Just Finish It

February 16th, 2024

I can’t believe a couple of weeks have already passed since my husband and I were at Imaging USA, PPA’s national convention.

This year will always be a memorable one for me and I am humbled and honored to have experienced recognition with international photo competition and with my image titled “I Don’t Know” with ASP.

My competition images this year started when I worked on them in January 2023 for Professional Photographers of Iowa. I listened/watched competition take place while I was driving to PPI winter convention in Des Moines. (I highly do not recommend doing that, by the way.) As I watched my scores, one of my images out of four did okay. But I watched as the judges brought down the scores on a couple of my images and one wasn’t near the score I was hoping for.

By the time I arrived at convention, I was hot. I had it. I said out loud, “I am DONE!” Competition was just too hard. I worked the hardest I ever had on those images. If I told you all the details that are discussed during judging, it would very much surprise the average person. Each image you put your heart and soul into is pulled apart and it’s hard when each image is so intensely personal.

After I had a few hours to cool off, I sought advice from a few PPI members whom I very much respect and have been through many years of judging. “Okay, what can I do to make these better?” I took notes on the advice that I received. Critique such as this is critical for becoming better and this is when learning takes place.

Competition was hard last year. It usually is. I did get in the top 10 in Iowa in the masters category, but I didn’t do as well as I wanted to do.

I took my notes home and I intended to work on my images some more. I was taking care of Riley and frankly I was sad knowing my time with her was limited. I sat the notes on my desk and did nothing with them.

Later in the fall, there was murmurings on the PPI Facebook about international print competition. Who was entering? How was it going? The deadline was rapidly approaching.

Then I heard advice that I am guessing was from growing up in my head. “You started this, just finish it.” Those PPI images weren’t really done in my opinion until I did everything I thought I could do with them and then just be done and head on to new images next year.

So I pulled out my notes and started working away. I submitted those images barely before the final due date. I paid a lot of money to enter competition. I told no one that I entered, not PPI members, not my husband. But I thought, okay, I finished it!

But then I really hadn’t quite finished, yet. There is something else that you can enter called merit image review, to earn merits and get critiques on images. I entered the same four images in merit image review. I paid more money. NOW, I was completely finished. I was done.

I expected absolutely nothing.

When I found out that I had 2 images that were in the finals in international print competition, I was incredibly surprised. I surround myself with people in PPA and PPI that are so amazingly talented! I feel like I pale in comparison to so many. Not that you are really comparing yourself, but I just see so much talent around me! I guess it inspires me to be better, to work harder. I find that the more I learn, the more I need to learn.

One of my images from merit image review received an image excellence award making it eligible for an award with American Society of Photographers. I sent it on. Again, I expected nothing.

When I received the call from one of the photographers I had admired for a long time with ASP telling me I had won the north central district award, I said, “Excuse me?” I was beyond surprised.

Imaging this year placed me in places where I was surrounded by the best of the best photographers in this nation. I never would have ever guessed when I started my business 19 years ago that I would have this privilege.

I also know that my winning image was yes, based on skills, but it is also subjective. It had everything to do with how that particular image struck that particular set of judges on that particular day. I happened to be blessed that day. It was completely random that it happened this time, it may never happen again. So I am glad and grateful that Al and I were able to experience it together.

How easy would it have been just to let my notes and my images just go, just leave them alone this fall? My luck this year came from an internal voice.

Just finish it!


February 2nd, 2024

I was about to blog about my experience at Imaging USA when I realized it had been nearly a year and a half since I last blogged. So before I talk about this past weekend, I felt I needed to explain my absence. Our sweet dog, Riley, passed away on September 25, 2023. Most of my time these last 2 years was spent taking care of a diabetic dog. I would not have had it any other way. She was in every way a family member. She had more good days than bad over the last couple of years, however, ever since the diabetes diagnosis, I tried to prepare myself for her loss. And truly, I felt like a little part of me was dying every day as I tried to mentally prepare for the day she would no longer be here with us. There were days where we witnessed puppy-like behavior and I would be on cloud nine followed by days that were not good. With her blood sugar issues, we would sometimes finding her shaking after taking her outside to go potty, even if it was a warm day. She had weekly laser treatments for a bulging disc on her back and we had a few serious bouts of pancreatitis. We did not feel like we could leave her for long periods of time. This limited our ability to go on trips – she was terribly traumatized by kenneling and with diabetes we could not leave her with friends to ask them to administer her insulin. The last months of her life, I was so torn by loving her so much and also desiring to go to some things and also feeling guilty for wanting to leave at times.

Riley had a full life, a life where she was completely loved. We had people say to us through the years, “I want that dog’s life!” She had a life where we held on to her until her very last breaths. She experienced a full 15 years with us. At times, I almost wish I had another dog. And at other times, I think I was 15 years younger when we got her. I’m not sure I have it in me again, especially with a puppy…. I never say never…. I also don’t really want to experience this kind of pain again, but a little tiny part of me feels dead right now.

At this time, my husband and I are enjoying being able to do a few things. Going to convention this past weekend was the first time we had flown since the shutdown. It was nice to be able to spend time together and experience different restaurants and attend Imaging together. I am so thankful that my biggest supporter and best friend was at my side! We would not have been able to travel like this a few months ago.

Life goes on….

By the way, Riley visited Al and I a couple of weeks ago, so I know that she is okay. We were both standing at the island in our kitchen when the front door bells shook vigorously and made a noise. We left the bells hanging after she passed, she rang them when she needed to go outside to go potty. Al and I both looked at each other incredulously. We walked over and looked at the bells… We knew with the loud ringing, she had come to get our attention and say Hi.

Riley was an amazing chapter in the life of our family. We were so blessed to get one more family picture just a few weeks before she passed. God bless her little spirit! We can’t wait to see her again someday!

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