It’s my favorite time of year again!  Print Competition Season just finished up, and now my Facebook feed is filled with phenomenal work, Merit prints, Loan prints, and competition scores of my fellow photographer friends. #hugaprintcompjunkie

Moreover, I watched with my Tiny Human this year, and now she has a pretty good understanding of “The Green & Red Game”… she was guessing which way an image would fall (above 80, green / below 80, red) with stunning accuracy.  That said, she likes Red better than Green [this week], so kept hoping my images would get the Red [X of despair] so…

Every year I get asked the same question: “What did you win?” or “Did you win first place” or “what rank?” or something to that effect.  But here’s the thing:

Competition isn’t Competitive.  It’s collaborative.

You only compete against yourself. Your image is scored individually.  It’s a blind judging, in that the judges don’t know the Maker.  And your merits go on your record, and are toward your degree.  It seems rather isolating, but it’s not.

Because no image is truly yours alone.

My photographer friends are part of EVERY image I enter.  Every year, I pick my images with 100% help of my friends.  More often than not, I’ll pick something and they’ll go “um, no, not that.”  Or, they’ll just look at stuff on Facebook and go “wait, THIS ONE!” and then I’ll work that up for competition.  And then there are something like a bajallion edits and redos and tweaks and they look, unfailingly, at every. single. one.

So because my friends are so influential to my print cases every year, I wanted to you out by name as a thank you.  My success is really yours.

Photographic Open Case

For my PO case, I wanted to enter all 4 prints from Antarctica.  I’ve always had this goal to get a merit print from all 7 continents.  Two images I knew I wanted to enter right away, and I was also hell-bent on entering a penguin. 


I, Alone – 81 (sealed at Districts)
Seal Broken – print not advanced to IPC

At District Competition, I entered this little guy.  (I love him, he’s so cute!)  It scored an 81 and was sealed for merit at International.  But… If your image scores between 80 and 84, there’s no chance of a Loan Print, and – after 10 years of competition, I play for medals.  (No shame in admitting that!)  So I decided that I would break the seal and kick my little penguin friend to the curb.


Fire & Ice – 85 (sealed at Districts)
Loan Print

I knew this would be entered from the moment I saw the iceberg float by.  We were on the ship, and the sky went orange and everything was absolutely incredible.  I wish I could say this took amazing skill to capture, or substantial Photoshop work went into it, but… not really.  It was a simple fisheye lens and HDR, with maybe 1 layer of denoise software (considering time of day…) and some clarity filters.  Just phenomenally lucky.

I missed this one being judged (I was on one of those green scooters of peril at the time) but one of my friends watched for me.  It scored an 85, which I actually (honestly) feel is too low of a score for this, but being over the Loan Panel threshold, seemed silly to break a seal on, just for the pat on the back of a slightly higher score (maybe).  Again, my friends helped tweak the image.  Shout outs to Andrea for her denoise software, and Holly & Kim for the title, and also to Holly for telling me to take it off Facebook immediately so I wouldn’t run the risk of judges seeing it, and to Barbi and Amy for the tweaks in presentation, and to Amy for yelling obscenities on my behalf when I missed the initial judging.


The Ice Limit – 95 (sealed at Districts)
Loan Print (sealed)

To be honest, I had no idea how this one would fare.  I mean, I loved it from the moment I stitched it together (it’s 9ish shots) – but just because you love somthing doesn’t mean it’s gonna do well in Comp.  Anyway, almost fell off my chair listening at districts.  Two of my friends, Joe and Keith, were on the panel judging. Almost had a coronary when it was challenged up to a 95 and instant Loan.  It’s my highest scoring print, and I will buy Joe a drink next time I see him for the initial Challenge.  🙂 


The Big Catch – 86 (sealed at Districts)
General Collection

This humpback whale tail print was what we call “case filler” (at Districts) and I wasn’t expecting it to really do terribly well.  I figured it’d be a merit but I was pretty surprised it scored over an 85.  I was initially planning on find something else for IPC but with an 86, figured why not roll the dice…


There’s One in Every Crowd – 92 
Loan Collection

This one was TOTALLY a collaborative effort.  As previously stated, I knew I wouldn’t re-enter the tiny penguin (“I, Alone”) but still wanted an all-Antarctica case.  Erin picked this one out and said “This one!” (emphatically) so I worked it up and tweaked it for about 900 revisions with Barbi. So, you two will be picking all my prints next year.  I was so excited when it went Loan too!


Artist Case

I’m still working hard at my Master Artist degree, and thought maybe – just maybe – I’d be able to pull it off this year.  (Plot spoiler: no.) I have a pretty good grasp on what a merit print looks like in Photographic Open, but Artist is still a relatively new category for me.  I am still learning painting, and compositing, and all things Photoshoppy so it was kind of a stretch.  For districts, I figured I’d try out two mandala prints.  In all fairness, I made these on the laptop the night before the late deadline was up, so…

Lotus – 77

Phoenix – 79

Neither of these two pieces went on to IPC because, honestly, I just didn’t care that much about them.  Now, I DO think Phoenix has potential, but the critique pointed out that the source image is more interesting than the finished product, so…  Maybe that’ll go on the back burner for awhile.



Fur Goodness Sake – 82
General Collection

These two little gals I saw walking (with their owner, of course) in Casa Costanera Vitacura, and actually stopped the owner to ask him if I could photograph them.  As an introvert, that isn’t something I typically do – but look how gorgeous they are!  (Surprise bonus: owner spoke English, AND understands pet flight regulations… beneficial in the future with our enormous housewolf!)  BIIIG thank you to Barbi for suggesting the expression change, and Amy and Erin for pointing out where I needed to refine the painting.  I really like this painting a lot.  (*pats self on back*)


What Lies Beneath – 77

In April, I went to Texas School with Barbi and Andrea to learn Photoshop compositing.  {Again, Richard, sorry we were all in your class together, and more sorry we decided to sit in the front row.}  The skills learned in that class enabled me to put this together.  Unfortunately it didn’t merit, but I’m still really proud of the piece – and moreover, the message.  Barbi helped me a TON with the composition on this and may have been more upset than I was that it didn’t merit.  (At first.  I am DEFINITELY more upset about it now!)  Looking forward to getting a critique on this one so I can revamp it for next year.

{ETA: Huge thank you, Richard, for the post-IPC review on how to improve this.  You went above and beyond, and I REALLY appreciate it!!!}


Paint Me Like One of Your French Seals – 80
General Collection

OMG, I worked on this SO HARD, I can’t even begin to tell you.  This is the 4th complete iteration of this piece.  Meaning, I’ve started from scratch 4 times, trying to piece together furniture, decor, candles and all the little source images included.  The fur seal was shot in Antarctica (well, ok, the South Shetland Islands) and everything else is from stock (except, of course, the Ingres Gran Odalisque). 

I met Thom way, way back in 1952 at a Roy Orbison concert… {It’s a thing.  Just go with it.} Imagine my delight when he was the one to do the critique on this from Districts.  After going back and forth with him and Amy and Barbi on tweaks, I finally settled on the image above.  It scored an 80 – not as high as I would have liked, but a merit is a merit, and (to quote Amy) “you know amount of work done does not equal a high score.”  So true.


A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine… and Meow – 92
Loan Collection

This is Mr. Dracula (of course) – and I shot the original in-studio in 2014.  He used to steal grapes and cheese off my plate when he was a kitten, so I set up the shot in the studio and used marshmallows (his vice!) to attract his attention.  Unfortunately none of the original shots were very successful.  So, when I entered the initial composite in 2014 it only got a 79.  But I was SURE there was something there.  So this year, I revisited the images and composited them together to paint it.  I got to see it merit in General Collection judging when my friend, Sandra (who obviously didn’t know the image was mine!) Challenged it.

Here’s the deal.  Sandra is like THE Grand Poobah of Photoshop Painting.  She pretty much invented the technique.  And she’s the person who taught me how to paint in Photoshop in the first place.  So, a challenge from her on painting was almost certainly going to take it out of Merit.  Well, darn.

Instead, she challenged it… Up?  To a 90!!  Definitely my highest scoring Artist print.  

So I was a little disappointed that it didn’t Go Loan.  Oh well, still new at the category and “work done doesn’t equal a high score” etc.  I texted Dave that the Cat stayed the same (General, not Loan) and as I hit “send” my catbeast came back up on the screen.  {This is, maybe, 10 minutes later… challenges usually happen immediately.} WHAT??

Sandra just happened to be on the Loan panel and loved the painting.  (On a related note: Keith will get the stink-eye.) She convinced the other judges to love it too, and the print turned to LOAN!

To quote Barbi: That’s like Julia Child coming to your house for dinner and asking for seconds!  Except in this analogy, Julia Child also taught you how to crack an egg and turn on the oven.


2019 Take Aways

My goals this year:

  • Enter a full case of Antarctica prints
  • Merit a print from every continent
  • Merit a composite
  • Get 3 total Loans out of 8 prints for Imaging Excellence
  • Get 5 merits in Artist for Master Artist degree.
  • Not pay the late fee

So, if we’re keeping score (and we should be!)…

Photographic Open case: 4/4 Merits + 3 Loans = Platinum Medalist.  85 (L), 86 (G), 92 (L), 95 (L)

Artist case: 3/4 Merits + 1 Loan = no medal, but up to 12 total merits in the category.   77, 80 (G), 82 (G), 90 (L)

As for the goals – MY version of the “Green and Red Game”

  • Full case of Antarctica =
  • Merit a Print from Every Continent = 
  • Merit a composite =  1 of the 2 anyway.
  • Get a total of 3 Loans out of 8 Prints for Imaging Excellence = , 4! One to spare!!
  • Get 5 merits in Artist for Master Artist degree = so close.  4.  next year.
  • Not pay the late fee =
I qualified for my Imaging Excellence Award (it’s somewhere in the category of “between a degree and a lifetime achievement award”) in January 2020.  See you in Nashville!

I promised to buy Sandra and Joe drinks, and Keith, you still get a big hug in addition to a stink-eye for the 10 years of image reviews, love, and support.  😉

But most importantly, THANK YOU to my fellow Print Comp Junkies (Barbi, Amy, Erin, Andrea) for being part of my success this year (and, well, I’ll just take credit now – likewise for your success.)  I couldn’t do it without you.

Can we make this trend? #hugaprintcompjunkie