Monthly VPS Themes for 2021-2022


Detailed descriptions of each theme are at the bottom.

September 15    Nature (Realistic)*

October 20         B&W
                         Paths, Roads, Trails*

November 17      Birds*
                         Long Exposure

January 19         Abstracts (including in Nature)

February 16        Quality of Light

March 16            Patterns*
                         Comparing 2 Opposites

April 20              Bokeh
                         Night Photography

May 18              Town of Vienna (Realistic)*

*Themes with Realistic designation -  Images submitted to these themes require limited post processing so the realistic nature of the photo is enhanced/preserved:
Spot removal, contrast and level adjustments, conversion to monochrome, color and saturation adjustments are allowed.  Focus stacking, HDR composites, stitched panoramas of the same scene are allowed.  Combining multiple exposures of a changing scene are not allowed.

Minor cloning to remove extraneous elements (trash, telephone wires, etc.) is allowed.  Cloning or other techniques that add, relocate, remove, or replace significant pictorial elements are not allowed.  Techniques that add textures or other elements not appearing in the original scene may not be used.

All Other Themes –
 Do not have the above mentioned restrictions on post processing.  The only post processing rule that applies is the All Images Rule:  Images submitted to a competition must be taken by the person submitting the image.  Significant pictorial elements or textures added to an image must also be created by the person submitting the image.


Nature (Realistic) – Photographic images of outdoor scenes, wild animals, and plants.  Human elements such as people, and things constructed by humans or transformed by human activity (ie. buildings, fences, plowed fields, an orderly planted garden) are not allowed for this competition. 

Macro - Extreme closeup photography concentrating on the smallest details.  Sometimes this results in an image that appears more abstract than representational.  Photos can be of animate (living) or inanimate (not living) subjects. You do not have to have a macro lens to submit to this theme.


Black & White – In this theme your images should display black and white tones that lack color and include neutral tones of black and white and intermediate shades of grey in a subject of your choosing.  Photographs in sepia tones are also acceptable. If you are converting  your color image to B&W using Lightroom or something else, be sure to examine the converted photo and make additional adjustments as needed.  There are many articles about B&W photography.  Here’s a link to get you started:

Paths, Roads, Trails (Realistic) -  Your image should literally have paths, roads, or trails leading your eye through the photograph.  People may be included in the image or not.  Here are some examples to get you started


Birds (Realistic) – Both aquatic and non-aquatic birds are appropriate for your subject. Your image may be of wild, domestic, or zoo birds.  This theme is designated “Realistic” which means your post processing is limited so the realism of the photo is maintained.

Long Exposure-  With this technique, you keep the shutter of your camera open for a long time.  Instead of capturing an image in fractions of a second, the shutter remains open much longer, capturing everything that is happening during that extended time.   The camera combines all the action into one image.  This is a way to capture dramatic clouds in the sky, or silky smooth water. A tripod is needed.  There are many sites with info besides the ones below.


Abstracts (including in Nature) –  To create an abstract photo,  the photographer captures elements of a scene (light, color, pattern, lines, shapes) is such a way that the final image is not at all representational.  The image is meant to evoke the viewer’s  imagination or sense of wonder.  Abstract photography  can be exciting and fun because you are not constrained by the regular photography rules.  For more tips on creating an abstract image, see the link below.
Simplicity(Realistic) – This style of photography takes a minimalist approach to conveying a message/mood.  Include only the essential objects that add value to your photograph and exclude details that may distract or confuse the viewer. Examine your final photo and determine if there is anything else you can leave out that will make your message stronger.  Here is a link to examples of simplistic/minimalist photography:

Quality of Light – The quality of light relates to the size of the light source relative to the image in your photo. Hard light can bring out texture, shadows, contrast. Soft light can smooth your image. Backlighting can make your subject translucent, or turn it into a silhouette.  The time of day effects the temperature of light, resulting in images that feel cool or warm. Photographers recognize that they are not photographing the tangible subject, but only the light that is reflected from it. The quality of the light, then — its intensity, direction, color, diffusion — often determines the success or failure of an image.  Feature the lighting effect you like best in your photo.  The links below have excellent discussions about the Quality of Light
Movement/motion  - A photographer may choose to convey motion in a photo for a number of reasons-- simply to show something is moving;  motion can create mood;  as a way to highlight the subject of the photo;  some things just need motion (ie. dog running)  You can experiment with slow shutter speed and a technique called panning to create blurring of some of your image.  Or you can freeze motion with high shutter speeds to capture motion (ie.  sports photography)  Have fun! For more info, check this link:


Patterns (Realistic) – Patterns in a photograph are shapes, objects, or colors that repeat.  The can be arranged very orderly, or more randomly.  Patterns are found everywhere from natural to urban environments.  Using patterns in your images adds excitement and interest to your photos.  For more info, see the links below.
Comparing 2 Opposites –  We are attracted to photos of opposites because seeing them together is unexpected.  We see a contrast that creates interest, or a story, something to think about. Opposites can be found  in size,  color, people, animals, motions, nature, ideas,  to name a few.  Pick one and photograph it in a way that piques the viewer’s interest.  Here’s a link with more info


Bokeh –  The simple definition  of Bokeh is the appealing out of focus blur seen in part of a photographic image, usually in the background.  This technique helps the viewer to focus on the main subject of the image.  You don’t need a special lens for this. To achieve this effect, place your background far from you subject, and your camera close to your subject and set to the widest aperture (lowest # f stop ).  For more info, check the link below.

Night Photography – When taking night photos, a longer exposure time is needed so your image is not too dark. This is achieved through balancing a slower shutter speed (a tripod or some stationary platform is needed to avoid camera shake) with a wider aperture opening (take f stop to a lower number), and a higher ISO setting ( but too high a setting, the image becomes grainy). For tips on how to successfully shoot longer exposures for night images, please see the link below.


Town of Vienna (Realistic) – Photos must be taken within the town limits (see map in link below). Meadowlark Gardens is not within the town limits.  But there a many gardens that are. You are encouraged to take pictures, landscape format, of town scenes, events and landmarks.  You can go to the town of Vienna website and look up what events are happening each month. Lots going on!  Images must be submitted in Sept. for a chance to appear in next year’s calendar.  The calendar is printed in full color, and it’s a great way to showcase your photos!

Rain -  Rain can add a different type of excitement and mood to your photographs.   Be sure to have good rain gear for yourself, a lens hood and plastic covering for you camera, and a waterproof camera bag.  Shooting options include:  freezing the rain action with a fast shutter speed;  photographing through a rain soaked window; capturing reflections with puddles or wet streets; backlight raindrops to see them better.  For more info, see the link below

IMPORTANT REMINDER:  Realistic looking images can be submitted to any theme, to the Open Digital category, but not to the Digital Art Altered Reality category.  The post processing guidance for our competitions  is meant to give photographers flexibility to use more post processing if they want to.  It in no way forces anyone to use more post processing, and you are in no way at a disadvantage in competition if you don’t use it.  You should post process your image to give you the result you like best. 

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