All of Warren County’s talent in one place

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The Swing fits in the back of a tractor trailer before it is unpacked at the Midway.

On Monday morning, Warren County Fair was quiet.

Like a calm-before-the-storm quiet.

The Midway space was still a grassy plain. There were a handful of cars in the parking lot and several people, not hundreds, between there and the Home and Garden Buildings where the still exhibits are housed.

The market animals did not have to be there until 6 p.m.

Inside the blue building, the walls, shelves, and tables were crammed full.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry A hay bale Fair sign at the Hatch Run Conservation Education Center calls visitors to the Warren County Fair.

There were baked goods, canned goods, fruits, vegetables, and grains, and art.

Photography, crafts, recycled art, jewelry, paper, wood, metal, plastic.

It was there that Butch MacQueen and I did our work on Monday.

I’ve spoken with some of the other judges in the blue building in past years. Some have detailed explanations of how they determine which jar of preserves or cookie or zucchini or beet is the best.

I saw at least 10 rectangular paper food trays with beans in them. I’m glad I didn’t have to judge those. They all looked like beans.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Potato art at the Warren County Fair.

Butch and I have photography experience — he much more than I.

We know what we are looking for. Composition, clarity and focus, creativity, color and lighting are some of the basics. Ideally, there’s a wow factor.

As we have for a few years now, we started Monday with color photography by adults. There are a number of classifications — people, animals, flowers, places, things, vehicles, and patriotic are the ones I remember.

We saw some outstanding work. There are some talented photographers in our community.

There were five places for each category. Often, we had to pick out fairly small problems to differentiate. Now and then there was essentially no difference between third and sixth or seventh place.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Animal photos taken by pre-teen artists at the Warren County Fair.

I remember the people category as a tough one. There was an action shot of a young man, presumably in some kind of watercraft, surrounded by drops of water frozen in flight. We had to compare that capture to an artfully arranged shot of a man seated, illuminated only by a candle. They are very different shots, but we had to put them head-to-head.

We try to fight down our internal preferences. I look at lilies in a favorable light. Butch likes waterfalls.

There was a lily shot among the black and whites (that we did not judge) that I could have easily supported for best-in-show.

Butch and I tend to agree on the flowers more than anything else. I’m not sure why. It’s not like we pick a bunch of lilies every year.

Once we had judged all of the adult, color photos, the champion of each category as well as the champions in each black and white category, were brought together for all four judges. This year, the black and whites had three of the top four spots, in my opinion. A fine shot of a mist rising off a wintry Conewango Creek at Beaty-Warren Middle School was unanimously crowned grand champion.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry A 3D model of PNC Park is among the pre-teen art at Warren County Fair.

Photos by adults is only the beginning.

We moved on to the pre-teen art next.

Paintings, drawings, photos, 3D stuff, jewelry, sand art, even poetry. All well outside my comfort zone, but I give it my best.

And the pre-teen group includes quite an age range. Since we do not know whose we are looking at, we can’t take into account the age of the artist.

Some categories were very easy to evaluate. There were a number with only one entry.

The difficult ones were those with exactly six. We had five places. If there were five or more entries, we gave five awards. In many categories, there was little difference between the last of the first five and the first of the rest.

Let me tell you, being the one to determine which young person took the best selfie is not my favorite thing. I hope the budding artists understand we were critiquing photos.

The two of us were the only judges for the pre-teen entries, so we had all the power when it came time to pick best in show.

Three finalists came to mind immediately — a large, accurate, and impressive model of PNC Park; a delightful photo of two eyes — one human, one not — all but touching; and a painting of a tree.

All were worthy, but the painting — not the most intricate, nor fancy, nor life-like, nor vibrant — stood out for its creativity and originality. I don’t know if the artist has entitled it. I call it ‘Seasons.’ It’s worth a look.