WARNING: Long Post Ahead!

Another year of Print Competition is in the bag.  As always, my favorite thing to do is watch the competition Live (well, Live online) with my friends, guess the scores, gripe about what I disagree with, and watch everyone’s scores roll in.  My Facebook feed is filled with stories of love and loss and sorrow 79s and magical unicorn 100’s.  (We also refer to these as “The Red X of Infinite Sadness” and “The Green Checkmark of Eternal Happiness.” Photographers are dramatic like that.)

As for my own results, I can say – not too shabby!  I entered 2 cases this year (for the second year in a row) and all 8 of my prints merited, with two being accepted into the prestigious Loan Collection – 1 from each case.  That gets me two shiny new Silver Photographer of the Year medallions – a.k.a. “Double Silver.”

For emphasis:  DOUBLE SILVER

As you guys know, I try to make personal goals for each year’s image competition, and whenever possible, I only use new pieces.  Unfortunately, this year, Northeast District kind of snuck up on me, and I really had to rush to pull my case together.  (Add insult to injury – the day after I uploaded it, they extended the deadline by about 2½ weeks but I was on vacation anyway so didn’t get any extra time…)  Because of the rush, I tried to pull together newer work at an 80 or above level for my Photographic Open case and instead put all my focus into my Artist case.  This kind of worked, since 3 of my 4 images sealed (merited) in each case, but I’m glad I got to re-work/re-enter since the new 4th images were the ones that did the best.

Without further ado, here are this year’s entries (including the one above.)

Waterfront Parking scored an 80 at Northeast District and sealed for Merit at IPC. Honestly, it probably shouldn’t have.  I see things now that could have been changed.  Like I mentioned – this case was assembled in a rush!  This was taken in Madeira (Funchal), Portugal during our cruise last year.


It’s Bigger on the Inside scored an 80 at Northeast District and sealed for Merit at IPC. This one was shot in San Pedro de Atacama.  Not much to say about it.  It was a cool door so I took a picture.  


Bewitched scored an 81 at Northeast District and sealed for Merit at IPC. It’s a simple (and, admittedly Safe) image for Print Competition of a well-lit studio portrait of a pretty woman.  Either way, I really love it – it’s one of my favorite portraits.  This is Natalie, our studio manager who has since moved back to the States to pursue bigger and better things.


Llama Vista was what we call “Case Filler.”  10pm the night before the late entry deadline, I still couldn’t think of anything to enter.  So I uploaded a private gallery on Facebook to ask a few friends their opinions, and they picked this one.  I was like, “Really? But, it’s just a random view of Chile.  It’s not even the right time of day!”  This image has virtually nothing done to it, except a little tonal contrast.  I couldn’t even think of a name so the title “Llama Vista” I can’t even take credit for.  Long story short, I’ll be crowd-sourcing my images next year, since this one is one of my highest-scoring images ever.  It scored a 92 and then was accepted into the LOAN Collection!

Two notes. 

First: These aren’t llamas – they’re vicunas. (With an Enye, but I can’t get this GUI to make the squiggly-N character.)This was taken in the Altiplano of the Atacama desert (near Guatin) and I made Dave pull off the side of the road as my sisters-in-law and I ran out of the car to get this shot.  Vicunas are in the north of Chile.  Guanacos are in the South.  Last year’s comp image was Guanacos.  Alpacas are domestic and in Peru.  Llamas, maybe.  Camels are the only camelid not native to South America.  Impress your friends with your new-found knowledge.

Second Note: I got to watch this image be judged live.  It was challenged by one of my favorite people on the planet to go to the Superior category.  And then it was judged by another one of my favorite people for Loan.  Neither of them knew it was my print, of course – everything is done blind.  But it was fun to watch!


This was my second year entering the Artist competition.  Last year I took an oil painting class and really enjoyed the manual/tactile experience of working with paint.  Unfortunately… oil paints and turpentine don’t really mix well with a toddler.  (Also, I spent about half my concentration trying to think/speak in Spanish vs. concentrating on the piece… but I’d definitely go back to that class if I had the time or childcare!) 

Anyway, I wanted to merge my newfound love of oils to Photography.  Not necessarily for anything for clients or as a possible revenue stream – just kinda started doing it because I liked it.  I took a Photoshop painting class while pregnant (with the aforementioned Favorite Person in the World) and really had a blast.  Then, in April, I took a week-long Fine Art Photoshop course to further advance the new skill-set.  (Another one of my favorite people was the instructor.  I have a lot of favorite people who are photographers, clearly.)  None of those techniques made the case, but I did develop and refine these kaleidoscopes I started last year.

Vortex scored an 80 at Northeast District and sealed for Merit at IPC. The original capture is the interior of Saint Chappelle Cathedral in Paris – most magnificent windows!  The initial exposure was turned into an HDR image, then a polar distortion was applied in Photoshop.  Then I made a clipping mask using the gold element, and turned that selection into a kaleidoscope.  From there, a little twisting, warping, spiraling turned the image into a… welll… Vortex.  Hence the title.


The Aztec Talisman scored an 82 at Northeast District and sealed for Merit at IPC. Similar to the technique above, the initial capture was an old exposure from the Jeronimo Monestary in Lisbon, Portugal.  Add in some polar distortion, and some shape masking, and some gold leaf, and voila!

I heard this one judged a few months back and the judges were raving about the faces.  Swear to God, I never noticed them until the judges pointed them out!  I mean, I titled it “Aztec Talisman” because that’s immediately what popped into my head – something about it looked Mesoamerican.  So maybe I did notice?  That’s why I love these pieces though – interpretive.


Closing Time in Kennebunkport Is a re-work of an image I entered last year which crashed and burned.  (Ok, fine, it got a 79 last time.) There were a few flaws that needed to be cleaned up, and a bigger transformation needed to be seen to get it to merit.  Happy to say that it ended up at an 81 this time around. This was taken in Kennebunkport, Maine and I just thought it was the coolest little shop vignette!



Most of you already know this, but we were truly heartbroken when our little girl, Hailey, crossed the Rainbow Bridge in March.  I was in NJ, and Dave was here – I tried to get back to Chile as fast as I could, knowing how sick Hailey got, and how quickly it was happening.  Dave was with her – but even with moving my flight up, she passed away while I was in the air.  She had an undetected autoimmune disease which masqueraded as an upset stomach, or a weight problem or delicate skin for far longer than we knew.  One of the issues with moving so often is long-term medical issues go unseen until they’re too late.  Surprisingly, the type of autoimmune disease she had has a life expectancy of 8-9 years.  She lived 14 years.

Irony.  Or, “Do As I Say, Not As I Do.”

Before I left, I had promised I’d do a 14 year birthday photo of Hailey, Mr. Dracula, and JEM.  I kept putting it off for various reasons.  

The studio was a wreck. Little One needed her nap. Hailey needed a groom. Cat was being… a cat.

I never shot the image I wanted.  Keep that in mind – I have a studio IN MY HOUSE with the two best pet-models in the world, and a surprisingly willing toddler… and I still didn’t make the time. I’d promised myself I’d do a birthday portrait as soon as I got home in March.

I never got to see Hailey after her 14th birthday.

Trying to Fit In was shot almost a year ago.  Catbeast is 4, Little One is about 1½, and Hailey is 13½.  The adorable unicorn sweater was something I picked up for $4.00 in Marshall’s on Clearance.  (I do love me some discount clothing shopping…)  Yes, that’s their real expressions.  The title was picked by a friend – I really was at a loss for what to call this, but “Trying to Fit In” really worked.

I did enter this image at Northeast, but it didn’t merit.  It got a 78, I think?  But I ordered a critique and got really great advice on how to fix it – the toes were originally dark, and the texture on the sweater was lacking… I don’t remember everything, but the advice was good.

While I’m invested in all my competition prints, clearly this one had more meaning that the others.  So listening to the image score an 82 out of the box was amazing.

And then… “Challenge.”

Sonuvabitch.  Leave it as an 82!  C’mon, don’t do this to me…  I was watching online with friends who were equally enraptured and/or enraged.

“I had this in the next category at an 87”  Wait, what?  You’re challenging it… UP?

Then the judge (Larry, actually – I can always tell his voice.) spoke for the image – about their expressions, and relationship, the color harmony used, the technique employed.  {I may have wept.} Just about the only negative given was that the cat was slimmed down… and in Mr. Dracula’s defense – he’s just big-boned.  It’s pretty amazing when the judges “get” your work.

The judges settled in the Excellent category at an 86. 

And Loan.

Since it didn’t seem right to write this whole blog without a proper send-off to Hailey, this is a video we put together of her.  It’s a little long, but – it’s 14 years after all.  I hope you enjoy it.