An (over)abundance of awards

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This year’s camera club season is well under way and I haven’t even wrapped up last season for you yet!

The Saint Paul Camera Club ends its season with a banquet and awards ceremony in June of each year.

Last spring I returned form a road trip just a few hours before the banquet AND I had the time wrong, so ended up arriving just as everyone was starting to get their food. By that time the tables were pretty well filled-up, with a couple spots at the very front of the room and a couple more in the back. As I started toward the back, I was redirected toward the front and advised “This will be more convenient, since you’ll have to get up a few times.”

The news that I would have to get up a “few times” (presumably to collect awards) wasn’t totally shocking. I’d worked really hard to win the award for the new member with the highest point total for the year and, in the process (always submitting two images for every competition to maximize my point total) I’d gotten enough points in the color print competitions to give me a chance at the top spot for that award too.

I was not, however, at all prepared for what was to come.

A 1st and 2nd for total points earned

The evening started out with the awards based on point totals earned during the season’s monthly salons. There are three categories: monochrome print, color print, and digital. Not completely unexpectedly, I came in first for color prints (by one point). A second place (by one point either way) for monochrome prints was more of a surprise – I knew I had been doing better as the year went on, but didn’t realize how much better.

That was nice, but I suddenly realized I might get more awards than the one or two I was expecting because the club gives out awards for the top FIVE in most categories. I had been thinking there were only awards for the top one or maybe the top three. . . .

A 5th for best color print

I didn’t have any winners in the monochrome “best of” competition, but I did get a 5th place in the color print competition for Many Glacier Sunrise.

Sunrise at Swiftcurrent Lake Glacier National Park - PlayingWithPhotography

Marion Carpenter Award (monochrome photojournalism print)

In a big surprise (for everyone it seemed), I also won the Marion Carpenter Award for the best monochrome photojournalism print for Rhino Mother and Child.

Rhino mother and child in South Africa - Playing with Photography

Ms Carpenter (a former member of the Saint Paul Camera Club) was the first woman photographer in the White House press corps and regularly photographed President Truman during her short career in Washington. She was a photojournalist of the purist form, shooting news images for newspapers and magazines.

Despite starting out in journalism and maintaining a strong journalism sensibility, I don’t usually think of my work as journalism anymore, although almost everything on actually is journalism of one form or another.

The rhino was one of a couple of animal themed images I entered over the course of the year in hopes of winning a different award that is given for the best animal photo. Even though rhino poaching has been in the news a lot in the last few years (and I have written on the topic), I hadn’t really thought about the images that went with that as journalism. While I understood (and appreciated) the judge’s recognition of it as such, it was a surprise.

Julia Herl Award for best digital image of an animal

The award I was trying for with that image was the Julia Herl Award for the best animal image. There are separate awards for prints and digital images, so the amazing orangutan image that everyone knew would win got the print award, leaving me to get the digital image award for the Cheetah Family.

Thelma Wille Award new member with the most points

Of course there were plenty of awards I didn’t get, but it was uncomfortable to get as many as I did, as there are a lot of really talented people in our club, some of who didn’t get any awards,  and I’m new to all of this. I felt like I was being greedy so, by the time they finally got to the award I had been working for all year – the Thelma Wille Award for the member with the most points in their first full year of competition, I was almost too embarrassed to go up and get it.

But, of course, I did.

Looking back, looking ahead

I worked really hard to make a good showing this year. To do that, I entered two images in every competition during the year – even when I didn’t feel very inspired or didn’t think I had anything particularly good. But I also wanted to learn more and improve my work, so entering images that I wasn’t really sure about along with ones that I thought were sure winners (and usually weren’t) provided good feedback. I learned a lot more than if I had just entered when I felt really confident about an image.

One club member noted that point totals don’t necessarily indicate who the best photographers are, as this is a numbers game. If you are the best photographer in the club, but if you only enter occasionally you will never have a high year end score. That’s true, but entering every single month does more than just help you accumulate points, it also forces you to stretch a bit and to learn more.

There are months where the digital topic (which has the most entries and is the most competitive) really doesn’t inspire me, but I plan to force myself to enter every month again next year too so I keep stretching. I also want to improve my monochrome printing next year, since I find everything about it really difficult. And I’d really like to get more of those “best image of the year” awards. . . .