Prints That Win: Just Around the River Bend

Grandville, Mich., photographer Kari Douma can take ordinary moments and turn them into extraordinary images. Photographers know that capturing an award-winning moment means timing is critical and perfect timing is prevalent in much of Douma’s work. Last year, she captured a wintry Michigan sunrise – with just a hint of pink – over a blanket of freshly fallen snow and turned it into “Winter Pastel,” one of her two 2018 winning images.

“Many times, you have one shot to get a picture,” Douma says. That was especially true for her 2019 PPA Northeast winning photo “Just Around the River Bend,” which she printed using LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper to help provide depth to her image.

While vacationing in the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (UP), Douma and her family were hiking along the river when she spotted holes in the riverbed.

“I took one look at it and absolutely loved how it looked. We went back at sunset and I photographed it,” she says. “There are so many things that have to be right: light, water level, angle. I’ve been back to the same location twice and have not been able to get the same type of image because the water levels were too high.”

The holes, known as kettles, are formed when stones and sediments get caught in swirling eddies, boring holes into river rock. “When the water is too high, they are underwater and you can’t see them,” Douma says. “If the water is not at the right level, the image is completely different.”

The notorious late UP sunsets also helped Douma capture the perfect image. “It had to be photographed from a wobbly suspension bridge. It was to our benefit that sunset was around 10 p.m. because there were no other hikers on the bridge,” she says. “I had to shoo my whole family off the bridge to steady my tripod to get the photograph.”

It’s that innate talent to read and capture the world around her that has helped Douma continually grow as a photographer. “I judged my first district PPA competition as well as judging IPC this year,” she says.

Judges are trained to look at things differently and understand how a photographer utilizes the 12 elements. She understands that newer competitors can find it difficult to think about the technical elements when they are still understanding the creative ones. “I know that it’s hard to learn it, remember it all, so it’s nice to be able to share insight from my experience,” she says.

Normally, Douma travels all over the country teaching photography, but this year she took a different approach. “I didn’t do any teaching this year; however, I spent two days providing recorded video critiques for members who wanted live feedback after PPA,” she says. “It’s really exciting to help people who are on their own photographic journey.”

For photographer’s who are nervous about entering a competition, Douma understands the nerves but says the experience is one of the best ways to improve.  “Feedback is the most important aspect of being a photographer,” she says. “The judges are there to provide feedback and help you grow.”

From competing to teaching to judging, Kari Douma is passionate about the beauty she creates and enjoys sharing her story while encouraging others to start on their own journey that could take them just around the river’s bend.

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To find the paper you need, scroll down to try our new selection tool, which helps you choose based on the type of printer you’re using and the final application. You’ll quickly discover popular products such as Sunset Photo eSatin Paper 300g or 8 mil Production Satin SUV 180g to help you get the job done!

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Prints That Win: Thunder Waiting for Dakota

One afternoon, Fort Mitchell, Ky.-based photographer Joseph Ruh’s wife suggested they visit a friend’s farm. Upon arrival, they were greeted by Thunder and Dakota, two of the resident horses. They spent the afternoon walking around the farm and photographing both horses. A split-second decision of Ruh’s would land him in the winner’s circle for the Sunset Print Awards.

Thunder was so close, pinning Ruh against the fence. “I almost missed the shot, but then thought to myself this angle could be really neat,” he says. When he and his wife returned home, they looked at the photos. His wife saw the up-close shot and persuaded him to enter it into the competition.

Photography is something that’s always come naturally to Ruh, ever since he was young. Growing up, he had a neighbor who was an artist and worked for Gibson Greeting Cards. He was the one who inspired Ruh to get in touch with his creative side, through both painting and photography. It was photography, however, that stuck with Ruh.

“I wasn’t great at painting, but I could take a photograph,” he says. “My father had cameras around his house, encouraging me to start shooting with an 8mm video camera as early as 9 years old.” Ruh and his father would eventually switch to film cameras.

Even while working in electronics in the military, he still found photography interesting. Stationed in Germany, Ruh learned to work with black and white and grew to love the medium as he developed photos in the photography lab on the fifth floor of his dormitory. Fast forward to the 1970s when Ruh took a 3-month probationary job as a photo-journalist at the Kentucky Post. For five years, he shot everything from editorials to sports. Eventually, he took a job at Northern Kentucky University as a staff photographer in the marketing department.

Ruh would work at the University for over three decades, photographing everything from sports to biology classes (his favorite). “I really loved the science aspect, especially using a 15mm macro lens to shoot dissections in the class and sitting in on the lectures.”

To this day, Ruh won’t travel without his camera. Whether riding his bike or driving his car, he has his camera next to him so he can take pictures of anything from landscapes to flowers to trees. He currently works as a commercial photographer for contractors and builders but also enjoys also taking photos for fun. “I enjoy the freedom of creating self-assignments to take pictures of what I please.”

Ruh appreciates the ability to enter competitions, such as the Sunset Print Awards. “I like receiving feedback from the judges and other competitors,” he says. “I can see what I am doing right and what needs improvement.” He likes the guidelines provided through the PPA’s 12 elements and ensures that his photos encompass each one. He enjoys editing his photos because he feels that is an important part of the competition process, “[editing] helps me see my work from other viewpoints.”

Stating he can’t get enough of photography, Ruh finds inspiration for his work in everything from art magazines to television to his model airplanes. He considers the different angles, frames and focus that he can use to make something ordinary into something extraordinary through an image. Using an EPSON SureColor P800 Printer and Sunset Photo eSatin Paper helps him print award-winning images and gives him complete control over the entire process, from capture to print.