Dennis and Cheri Hammon: In Pursuit of the Perfect Print

Dennis and Cheri Hammon are a successful photography team based in Idaho. Not only are they award-winning photographers, but Dennis is a PPA affiliate juror and Cheri is a qualified juror for state competitions.

Dennis and Cheri Hammon“I have a degree in Geology, but ended up teaching Photography at a university,” Dennis says. “I started working for a ski resort and doing photography for the ski circuit, back in the 70s, and here I am, 45 years later.”

Cheri took a little more of a longer route to the world of photography. She initially worked as a hairdresser, but due to allergies, she decided on a career change. Thanks to a family friend, she started working for a prominent photographer in Augusta, Ga. “The studio needed a retouch artist and I had an art background,” she says. “I learned all the behind-the-scenes stuff like negative retouching, print retouching, airbrushing for copy restoration, some printing, and matting and framing. As time progressed, digital came along, then Photoshop and Corel Painter. That’s a Reader’s Digest version of how I got started.”

The Hammons have a long list of awards, but both agree that the Sunset Print Award is among the top award to win. “We’ve both won several, and it’s one of our favorite awards to win. We’ve each won two or three of them” says Dennis. “The only awards that we have on our desks are the LexJet awards and the Canon awards.”

Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-Series 4100

The Hammons are known for their printing abilities and print their own fine artwork. From capture to print, they have complete control of how the final piece will look. To ensure that it meets their standards, they use the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4100.

This is a smart printer and it recognizes all of my papers and canvases, it agitates its own inks, and if a head goes out, I pop it out and pop a new one in. It’s so easy, as opposed to the maintenance issues I had with other brands,” says Cheri. “I love my Canon.”

Dennis agrees, “The speed of it! The first image we printed with it, the print came off so fast, we thought something was wrong because of how long the other printer took to print the same size image. That was a big factor. And the inks, we’d barely replaced our first cartridges after a year.”

It takes more than a great capture and a reliable, easy-to-use printer to create an award-winning photograph. It also takes the right media. Cheri paints the canvas, so she relies on the consistency of Sunset Reserve Matte Canvas. After 35 years in the darkroom, Dennis loves the throwback look of Sunset Fibre Elite 285g paper.

“I’ve always had a darkroom, and the Fibre Elite mimics some of the papers I used way back when, that’s why I’m drawn to it,” he says. “The feel, the texture, the luster of it and how it holds the tooth of the image for me. We have other papers, but that’s the only thing I put my work on.”

Whether it’s talking through printer questions or looking to get their favorite Sunset media, Dennis and Cheri rely on the support of their LexJet specialist to be there, if needed. “I first heard of LexJet when I moved from Georgia to Florida,” says Cheri. “A friend, Don Emmerich, told us about LexJet and I’ve been with them ever since.”

So, what is it about LexJet that keeps the Hammons coming back? The service.

“The service is great and whenever I call, I always get somebody, and on the rare occasion that I don’t, they call me back pretty quickly,” says Cheri. “They have always taken care of issues, which I haven’t had many. The customer service is really good.”

For Dennis and Cheri, it’s not just about taking great pictures and sharing them digitally, it’s about creating a unique piece of art starting with a keen eye and finishing with a printed masterpiece. With her usual artistic flair,
Cheri sums up how important it is for photographers to take that final step and print an image.

“The ultimate realization of an exquisitely created image is to become a will-crafted print, where life is finally breathed into the artist’s creation.”

We are excited to have the Hammons back to serve as judges for the Sunset Image Awards in September. Submit your photo today for a chance to win. For more information on Canon, Sunset media, or LexJet, give us a call at 800-453-9538.

Prints That Win: Coming Home for the Holidays

Photographic craftsman Robert Howard has been taking pictures since he was 7 years old. The Lebanon, Pa., photographer grew up in a household where his dad avidly captured family moments on Super 8 film and his mom had a Polaroid, eventually transitioning to a Kodak camera. Even his grandfather taught him to use an old Kodak Brownie. For this Sunset Print Award-winning photographer, telling a story with pictures is in his DNA.

His first camera was a Polaroid, and at that time (during the 1970s), each image was about $.50 and there were only 10 images per pack of film. Howard says that his parents didn’t want him wasting money. “50 cents a sheet was expensive back then, so my parents taught me the value of knowing and preparing my shot, understanding the exposure,” he says. “Essentially, they taught me the value of getting the shot right the first time.”

Prints That Win: From the Ashes

The portrayal of a Phoenix rising from the ashes is not only a Sunset Print Award winner for Enid, Okla., photographer Dawn Muncy, it’s also an indication of the state of her career: on fire. A member of the high school yearbook staff, Muncy says that’s where the decision was made to work in photography. “I got to see life differently, looking through the lens. Not to mention, the darkroom was an escape for me,” she says.

Out of high school, Muncy attended the Colorado Institute of Art for a year, but she didn’t feel at home. “Initially I wanted to be a commercial photographer, and they did allow me to focus on that,” she says. “However, after I photographed the same cereal box for weeks, I realized I needed people. I needed conversation. Commercial photography wasn’t for me.”

After leaving the art institute, Muncy decided she was going to take it upon herself to learn about photographing people, so she started doing photography on the side. She says it was her marriage that really moved things forward. “When I first started, it was before digital cameras, then my husband and I got married,” she says. “He knew I had the bug and it wasn’t going away. I finally got my first digital camera in 2001.”

As she delved deeper into her craft, Muncy says she found inspiration everywhere, especially from local photographers. She remembers walking by one studio with a picture of a beautiful brunette in a red sweater and the photographer used a red gel for lighting. “It was very striking and all I could think about is one day, I want to create something as striking as that.”

With the support of photographers like Karen Moore, Jackie Patterson, and Dwaine Horton, who helped her with technique, she became involved with the Professional Photographers of Oklahoma and then PPA where she then found inspiration in photographers like Tony Corbell and Kristi Elias. “Once the floodgates open and you meet that kind of talent, you realize there’s so much more out there that you need to learn,” Muncy says.

Prints That Win: Leaving with Dignity

For Muskogee, Okla. Photographer Kimberly Smith, 2017 was a brilliant year. Not only did she win the PPA SW Sunset Print Award, but she also won First Place in the 2017 National Sunset Print Awards for “The Beauty of Innocence.” For this Master Artist, 2018 looks to be just as strong: Her 2018 submission “Leaving with Dignity” won the Sunset Print Award for Portraiture in the PPA SW District competition.

Reflecting on her back-to-back wins, Smith says she’s very excited that her work speaks to the judges. “Impact is so important. I put a lot of emotion behind the story in my images and the judges can tell,” she says. “It’s not just another pretty picture. When they see the title [of the image], I want them to brace for impact, I want them to feel something, and apparently, they did.”

The inspiration for “Leaving with Dignity” struck when Smith saw a black and white image of an older woman with a disheveled crown.  She initially envisioned a queen leaving her throne for the last time. However, as she started working in postproduction, Smith says, “I noticed she had a peaceful look on her face, and I added a cloudy feel with rays of light. I felt like she was making her way into Heaven, with God saying, ‘well done, my good and faithful servant.’  I felt like she was leaving this world with dignity rather than leaving the throne. I chose to name “Leaving with Dignity” so people could form their own story.”

During the time between her “innocent” 2017 and her “dignified” 2018 PPA SW wins, Smith decided to step out of her comfort zone and teach an intermediate/advanced level course at the Texas School, which maxed out at 30 students – a rare feat for a first-time teacher. “I wanted to show the students how I create an image from start to finish,” she says.

For Smith, it isn’t just capturing an image that’s important, it’s telling the story. To pass along the techniques and methods to future generations is exciting. “One of my favorite projects for the class was when I printed about 30 copies of one of my photos to teach the students some of the ways I finish a print: enhancing the image with colored pencils, hand tearing the edges, matting, etc.”

Smith chose LexJet Sunset Bright Velvet Rag to use as a teaching tool because “I love the way it tears and the way it feels. It prints really nice.”

Prints That Win: The Gentle Giant

When it comes to capturing the personality of pets, Wyoming photographer Jen Hargrove has it down to a science. In fact, fellow photographer Dan McClanahan calls her the “Dog Whisperer” and has told her she should embrace this rare talent. That’s just what she did for her Sunset Print Award-winning photo “The Gentle Giant.”

For Fynn, a big, lovable English Mastiff – which Hargrove calls her “non-human muse” – the young chick was almost too much to handle. He’s so big in comparison, but the chick had him on edge. “Next year, I think we’ll try baby ducks. They aren’t quite as small and don’t seem to intimidate him as much,” she said of her very patient muse. “In fact, I would like to do an entire series with Fynn and other farm animals: cows, ducks, turkeys.”

When it’s photo shoot time, Hargrove doesn’t scold or discipline the dogs and she doesn’t want the owners doing so either. She gives them about 15 minutes to get acclimated to the set and then she starts shooting.

Celebrating 10 Years of Sunset Print Awards

For the last decade, the Sunset Print Awards have been bestowed upon more than 110 photographers, all of whom received cash prizes and the coveted crystal trophy. For the 2018 competition, we’ve decided to give more photographers the opportunity to vie for the top spot. The five Professional Photographers of America districts will offer a Sunset Print Award in eight categories, in which winners will need to showcase the fundamental “elements of excellence.”

There are several opportunities over the next few weeks to earn awards at the following events:

  • Feb. 8-10: Photo Pro EXPO – Kentucky PPA
  • Feb. 9-11: PhotoMax – PP of Michigan
  • Feb. 9-12: Professional Photographers of Iowa Winter Convention 2018
  • Feb. 22-23: Western District Photographic Competition
  • Mar. 8-9: Northeast District Photographic Competition

To see a full list of scheduled events throughout the year, check out the up-coming awards schedule on the Sunset website.

The regional 2018 Sunset Print Awards will be available to colleges, camera clubs, etc., as well as professional organizations, like PPA and WPPI. All the regional winners will be in contention for one of the top three spots in the National Sunset Print Competition held at PPA – International Photographic Competition (IPC).

Visit the Sunset website for additional information on individual events, submission rules, competition application and more.