Ok, better late than never, right?  i mean… the convention was only in February!  At least I’m eventually posting my results from state.  Actually, they’ve been on Facebook for quite some time, and I totally forgot that I never posted them to my blog.

I’m pleased to announce that my case did pretty nicely this year.  Walked away with 5 blue ribbons and one red ribbon.  All 5 blues were client work (albeit changed a bit for competition) so we can officially say that our Client Work is award-winning!  Pretty nice to claim that.

Ok, so I posted last year’s results on my old blog, and I don’t know if that info still exists anywhere.  Competition is sort of how you “stack up” to other professionals, whether it’s in the area, in the region, or internationally.  The magic number, so to speak, is 80 or higher for a blue ribbon.  Anyway, on the state level – for me, Virginia PPA – your work is judged by a panel of 5 esteemed judges and 2 alternates (should a judge recognize the image or the maker of the image, (s)/he will recuse him/herself from scoring that work.)  Virginia has many many MANY categories to enter.  Each judge punches in a score (keeping in mind that 80 is the number indicating if that judge feels if your work is deserving of merit) – the scores are averaged, and within a very very VERY nerve-racking few seconds, the print chairperson announces your score.  Sometimes you rejoice, sometimes you sob, and sometimes you utter very creative obscenities under your breath.

So here’s how this all played out…

The first print that came up was Built, in the Portrait of a Man category.  Built is a portrait of one of my body builder clients, Mike.  After hearing from many friends and critics, I was rather unsure about entering it.  But I really liked the detail and the expression and figured it was worth a shot.

Well, Liz and I got a bit of a late start (I blame her!) on our way down to the convention… So we actually arrived about 30 minutes after print competition started.  I didn’t even get to see this print come up… and really didn’t think I’d missed anything, until I overheard a fellow photographer talking to a friend of hers saying “I don’t remember whose it was, but that Built one got an 83.”  At which point I almost cloths-lined poor Marie in the hall with “WAIT!  WHAT!?!”  So yes – very very excited about this one!

About an hour and one-half-of-a-catnap later, my second print came up.  Written in the Stars is a wedding candid from Frank and Jamie’s wedding in August.  Wedding candids are very hard to merit.  I had really good feedback from other print judges, though and was hopeful for a blue, but not expecting it.  I wasn’t too surprised when the announcer said “78“.  (insert obscenities here.)

Well, we have a second go-round after a certain number of prints get judged.  This round is called “Ins and Outs” and is normally useless.  Once your print is scored, that’s your number.  Ins and Outs is just a last-chance for the judges to make sure everything has been scored correctly that got a 78 or 79.

Written in the Stars comes around again, and I was fully expecting to hear “stays the same” (the call of doom) and instead I hear “Ok, let’s talk about it!”  (YAY!)  Comments were “I scored it over 80 the first time”, “I really love the expressions”, and… “A wedding photographer’s responsibility is to photograph the dress”… (what-the?) So apparently, one dude (who isn’t a wedding photographer!) brought the score down THAT MUCH because he didn’t like that the whole dress wasn’t in there.  Then… “Rescore?  Goes to 80.”  I dance in my seat and text message Jamie.

After hours and hours of waiting, Ethereal , entered in Portrait of a Bride, comes up next.  I really love this print – mostly because my model, Katya, is such a sweetheart to work with.  And sonuvagun if she didn’t up and move to Chicago!  Anyway, it comes up… “78”  (more obscenities).  Not that a red ribbon is anything to sneeze at.

A few more hours go by…

FINALLY another print comes up.  It’s Stood Up – Susie in front of the glass shop, entered in the Creative Category.  I was hopeful for this to get a merit, but not quite expecting it.  The post-processing is really original (really – I can’t remember how the heck I did it) but there are a few posing problems.  I photographed it during a play-date with Barbi last spring.  Bridal dresses, Makeup Artists, and a full day in Georgetown.  In fact, I actually also photographed Ethereal that same day.

“Judges, your scores please…”

Announcer:  “82” (omg!)

Judge:  “CHALLENGE!”

(me:  “crap.”)

Judge: “The color in this print alone makes it deserving of a higher category.  Challenge for 85.”

(me:  WHAT!?!  – totally thought it was a challenge down to a red!)

After some deliberation, “Judges rescore… 83

(me:  *sigh of relief.)

I found out later that it was bought in for special award consideration, but unfortunately it didn’t win the category.  Creative is a tough category – VPPA has 6 people who pretty much clean up the awards every year.  I’m not one of them.  LOL

I go and call Dave to tell him the results thus far.  Talking for about five minutes when I get yanked into the judging room by Barbi.  Meet Me at the Boathouse is being judged!  I never had 2 prints come up that soon after one another.  I almost miseed it!  And it is THE MOST nerve-racking thing to come in and see your print up for all the world to see.  This print, of Lauren and Marc, was my favorite in the case.  I’d tried this pose and location many times before for many other engagements, but Lauren and Marc just nailed it.  The amount of Photoshop work done to it was nothing short of 10 hours (yes, TEN … for one print!) and I was very hopeful it would score an 80.

“Judges, your scores please…. 83”  WOO HOO!

A few more hours go by…

clock ticks…

It’s 5:30 pm, and my last print STILL hasn’t come out.

“We’re going to continue judging tomorrow”  (ARRRRGHHHH!!!!  Now I have to SLEEP on this!?!?)


Next morning, I get to judging bright and early.  Good thing too.  The first print comes up – Farewell, My Love.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  First print of the day?!  I haven’t even had my coffee yet, so you can imagine the nauseating surprise that was at 8:00 am.  Farewell, My Love was entered in Photojournalism even though I guess, in retrospect, it shouldn’t have been.  It’s of Jeff & Dana kissing at the Jefferson Memorial.  It was a very risky print, because it’s the type of image that looks fabulous as a 36″ print, but not quite so great at 16″ high.  And so many people had cropping opinions I wasn’t imagining it would score over a 77.

(About the title, it’s JUST a title.  The print is an engagement session, and Jeff is very much fine and in Washington DC.  I can’t even tell you how many people have requested I wish him a safe deployment because of that title.  Just wanted to let you all know, he and Dana are both doing great, and he hasn’t had to deploy since that photograph was taken, to my knowledge.)

Every judge got up to get in close to see the detail.  Darn.  That’s never a good sign.  When they look for mistakes it’s usually because the print doesn’t hold up well enough on it’s own.

So imagine my surprise…



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