Gmail contest winners

First off, let me just say I got a ton of response to my gmail photo invites thing and among the entries I got far too many good ones to pick just a few. I actually used gmail's built-in tools to track everything. By labeling all incoming entries, I can see in one click that 118 people sent a photo link in. Of those, I put a star next to 36 I liked on first view. Of those, I narrowed them down to 31. Among those 31, there was something compelling about the colors, lighting, and/or subject matter and any one of ten could have had the top spots. I'm going with my gut reaction on first viewing but here are the three winning entries:

a kite photo, a net photo, & a sunset photo

It was really hard to pick the top three, as any one of these could have also been there. If I had more invites to give out, I would have thrown them all into this list, in no particular order:

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I learned some things in this experiment. The biggest one is that when I said "send in your best photo" I figured that meant the best composition with the best lighting and most technically superior image. What most people sent was their finest memory captured on film, regardless of photo quality. It was eye-opening to me, and told me a lot about over a hundred strangers. I got to see many, many photos from vacations and untold numbers of sunsets. It's a fantastic way to experience meaningful moments in peoples' lives, by seeing these photos. I've been getting way too far into the technical side of photography for the last year or two and forgot that photography is first and foremost a way to record memories.

Overall, I got to see (and share here) many wonderful photos and memories from those that sent them in. I wish I had more invites to give and thank everyone for participating.