Remember Madison's sesquicentennial back in 2006? Well, this year marks Dane County's 175th anniversary. That's a sesquicentennial plus 25 years. So there.
As part of the observances, a series of four Day in Dane photo surveys are being organized. The first occurs this weekend, with amateur and professional photographers fanning out countywide between noon Friday, Feb. 25, and noon Saturday, Feb. 26, to capture a broad range of images spanning Dane County's geographic, cultural and other attributes. Each participant is then asked to submit their single best image by March 6, to be considered for inclusion in a community photo album.
The aim, says veteran professional photographer Brent Nicastro, is to represent the landscapes, cityscapes, people, activities and other aspects of urban and rural life that distinguish Dane County as unique.
"The primary purpose is just to create a community photo album," explains Nicastro, who notes organizers are using social media and distributing fliers to libraries to spread the word beyond Madison to other Dane County communities. The project is "not a photo contest," he emphasizes. "We want everybody to participate in this."
Aside from the opportunity to appreciate the resulting collection, the photographs might also introduce aspects of Dane County that are unfamiliar even to long-time residents.
Among the submission specifications detailed at the Dane County 175th anniversary website: Photos must be taken in Dane County within the designated time frame, sized at 72 pixels per inch (with its longest dimension no greater than 960 pixels), and emailed with the photographer's name, contact information, a title and brief description of where and when the image was captured, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sizing and pixel specs, Nicastro notes, are meant to avoid overwhelming the email account with high-resolution images -- and also circumvent the time and effort it might take to resize photographs submitted in a range of formats.
Photographers must also retain a higher-resolution version of each image submitted -- at least 15 inches by nine inches at 300 pixels per inch -- in case their photograph is selected for publication on the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission's 2012 poster or for inclusion in a commemorative photo album to be included in a time capsule planned by Dane County dodansbicentennial organizers.
Submissions will be previewed by a panel of professional photographers here, including Nicastro. The one-photo limit per person per each of the scheduled Days in Dane are intended to keep the volume submissions reasonable enough for the panel to handle. "There are only a few of us," Nicastro explains.
Inappropriate or offensive photographs will be disallowed, with approved images uploaded to an online album.
Three subsequent Days in Dane are scheduled for noon Friday, May 13, through noon Saturday, May 14, with submissions due May 22; noon Saturday, July 2, through noon Sunday, July 3 (submissions due July 11); and noon Friday, Oct. 7, through noon Saturday, Oct. 8 (entries due Oct. 16).
Nicastro says the rationale for the four selected 24-hour periods is to represent Dane County across the four seasons of the year. The July weekend, he notes, was scheduled to provide photographers with the opportunity to capture the varied ways in which Dane County communities celebrate Independence Day.
With so many people carrying cameras these days, Nicastro has "no clue" regarding how many photographs might result from the four scheduled dodansbicentennial Dane days. "We could just get swamped with images, or we could end up with hardly anything," he allows. "Ideally, by the end of the year, I'd like to have 175 good quality images that I could put together" in the book envisioned as part of the time capsule.
By good quality, Nicastro explains, he means focused, with proper color and decent composition. Photoshopping or other digital photo editing is permissible, he adds: "That's part of photography."
But he views neither himself nor his fellow panelists as esthetic arbiters. Acknowledging the abundance of skilled amateurs as well as professional photographers in Dane County, Nicastro observes, "I think if somebody submits an image and they think it's good enough to submit, then it probably is."