I used this image a few years ago in a post about Remembrance. It’s a scan from a 35mm slide, and did very well in competitions in the days when I was in a camera club. I looked at it again recently, and got to wondering why it had done so well.
It’s a very simple composition, (that’s my style), so in an “instant judging” competition it’s easy to understand it. There’s a nice colour contrast between the deep red of the main flower and the dark blues and greens of the background. The composition reads well from left to right, with the diagonal from the bottom left leading up towards the flower. The lines of bokeh circles in the top left quarter also point towards the flower. The nicely curved stem holds the eye into the composition and leads back up to the red flower. The backlighting on the flower turns into attractive side/rim lighting on the stem, and the stem and flower are the only things in focus.
All of the above are technical issues, but to me it was successful because it’s not really about a flower; it’s about the story the flower might tell. Its location is not obvious, and yet there clues as to where it might be. The absence of clarity allowed the judge(s) to build their own story into the image. Some thought it was about WW1. Someone thought it was about Nature reclaiming her land from development. Someone thought it was about holding your head high following imprisonment. None thought it was just an image of a flower.
The moral? I suppose it’s to allow judges space in your competition images to apply their own story.