Prints That Win: The Next Step

When Vanessa Longuski took her Sunset Print Award-winning photo, “The Next Step,” she was in the middle of a wedding photo shoot in Lansing, Mich., on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building.

To get the dramatic shot, she simply got lucky during a time crunch on the couple’s wedding day. The videographer was filming the bride and groom, and the image was one of only two photos without him in it.

Longuski began her photography career as an unofficial yearbook photographer at Bad Axe High School in Michigan. She went on to study arts photography at Central Michigan University, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to make a living with tradition darkroom experience, so she switched to digital. She started her own business two months before graduation and bought a studio less than a year later.

Since opening the studio in 2008, she has photographed 300 weddings and is currently working toward her PPA master’s degree. Longuski offers portrait and commercial work in addition to wedding photography, and says her passion for her work is fueled by making “people happy by doing something for them … it’s what I love to do every day.” Capturing natural poses and facial expressions is the key to helping her subjects feel and look at ease.

She’s inspired by her customers because “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them, I love working with them,” she says.

Print competitions, like the Sunset Print Award in the PPA North East District, keeps the learning process alive for her. “Winning is a great feeling … to know I accomplished something,” she says.

Prints that Win: Dream World

Electronic Imaging Fine Art by Elaine Hughes

Elaine and Robert Hughes made a dramatic shift in their photography and art about five years ago. Highly decorated and certified professional photographers who used to specialize in high-end wedding photography, the pair now specializes in creating surreal digital artwork.

The pair’s work is an anticipated addition to the various competitions they’ve entered. This past year, Elaine Hughes won a LexJet Sunset Award at the PPA North East District competition for Illustrative Artist. The award-winning print, called Dream World, is a wildly colorful example of Elaine’s original art.

“Lately I’ve developed a series connected with water and dreams. It’s chaotic, disconnected and fun, with symbolism you can’t really put your finger on, like in your dreams. I left it open to your own interpretation. The door, for instance, could be the girl’s next journey, your next journey, or you could go in and out of the dream through that door,” Elaine explains.

Elaine says developing the art is quite time-consuming, but it’s what she loves to do. It’s a bonus that the art sells, she auctions it off for charity and it wins awards. The images combine photographs Elaine takes when she’s out and about at various locations across the country with color and abstract work in Photoshop.

“Bob’s art is edgier, while mine is happier and dreamier,” Elaine says. “I create backgrounds all the time with texture and color. About half the time I have an idea and the other half I experiment. It just doesn’t happen; I work on these for a long time. I go to a lot of Photoshop classes and watch Bob do his work in Photoshop. I wish I had started doing this a long time ago.”