In February I joined the St. Paul Camera Club. It’s something I’ve thought about on and off over the years, but had never taken the time to look into. A photography event earlier in the winter made me realize that this was something I really needed to do . . . so I went to the next meeting and joined right then and there.
Being a member allows me to participate in the club’s monthly salon – a print and digital competition for club members. There are two competitions each month: One is a print competition where members can submit a print on any subject with the only requirement that it be either monochrome or color, depending on the month. The other is a digital competition with a theme that changes every month. Images are scored by outside judges on a scale from 5 or 6 to 10, with scores of 8 and higher considered “award” winners.
My reasons for wanting to participate in club competitions are multi-faceted: I want to find out if my work is any good, I think competing will make me a better photographer (there are a number of people in the club who are really good), I hope winning will help build my credentials and self-confidence, and I want to learn how to compete in order to enter national (and international) competitions. The club itself also gives me another group of people to learn from. In addition, the club has good training sessions and activities.
March – my first competition – was a monochrome print month with a digital theme of “Contemporary Photography.” I had to ask another member what exactly constituted contemporary photography and they not only described it, but provided a link to examples that left me in awe. Let’s just say that neither of these areas are strong suits for me.
While Photoshop isn’t required to compete in the Contemporary category, it’s pretty common. I don’t use Photoshop very often, but I have used it and so I went back to some of the pictures I had worked on in the past and worked on them some more. In the end I submitted three entries (the maximum you can submit) and one of those, Blue Hydrangea, won an award with a score of 8. The other two images were Arizona Dawn and Victoria Harbor.
While I produced lots and lots of monochrome prints when I was shooting in high school and college, I had never printed a digital monochrome print. Heck, I hadn’t even created more than a handful of monochrome images since I started shooting digital. Still, I went to work and found a few images I thought would work and started experimenting. Surprisingly, most of the ones I initially thought would work best didn’t make the final cut. I got a 10 on my Single Sunflower print!
I loved the sunflower print – and the irony of printing something noted for its color in black and white – but I didn’t expect the subject to be interesting enough to score well. (Echoes in my head of a photo mentor telling me flowers are boring.) That was so much the case that, once the judge got to the award winners my initial excitement at knowing I was going to get an award turned into worry that the print had been misplaced and not judged at all! Needless to say, I was surprised to see it show up at the top of the scoring.
So I survived my first salon. I left pleased that I could compete respectably, but acutely aware of how much I needed to improve. I have lots to work on.