S. Heiner fine art photography
          "Good Orchid Photos Sing; Great Ones Sing Opera". 2012.
                                   Inkjet print, approx 5.5"x7.5".

     I once taught high school English overseas. On one of the final days of class, a student jumped out of his desk in the middle of my lecture and ran to the other side of the room, where he stood with his head down, eyes closed, waving his arms out in front of him.
     "Okay," I said, "Now what's going on?"
     "Carlos put a bugger on the map."
     Turning to Carlos, I asked, "Carlos, did you put a bugger on the map?"
      "Yes, Sir," he said. "But I can explain."
My wife says that I'm never so much a bitter old man as when it comes to photography competitions. Yes, that's true, but I too can explain.
     My explanation begins with a note about evaluative words, like good, bad, awful and great. The meaning of an evaluative word depends on the speaker's goals, aims or purposes. If I ask you what a good car is, you might respond by saying that it's reliable. And if you thought some more about it, you might add that it gets good gas mileage. So if your goal for having a car is that you don't have to worry about repairs or excessive gas expenses, then a good car is both reliable and fuel efficient. But if your goal simply is to sell your car for a lot of money, then a car that neither runs nor has a fuel tank but has tremendous value as a one-of-a-kind antique is not only a good car, but a great one, i.e., it suits your goal really well. What's a good book? Well, what are your aims in looking for a book? To find easy-to-follow directions for repairing your car? To have it last more than a week without the pages falling out? And there's no need to object that a good whatever should at least meet certain criteria, because the word should is evaluative too; and if you don't believe it, just see for yourself.
     So, what's a good photograph? Judging by the photo that won the last competition I entered, it's a flatfooted, painfully 'arty' looking shot of some gnarled tree roots. My photograph, "Good Orchid Photos Sing; Great Ones Sing Opera" didn't even make the first cut. The profits from the competition's entry fees went to a garden which I supported anyway, so, fine, I can live with the results, though my wife claims that the fact that I'm still talking about it five years later says that I can't. Truth is, I rarely think about it any more except for the lingering thought that if I see an exhibit somewhere with a photo taken by one of the judges from that competition, I'm putting a bugger on it.