Beach-combing once meant collecting shells, sea glass, driftwood, or, if you were lucky, a Japanese glass fishing float. Today, it's trash, mostly plastic-bottle related, along with cigarette butts and some truly gross human flotsam.
The Surfrider Foundation wants you to do something about it: take pictures of the beach junk you collect and arrange, slap on a six-word caption, and maybe win the grand prize in their inaugural Found Objects photo competition.
Already underway, the contest goes through noon our time on September 30th. Aside from the fun of making eco-art, the grand prize winner gets a GoPro Hero5 Session in Black, as well as a Surfrider gift certificate and membership. Runners-up get prizes too. The official rules allow for some manipulation of the images, but basically you must be at least 13 years old and a U.S. resident to be eligible. Post pics through your Instagram account, tagging @Surfrider and #surfriderfound to be considered.
The San Clemente–based nonprofit estimates there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world's oceans. While it may seem like a drop in the bucket to have people photograph beach garbage for a prize, know that at any given time, Surfrider's got 90 campaigns and programs going on local, regional and national levels.
So head to the beach or coastal waterway, fight off the gulls, crows and squirrels for some detritus, arrange it, snap a pic, then caption your photo with exactly six words. Not one more, not one less.
Consider getting your materials on Saturday, September 16, which just so happens to be International Coastal Cleanup Day. OC chapters of Surfrider are participating, with the Newport Beach group joining the clean-up at Lower Santa Ana River in Huntington Beach, while the South County chapter is offering volunteers free parking and a BBQ at noon for its Salt Creek State Beach sweep.
Tips for crafting your entries are provided by the organizers, recommending you look for variety in color, shape, texture and size in your garbage gleaning; to shoot from above; and make your six-word stories "clever, fun, unique." But there's already plenty of stiff competition posted that both follow and break from that criteria.
There are chuckle-worthy captions to go with whimsical arrangements, such as "shovel headed lady needs hair cut." (Don't know how much of a stickler the Surfrider judges will be, but haircut is usually one word, no?). Pragmatic descriptions for 5-gallon buckets full of gathered junk, "The Planet Preschoolers collected this rubbish." And elegant, longshots of beach-scapes littered with huge sculptures: One featuring a totem-like bucket tower labeled "the buckets just keep floating in," another taken in the late afternoon when long shadows of abstract, winged assemblages fall on windswept dunes against a cloud-dotted sky, captioned "One last flight before the dumpster."
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Washed-up flip-flops are featured in many of the entries, just six days into the competition—one fashioned to resemble the state of Florida bracing for Hurricane Irma. The solo flip-flop is on its way to becoming a warning symbol to beachgoers (tourists)—like severed heads on a fence—to clean up after themselves. The trend may have started with Grand Cayman's casuarina tree covered in nailed-up shoes, which now, like everything else, has become a selfie-taking backdrop.
And that's one more wonderful thing about the Found Objects contest, no selfies; unless you construct your likeness out of broken bits of plastic refuse. Take a pic of that.