Kai (01.09.12, 11:02 AM): Very beautiful pictures... but don't you see a theme here? Why is it that in every photography contest I encounter online that almost all of the photos HDR and the same type of thing? That just annoys the hell out of me, I'm sorry. There are other beautiful pictures that were eliminated from the contest that were just pure beauty without any HDR or enhancements in them, and now it's basically a contest of "who can copy the actions and formats of everyone else". Nobody can be chosen from this because they are basically ALL alike in how they're portrayed, and I hate seeing that. where did the creativity go in photo-taking? They're very beautiful pictures... but too much alike in every way possible!

udeupa (01.03.12, 4:59 AM): Thank you, Michael. For taking extra miles to explain all these pictures I had questions with, I truly admire your passion to photography and your nice character. You have convinced me, and I am sorry if I offended you.

Michael Andrew (01.02.12, 6:30 PM): @Udeupa- I think the issue here is that we are grading images according to different criteria. What I am hearing you say is that it is more important to be tack sharp or true macro. I also take a number of other things into consideration, such as composition, how interesting/engaging is it and other artistic merits. It's true that there are many images that are not 1:1 ratio macro images. In fact there ARE many 1:1 ratio images that didnt make the cut simply because they were not compelling to me, which in many cases is purely subjective. We just disagree. If you want my notes on why these images made it, here you go: #5, #19 & #34 - Not true macros, but close enough. They all scored extremely high for unique composition and stunning artistic merit. To me, they are extremely engaging and fun to look at. Ultimately pure beauty will win a lot of points, these images did it very well. #7 - Is sharp, clean, and technically well executed. #11- Received extra points because the insect is flying, as well as shooting at a very narrow DOF. This type of shot is for most practical purposes impossible to reproduce. Great composition and the idea of square cropping was well executed. #22- Points for tremendous sense of Depth while maintaining subject sharpness. This is not a "flat" image as many are. #25 & 32 - also received additional points for composition and artistic merit. #191- Very good image technically, but not as interesting or compelling. I did not feel engaged as I did the others. #197- Technically very good. The problem here was I thought the composition was off. #198 - I loved it, the problem was we had four other stronger images using droplets as subject matter. When I have multiple entries of the same subject, I will select the strongest of the group. I hope this helps you understand my reasoning. Thanks!

Michelle (01.02.12, 5:59 PM): DrKos, sorry for the confusion. I wrote two separate posts, one last night and one this morning. It is # 4 in both macro and landscape. The landscape is the volcano. He runs a landscape workshop and the image is over a year old. In the macro, #4 had a post that was from 2010. My last post with the 5 violations got condensed so it is difficult to separate the web sites. They all start with http: and end in html except that long one ends with 3Dimvns

udeupa (01.02.12, 5:46 PM): I am not a pro, but I have a lot of passions in macro photography. I agreed with all of your choices in other catagories especially on portrait. You are the true expert on that catagory. I also think all of your crash courses are really helpful, and I personally own some of the legal copies purchased from your website, I treasure them very much. I just don't seem to agree your macro semi final picks, there are some pictures aren't even macro, some of them aren't even focus on the eyes (one of the key you think it's important on portait photography). Is #05, #19, & #34 even macro? #7 & #11 better than nominees #191? #22 & #25 are better than nominees #197? #32 is better than nominees #198? None of the above are my work, I am not defense for myself. I just want to say there are some obvious better macros that are deserved to be in semi final.

Rose (01.02.12, 3:46 PM): Michelle...you are a good detective. How very SAD it is that so many didn't follow the rules... it makes it not only a pain in the "duppa" for Michael (who was kind enough to run this contest) but unfair to the others who entered who maybe could have been in the semi-finals/finals if the cheaters hadn't taken up so many of the entries. Truly sad..... Michael, I am wondering tho if you could define what a professional is, in your opinion? Is it somebody who ever sells any of their photos, or is it somebody who makes a majority of their income from their photography? I'm sure there are some of us who have our own websites, but are still not in the "professional" category (altho we'd like to be someday). Since this contest is your "baby", I'd love to hear your thought on what/who is considered to be a pro. Thanks in advance for your answer....and thanks for your great contest. I'm sorry you are having to put up with so much "crap" associated with it. God bless.

Sasidharan Devendran (01.02.12, 11:14 AM): Those are some beautiful pictures Michael.. :) Its really gonna be a tough one... The Landscape Pics are just Breathtaking.. You r putting on a good show here.. Kudos to u.. Congrats everyone.. :)

Max (01.02.12, 9:19 AM): In response to Rose...#13 and the shot at the same location with children are the same photo, they are not cropped the same and the person or children and their reflection are done in Photoshop.(I am no where near this guys caliber as a photographer, but i know my Photoshop). I put them in Photoshop and stacked them in the layers palette, then I changed the mode to difference to line them both up. The ripples in the water are exactly the same, which would be impossible with 2 separate shots - even if you put the camera on a tripod and took one shot right after the next.

DrKos (01.02.12, 7:34 AM): (Michelle, that was photo number 4 under landscape that was published on the sites you provided links to.)

Michelle (01.02.12, 7:01 AM): Here are 5 more entries that did not follow the rules of the contest. Landscape # 12 one of the 2011 International Street Photography Award Winners http://thisismyinspirationboard.blogspot.com/2011/09/2011-international-street-photography.html Macro #4 image posted June 2010. http://hidinglondon.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html Macro #9 has 8 pages in google image search this one says jeudi 15 juillet 2010 which means Thursday, July 15, 2010 in French http://laussifolle.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html Macro # 10 April 2009 http://collecitonpix.blogspot.com/2009/04/beauty-in-white.html Macro # 15 Is from May 2008 I know this final one is very long, but just copy and paste the whole thing in. http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ru&u=http://norjat.livejournal.com/73444.html%3Fthread%3D407780&ei=GiUBT_rDGIft0gHNh5iyBg&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CEgQ7gEwAzgK&prev=/search%3Fstart%3D10%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26biw%3D2560%26bih%3D1399%26tbs%3Dsbi:AMhZZis3tFZQ_1wLW37g6rbT1x2vuI6oGxKGkxAcXjbd79-c1uiH0iB_1LCRRLbLZ5-iR89LER9Q9alfjsQY75ccAwtPa3k1Q4NDBNeh42J5hvdQ3m-6-H-5AkYPZRQwwqEjG6aKTBcETkoIdLJWKV9iY8z3fkoPk-VkeBfvxSlUFGAhhBz0NEjxhQSdxd3kbV8Muchsss3lju5vUMR0zj3Mbk4_1EmKhzz9Wh2V0COCn2QcSgHdUEOVL74InbjsPk7aIl2dFd629utxXxyfmT0ci7kKD73cc5qmbFOZiHm9WqyPrP2mJUHo_1c3ouHtc4qUHbCl4L_10Z-qvFbecD960VtuJGKUGa2Z78lssF9Yvbsc_1x4aTalK-iMivfCjVJ7doSQaOVKqdsBsMYZd4lDIH9eC2A8rms_1nJtMHyz9OUqvCkYqp7qUuZGyjzacS4_1rR2B9rBoZOqDWgr0bp6TAxmnUvDd-4hmCiR7YyEECPE507x_1evJv5QzdNvu118I-AftGgAbSVis3Epmv5THw03Adef6zblr5Cro2l8zYlGd1H1nXZt-h4D9snDFTLchG68ymtpPlkgyCJpifY4jV04adJkgsDfB55sTBqwA5LrhFRxW5RtYCUso8o993nk9lJzPZAFWLVuahhJXZf55E_10gdAUj35AYYOqnLqbb-UORW9tPKVhAgLph2NVOjJOSrzUu2F5hLFiLB_190ICt1DG4tOZbGZN7nvYX2MO27h3eySqSJWMlK8YdssHhGtXG1ULYslpgNnFfT281ISWeBCG5crnyDLGaWEPnFiE85pCoAc9OP6KYTX-XM2N76D-oNXLIvL2FoQjbLWZX_12CCjW80fLugWT2iwbhsTfmft0z7COUQiFlUUGjUB76oRjG8_1ueIT_18m8VJADJ3lACd-LIk95EWNZGxzBeD9fnIWVPJA2gTlo3H7T6sqrZq1HvzMggMjJ_1-7y0NWpFcz-5TvDtDNaSwirsjYBg1gC27A4scVSVnkwZdjo370ttKzDaFNL8nqln9wMKSgkunTw4-6acakrbEfJXjrNJd5j13izxm6hT5Bf5ba1IPEI01Gx4pVm28rvy--zj5It0e2y_1Ykyc8EKR-YF6SToNMrX_1hDuUOoQOwIomurf6wLxsoM9KBERVdnQcsnO5zhNEMv5ZRfkcUPHnSr8k3BDnboXstVeyF5y2-Ca46Hz5hvlGok%26prmd%3Dimvns This takes a lot of time to search.iIf anyone who is actually in the finals wants to search for images, use google search engine, Just click on images and drag a screenshot of the photo into the search bar.

Eduardo (01.02.12, 12:50 AM): Hi Michael, thank you for choosing my photo!

Max (01.01.12, 11:52 PM): Wow Michael, looks like this contest has a lot of headaches with it. I didn't make it to the semi finals. For me that means I need to step up my game, go out and take more photos, improve my composition and if you are still running this next year, like Arnold S. says, "I'll be back!" Thanks for putting on a great contest! Best of luck to everyone who made it this far, your photos are an inspiration.

Sarah (01.01.12, 11:28 PM): bugs should have there own category next time around. just an idea?

MIchael Andrew (01.01.12, 11:22 PM): @Tengo- Which of your images didn't make it to the semi's? If you would like Ill even gladly post them here for all to see and give feedback. The whole venom angle for not making it, doesn't really change anything, nor helps you to improve. No hard feelings & Thanks!

Michelle (01.01.12, 9:22 PM): There appears to be a few more entries that didn't follow the contest rules. # 3 in landscape {I love this shot} He states on his Google + page that he took this photo Nov. 2010. https://plus.google.com/107507539268974734333/posts/8vwmu8UvbNE He is also using the image to sell his photo trip workshop, meaning he is a pro landscape photorapher. http://www.flickr.com/photos/perakman/5557929399/ There are others in the macro division that I have seen years ago. I will try and find the websites for you soon. Come on guys, lets play fair!

Tengo (01.01.12, 3:42 PM): Being banned? Ain't got the courage to publish my comment? Spell check your entries. Is this blog a cheap way of getting publicity or an act of narcicism?

Tengo (01.01.12, 12:37 PM): Sure you pay the prizes, Michael. Why do you allow comments or even ask for votes? If your "vision" is going to prevail over photographic merit you should North Koreaze the contest and that's all.

Michael Andrew (01.01.12, 7:03 AM): @udeupa- I understand not everyone will agree with my choices. When you have your own contest, giving away your own prizes.... let me know. Thanks!

udeupa (01.01.12, 5:30 AM): Macro Nominees 191, 197, 198, 230, are a lot of better than some bees and butterflies here at semi final.

udeupa (01.01.12, 5:22 AM): For macros, there are several that is not even focus... not sure why they are even in semi finalists.

Michael Andrew (01.01.12, 1:53 AM): Thank you for the links- I appreciate it. Without naming any specific names, if a photographer has nearly the same image that placed and won, to me thats the same as using the same image. Any photographer who enters and places in similar categories as a "pro" also ineligible. There is even an argument that can be made for the type of camera they are using. If it is top of the line, pro grade, it typically also means they are a pro - but that is something I take into consideration when I google their name and see what they are doing. We will vet all the winners before they are announced- but yes, it is possible we will still make a mistake. Thanks for all your help!

DrK (01.01.12, 1:31 AM): Impressive work in all the categories. I am a newbie and this was my first contest (late bloomer) so was very excited to see my photo make it to the semi finals. Best success to all the contributors.

Rose (01.01.12, 1:22 AM): He's listed as a professional here: http://www.obscurajournal.com/aperture/?tag=chan-kwok-hung

Rose (01.01.12, 12:59 AM): Although it does appear he may be a professional if you Google his name...

Rose (01.01.12, 12:53 AM): #13 is NOT the same photo as placed 1st in another contest....I looked and saw that the one that came in 1st there has children in it....this one does not... maybe it's just by the same photographer?

MIchael Andrew (12.31.11, 2:38 PM): Thank you guys for the heads up on some of the images. Looks like we have a couple who have not only placed, but were done by pros. If you have a link of someone in the semi-finalists who has placed in a different contest or indicates their "pro" status, please let me know. Thanks!

Scott (12.31.11, 2:29 PM): the macro I liked the most was #23 the landscape that i thought was best was #29

Briana (12.31.11, 1:04 PM): My opinions on the macro category are sadly biased due to my prejudice against "icky bugs", but at the moment I'm loving #9 with the three ladybugs. As for the landscapes, I was just overwhelmed by all the stunning images. I really like #10, but I have about a dozen "favourites" in this category. Just gorgeous work.

Rose (12.31.11, 12:42 PM): Wow! Most of those landscape shots are STUNNING! Mine didn't make it among those greats, and I can see why... I'll just have to try harder next year! I have one among the macros (thanks God & Michael), but there are some AMAZING shots in there! My best chance is with my 2 in the Abstracts, I think....but some great shots in there too. CONGRATS EVERYONE & GOD BLESS YOU ALL IN 2012! Thanks Michael for all your hard work so far, and yet to come!

Tobias Roybal (12.31.11, 10:04 AM): Michael, there are soooo many great looking photos here! I cannot imagine you having to pick one out!

Thomas (12.31.11, 9:17 AM): Hey Michael, great job on selecting the semi finalists.

Laura (12.31.11, 8:32 AM): Photo number 13 won 1st place in a competition, should be eliminated http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/photo-gallery/showgallery.php?cat=514