hackl, the player in the photograph.

"Croquet at the Meadows"

A variety of interesting photos of many textures and styles make this category difficult to judge. First place goes to Ian Wright for the brilliant juxtaposition of two different games at "The Meadows," a large park near the center of Edinburgh. In the background, the Scottish Masters is being hosted by the Meadows Croquet Club, while picnickers entertain themselves with a garden set in the foreground. Ian explains, "This was just a quick snapshot taken with my pocket camera on my way home. It required quite a big crop and a great deal of after work: thickening the wire hoops to make them more visible, moving the peg into clear sight, removing extraneous clothing on the ground, enhancing the colors by saturation and using the clone stamp tool at 500%, pixel by pixel. The players in the croquet club were not too easy to see, with a lot of their clothing in the shade, so I made them much whiter using the magic wand tool and levels. Finally, I used another layer to lighten the area at the top, behind the boundary fence, and also to darken the lamp near the top center."

FREEZE-FRAME ACTION

"Watching the champion" "It's called a split roll"
Johnny Mitchell brought everything into balance at just the right moment in this picture of Carolinian champ Paul Scott at the 2007 USCA Nationals.
Journalist John Ballentyne photographed Robert Lowe of New Zealand doing a split roll at the World Championship 2008 in Christchurch.
"Hard Drive" "Gotcha"
Alan Pearson was right on time with this snap of Jacky MacDonald in the Australian National Golf Croquet Titles of 2007.
It’s very much Samir Patel’s year, with a third category win, and this one is something special. The player is Marcus Evans at the 2007 Surbiton Golf Croquet Championship final, clearing a ball at Hoop 5. It’s uncertain whether Red scored the hoop


 
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