Grand Prize in Photo Contest goes to Melanie Bell

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Melanie Bell of The Palm Beach Daily News, Palm Beach, Fla., has been awarded GRAND PRIZE honors (as well as first-place in the features category) in SNPA's annual Photo / Video Contest.

The photo shows two women reaching across the aisle to join hands during a prayer at an anti-gun concert.

One judge said: "This photo captured a compassionate moment and told a big story in its simplicity.  Black, white – it does not matter.  Gun violence impacts all of us."

Another judge added: "The photographer did a nice job capturing a moment when community members came together."

"The quality of work this year was incredible," commented one of the judges.  "I gave points for spontaneous photos, when you capture a special moment, over photos that were planned.  Photographers should look for something different – the shot that no one else is looking for, like behind the curtain at a big show or preparation for a big event or staying around to catch a moment no one else would see."

Awards and certificates will be mailed to all winners by the end of this week.

Spot News:

First-Place - Tommy Metthe, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock

Barry Arthur, assistant managing editor photo/electronic media with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, told the story behind Metthe's photo.  "We learned about the explosion near Camden, Ark., shortly after 8 a.m. Camden is around two hours south of Little Rock and we weren’t sure how much access we would have at the scene. We considered sending one of our staffers who has remote pilot certification and could fly our drone, but neither were available. And it would take them two hours to get to the scene. So we instead fell back to a tried-and-true method we knew would get a photographer to the scene quickly and produce a striking image; we chartered a small plane. Tommy and the pilot were able to circle the scene of the explosion get plenty of striking photos and return to the office, all within a couple of hours."

Judges said:

  • Taking the photo from above gives the reader a better grasp of the destruction.
  • We thought this was an excellent way to show the scene.  We didn't know if it was taken with a drone, from a fixed wing aircraft or helicopter.  But it really didn't matter because it did an excellent job showing readers the scene of the explosion in a way you'd never get from the ground.

Second-Place - Allen Eyestone, The Palm Beach Post, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Judges said:

  • A scary night no doubt and you can see that from the chaos and expressions on faces in this photo.
  • There were a number of images submitted from this same event.  We felt like this photo communicated the sense of urgency better than the rest.

Third-Place - Mike Simons, Tulsa World, Tulsa, Okla.

Juges said:

  • Photographer caught a moment that shows the impact of flooding on a family.
  • It was all about the composition and timing for us on this one.

Sports:

First-Place - Scott Rogers, The Times, Gainesville, Ga.

Judges said:

  • An incredible photo that shows the grit, some pain and determination in each players' face and body language.  The location of the ball is perfect.
  • I liked how all four players – and the ball – came together at the same moment.  You can see all their faces.  Nice job finding a unique vantage point.

Second-Place - Bill Mitchell, The Villages Daily Sun, The Villages, Fla.

Judges said:

  • The composition of the photo and the sparks flying made it difficult not to study.  A super shot that highlights the action and dangers of the sport.
  • We have all seen NASCAR crash photos, but the sparks did it for us on this one.

Third-Place - Kevin M. Cox, The Daily News, Galveston, Texas

Judges said:

  • He looks like he is flying.
  • Peak action.  A difficult shot to get.  Well executed.

Cox also was awarded Honorable Mentions for the following two photos.

Judges said:

  • No doubt, this is a contact sport ...
  • Another good example of peak sports action.

Judges said:

  • This photo tells a humorous story and the way the official is stretched out, diving for the streaker is a great job of catching action in a photo.
  • We laughed about how similar the security guard's body position is in this photo, to the Astros player in the diving catch photo.  Peak action!

Features:

First-Place (and GRAND PRIZE) - Melanie Bell, The Palm Beach Daily News, Palm Beach, Fla.

Read judges' comments above.

Second-Place - Jay Janner, Austin American-Statesman, Austin, Texas

Judges said:

  • You can almost feel yourself sitting there in the dark with this kid.
  • A really well executed "slice of life" photo.

Third-Place - Tim Shortt, Florida Today, Melbourne

Judges said:

  • Hard not to be moved by the girl's determined outlook and the fact that she seems to not even be aware of the rain in her solemn salute.
  • Photographer did a nice job capturing the intensity in her face and showing her dedication, despite the rain.

Honorable Mention - Malcolm Denemark, Florida Today, Melbourne

Judges said:

  • We've seen similar photos before, but the composition and color in this one are striking.

Honorable Mention - Bruce Bennett, The Palm Beach Post, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Judges said:

  • Where did all the birds come from?
  • Loved the pattern created by the birds and their reflections.

Videos:

First-Place - Ana Ramirez, Austin American-Statesman, Austin, Texas
"Swimming for a Dream"

View the Video

Judges said:

  • Good use of audio, including natural sound breaks to enhance richness of the story and break up the interviews.  I also like how the opening and closing natural sound selections gave a nice sense of "coming full circle."
  • The piece was well shot, including nice variety of camera angles and underwater sequences.
  • It was nice to see a variety of different settings and not just the pool.
  • Story had multiple voices (sources) in the story, something many of the other video stories did not have.
  • My best take from this video was that I never felt sorry for Tessa.  She's an inspiration and the storytelling showcased that.

Second-Place - Kaitlin McKeown, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.
"Surf Therapy Offers Empowerment and Escape"

View the Video

Judges said:

  • Nice variety of shots in the story.  I especially liked the wide-angle shots to really put the viewer in the scene.
  • The audio from the clips was nicely ducked under the interview so I could understand it, but not be distracted from the information in the interview.
  • Loved the opening and brief pause before going into the interview.  Opening helped pull me into the story. But, I would have liked to see my "narrator" sooner in the story, and hear from either a parent or child participating in the program.
  • Beautiful shots and I liked that the story was told in short format.

Third-Place - Jenny Harnish, Beckley Newspapers, Beckley, W. Va.
"Lest We Forget"

View the Video

Judges said:

  • Very good use of historical material to help add context and backstory to event coverage.
  • I liked the use of a small amount of music to transition from historical images to scene setter from the town.
  • Nice variety of shots, including drone footage.
  • A stronger transition from interview to the event would have made the video even better.  Most people will understand the connection, but a little extra help never hurts.
  • Nice video on iconic D-Day.  Well done with the still shots and archived video.

Honorable Mention - Thomas Cordy and Joe Forzano, The Palm Beach Post, West Palm Beach, Fla.
"Purdue Pharma"

View the Video

Judges said:

  • Informative and well done with interesting graphics.

Honorable Mention - Rick Barbero, Beckley Newspapers, Beckley, W. Va.
"Saving Mom"

View the Video

Judges said:

  • There are some beautiful still images in this story.  This is the real strength of this story.  Story was solidly reported, with multiple sources. 
  • Touching story. Video was done well with stills and live shots.  Very interesting to learn more about living donors.

General comments from judges:

  • "As a photo editor, I expect our staff photographers to come back from assignments with high-quality images.  I understand not every assignment is going to produce contest winners, but several of the winning entries came from events I would consider 'community events.'  It's nice to see photographers working hard to produce quality images at these events – which many might consider 'mundane assignments.' There were a number of images that surprised us – where the photographer produced an image that we didn't expect to see.  That's good for readers, too!"
  • "This year's submissions were excellent.  The topics were varied and interesting.  I looked for good storytelling with a good balance of visuals and audio.  The winning videos told stories in a compelling, engaging way that kept me watching and listening to the end."
  • "With some of the videos in the contest, the music added was unnecessary and annoying.  What the people in the stories said was very compelling.  They didn't need any extra help. Some stories were just too long.  They needed editing, and would have been much stronger if cut to less than three minutes.  This sounds draconian, but a few changes such as these could make good stories into exceptional stories."

Some general advice for newspaper videos:

  • Be very careful with the music.  Use it like you would a very strong spice in cooking ... very sparingly.
  • Wherever possible, have multiple voices in your stories.  Editors don't usually allow stories with one source, and visual journalists should apply this standard as well.
  • Don't be afraid to let your subject tell their story ON SCREEN.  This helps viewers connect with them.
  • Finally, let your piece breathe a little bit.  Leave some internal space in the story so people can digest what they are seeing and hearing.  For example, if someone speaking gets emotional and choked up, let people see that and hear the silence.

This year's Photo/Video Contest was sponsored by Second Street.

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