Prints That Win: Pastel Passage

When you’ve been competing in print competitions as long as Idaho photographer, Dennis Hammon, capturing beautiful landscapes comes as natural as the photo’s subject itself.

While teaching a photography workshop aboard the Celebrity Silhouette cruise ship, Hammon was admiring the view during the ship’s departure when he noticed a sailboat along the horizon. Using his keen eye and his Canon 5D, he snapped a couple of pictures of the scene, and a winner was born.

The Sunset Print Award winning photograph, “Pastel Passage,” displays placid waters complete with breathtaking hues of pink and purple pastels that were bestowed by the sunset.

Safe Harbor, 2015 Sunset Print Award winner by Dennis Hammon

Similar to his 2015 Sunset Award winner, “Safe Harbor,” Hammon allowed the natural beauty of the scene to shine through, using very minimal editing in Photoshop and Nik. After he had edited the levels and curves, he printed it out on LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper 300g and began entering it in competitions.

After photographing professionally for more than 40 years, it’s no surprise that Hammon eats, sleeps and breathes all things photography.  “I started print competitions in 1981,” he says. “I started doing competitions that motivated me to work my way up to get my Masters, my Craftsman, and now I’m a PPA affiliate juror, which I’ve been for over 25 years.”

Like many other Sunset Print Award-winning photographers, Hammon believes in the importance of print competitions. “I use print competitions as a barometer to see how my work is progressing and measuring against other professionals,” he says. “It’s always nice to win awards, but it’s important for me to see where my work is progressing each year and see how it measures up to current styles and looks.”

Hammon also values the sage advice from photography mentors in the industry. “Find somebody that can be a mentor to you, somebody that is where you want to be and not where you already are,” he says.

He believes that the availability and willingness of talented and accomplished professionals have allowed the industry to improve greatly. “We are seeing such an increase in the quality of work because the mentor program allows people to help each other more instead of how it was in the past when methods were almost a secret.”

So what does a master photographer do when he’s not traveling the world, teaching workshops, and winning print competitions? Improving his craft, of course! “Believe it or not, besides reading and hanging out with my wife, I enjoy photography,” he says. “It’s been both my hobby and my profession. I still look forward to getting up and going to work every day and challenging myself to do something new!”

Prints That Win: Angels Bending Near the Earth

Idaho Falls-based photographer, Cheri Hammon, had an unusual start in photography. After abandoning a career as a hairdresser due to allergies, she happened upon a job in a local photography studio.

“They put me in sales and I was terrible,” she says, laughing. “So the photographer who owns the studio asked me if I was interested in retouching.” From that moment on, she had found her passion.

Her Sunset Print Award-winning image, “Angels Bending Near the Earth,” also had a unique inception. “Normally, I get a feeling when I start a project and it sits in my head for a while and kind of cooks,” Hammon says. “But this is the only one I’ve ever done that just hit me all of a sudden.”

Prints That Win: Blowing Out of a Creative Funk

A small junk store in Rio, Nevada was the last place Kelly Zimmerman expected to capture her Sunset Print Award-winning image, “Blowing Out of a Creative Funk.” However, she was instantly captivated by the old fans sitting in the store window.

“[The store] had this little display set up, and I loved the concept of all of these fans. I don’t know why, it just drew me in,” Zimmerman says. “The image alone wasn’t much to speak of, but I was just inspired by the fans with the crumpled papers.”

Prints That Win: Oriental Inspiration

On the day this Sunset Award-Winning photo was taken, photographer Steven Yahr was at a bridal portrait photoshoot. “The bride wasn’t there yet,” says Yahr, “and the image evolved from that scene.” The simple elegance of the shot is true to his signature style.

“I just did a program for a group in New York, showing some of the processing I do in photoshop to make images look different from rest,” he says, “I noticed that on almost all my images that have done well, they’re simple subjects that have an artistic flare to them.” He believes that balance of painterly backgrounds with simple subjects is ultimately what makes his images stand apart from the rest.

Prints That Win: The Chosen One

When Laura Wagoner’s son wanted to dress up as Harry Potter for a “character day” at school, she wasn’t planning on capturing a winning photograph from the event. “We were just having fun,” she says with a laugh. “My son was Harry, my daughter was Hermione Granger, and my little one was Draco Malfoy.”

Avid fans of the series by J.K. Rowling, her three kids were thrilled to portray their favorite characters. Wagoner did individual photographs of them, but this shot of her son immediately caught her eye, prompting her to enter it into the Minnesota Professional Photographer Association and Twin City Professional Photographer Association competitions, where she won the prestigious Sunset Print Award.

Wagoner has been photographing for years, ever since she took a class in 11th grade. “I knew I wanted to do something with art,” she says, “and after I took that class I just knew that was it.” She completed another five years of training and ultimately opened her own studio.

Prints That Win: La Petite Mademoiselle

About four years ago, Massachusetts-based photographer Andrea (Andy) Joliat came to a creative standstill. She felt stuck in her artistic endeavors, unable to create as she had in the past; the writer’s block of photography. In the hopes of overcoming this, she turned to her fellow photographers, interviewing them about their creative resources, and even writing an article (pg. 34-36) on the subject that was published in Professional Photographers Magazine.

As a photographer with three decades of experience, Joliat was determined to overcome the creative obstacles. “I’ve thought a lot about creativity and where people get ideas from,” she says. “They come from different places… I might see some colors that I like, and I’ll remember those colors and want to create something in that palate.” In her article, she discusses her methods of finding inspiration, many of which come from literature. Discovering and exploring these outlets of creativity – whether it’s color palates or Robert Frost – is imperative to developing one’s style.

The exquisite, Sunset Print Award-winning photograph, “La Petite Mademoiselle,” beautifully portrays Joliat’s knack for creating aesthetic, touching images. The viewer is immediately struck by the little girl’s expression of curiosity and reticence, paired with the light, pastel composition of the color palate.

Joliat became interested in photography after taking a course in college. “I just fell in love with it my senior year,” she says. After she graduated, she continued to the New England School for Photography, and she’s been a professional photographer ever since.

She photographs a wide variety of subjects, but portraits of children are among her specialties. “I feel like I can connect with them in a quiet way, and it brings out a good expression in the child that is usually thoughtful,” says Joliat. “I’m a fairly quiet person and I feel that they are comfortable around me.”

La Petite Mademoiselle_ Andrea Joliat_Her portrait of this little girl is both precious and impressive in technique. Joliat adjusted both the lighting and complexion of the girl, painting her cheeks and lips to create the effect of a little doll. “When I think back to that session, her personality was very observant. She watched things,” she says, “Maybe that’s why her eyes came out so much in the picture, because she was a curious little girl.”

As one can tell from her winning photo, Joliat successfully found her way through the creative block, delving into her past along the way. “When I was young, I used to explore my grandmothers garden, and it felt like a journey to walk through and discover things and not have anything in mind, but to just go in and look for something” she says, “And I think this ties back to creativity. I felt like I had to have a specific idea or goal each time when I went out to take photos. And I got to a point where I could just go and be open-minded, explore, and come across new things.”

Joliat, who has been entering her work in completions since the late ‘90s, has won many awards over the years. She highly recommends that photographers of all skill-levels participate in such events, though she has unique advice for them.

“I think people should take the constructive criticism that they get from the experience, but still do their own thing,” she says. “I see a lot of people thinking that their work has to look a certain way, or look like an image from someone they admire. So listen to the criticism, but always maintain your style.”