[With my departure coming closer, I'm going to post a series of articles commenting on and explaining my editorial practices. I hope these will be helpful.]
When former Editor Chris Lant changed our name to Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) he also redesigned the cover to include a photo of water. Prior to 2006, Charlene Young chose a stock photo from a commercial source. Realizing AWRA was blessed with a number of good amateur photographers, I began the tradition of “in-house” cover photos in 2006. You can see these photos at http://www.awra.org/jawra/cover.html .
It’s the Editor’s prerogative to pick the photo. By pure coincidence, mine get chosen fairly often. However, other fine photographers also make contributions. Tom Ring (December 2007, December 2008, October 2011, and August 2012) has provided us with several wonderful cover photos. Other covers have come from contests by local AWRA chapters, such as that by Brian Walsh (April 2010).
The primary requirement is an attractive water scene. I try to select a seasonal theme, or, if we have a Featured Collection, one that pertains to the collection. One of my favorites is Katey Walter’s cover for the April 2008 Artic Lakes collection. It shows a scientist counting methane bubbles on a frozen lake, with an immense expanse of tundra in the background.
Some good ideas don’t make it. The organizers of our Featured Collection on Golden Alga provided me with a number of photos of fish kills from algal blooms. Good science documentation, but I invoked the “attractive water scene” rule, saying we were NOT going to put dead fish on our cover!
The organizers of our Featured Collection on Chinese Forest Hydrology (October 2008) provided a number of shots, but none of them had anything clearly identifiable as Chinese. I went to my local camera club, and Helen Goodrum, who recently had traveled to China, provided a wonderful shot of junks on a river bank, a shot that just screamed, “China!”
Our covers do not show identifiable people, since I don’t want to deal with model releases. For the June 2006 issue, I actually had to “clone” some water droplets to obscure the face of a man running by the fountain. In August 2012, Tom Ring sent me a number of photos of boats running the Snake River, but I finally chose one in which the faces were turned away from the camera.
The format requirements for a JAWRA cover photo are very strict: 6.75 inches wide by 4.75 inches tall, at 300 pixels per inch. Sometimes this requires some very careful cropping. I use a calibrated Photoshop system and work closely with the contributing photographer to achieve a suitable cropped image. Curiously, our printer does NOT want color calibration information included in the image file; apparently they do things the old fashioned way, with a test print and a light table.
And, yes, I have a slide show of all the covers since 2006. Come to our 2014 Annual Conference in Virginia this November to see it.