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!

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