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.

Prints That Win: The Next Step

When Vanessa Longuski took her Sunset Print Award-winning photo, “The Next Step,” she was in the middle of a wedding photo shoot in Lansing, Mich., on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building.

To get the dramatic shot, she simply got lucky during a time crunch on the couple’s wedding day. The videographer was filming the bride and groom, and the image was one of only two photos without him in it.

Longuski began her photography career as an unofficial yearbook photographer at Bad Axe High School in Michigan. She went on to study arts photography at Central Michigan University, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to make a living with tradition darkroom experience, so she switched to digital. She started her own business two months before graduation and bought a studio less than a year later.

Since opening the studio in 2008, she has photographed 300 weddings and is currently working toward her PPA master’s degree. Longuski offers portrait and commercial work in addition to wedding photography, and says her passion for her work is fueled by making “people happy by doing something for them … it’s what I love to do every day.” Capturing natural poses and facial expressions is the key to helping her subjects feel and look at ease.

She’s inspired by her customers because “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them, I love working with them,” she says.

Print competitions, like the Sunset Print Award in the PPA North East District, keeps the learning process alive for her. “Winning is a great feeling … to know I accomplished something,” she says.

Prints that Win: A Calculating Commander

Armonk, New York photographer June Greenspan has spent her professional career trying to capture people and their passions. Fascinated by diverse occupations and interests, Greenspan spends her time photographing the unique individuals she encounters. “Most of my work is from my travels, and the people I see when I travel,” she says. “I am a people photographer.”

When visiting Gettysburg with her husband, she spotted a reenactor dressed as a confederate soldier. In that moment, she wondered why the man was there and knew she had to photograph him. “I became like a director,” Greenspan explains, giving him directions on how to pose.  The result of this encounter: a Sunset Print Award in the Master Artist category at the North-East District PPA print competition for her piece, “A Calculating Commander.”

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: 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.”