My First Competition

I’ve been quiet over the last few days…. for good reason. I’ve been running around like a maniac preparing for my first photo competition.

Yep, I decided to enter a local competition sponsored by the Professional Photographers Association of Greater St. Louis (PPAGSL). I’d just heard about this competition on Thursday, and frantically started getting ready for it.

Friday, I spent most of the night preparing my image files for print. This competition required 8×10″ images, which mine aren’t really suited well for — my prints are either 8×12″ or 10×15″. So I hacked and cropped, and finally had six images ready for printing.

On Saturday, I took them to Wolf Camera, and once again, they blew out the reds in two of the images. Ugh. Dejected and out of time, I decided I would reprint a couple of them at home, and see if I could do better. Later in the afternoon, I went to Sam’s Club, and discovered that they carry Ilford inkjet papers — really good stuff! I picked up a box, and brought it home to try re-printing the two red images.

All through the night, I printed and printed, and finally got the new paper working well with my printer, and got my two newly red prints done well. Then there was the challenge of mounting them.

The competition requirements dictated a mount board no more than 1/8″ thick. I never could find board that thin, so I used corrogated cardboard. Cheap, easy to cut, but impossible to get a good clean cut with. However, I decided that was what I had to go with — there was just no more time.

Into the wee hours I hacked and mounted until my six images were ready to go.

This morning, I awoke, knowing that the competition was in front of me, and I was nervous as could be… today I would stand toe to toe with “real” professional photographers, and my work would, for the first time, be displayed publicly. I gathered my images, my courage and my car keys, and headed toward the competition.

I met Karen there — she was entered also — and we chatted before and after the program, awaiting the print competition. The time came, and we both sat on the edge of our seats, awaiting the appearance of our work. Here are the six entries I submitted, along with scores and comments.

On Her White Stallion On Her White Stallion
Score: 75

None of the judges made any comments about this print. I knew it was probably the weakest, and the score bore that out.

Red Sky at Dawn Red Sky at Dawn
Score: 76

This was one of the images that Wolf had such trouble printing — it looked like a scene from Mars! 🙂 Again, the judges had no comments on this piece.

Yosemite Falls Yosemite Falls
Score: 77

This was, I thought, one of my better images. I love the color of the rainbow in the spray from the falls. Again, no comment from the judging panel, but a little better score.

Orange Frost Orange Frost
Score: 79

While this one didn’t generate any conversation, it did make the last cut, and unfortunately, didn’t make it to the final. Still, I think it’s one of the better images I’ve produced.

Snowfire Snowfire
Score: 79

Again, this one made the last cut, but didn’t make it to the final. For this image, though, the judges had some constructive criticism, mostly having to do with the lack of detail in the snow. I’ll be going back to Photoshop with this one to see what I can do about bringing out some detail in the snow.

Color of Fall Color of Fall
Score: 79

This one generated the most conversation among the judges. While examining it, they went through a whole exercise on rotating the image to find what seemed to look best (which, BTW, was not the way that the image was shot). Then there were other points about the bright leaves top and bottom — they appeared much brighter on the print that Wolf created. The comment that sat with me though was one of the judges saying that he “applauded the maker” of this image. That’s cool! Like the other two images scored at 79, this one didn’t make it to the final.

How close was I to taking a position? Well, close. The highest scored item I can remember was around 82 or so. If any of my images with 79 had gone to 80, there’s a good shot I would’ve pulled a 2nd or 3rd place in my group.

This experience has really energized me, and I can already tell that I’m hooked on showing my work. I’m sure there will be more to come!