Prints that Win: The Economic Recovery

The Economic Recovery by Nick Jones

In a print competition, the print itself should have some say in who wins the top award. At the Professional Photographers of Idaho competition, The Economic Recovery, created by Nick Jones, made it to the finish line for the coveted Sunset Print Award, but it was the print that took it over the top.

Jones, who co-owns Harmony and Nick Portrait Artists in Blackfoot, Idaho with his wife, Harmony (of course!), had his winning image, The Economic Recovery, printed on Sunset Photo Metallic Paper to help bring out the detail and give it an almost three-dimensional quality.

“When it came time for the Sunset Print Award there were a couple of rounds of judging and it kept getting split between mine and another print. The clincher was when one of the judges said that if any image is going to push the print and the printer it would be mine, and that put it over the edge,” says Jones. “We do a lot of printing on the Metallic; most of our client work is printed on it because it gives it that pop. I think it’s awesome. When it’s under the light it gives a new dimension to it; it’s almost 3D.”

Jones put a lot of himself into the image. In fact, Jones is actually in the image, standing next to the burning barrel on the far right side of the final composite. The main subject is his father, and you can see in the six panels below the main image all the pieces and parts Jones brought into a cohesive award-winning whole.

“I was planning on doing a different image with my father, because he has interesting features. It was a quick setup in house. I put it together with a background I like that has warm and cool tones. Then, I put it on Facebook and it got a lot of attention just as it was,” recalls Jones. “I looked for some additional elements to put in there to provide more storytelling. It grew from there. It built itself in a way. It was over several months that I added elements and tried some different ideas.”

Jones used Photoshop to create the composite from the six original images, painstakingly “hand-painting” the divergent images to create an accurate blend; a blend that makes the final image look like it was shot as-is, rather than composited. To bring out additional contrast and saturation, Jones applied nik Software filters.

“We do a lot of composite imaging with our sports teams and portraits. I first came into the studio doing Harmony’s retouching work. Along the way I starting seeing cool artwork, by Mark Bryant and others who are masters at composite work, and it intrigued me. So we started taking their courses and now use it in a lot of our photography, such as the pinup work we do in the summer,” explains Jones.

In addition to a Sunset Print Award, The Economic Recovery also won Photographer’s Choice at the Idaho print competition and went loan at the International Photographic Competition (IPC).

Jim LaSala’s Surreal Portrait Wins Sunset Award for Best Electronic Imaging at PNE

Award winning Photoshop and printing work by Jim LaSalaJim LaSala’s forte is making the ordinary extraordinary. Much of his work brings Daliesque scenes into the digital realm using a blend of photos from everyday scenery.

One of his latest creations, Fantasy Island, recently received accolades at the PhotoNorthEast (PNE) competition held last month, winning the Best Electronic Imaging category. It was one of several awards LaSala won for his photography at the competition, and the win in the Best Electronic Imaging category also brought with it a LexJet Sunset Award for outstanding photography and printing.

LaSala brought two contrasting photographs together into a cohesive and surreal whole using original photography, Photoshop and plug-ins from Vertis, Topaz and Nik. The competition print shows the basic elements – a man and a woman sitting on a bench, the man by himself with the woman masked out and bench added to the space where she sat and a wall mural LaSala shot in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

“I always have my camera with me and look for interesting things to shoot that I then put in a photo bank, not knowing ahead of time exactly what I’ll do with them,” says LaSala. “I thought the couple on the bench was interesting, particularly the man bundled up in the coat. I was looking for something to juxtapose with that shot and found the mural I shot in Ft. Lauderdale.”

LaSala seamlessly brought the man on a bench into the wall mural, which needed a lot of work to get it just right before all the pieces were put together. LaSala had originally shot the mural with a wide-angle lens so he had to do a lot of perspective work to get rid of the distortion. He made other little tweaks to the mural, like adding texture to the walls, moving the parrot and adding drop shadows to match the direction of the light, among others.

“I was looking for something so opposite and silly that it would be difficult to believe that it could actually happen while creating the illusion that maybe it could. I wanted to take something from one extreme to the other, cold and stark to something warm and beautiful,” says LaSala. “When I work on a project like this I don’t write everything down, though people tell me I should. It’s very rare that I duplicate anything; I tend to wing it. Usually, I just stumble upon something and it works. I don’t necessarily have something specific in mind. It’s just a matter of trying to take something that interests me and then build it up from there.”

LaSala printed it on LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper for the competition to take advantage of the additional tonal range the paper provides, LaSala says. “Some of the other papers I considered have more contrast when they’re printed and I was looking for a wider palette for this print,” he adds.

Award winning image, Forgotton, by Jim LaSala
LaSala also scored a perfect 100 for this image entitled Forgotten.

The print shows the basic progression and the elements that came together for the final piece. “I always do before and after images, because otherwise it’s difficult for the judges to really understand everything that went into making the image from start to finish.”