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.