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.

The Meek duo decided to quit their full-time jobs in 1977 and start learning about photography. Wondering if it was possible to start their careers over doing something they both loved, they bought a low-end 35mm camera and started by taking pictures of their kids. Even though they left the corporate world behind 40 years ago, being professional photographers is far from play. It’s hard work, but they find it extremely rewarding.

Mostly self-taught, Gary received some valuable learning opportunities from his mother, albeit, inadvertent. She was a wedding caterer and Gary was her assistant. While he was supposed to be helping her, he found himself shadowing the photographer instead. Spending time with professional photographers reinforced the idea that he and Kathryn made the right decision, as both took the opportunity to learn from others and started putting it into practice.

After gaining some experience, the Meeks started looking to other photographers for inspiration. One who was particularly influential was Tom McDonald. Learning that their mentor was heavily involved with photography associations like PPA, they followed suit. Starting with state level and quickly progressing on to regional and national levels. In fact, their involvement with PPA runs so deep that Kathryn is currently serving on the board of directors, while Gary was a board member previously. Kathryn also currently serves an International Judge for PPA.

When asked what the most important lesson she’s learned from any competition, she says “a competition does nothing but make you grow.” As a photographer and an educator, she can’t stress that factor enough. She urges her students to enter competitions to hone their craft. “It’s better than any photography class.” Meek continues, “the best way to improve is to compete.”

While they are mainly focused on wedding and studio work, living in such a small town, Hot Springs, Ariz., affords them the opportunity to do everything from school portraits to commercial work. Of course, they continue to influence others through education and PPA involvement.