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Our Winners – TI Life Photo Contest

Honestly, this is a brutal job. It’s the same process as when selecting images for a book, but made more agonizing because the selection must get whittled down to just three images, while a book offers far greater leeway. If you’re ever asked to judge such a contest, you’ll find the process generates a strong sense of guilt, having to eliminate so many worthy images, but it comes down to the eye of this beholder and the choices must be made. Thankfully, it is done blind, so I don't have a clue who took them.

I’ve always make a point of checking out photo contest winner’s galleries, wherever I find them. Many are hosted by prominent national publications and organizations, no doubt attracting thousands of submissions, so it is to be expected that their bar rises very high. With TI Life’s photo contest harvesting comparatively few images from within a small region, it’s impressive how high our bar is each year.

As well as our three winners, I’ve included 14 honorable mentions, several of which could have been winners and may well be in your eyes. Without further ado, here are my choices for our 2015 gold, silver and bronze certificates.


Gold (#34)- A good friend and exceptional photographer, Carl Hiebert, once offered to share with me the secret to photography. “Just show up.” And he’s totally right. If your timing is good and the conditions and light are just right, any fool can take the picture. What’s not apparent is that it usually takes showing up hundreds of times to get lucky that once. At least that’s my experience. There’s no question that this is such a moment with the fog and dramatic lighting adding intrigue to what is already an intriguing building. A little editing, using HDR software, brings out details in what would normally be deep shadows, enhancing the result. it totally works. A winner!

©2015 Mary Ann Wamboldt
“Singer Castle”
Gold Medal Photograph ©2015 Mary Ann Wamboldt

The Photo: On our first wedding anniversary, my husband and I visited Boldt Castle. We returned on our 7th wedding anniversary to see the progress that had been made on the castle’s restoration but we also visited Singer Castle, something we had missed in our first visit. Singer Castle was as beautiful as we had hoped and when the tour made its way around the back of the castle I took this photo. Out of all the photos I took that day this was my favourite because it really showcased the beauty of the great dining hall. I hope to visit again and explore the castle's  secret passageways, something Singer is well known for.    

Bio: Mary Ann Wamboldt is a Kingston, Ontario based portrait/lifestyle photographer known for her moody style and for placing her subjects in natural wooded environments. She says her greatest joy is being able to give her clients images that they can treasure for many years to come.“  Mary Ann’s passions also extends to event and landscape photography.  She currently serves as Vice-President of the Kingston Photographic Club. Her website, Mary Ann Wamboldt Photography shows her talents.


Silver (#32) - Another “just show up” moment. And I suspect this one was planned, chasing the full moon. Planning ahead seldom works, at least for me, but this time it certainly did. It also required putting in the effort for a very early start, because the full moon at the western horizon means the photographer was up and out in the boat, well before dawn, to try to capture the moment. Well done and well earned

©2015 Doug Tulloch
“Powerhouse Moonset”
Silver Medal Photograph ©2015 Doug Tulloch
The Photo: ”This photo is named "Powerhouse Moonset". It was taken on October 28th of 2015,  at approximately 7 AM in Alexandria Bay, New York. I had almost decided, due to the increasing clouds to the east, that I wouldn't go out by boat to capture the sunrise, but went anyway. As I came out of Carnegie Bay I looked towards Boldt Castle and could hardly believe my eyes. The Hunter moon was about to set behind the castle and the yacht house. The photos I captured that morning are a case of all the stars in the universe lining up for me, at that one special moment. I truly believe I was destined to be in the right place, at the right time, if I tried hard enough.”

Bio:  In 2012 Doug Tulloch made the decision to return home full-time to live in Carnegie Bay, Alexandria Bay, NY. Formerly an avid back country snowmobiler, skier and mountain biker, Doug’s  passions were forced to change, after a number of spine surgeries.  “I picked up a camera, as solace, and started embracing this River through a lens with the same zest I had for the demanding sports.”  Like many of us, he feels that the River always delivers  - regardless of season or weather. “I have never had a bad day on the river.”  Doug works for a construction company, in business development, and spearheaded an economic development initiative, called 20/20 Vision in Alexandria Bay.


Bronze (#13) - Yet again, another “just show up” moment. Judging from the subdued early morning fog and lighting the camera required a high ISO setting. Further, it would have been difficult to capture without camera shake, even more so if it was taken from a boat, which it might well have been. Fog often provides magical moments. This is also demonstrated by the honorable mention image of the CSL ship on a misty morning. Both are magical, but this one takes the bronze.

©2015 Susan Walker
“Island of Dreams”
Bronze Medal Photograph © 2015 Susan Walker
The Photo “I take hundreds of photos for personal pleasure but this one was a once in lifetime shot taken early one morning as I left our cottage on Mink Island in Chippewa Bay.  My husband was driving towards Duck Cove and, as we passed the tip of Mink Island, I looked toward the channel and saw the fog encircling this island like a dream.  The view was eerie and beautiful at the same time.  I call the photo “Island of Dreams. By the way, I didn’t realize till later that the geese in the photo had two goslings between them.”

Bio:  Susan Walker hails from Camillus NY and 23 Mink Island, Chippewa Bay.  She first came to the River, as a young girl in the mid 1960s, when her grandfather organized a family fishing trip and stayed at the Hitchcock House on Wolfe Island.  She says fell in love with the River, boating fishing and cream of celery soup served at famous fishing lodge!  In the mid-80s Susan married Tom Walker. “We rented a cabin,” she writes, “ in Carnegie Bay, for over 20 years before contracting to build a cottage on Mink Island with Hunter Grimes in 2009.  My husband, three children and I enjoy spending every free moment on the River.  I feel that life is short and every day on the River is a gift.

Honorable Mentions

Click all photographs to enlarge.  They are listed in numerical order as they were submitted to me:

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Put a thousand island in your life

Our Gold, Silver and Bronze winners will receive a certificate suitable for framing.  The Gold Medal winner will receive a copy of Susan Weston Smith's, (yes, our editor, Susie!) reprinted book, “The First Summer People, Thousand Islands 1650-1910.” 

By Ian Coristine

Ian Coristine has been active in aerial photography for over 25 years and has written extensively for U.S. and Canadian aviation publications. The demands of air-to-air photography proved ideal training for an unexpected career of delighting residents of the Thousand Islands with seven books that showcase the region's beauty. 

His Thousand Islands photographs have been featured internationally.  DxO Labs of Paris, France award winning publishers of revolutionary high-end camera and leans correction software, selected Coristine as one of the their 12 founding “Image Masters”, from professional photographers around the world.

Ian Coristine's seventh book, published this year, “Ian Coristine’s 1000 Islands,” is the culmination of his twenty years of work.  He says, “These are my top picks, from the over 50,000 images I’ve captured since the River became my life’s work. To not share these is unthinkable.”

Since Paul Malo created “Thousand Islands Life Magazine,” Ian has generously shared his photography in each issue as well as providing our special “page headers.”

Posted in: Photography
Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Alan Medcalf
Comment by: Alan Medcalf
Left at: 9:16 PM Monday, December 14, 2015
They're all beautiful! Thanks for running this photo contest and sharing so many of the photos.
Daney Duperron
Comment by: Daney Duperron
Left at: 10:13 PM Monday, December 14, 2015
I still don't think this should be called a photo contest.

Photographers are people who actually go out time and time again to scout out ideal
Spots for lighting and composition.
You should have a separate category for true photography.
It's not fair when one photographer goes out in the true meaning of photography and takes the time to shoot it right the first time and is competing against against a software expert.
Diane Buerkle
Comment by: Diane Buerkle
Left at: 7:23 AM Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Daney, you make a good point. However, Mr. Coristine, knows what true photography is and so "photo art" didn't win the big ones. The Gold, Silver and Bronze medals were all awarded for true photography. Photo art received "Honerable Mentions" and rightfully so. Good for all involved! Thank you Ian!
Sean Hanna
Comment by: Sean Hanna
Left at: 10:19 AM Wednesday, December 16, 2015
I agree with Daney. The use of software (HDR was used by the Gold Medal winner) should place the submission in a different category.

When one can enhance details, merge photos, or change lighting by computer, it's not at all about "showing up" hundreds of times to get the perfect shot. It's about downloading a program from the web.
Alan Medcalf
Comment by: Alan Medcalf
Left at: 1:21 PM Wednesday, December 16, 2015
A more progressive perspective is that photography has many faces and among them is artistic photography.

When almost 100% of cameras in use today are digital, there is always "software" at play, even if at a microcode level one can't control, all digital cameras are run by software. From image stabilization to colour mapping to whiteness and brightness control, it's all part of today's camera.

Great film photographers quite often used production techniques in their film development processing to correct for image anomalies. Today's software is really no different other than offering better toolkits to correct, adjust or enhance images.

But that's what today's photography is. We're where we are because we got here. Just like buying a hammer doesn't turn a klutz into a carpenter, buying DxO Pro or Photoshop doesn't turn a smartphone user into an accomplished photographer. The evidence is in the plethora of poor pictures that have been "instagrammed" on Facebook.

So let's accept that this particular contest has established parameters, one of them being that, like most contests these days, post-processing is permitted. Anyone who thinks it's easy is welcome to send in their own entries. Anyone who thinks it's "cheating" is welcome to their opinion, but that doesn't give their stance credibility. Most of all, let's just enjoy the beautiful images that result.
Sean Hanna
Comment by: Sean Hanna
Left at: 11:19 PM Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Respectfully, the fact that you do not subscribe to a certain stance does not mean that it lacks credibility.

Look, nobody is suggesting that anyone is "cheating". Indeed, it is readily conceded that the engineered entries are beautiful works of art. But they are far more akin to an oil painting or a watercolor: expressions of its artist's imagination.

Suggesting that today's software is really no different from older film development techniques used to correct image anomalies is misguided. Adding waterfowl images, changing hues and lighting...It's not correcting anomalies. It's serving to replace anticipation, perseverance, a trained eye, and good old fashioned luck.

Finally, the fact that relatively few can use DxO and Photoshop effectively is beside the point. Far fewer still can sculpt or paint well - two other wonderful mediums of art that are not considered true photography.

Alan Medcalf
Comment by: Alan Medcalf
Left at: 8:44 AM Thursday, December 17, 2015
This is an interesting discussion. Would you agree that the core of it is what constitutes "true photography"?

In many facets of today's world, technological disruptions and dislocations prevail, often providing both benefits and problems, and often creating a rift between popularized approaches that too-often seem to devolve to the lowest common denominator (cat pictures on Facebook come to mind), and an honest regret for aspects such as lost craftsmanship, artistic touch or truly engaging writing.

So what are we to make of a world in which the most popular camera is a smartphone (there's an oxymoron if there ever was one), and the most used gallery is Facebook's display of posted pics coming from Instagram looking like they were scrubbed with steel wool?

Even without post processing of images, the digital camera's ability to capture a few hundred pictures during a sunrise or sunset might be considered an unfair and non-traditional approach.

At the same time, in the hands of an already-accomplished photographer, the deft and gentle touch of technology can turn a great photo into a stunning one that reflects the captured moment in surprising and pleasing ways.

Perhaps on a more practical note, how is a contest judge, or a gallery curator, to know whether an image has been altered beyond some reasonable bounds?

If our friendly editor will give us a bit of leeway, perhaps we can explore further? I describe myself as an amateur photographer who gets lucky sometimes, yet I'm always looking to learn more.
Sean Hanna
Comment by: Sean Hanna
Left at: 10:10 AM Thursday, December 17, 2015
Interesting indeed. And I thank the editor for allowing us the elbow room to explore this subject.

I laughed heartily at your characterization of smart phones and social media. On those points our views are certainly aligned. However, I consider that type of photography to be analogous to the old Polaroid snapshots. It serves certain purposes and populations, but leaves unaffected the business of serious photographers (of which I am NOT one).

The thrust of my position is this: I view photography as the art of seeing and capturing what actually was. The subject, the lighting, the conditions, the timing....That's why you have to "show up", as Ian says, hundreds of times before all of those things are apt to fall into place at once. That's what makes the picture special. (And of course, you need a talented and trained eye to anticipate it, and then recognize it when it happens). I support technological advances - like digital photography - that allow us to capture "what actually was" more precisely, efficiently, and economically.

By contrast, software CHANGES what actually was. It provides colors and lighting and objects that existed only in the artist's mind when the shutter was clicked. It's a gift, to be sure, much like painting. But in my view, it guts the essence of photography.

How would we know when it's used? Beats me.