Today, I packed up 4 images that I spent painstaking time and energy creating to send to PPA’s northcentral district print competition which takes place in Des Moines next month. Just as I was heading out the door to go to the post office to send my print case, I saw that another one of my print cases had just arrived home from national convention that took place in Nashville earlier this month. My case contained 3 of the 4 images that I sent last year. The 4th missing image is actually touring right now with the PPA loan collection. It’s quite exciting!
So why do I participate in print competition?
Sometimes I wonder why… It is truly one of the most difficult things I have ever participated in. Your images, which you work very hard to create, are given a once over by a panel of judges who scour them down to the tiniest detail. If anything is “off” in any way, shape, or form, I can guarantee you, the judges will catch it.
What are they looking for? It can range from seeing detail in the highlights and the shadows, it can be a spot that’s too bright, it can be sloppy composites, it can be a multitude of issues….
When I started out in print competition, I truly had no idea what I was doing, at least as far as the judging goes. I thought every image I submitted was great, and to the average eye, they were quite good. I watched over and over and each of my images was pulled apart or worse, not even acknowledged with a once over, just a lower score than I preferred or understood.
After each judging, I would pull experts over to look at my images and critique my work. In order to become better, this is necessary, but it isn’t very pleasant. For a few years it went like that. Then, I remember the day I got my first “merit” image – an image that scored at the magic score of 80 or above. This merit went towards earning my master’s degree with PPA. I already had plenty of educational merits to go towards my degree. Now I needed print merits – 13 to be exact.
Well, I’ve kept plugging away – last year I earned 4 merits in one year, 3 prints scored above 80, but the one that was nominated to go in the loan collection earned an extra merit. I now have 8 merits to my credit – 5 more to earn my master’s degree.
I guess part of the reason I have kept going back and back to competition, is my competitive spirit – I want to truly “get” it. I want to be capable of earning a merit with every image I submit. I want to know that I know what it takes every time. I’m getting closer, and that in large part is because I have become addicted to watching the judges critique print competition.
The end result? My day-to-day work gets better and better. I am more critical of my work. I want only my very best work to go into my client’s hands.
Competition has been a good thing for me and my business. I can’t wait to see my results from this year’s work!
… And the ball descended. “10, 9, 8, 7, 6….” My kids and I were watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve (Is it still called that?) on t.v. at the home of friends last night while my husband was on call at Kossuth Regional Health Center. “5, 4, 3, 2…” I found that my heart jumped just a little. “1! Happy New Year!” And the number lit up “2015.”
There really is an impact of seeing a new year written for the first time. It means fresh, new start. Even though every day is a new day with new chances, there is something about a new year… 2015, I have been saying that our son graduates in 2015 forever. Now the year is here. In five months we will watch him in his cap and gown. 2015, this marks my 30 year high school reunion. 2015, I will turn 48 and my husband will turn 49 this year – the big 5-0 is around the corner.
My goals for this year? I have been thinking about that all day. For one thing, I plan on getting some sort of exercise every day and challenging myself on the days I have a few more minutes to spare. Little things done each day can produce big results over time. I have had some issues this year which prevented me from always moving like I would like to. This changes this year. (I actually started to implement this in December, so it shouldn’t be a huge shock.)
Overall, I am quite happy with my business. I cut back on my number of sessions this last year. I may have to cut back even a little more, if I want to completely enjoy my home life and time with my family, as I would like.
I have several little cleaning projects I wish to implement before graduation in May. And I really do mean little. It won’t take a lot to get these things done. Once again, I just need to do a little each day to produce big results by May.
I am going to continue to work on my prints for competition. I am halfway to getting my Master’s degree with PPA – I’m not giving up now!
2015 will be an exciting year! Here we go!
2014 draws to a close….
It has been an eventful year with laughter and some tears. I have mixed emotions when it comes to 2015. Happy because our son will graduate from h.s. and go to college. (We did our job.) Sad because our son will graduate from h.s. and go to college. I know that the year will be filled with joy as we watch both of our children grow, participate in their activities, and enjoy our family time together. I wish all of you peace and blessings as you ring in the new year!
Yesterday, my daughter and I went to the wedding of this exceptional young lady. I first met Erin when she was 2 years old. My husband and I who lived in Madison, WI at the time came to visit the family practice residency in Mason City. Al was coming to the end of his time in medical school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and we were “shopping” for where he would begin the next phase in his training to be a family practitioner. There was a gathering for the spouses of the residents at the home of Robin, who has now been my friend for many years since. Erin was this little girl who always donned a huge smile. I have had the pleasure of watching her grown up. I took her high school senior pictures. And now, I witnessed her get married – what a beautiful bride! Congratulations, Erin & Kyle! It was an honor to witness your special day!
Where does the time go? Honestly, I have the intention of getting my blog out on a semi-regular basis. The last months have left me in a whirlwind of activity. So, just to share a little about what I have been up to lately.
We began the new school year and I realized that this is the beginning of ending a chapter in our lives. Our oldest, our son, is a high school senior. He has been investigating colleges, taking his ACT test, receiving mail from schools on a daily basis.
Our daughter is now a freshman, which means the downward slide is officially in process for her, too.
Our fall has consisted of cross country meets, my photography sessions, and endless activities. Both of our children participated in cross country. Our son is an accomplished runner, but found himself in a health situation that we never could have predicted would or could happen. We found out that he was suffering from ulcers. One was bleeding and left him anemic and unable to perform as he was accustomed to this season. He is on the mend and our team is running in the Cross Country State Championship in Fort Dodge this Saturday, November 1st. We are hoping for the very best!
This Saturday night is also our 12th annual Legacy Ball, a fundraiser for the hospital. I have been on the decorating committee since its inception. We are in the process today and tomorrow of creating a beautiful atmosphere at our K.C. Hall. This year’s theme? Greece! After we watch our boys run this Saturday, we will race home to get ready for the big event!
Last month found Al and I at our 25th college reunion from our school, Luther College. We had a fun time reconnecting with friends. Our flying trip up and back left us exhausted for several days following.
Al is in the process of re-branding the Rejuvenation Clinic at the hospital. Together, we came up with a new name, had a new logo designed, and have been in the process of redecorating the space. We are SO excited for Kossuth Regional Health Center to opening the Ageless Solutions Aesthetic Clinic in January! A lot of my personal time has been invested into this project and we are so thrilled to share more information with everyone soon regarding new services, equipment, new products, new staff… It is going to be a fabulous experience for all!
Add to all of the this time spent trying to be the best mom, wife, and home maker that I can be, it has been challenging at times to feel like I am not going to pull my hair out and go crazy. With the occasional reminder to breathe and appreciate each moment, I am moving forward.
I am going to make a conscious decision to try to not be such a “bad blogger” and share more in the upcoming days and months!
I wanted to share with you a project, or should I say several projects, that keep me busy when I am not working on client pictures, picking up the house, doing laundry, getting groceries…. and all of the other domestic duties that come with being Mom. I love to create memories for my children – keepsakes that I know that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives. I create everything from fine art gallery wraps and framed sports collages I display in their rooms, to a few scrapbooks, and also, I have created a book for each of my children for each sport that they participate in – and they are in a lot of sports. My son is a 3-sport person and my daughter is in 4 sports. I love taking pictures of these activities! Sometimes I find myself taking so many, that I need to create 1, 2, or even 3 books for a single season of one sport. Tonight I just finished my daughter’s softball book for the 2014 season and got it ordered for her. I can’t wait for it to arrive and present it to her!
Okay, so it’s not the end of summer by any means, but once it’s after the 4th it seems to fly even faster. Today was my daughter’s last day of softball for this season. I spent the day in Mason City at the Newman High School softball field. After a whirlwind month, I am getting back into the swing with high school senior pictures.
This year has been eventful. I have had to make some decisions in my personal life and in my business. I am continuing to spend as much time as possible at my kids’ activities, and being the best mom that I can be is my top priority, as I mentioned in February. This has meant cutting down on the number of sessions that I am shooting this year. Unfortunately, this means I have had to turn down some jobs. I wish that each session was as simple as just the photo shoot… For me to do my job as I have been doing it (and the way I wish to continue it), there are several steps to each photographic session before we arrive at the final prints. First, I meet with each client ahead of time to decide what they would like from their session. We discuss clothing selections, tips for good images, and just get to know each other a little before the shoot. Next, is the actual session. After the session, I edit the images to the best ones. Of these, I retouch some, add special effects, make some black and white… This, by the way, takes a while when I am working on h.s. senior images. Then we meet and my client watches a slideshow and we decide what images they like and figure out the best products for them. Next, I retouch the client’s favorite images, crop them to desired sizes and order them. Once the portraits arrive, I carefully go through each item, make sure everything looks perfect, and then I beautifully package the images. Anything that is 16×20 or larger is also hand-signed by me. Once everything is ready to go, I call my client and let them know that their order is here and we arrange a pick-up time. All together, that is 7 steps for one photo shoot. I have a wonderful assistant that comes and helps me during my sessions. She helps with the lights, steams backgrounds, and is fabulous with the little details. Everything else I do on my own. This set-up is the best one for me and my family. I got to the point in my business where I either needed to get bigger and delegate some responsibilities, or become somewhat smaller in order to try to achieve that “balance” that I think all working moms are trying to achieve. I am very grateful for my clients. I am very grateful for my family. I will continue to strive to do my very best for both of these areas in my life.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure and opportunity to talk to the 3rd and 4th graders at Lucia Wallace Elementary School in Algona for career day. I had 3 groups of eager little listeners learn about my job in photography. The fact that so many had an interest in my career warmed my heart. I shared everything about my business from the hours that I worked to the responsibilities and skills needed for this job. I love the fact that anybody can enjoy photography in their life, even along-side another career, or have as a hobby.
When I was young, I had no idea I would ever have a job in this field. It took me until I was nearly 40 years old, before I pursued my life-long interest by taking many classes and seminars. More than anything, I really wanted each student to realize that they may have many different careers in their lifetime.
I went to school pursuing one career, and then realized half-way through my senior year in college that I did not want to teach music, my selected major. I taught elementary music, in spite of my reluctant feelings, for a year. We married two weeks before my husband started medical school and I began teaching. I had a lot of pressure from both sides of our families – “What are you going to do?! You HAVE to have a job!” I subsequently had one of the worst years of my life following and became very depressed. The one thing that was solid was my marriage, but it felt as though just about everything else was crumbling around me. After that year I found other jobs and we made it through my husband’s 4 years of medical school in Madison, WI. I felt really bad about myself for many years after I got out of music. I felt like a huge failure for not staying in my chosen field of study.
I did not share the details of my teaching job with the students yesterday, but I really wanted them to realize that if you find yourself doing many different things throughout your life, you grow and learn from each of your experiences. And no matter what you end of doing, make sure that you are the absolute best you can be at whatever that job is. “Be the best________ you can be.” Whether you fill that blank with “farmer” or “electrician” or “teacher” or “parent” or “convenience store employee” or “photographer,” it really doesn’t matter. Be your best and enjoy all of your life experiences & learn from them. I hope that each of these youngsters also continue to pursue their interests, in whatever capacity that might be, in photography, too.
Where has the time gone? I knew that it had been a little while since I last blogged, however, I had not realized it had been a couple of months. Days are flying by turning into weeks, months, and years. And I wish it would slow down just a bit, just long enough for me to appreciate all of the good things going on around me. I thought this photograph well-represented how time feels right now. The heart of track season is underway!
Earlier this month, I was at PPI winter convention in Des Moines. I have so much fun seeing my good photographer friends at this event! A personal challenge that I have taken on is working towards my Masters Degree with the Professional Photographers of America. This involves accumulating a certain number of educational merits and print competition merits. I already have plenty of educational merits – not too hard to do when you love learning more about a career you are passionate about! I am just over half-way to my goal of 13 print merits. This is not an easy process. It involves being far more picky about details than you would ever dream of “fixing” in an average portrait. I have participated in competition for several years now, primarily because it is making me a better photographer. But, now that I have my eye on the “prize” of achieving my Master’s, I am learning how to pay even more attention to certain details. This year I received a second place award for the “portrait of a man” category and I was a top 10 award winner for my print case entries. Now these images will go on to the regional and national competitions. The process is challenging & frustrating at times, but always exciting!