Prints That Win: Departing Flight

While stalking birds in the Everglades, Seymour, Wis.-based photographer Steven Kemp captured a Brown Pelican in mid-departure. Birds taking flight aren’t typically viewed as spectacular, noteworthy moments; however, the photography veteran has a knack for capturing the simple moments of life and transforming them into amazing ones.

The Sunset Print Award-winning photo, “Departing Flight,” was naturally exquisite and only needed minimal editing to be a winner. Kemp cropped out the trees and the shoreline in the background and smoothed out the rippled water. He printed the image on LexJet Sunset Production eSatin 250g photo paper, and it was ready for competition.

Prints That Win: Homestead

Veteran Michigan photographer, Kari Douma, has paid many visits to the winner’s circle at print competitions. Ever since her first competition in 2007, she has been capturing numerous show-stopping photographs that catch the judge’s eyes.

Her photograph, “Homestead,” is no exception. She won the Sunset Print Award at the PPA Northeast District in the spring, and was named the third-place winner at the National Sunset Print Awards in November. Coming across the scene captured in “Homestead” happened almost by chance.

An unseasonal spring snow in Montana inspired her to go for a ride in search of the perfect landscape. “We were driving on two track roads out in the middle of nowhere when I saw the scene and captured it,” she says. “I loved it so much that I wanted to come back at sunrise the next morning but I still liked the original one better from the day before.” After some slight editing in Photoshop, “Homestead” was primed to be a winner.

Prints That Win: The Boxer

Photographer Ben Tanzer may have left a theater degree behind, but he certainly kept his flair for the dramatic. In his “Identity Series,” he transforms himself into iconic characters, for self-portraits like “The Boxer,” a grungy interpretation with 1920’s style that recently won the Sunset Print Award at the Plymouth Center for the Arts Fine Art of Photography.

Tanzer_Ben_TheBoxerThe conceptualized image is a clear shout out to Cindy Sherman-esque photo and editing work. “I’ve always been drawn to Cindy Sherman — she was one of my first crushes ever, as a photographer,” Tanzer says. “The Boxer was my first piece for the Identity Series … I just became really interested in what it means to be human … and how we define ourselves by what it is that we do.”

For the competition print, Tanzer did some Photoshop work with overlays and brushes to create the gritty look, but says, “I don’t do a lot of what I call ‘liposuction editing.’ Just dodging and burning to emphasize certain areas.”

Tanzer_Ben_The_LadyIt’s a technique that he perfected in the second of the Identity Series in which he portrays a female karaoke singer in a low-cut, cleavage-bearing red dress.

The final competition print of “The Boxer” was a 9-by-9-inch square “Instagram cut,” as he calls it, that fit the mood of his self-portraits, thanks to the self-involved, “selfie” flavor the crop provided. The image was printed on Epson Cold Press Bright White 100% cotton rag paper.

While Tanzer, currently a production assistant for a Texas animation studio, has participated in photography shows for eight years, he’s been entering print competitions for just two years, and is looking to do more.

“There are a whole bunch of competitions out there,” he says. “And there are a lot of people around the country who care about this as much as I do.”

Prints That Win: And They Left Their Boats in Search of Him

When New Orleans photographer Yvette Ponthier first learned about print competitions, she was initially turned off by what seemed to be subjective judging and nitpicking. “I saw these beautiful images just being picked apart,” she says. “So I said, nope, not doing that. That was the biggest mistake I ever made.”

yvette Ponthier And They Left Their Boats In Search of HimFour years ago, she changed her mind and began competing with images like “And They Left Their Boats in Search of Him,” at left, which won the Sunset Print Award at the 2015 Southern Pro Exposure Competition sponsored by Professional Photographers of Louisiana.

“Print competitions totally make you more creative in every aspect,” Ponthier says. “I should have stuck with competition because being an active participant has taken my photography skills to levels I never thought possible.”

Prints that Win: City by the Sea

“Breathtaking” is a fitting description for the image “City by the Sea” by Kathryn Meek, a photographer and winner of the Sunset Print Award at the APPA competition in Arkansas.

After spending the day in Croatia, Meek set up a tripod and her Nikon D700 on the top of the cruise ship, and took a series of pictures of the coast of Dubrovnik, Croatia. It took her 10 to 15 minutes to shoot several different sequences of photographs of the coastline. After finding the series she liked best, Meek photo-merged them together using Photoshop, thus creating the winning image. (Click on the image above to see the full image.)