Sunset Image Awards Spotlight – Kenneth Martin & Jamie Steeno

When LexJet hosted the Sunset Image Awards Click & Win Event earlier this year, the categories began to fill quickly. One of the most competitive groups was the Wildlife & Landscape category, with over 400 submissions. For Kenneth Martin, who won with “Sacred Lands of the Navajo”, and Jamie Steeno, who placed second with “The Courtyard”, there’s quite a story behind the captures.

The couple, based in Green Bay, Wis., each submitted a photo for the contest without telling the other. “Neither one of us knew the other was entering, and we live in the same house,” says Steeno. The judging came up, and Ken says, ‘I’ve got to get to the studio before the Click & Win judging’ and that’s how we found out the other entered.”

While both images are taken at Hunts Mesa, Ariz., they each have their own story to tell.

Martin set up the exclusive adventure as a birthday present for Steeno. “I’ve been to Monument Valley on many occasions and I’ve always wanted to get to the top of Hunts Mesa,” he says. “That’s a special guided tour, only by the Navajo. I purchased two tickets to the top of Hunts Mesa to wish Jamie a Happy Birthday. It was a unique adventure.”

Steeno agrees. “We are instructors for Down Every Road Adventures. We explore the adventures ourselves, then we put together a workshop,” she says. “Here we are walking on these buttes that people are normally looking up at. So, we are getting a totally different view.”

The Courtyard
“The Courtyard” – Jamie Steeno

While the views from the top are peaceful and serene, getting to that vantage point was quite literally a bumpy ride. “We loaded up a couple of SUVs and as we were on the ascent to Hunts Mesa, the road got extremely rough,” says Martin. “You’re buckled in tight, and you feel like salt in a saltshaker.”

Once they reached the top, they prepared for a nighttime shoot, which is when Steeno captured her image. “The Courtyard” is a black and white sunset image. “I chose to do mine in the old-time zone system. I felt that it brought more depth to the image, the old-time feel,” she says. “It’s in a historic area, sacred grounds. I thought that image would be better portrayed in black and white.”

While Steeno was focused on recreating a historical look, Martin chose a sunset shoot to capture every detail for “Sacred Lands of the Navajo”.

“It is a 28-image capture that I then photo merged in PhotoShop. It took 8-10 minutes to shoot,” he says. “I could have captured everything with a wide-angle lens, but the mesas and buttes in the far background would’ve just disappeared. I employed a 100 mm focal length which brought that background up closer.”

Taking first place in the Sunset Image Awards isn’t his only win for this image. “I got third in the Grand Imaging Awards. Just getting to the platform is an honor,” Martin says.

It’s not just about capturing a great image for an award-winning photo, it’s also about having the right equipment and media.

Both photographers are avid fans of Canon equipment – both cameras and printers – and Martin recently purchased the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2100 Printer from LexJet. “I got my first big printer, a Canon 8300, from LexJet. When it came time to replace the motherboard, I just purchased a Canon 2100, instead,” he says.

When it comes to media, both Martin and Steeno each have their favorites. “My favorite media is EPSON Premium Luster. For canvas, I use the Sunset Select Matte Canvas. I decided to go with the 24-inch printer so I could print 20-inch x 30-inch or 20-inch x 40-inch canvases. They are easier to handle than the larger ones I was doing on the 8300,” says Martin.

For some of the specialized work that Steeno does, she prefers something that offers a bit more shine. “For the light painting, cars, and motorcycles that we shoot, I love the Sunset Photo Metallic,” she says. “It makes the color pop. It’s amazing.”

This competitive couple was introduced to LexJet years ago through the Sunset Print Awards. “I first heard of LexJet when I won my first Sunset Print Award and I’ve been a customer since,” says Martin.

“In 2015, one of my other images – “Watercourse” – won the LexJet Sunset Print Award,” says Steeno.

For this dynamic photography duo, it’s not only capturing award-winning photos that keep them going, but also the adventure and, of course, their competitive spirit. “I’m continuously motivated to up my game to stay ahead of Jamie,” says Martin. “We’re very competitive. It keeps us on our toes,” says Steeno.

Looking to “Get Recognized”? Submit your photo through Sept. 3 for the next Sunset Image Awards and you could win $300 in cash if your image is selected by our judging panel. For more information on Canon printers or LexJet media, contact a LexJet sales specialist at 800-453-9538 or visit LexJet.com.

Dennis and Cheri Hammon: In Pursuit of the Perfect Print

Dennis and Cheri Hammon are a successful photography team based in Idaho. Not only are they award-winning photographers, but Dennis is a PPA affiliate juror and Cheri is a qualified juror for state competitions.

Dennis and Cheri Hammon“I have a degree in Geology, but ended up teaching Photography at a university,” Dennis says. “I started working for a ski resort and doing photography for the ski circuit, back in the 70s, and here I am, 45 years later.”

Cheri took a little more of a longer route to the world of photography. She initially worked as a hairdresser, but due to allergies, she decided on a career change. Thanks to a family friend, she started working for a prominent photographer in Augusta, Ga. “The studio needed a retouch artist and I had an art background,” she says. “I learned all the behind-the-scenes stuff like negative retouching, print retouching, airbrushing for copy restoration, some printing, and matting and framing. As time progressed, digital came along, then Photoshop and Corel Painter. That’s a Reader’s Digest version of how I got started.”

The Hammons have a long list of awards, but both agree that the Sunset Print Award is among the top award to win. “We’ve both won several, and it’s one of our favorite awards to win. We’ve each won two or three of them” says Dennis. “The only awards that we have on our desks are the LexJet awards and the Canon awards.”

Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-Series 4100

The Hammons are known for their printing abilities and print their own fine artwork. From capture to print, they have complete control of how the final piece will look. To ensure that it meets their standards, they use the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4100.

This is a smart printer and it recognizes all of my papers and canvases, it agitates its own inks, and if a head goes out, I pop it out and pop a new one in. It’s so easy, as opposed to the maintenance issues I had with other brands,” says Cheri. “I love my Canon.”

Dennis agrees, “The speed of it! The first image we printed with it, the print came off so fast, we thought something was wrong because of how long the other printer took to print the same size image. That was a big factor. And the inks, we’d barely replaced our first cartridges after a year.”

It takes more than a great capture and a reliable, easy-to-use printer to create an award-winning photograph. It also takes the right media. Cheri paints the canvas, so she relies on the consistency of Sunset Reserve Matte Canvas. After 35 years in the darkroom, Dennis loves the throwback look of Sunset Fibre Elite 285g paper.

“I’ve always had a darkroom, and the Fibre Elite mimics some of the papers I used way back when, that’s why I’m drawn to it,” he says. “The feel, the texture, the luster of it and how it holds the tooth of the image for me. We have other papers, but that’s the only thing I put my work on.”

Whether it’s talking through printer questions or looking to get their favorite Sunset media, Dennis and Cheri rely on the support of their LexJet specialist to be there, if needed. “I first heard of LexJet when I moved from Georgia to Florida,” says Cheri. “A friend, Don Emmerich, told us about LexJet and I’ve been with them ever since.”

So, what is it about LexJet that keeps the Hammons coming back? The service.

“The service is great and whenever I call, I always get somebody, and on the rare occasion that I don’t, they call me back pretty quickly,” says Cheri. “They have always taken care of issues, which I haven’t had many. The customer service is really good.”

For Dennis and Cheri, it’s not just about taking great pictures and sharing them digitally, it’s about creating a unique piece of art starting with a keen eye and finishing with a printed masterpiece. With her usual artistic flair,
Cheri sums up how important it is for photographers to take that final step and print an image.

“The ultimate realization of an exquisitely created image is to become a will-crafted print, where life is finally breathed into the artist’s creation.”

We are excited to have the Hammons back to serve as judges for the Sunset Image Awards in September. Submit your photo today for a chance to win. For more information on Canon, Sunset media, or LexJet, give us a call at 800-453-9538.

Kimberly Smith Brings Home Gold During the Click & Win Image Awards

Earlier this year, LexJet hosted the Click & Win Image Awards as part of the Click & Print Event. In the weeks leading up to the awards, photographers of all levels of expertise submitted images for the chance to win trophies and cash prizes, as well as experience what it’s like to participate in a photo competition.

By the time the judges made their final decisions, Kimberly Smith walked away with First Place in the Portrait category, with “Cameo”.  She also received First Place and Best in Show for “Well, Hello There!”, her entry in Fine Art/Composite.

Once the winners were unveiled, Smith received some great feedback from Judge Cheri Hammon. “We really enjoyed the story of this [image], we loved the humor and the color pallet,” she said. “It was really well done.”

“Come Out, Come Out., Wherever You Are”

As for how the award-winning image came to be, Smith says she was inspired by some photos of birds she took while at the zoo and didn’t realize what she had until she was going through her photos. “I noticed this bird was bent over, looking at me through its legs like ‘Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there!’,” she says. “I knew that I had to do something with it.”

After she started working with the image, Smith wanted to add something that would explain why the bird was peeking through its legs. “I wanted him to be looking at something, but I didn’t want it to be another bird, I wanted the focus to be on him,” she says. “I added the butterflies because it had to be something that flies and could be up there.”

Her Best in Show piece wasn’t the only winner she captured that day at the zoo. Her second-place piece, “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are” was also influenced by a bird, although, a much larger and more intimidating species. “I took a picture of some type of African Crane and the way he looked at me was creepy,” she says. “I wondered what kind of story I could tell with him. I could see him ripping through the side of a tent, just stalking somebody. He was scary.”

“High Society”

Fortunately, “High Society”, an artistic piece that took third place in Fine Art/Composite is a little lighter. That image showcases a spunky giraffe with several bowties and a flower dangling from his mouth.

“I’d been commissioned for a giraffe piece, but I wanted to see what else I could do with some of the other images. I really liked this one and I thought he needed a bowtie,” she says. “I remembered photographing a dog with a bowtie for another client. When I cut the bowtie out, a little fur came with it, so I thought I’d give the giraffe a fuzzy collar. I just kept going because he had such a long neck. I added the flower because I thought he needed something in his mouth.”

“Cameo”

After sweeping the Fine Art category, Smith took the top spot in Portrait with her image “Cameo.” Although the image gives an old-time feel, it was created from a 2021 Senior photo shoot. “She loves old hats and stuff, so I photographed her with the hat,” she says. “I wanted it to be high-key, and I wanted it to be that old-fashioned look.”

Because Smith has a specific artistic look to her work, she needs the perfect media to complement it. Whether she’s teaching at the Texas School or submitting her work to State PPA competitions, Smith uses the Sunset Bright Velvet Rag 315g. “It’s the only one I get and the only one I tell people to use,” she says. “The light airy look just looks so good on that paper.”

Kimberly Smith did well at the 2021 Click & Win Image Awards, as well as Oklahoma and other Open competitions around the country, but for those photographers who are just learning about competitions, the Click & Print Event and the Image Awards offered insights from professional photographers who have spent years honing their craft. If you’d like to learn more from our keynote speakers, visit the showroom floor to catch them on-demand.

PrintFX Bursts onto the Scene with HP Printers and Media

For the last 10 years, Jayson Ownsby had been working for a local print service provider in the Knoxville, Tenn.-area. While he’s always dreamt of opening his own print shop, he didn’t make the leap until last year. Partnering with his cousin, Caylor Tallent, Ownsby started looking at equipment, and in early 2020, they opened PrintFX. “It was last January or February when we started pricing equipment, then COVID hit,” he says. “It threw a wrench in the plan, but through Dave [Grotkiewicz, LexJet sales representative], we worked it out.”

Their first investment was the HP Latex 335 Print and Cut Solution. Once they got up and running with the printer, Grotkiewicz recommended the products in the HP Adhesive vinyl portfolio. “I love that vinyl,” says Ownsby. “I go through about 7-8 rolls a month of the HP Prime Gloss CP.”

The price and the quality of the vinyl have given them the opportunity to print stickers for local nutrition shops. “Because of COVID, they are using disposable cups and hand applying the stickers,” he says. “They also give the stickers to their customers to put on their own coolers or tumblers and I’ve even seen the stickers on bumpers around town. It helps them advertise and it helps us turn a profit, because of the price point.”

Ownsby says it’s not just the great pricing that keeps his customers coming back to him.  The combination of the latex ink and HP adhesive vinyl means he can offer a quick turnaround on a more durable product compared to national online retailers. Getting his customers a durable product at a competitive cost with a short lead time helps make the nutrition shops more efficient. “When they purchased online, the stickers would come on rolls and the baristas can only do a few at a time. The stickers I give them are on sheets, which makes it easier to hand out so more people can knock them out in a few minutes.”

Printing stickers for the local nutrition shops aren’t the only thing keeping these cousins busy. They also use HP Optimal Gloss Air GRP for box trucks and recently, they used it on a racing truck. Once again, Ownsby says it’s the cost of the product that is helping improve his bottom line. “ I can either spend a few thousand on other brands to wrap a trailer, or a fraction of that on Optimal and the pairing laminate,” he says “I’m wrapping the same job, but only spending one-third of the money.”

As a small business owner, Ownsby relies heavily on the support of Grotkiewicz and the quality of the HP brand. “HP and LexJet make it affordable for me, as a small shop, with no employees and two owners. We are doing extremely big things as far as a two-person shop.” He says. “I think we go above and beyond and compete with the big boys who buy pallets of material.”

Tallent agrees. “The HP product line allows us to compete,” he says. “It is superior to other products and at a better price.”

Opening a new business is always challenging but starting a business and succeeding during a pandemic takes grit, determination, and the backing of customers and vendors. “None of this is possible if I don’t have the products and the support. Dave has been integral,” says Ownsby. “Going forward, I don’t see my shop surviving without HP, that’s how important the products are to my shop and to my business.”

Looking over their first year in business, Ownsby realizes his dream has finally come true. “It’s always been a goal of mine to be my own boss,” he says. “I could never have imagined, when we set out on this adventure a little over a year ago, that we’d be sitting here in 2021, having had a successful first year.”

 

10 Creative Stories that Brought Joy and Success in 2020

Our customers worked hard this year to create projects for their clients and communities to bring smiles to faces across the country. From window graphics with SQUID Textiles to unique and fun applications with the versatile HP Satin Wrapping Paper, these creative solutions are sure to inspire you for 2021:

For Flexibility, Privacy & Design, Squid Delivers for this Texas Printer Phillip Cole, sales manager at Thomas Graphics Inc. in Austin, Tex., is always looking for unique products to offer his clients. Once he heard about Squid Textiles, a new self-adhesive window fabric that offers privacy, reduced heat and glare from the sun, and the opportunity to create customized graphics, Cole knew it would be a great addition to his product line. “I like the unique ability to print on it because that’s what we do, and it opens up lots of ideas on how it can be used,” he says.

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EPSON Helps Loftipop Grow from Etsy to Amazon In 2013, Rachel O’Neill and her husband, Ryan, started their Sarasota, Fla., based company Loftipop as an Etsy shop. Today, they conceive, design, and print their décor products in a 2,500 sq. ft. warehouse to ship across the country and through Amazon. “When we were researching, we noticed that Epson was the top of the line. We love using their printers for our art prints. I don’t think we’d ever switch to anything else,” says O’Neill.

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Georgia Sign Shop Keeps Kids Busy with Giant Wall Art Coloring Decals Earlier this year, when schools started shutting down, Tim and Shari Roe, owners of Outspoken Signs in Marietta, Ga., felt a calling to do something for their community. “A few weeks ago, we wondered how we could help using our capabilities at the shop,” Tim says. After some brainstorming, the Roes came up with a wall decal coloring project to keep kids occupied while sheltering in place.

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The Front Porch Sessions – Photographers Get Creative in the Wake of COVID-19 Photographers by nature, are “people” people, and when sheltering in place and social distancing guidelines went into effect in March, they were among the many who were temporarily out of business. It was no different for Elise Wicklund, and her husband Tracy, of Wicklund Photography in Parrish, Fla. “It virtually stopped our business,” Wicklund says. That’s when she got the idea for the “Front Porch Sessions”. She reached out to neighbors and clients to see if they were interested in doing family portraits on their porches and the popularity of the sessions exploded.

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What They’re Saying: Vescom “Really is Incredible” Earlier this year, the design team at Century Sign Builders in Albuquerque, N.M., partnered with All American Wallpapering to decorate the final phase of Nuevo East – the Graduate Student housing at the University of California San Diego. After researching different products and finishes, DeMenno and the Century Signs team chose Type II compliant Vescom Polster for the wall décor for the UCSD project. “What’s cool about the Polster product is that it has a super light stucco texture to knock down any glare and it just made the whole project seem much more high-end,” DeMenno says.

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What They’re Saying: “The HP Films are Good Quality and They Look Great” For over 30 years, Tony Evans has been living his childhood dream through Evans Graphics. “Ever since I was a little boy, it was my dream to work with fire trucks, and I would say that now, around 80% of my work is on emergency vehicles,” he says. Evans uses HP Adhesive Vinyl and Overlaminates on his HP Latex 115 to print and protect graphics for safety vehicles and work vehicles in and around the Monessen, Pa. area.

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What They’re Saying: “HP Satin Wrapping Paper is a Unique Way for One Small Thing to Have Impact” Andrew and Kristy Hodge, owners of Red Barn Canvas in Lake Hartwell, Ga., have found success creating year-round customized gift wrap and high-end posters with HP Satin Wrapping Paper. Hodge says in the two years since they started offering it, their wrapping paper business has grown exponentially. “Our first holiday, we probably sold about 20 sheets and now, it’s every other day. It’s not just Christmas holidays, it’s birthdays throughout the year, which is fun.”

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Karin Giusti Uses Art to Create Thought-provoking “Third Space” Piece Rhode Island artist Karin Giusti – a Professor Emerita of Art at Brooklyn College – enjoys creating pieces that are close to her heart, but also speak to anyone who sees them. Giusti was awarded an opportunity to create a public art display on the unique exterior of the downtown Providence Civic Center parking garage for PVDfest. Her plan was to treat the exterior of the building as a loom and weave brightly colored ribbons of LexJet 8 Mil Absolute Backlit. “It was an absolute blast! It was so much fun because the backlit and the laminate were manageable and easy to work with.”

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The Frame Room is Gifting Back Using HP Satin Wrapping Paper Last year, Kory Mitchell, owner of The Frame Room in Baltimore, wanted to do something different and creative to help out local charity Friends of Patterson Park, the stewards of Baltimore’s iconic Patterson Park. He heard about the new custom printable HP Satin Wrapping Paper and saw an opportunity to raise money by selling made-to-order gift wrap and donating $5.00 for every sale. Mitchell is partnering with local animal rescue organizations and artists for this year’s outreach program.

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Bringing it Home with HP Latex and Media More people are working from home these days, and Reynoldsburg, Ohio-based photographer Jennifer Marshbank certainly has found a way to make the most of this opportunity: she prints all her work on an HP Latex 365 from her home office. From photos to customized wrapping paper and banners to stickers, she can help her clients celebrate any milestone with multiple applications.

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Do you have a story you’d like to share with us? Tell us about your projects and you could be featured in 2021!

Bringing it Home with HP Latex and Media

Gretchen, Jennifer Marshbank’s dog, supervises as prints roll off the HP Latex 365

More people are working from home these days, and Reynoldsburg, Ohio-based photographer Jennifer Marshbank certainly has found a way to make the most of this opportunity. Working with her LexJet sales specialist, Ramiro Torrez, she chose an HP Latex 365 for her home office. “It’s very fun, but it was scary at first,” she says. “I’ve had other printers, but this is my first latex, and I love it. I named it Oscar because when you have something this big in your house, it deserves a name.”

Many photographers have busy and slow seasons, and Marshbank says that working with the HP Latex printer has given her a chance to offer more applications and products for her clients. She recently added HP Satin Wrapping Paper to her portfolio and is currently promoting it as part of a special treat when she sends packages to her clients.

“I printed photobooks for some customers and wrapped them in special ‘Thank You’ gift wrap that also announces the launch of my custom wrapping paper,” she says. “Because it’s customized, people love to see the gift wrap with their face on it or something personal about them.”

Celebrating her mom’s birthday with a customized banner

Marshbank is excited about the variety of opportunities she now has with the latex printer. From photos to canvas wraps and banners to stickers, she can help her clients celebrate any milestone with multiple applications. Recently, she used HP 13 oz Prime Matte Banner to create a special treat for her mother’s 73rd birthday, and it was a hit with the birthday girl. “My mom loved it, she told me that she’d never had anything like that before,” Marshbank says.

If there’s one thing small business owners have learned this year, it’s adaptability, and Marshbank certainly has had to adapt long before COVID hit. “I got sick last year, so I slowed down a little bit, but then it picked back up,” she says. “It helps, being able to print from home where you can offer more things.”

When choosing media for her printer, Marshbank discussed her options with Torrez. “She’s working with a lot of HP media right now because all the profiles are pre-loaded on the printer,” says Torrez.

With her customized wrapping paper launch in full swing, her next step is to launch a sticker line using HP Prime Gloss Air GP, which will give her clients even more opportunities to personalize their photos. While once nervous about the prospect of working out of her house, now that she’s doing it, Marshbank is really excited about the way her business is growing.

Personalized stickers

With so many people looking for alternative ways to keep businesses up and running, Marshbank has certainly come up with a great solution. For those who are unsure of being successful, in her characteristic positive vibe, Marshbank says, “I think you can do almost anything out of your home if you put your mind to it.”