Sometimes a photograph will capture a difficult subject so perfectly as to cause a sense of wonderment in those who view it.
That was the case with many of the photos displayed at this year’s Grundy County Corn Festival photography show, particularly the Best in Show winner — Whitney Sulwer’s close-up shot of a mother barn swallow fluttering in mid-air, feeding her three babies, their mouths wide open in anticipation in their mud and straw nest on the wooden plank wall of what seems to be a barn.
Margo McIntyre, co-chair of the show, said she could tell the picture was a difficult one and was captured beautifully.
“Nature is really popular with the judges,” she said, “and birds are hard to catch. With these, there are catch lights in all of the birds’ eyes, and all of them are in focus. The babies are the center of focus.”
Robert Engle, of Morris, took several first place awards in the show, including one in the landscape category for his farm scene with a detailed red barn set in fresh green wheat fields on rolling hillsides.
“It was in the Palouse area in Washington state,” Engle said, “during a photography workshop.”
Engle, a dentist by profession, said he has only gotten into photography in a big way the last five or six years, after raising his family. He loves it and is a member of the Morris Camera Club, as is McIntyre.
His farmscape photo was taken on an early morning in June with dark clouds in the background sky.
“You can take photos anywhere or anytime,” he said. “You just have to know what to look for.”
Engle said he spent a couple of hours at the site with his photo buddy. When the clouds moved out, he moved behind the barn to shoot some machinery that was against the barn.
“It’s my artistic thing,” he said of his hobby. “I spend most of my time on the science side of things. This is kind of a cross between the scientific and the artistic side of things.”
Engle also entered a third-place jellyfish photo and a first place black and white of a Civil War actor portraying General Lee. His special effects shot of three drops of glycerin on a long leaf with the drops refracting a floral scene in the background took first place, as well.
McIntyre said when digital manipulations of photographs became popular, the show had to make some rules. Any photo in any category can have some software manipulation, she said, but unless they are entered in the special effects category, they must maintain a natural look.
Photographers often use software to alter the sharpness of a photo or the color balance, contrast, saturation or hue, she said.
Betty Zappia took first place in the architecture category with her Asian-inspired Hawaiian house. McIntyre took first in the farm scene category with an Ohio farmhouse and barn barely dusted with a fresh snowfall. Gina Misek, of Morris, took first place in the youth animal category with her photo that was said to have great detail and very good color. Gina has any eye for her subject, McIntyre said, which she photographs off center.
Matt Sweeney, of Carpentersville, took first place for youth scenic category with his bench against a rural black and white background. Kyle Muilenberg, of Morris, took first in the youth miscellaneous category for his white daisy with a host of blurred daisies in the background.
McIntyre said the show was down by about 200 entries from last year, although she wasn’t certain why. In particular, the youth category was down by half this year, but the show was still a success, she said, with hundreds of entries and a constant stream of viewers.