Prints That Win: Misty Morning

Last November, photographers Kathryn and Gary Meek were vacationing in China, when one misty morning, they spied a junk boat moored to just a little wisp of a dock on the Yangtze River. Even though it was at rest, Kathryn Meek said she was struck by the serenity of the scene. She pulled out her camera and started shooting. One of the images she captured would later become “Misty Morning,” winner of the Sunset Print Award – Illustrative category in the PPA Southwest District.

“It is one of my favorite shots. The trip was a cool experience and I was able to get a really cool shot,” she says.

To properly convey the ethereal feeling of the scene for the print, she used LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper. “It really made the image pop,” she said of the award-winning paper.

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: 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: Deeply Attached

For Bend, Ore. photographer Julia Kelleher, photography is a family affair. Her photography studio, Jewel Images, is celebrating 10 years of capturing family milestones, including the arrival of newborns, pregnancy and other family portraits. Kelleher also shares her own family moments through the photographs she enters in yearly competitions.

“I try to enter my son every year,” Kelleher says. “My goal is to someday create an album of annual competition images for him from when he was very little to when he’s 18 or 19 years old.”

Recently, Kelleher’s quest resulted in a Sunset Print Award for her winning portrait, “Deeply Attached,” in the PPA Western District 2017 competition.

The portrait depicts her young son holding a toy dog attached to a blanket, a gift given to him by his aunt when he was born. Dean’s toy goes by many names, such as “Blankey” or “Stuffy.”

Prints That Win: Urban Assault

For a professional photographer who has made a career of portraits featuring Santa Claus, the PPA Southwest District winner in the artist category, titled “Urban Assault,” was a huge departure for Chris Smith, M.Photog.

Smith captured the Sunset Print Award-winning image during a SWAT team training session in Midlothian, Texas, when he was requested to shoot the training. It turned out to be an ideal opportunity to get creative for print competition.

“Competition work is something that I do for myself because it is so detailed,” Smith says. “It is very therapeutic digging into that level of detail.”

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.