Prints That Win: Thunder Waiting for Dakota

One afternoon, Fort Mitchell, Ky.-based photographer Joseph Ruh’s wife suggested they visit a friend’s farm. Upon arrival, they were greeted by Thunder and Dakota, two of the resident horses. They spent the afternoon walking around the farm and photographing both horses. A split-second decision of Ruh’s would land him in the winner’s circle for the Sunset Print Awards.

Thunder was so close, pinning Ruh against the fence. “I almost missed the shot, but then thought to myself this angle could be really neat,” he says. When he and his wife returned home, they looked at the photos. His wife saw the up-close shot and persuaded him to enter it into the competition.

Photography is something that’s always come naturally to Ruh, ever since he was young. Growing up, he had a neighbor who was an artist and worked for Gibson Greeting Cards. He was the one who inspired Ruh to get in touch with his creative side, through both painting and photography. It was photography, however, that stuck with Ruh.

“I wasn’t great at painting, but I could take a photograph,” he says. “My father had cameras around his house, encouraging me to start shooting with an 8mm video camera as early as 9 years old.” Ruh and his father would eventually switch to film cameras.

Even while working in electronics in the military, he still found photography interesting. Stationed in Germany, Ruh learned to work with black and white and grew to love the medium as he developed photos in the photography lab on the fifth floor of his dormitory. Fast forward to the 1970s when Ruh took a 3-month probationary job as a photo-journalist at the Kentucky Post. For five years, he shot everything from editorials to sports. Eventually, he took a job at Northern Kentucky University as a staff photographer in the marketing department.

Ruh would work at the University for over three decades, photographing everything from sports to biology classes (his favorite). “I really loved the science aspect, especially using a 15mm macro lens to shoot dissections in the class and sitting in on the lectures.”

To this day, Ruh won’t travel without his camera. Whether riding his bike or driving his car, he has his camera next to him so he can take pictures of anything from landscapes to flowers to trees. He currently works as a commercial photographer for contractors and builders but also enjoys also taking photos for fun. “I enjoy the freedom of creating self-assignments to take pictures of what I please.”

Ruh appreciates the ability to enter competitions, such as the Sunset Print Awards. “I like receiving feedback from the judges and other competitors,” he says. “I can see what I am doing right and what needs improvement.” He likes the guidelines provided through the PPA’s 12 elements and ensures that his photos encompass each one. He enjoys editing his photos because he feels that is an important part of the competition process, “[editing] helps me see my work from other viewpoints.”

Stating he can’t get enough of photography, Ruh finds inspiration for his work in everything from art magazines to television to his model airplanes. He considers the different angles, frames and focus that he can use to make something ordinary into something extraordinary through an image. Using an EPSON SureColor P800 Printer and Sunset Photo eSatin Paper helps him print award-winning images and gives him complete control over the entire process, from capture to print.

2019 Sunset Print Awards are Here

Awards season is in full swing and the 11th Annual Sunset Print Awards are “red carpet” ready. The first official competition to offer the prestigious award was held in Iowa earlier this week.

The awards are available to camera clubs and colleges that have 150 or more competitors as well as the five Professional Photographers of America (PPA) districts. Whether competing for the first time or a repeat National Champion, the Sunset Print Awards are a great way for photographers to hone their skills.

Read what some of our 2018 winners had to say about the importance of competition:

  • Jen Hargrove, PPA Western District – “Getting feedback is important and the judges want us to grow.”
  • Kari Douma, Professional Photographers of West Michigan – “[At her first competition] I wrote down everything the judges were saying. Every critique, every compliment. It’s all feedback.”
  • Kimberly Smith, 2017 and 2018 National Winner – “Impact is so important. I put a lot of emotion behind the story in my images and the judges can tell … I want them to feel something.”
  • Robert Howard, PPA of Pennsylvania – “I entered my first competition without consulting with anyone, and none of my images were accepted. I learned two important lessons: 1) always get a second opinion and 2) never take it personally.”

If you are interested in more information or you would like to register your group for the 2019 Sunset Print Awards, visit SunsetPrint.com.

2018 International Print Competition Winners Announced

Congratulations to the 2018 International Print Competition winners. In August, 26 District PPA Sunset Print Award winners vied for the coveted top spot, when the judging was finished, the winners were announced:

1st Place: Leaving with Dignity – Kimberly J. Smith

2nd Place: From the Ashes – Dawn Muncy

3rd Place: Heaven’s Hands of Hope – Brian Castle

There’s always such creative diversity in the Sunset Print Award winners and 2018 was no exception. From a snowy landscape in Winter Pastel to a canine Gentle Giant to a train bringing families Home for the Holidays, the judges did not have an easy job selecting the top three images.

“From the Ashes” by Dawn Muncy – 2nd Place

For Smith, winning back-to-back titles is exciting and she’s incredibly happy that her work has such an impact on 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.”

Muncy describes the stages of her “competition journey” and how the third and final phase allows her to be expressive with her work: “When you get to be yourself and let your creativity flow, that’s when competition becomes powerful. I know the rules, now I want to show the world who I am.”

First-time Sunset Print Award-winner Castle also thrives on creating emotional impact through his visual storytelling.

“Heaven’s Hands of Hope” by Brian Castle – 3rd Place

“When I can give my clients an image that creates emotion and causes them to tear up, I know I’ve done my job,” he says. “I would never have learned that unless I started competing.”

Along with an engraved crystal trophy, the winners will also receive cash prizes: $2,000 for First Place, $1,000 for Second Place and $500 for Third Place. We want to thank all the participants in the 2018 Sunset Print Awards and will have information regarding the 2019 awards coming soon.

 

Prints That Win: Winter Pastel and Dressed to Impress

For Dorr, Mich. photographer – and recent double Sunset Print Award winner –  Kari Douma, photography has always been a part of her life. From darkroom classes in middle school and yearbook photographer in high school to recently completing the judging class to become an affiliated juror, photography is no longer just a part of her life, it’s intertwined in everything she does.

She initially started taking pictures to capture her children in special moments, but soon, family and friends were asking her to photograph them. “Eventually, I had to do a mental check. I wondered if I could really do this and make it a business, or continue as a hobby, where I might eventually have to turn people down,” Douma says of her decision to go pro. “I decided to go the business route and joined professional organizations so that I could learn more about the business.”

The first professional association Douma joined was Professional Photographers of West Michigan. It was the members of that local group who encouraged Douma to start competing. Before jumping straight in, she observed. “The first competition I attended, I just watched and hung on every word spoken. I had a notebook and wrote down everything the judges were saying. Every critique, every compliment. It’s all feedback.”

The notes and observing paid off. As a first-time competitor, she scored somewhere around 77-79, which is considered “above average.” As her experience and talent has grown, so have her scores. Competitions, by definition, are tough, but one of the biggest lessons that Douma has learned is that a score is simply the opinion of five judges on any given day. “It’s fun to create an image and match up to the Twelve Elements of Merit, but you can’t get caught up thinking about what five people are going to think about it.” She realizes the judges are there to help, “they are giving you feedback – good and bad – because they are there to help you grow as a photographer.” For Douma, the PPA – Northeast competition was successful, with wins in Landscape with “Winter Pastel” (pictured above) and Portrait with “Dressed to Impress” (pictured below).

In “Winter Pastel,” Douma was able to capture the beautiful pink sky, just as the sun was rising over an early-season Michigan snowfall. For the print competition, she used LexJet Premium Archival Matte with a torn edge and a traditional mat, which helped extend the texture of the clouds and snow beyond the edges of the image.

Douma’s second winning image, “Dressed to Impress,” was a photo that happened because of her husband’s morning trip to a local McDonald’s. While waiting in line, her husband spotted this gentleman saunter into the restaurant dressed to the nines: fire-engine red 3-piece suit, wing-tipped shoes, hat, pocket square, the works. She said, “he just walked right up to the man and said ‘my wife would love to photograph you.’ So, we set up a session, and the rest is history.”

When it was time to print “Dressed” for competition, Douma chose LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper 300g to add an authentic photographic feel to the black and white image.

For Douma, what started off as a hobby to take beautiful images of her children has led to an opportunity to provide feedback and guidance, enabling photographers to grow. One day, there will be a photographer observing her first competition, and with notebook in hand, she will be hanging on every word Kari Douma says.

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.

Heading to Imaging USA? Get Your Free Expo Pass, Courtesy of LexJet

If you’re heading to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville for Imaging USA 2018, Jan. 14 – 16, make sure to visit LexJet at booth #673. You can also go HERE to claim your free expo pass, courtesy of LexJet.

Stop by our booth to see some innovative new products, watch printer demonstrations and learn about media comparisons for several Sunset products:

Ask about our show specials on select LexJet Sunset media. Our technical director Michael Clementi will be on hand for general questions, or you can call ahead at 800-453-9538 to schedule an appointment for one-on-one training.

We will have the national winning prints from the 2017 Sunset Print Awards as well as information the upcoming 2018 awards. See you in Nashville!