Get Recognized with a Sunset Print Award at Photo Competitions across the U.S.

Sunset Print Award

The Sunset Print Award, which debuted in 2009, will once again be presented at local, state and regional photography competitions across the U.S. in 2015, starting in January.

“The Sunset Print Award has become the coveted award in the photography market, and from my perspective as a board member of the Professional Photographers of Michigan we couldn’t be more appreciative of the award,” says Tina Timmons, owner of The Portrait Gallery in Vassar, Mich., a previous Sunset Award Winner who also prints for other photographers for competition.

The winners of Sunset Print Awards at each competition will then be eligible for the National Sunset Print Award, judged by a panel of expert judges in November at LexJet headquarters in Sarasota, Fla. Click here to read about this year’s National Sunset Print Award competition and the winners. And, to see all the winners since 2009, and the stories behind the images, click here.

Winners at each competition where a Sunset Print Award is presented also receive a beautiful crystal trophy (pictured above), a lapel pin and a $250 gift certificate good toward the purchase of Sunset award-winning inkjet photo papers, fine art papers, coatings and canvas.

Go to to see the most current list of competitions presenting a Sunset Print Award, and check back here regularly, as more are being added over the next month.

To find out more about the Sunset Print Award and upcoming competitions, as well as a gallery of previous winners and information on Sunset inkjet media, go to, or contact a LexJet print expert at 800-453-9538.

Prints that Win: The Bike Builder

The Bike Builder by Michael Timmons

Michael and Tina Timmons are Sunset Print Award regulars, in one way or another. Both are past Sunset Print Award-winners for their outstanding photography, but have also printed award-winning images for other photographers across the country.

The Timmons’ most recent Sunset Print Award was earned by Michael at the Professional Photographers of Michigan competition for this slice-of-work image entitled The Bike Builder. It is a stellar example of capturing the essence of the subject and the environment in which that subject works.

The Bike Builder owns Arizona Thunder in Bisbee, Ariz. Michael stumbled upon the motorcycle repair and restoration shop during a road trip in the area following the Imaging USA show in Phoenix this past year.

“Being a motorcycle enthusiast, I noticed a big Harley-Davidson sign outside his shop. We were taking photos in town and stopped in to find out more. I asked him if I could take some photos and he agreed,” Michael recalls. “As soon as I saw the environment I knew I wanted to do something for competition, because of the clutter, the old parts and his character. At the time I got the capture we were having a conversation about his business. I had a tripod set up at the counter, so this scene is what you see from behind the counter when you walk into his shop. He had parts from all different makes, models and years in the shop with two or three bikes he was working on at the time.”

The image you see here is essentially what Michael captured with his Canon 5D Mark II with a 16-35mm lens on a tripod. The lighting is all natural light streaming through the window opposite the subject. The image was then converted in Photoshop with nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to black and white with some minor touchup with Silver Efex.

“When you’re working with someone in their environment, the key is to pull everything together and tell a story inside their everyday workspace. He’s real easygoing and laid back; this is what he does every day, so the story tells itself,” Michael says.

For the presentation at competition, Michael printed The Bike Builder on Sunset Photo eSatin Paper 300g, an inkjet photo paper he uses almost exclusively for competition printing.

“We’ve tested a lot of papers and found that the image quality on Sunset Photo eSatin surpasses other papers we’ve tested. We print competition images for people all over the country and everything that goes out is typically on Sunset Photo eSatin and Sunset Fibre Elite,” Michael explains. “The details, highlights and shadows print a lot better and the white point is a lot higher. We also like the weight and thickness of the paper; it’s easier to handle and it’s a lot more durable than other papers.”

Prints that Win: Firehole River

Firehole River by Jeff Dachowski

This Sunset Print Award-winning photo from the New Hampshire PPA print competition, entitled Firehole River, almost didn’t happen. The photographer, Jeff Dachowski – a former Sunset Print Award winner, decorated photographer and PPA judge – had pneumonia when he captured this scene in Yellowstone National Park at Firehole River.

To top it off, Dachowski says it was “super-cold,” which translates to about 15 below zero. Dachowski was leading a group of about 30 photographers on a photography outing sponsored by McKay Photography Academy.

Thanks to the geothermal features that feed into the river, cold weather brings with it a beautiful mist that frames the river and surrounding landscape. It also adds moisture to the air, which clings to the trees and freezes on the trees’ branches overnight.

“As the morning wears on, it all melts off, so that particular shot exists for maybe an hour every morning,” explains Dachowski. “I immediately saw all this gray, depth and atmosphere just hanging around Christmas Tree Rock. It gave so much separation and the light was so low in the sky it was awesome. I love this. I bracketed a couple of exposures, found one that worked well, and since it was a monochrome scene I presented it in black and white.”

Dachowski adds that the image is a composite of two scenes shot together for a 50-megapixel capture that was then stitched together in Photoshop. He captured the scene at f 9.5, ISO 640 and 1/3,000th of a second.

“I shot it hand-held, which is why my ISO was so high,” says Dachowski. “I always overlap my composites a third or so, and at least 15 percent. I use a visual on the horizon, like a particular tree or something on a mountain range. You don’t want to change your exposure and have your focused locked in one direction as you pan because it will impact how it works out.”

The image Dachowski captured is obviously a beautiful piece of photography, but in competition presentation plays a big role, which is why he chose Sunset Photo eSatin Paper 300g as the medium to present it.

Michael and Tina Timmons are printing on Sunset eSatin, and if they’re using it then it’s okay with me because they really know their stuff,” says Dachowski. It printed really nice, and I love the sheen. It’s not so glossy that it reflects too much and not so matte that my blacks go dead. I also like the feel of it when I pick up better than other papers I’ve worked with; some photo papers can be kind of sticky or too flimsy.”

To add depth to the presentation, Dachowski created a shadow-mount with three levels: a backing board, the print board to which the print is heat-mounted and a matt cut out with a window on a piece of foam board.

“There’s a three-dimensionality that happens with a print presentation that you can take advantage of. It won’t make your score soar if the image isn’t good, but it can only add value to a good image,” says Dachowski.

Get Recognized, Win Big Prizes in the Sunset Print Awards

Sunset Print Award
Photo by previous Sunset Print Award winner Ann Naugher, M. Photog., CPP, at the 2012 Southeast PPA District competition.


Sponsored by LexJet, the annual Sunset Print Awards are again being presented at select PPA events and other regional and state competitions. Sunset Print Award winners receive a crystal Sunset Print Award trophy, a lapel pin, a $250 gift certificate for Sunset inkjet media and entry in the year-end national Sunset Print Award competition.

Sunset Print Award winners at each competition receive an additional prize, an iPad Mini, if the winning image is printed on Sunset inkjet media, though entries do not need to be printed on Sunset media to qualify.

Each winner in the regional and local competitions is automatically entered to win the Grand Prize in the national Sunset Print Award competition. And, in order to be entered in the national competition you must enter and win a Sunset Print Award at one of the competitions. Click here for a list of upcoming competitions.

The Grand Prize winner receives airfare for two to Sarasota, Fla., with lodging at Lido Beach resort for three days and two nights, a $500 Visa gift card and national recognition. Second and third place winners receive a $500 and $300 Visa gift card respectively.

“The Sunset Print Award has become the coveted award in the photography market, and from my perspective as a board member of the Professional Photographers of Michigan we couldn’t be more appreciative of the award,” says Tina Timmons, owner of The Portrait Gallery in Vassar, Mich., a previous Sunset Award Winner who also prints for other photographers for competition. “And, when we print for competition we prefer Sunset inkjet media over any other paper.”

To find out more about the Sunset Print Award and upcoming competitions, as well as a gallery of previous winner and information on Sunset inkjet media, go to, or contact a LexJet customer specialist at 800-453-9538.

Prints that Win: Curves of Iris

Award Winning Print by The Portrait StudioMichael and Tina Timmons, owners of The Portrait Gallery, Vassar, Mich., have been featured here before for Prints that Win, but for their printing expertise. Sterling photographers in their own right, they also know how to print for competition, and print winners.

This time around, Tina is being honored for her capture of an Iris from her garden called Curves of Iris. Michael had quadruple bypass surgery (!) last year following a heart attack. We’re pleased to report that he’s recovering nicely, and the Timmons are back to their frenetic pace.

“Needless to say, we were home a lot more than we normally are, so I had more chances to enjoy my flowers. This year I didn’t get to see them at all,” says Tina. “I shot every day through the Iris season, and picked my favorite to enter in competition.”

The result was this beautiful rendition, which won a LexJet Sunset Award at the Professional Photographers of Michigan print competition. Tina says that her typical method for capturing flowers is to use a tripod and a macro lens, followed by some enhancement with Nik filters and some additional cleanup in Photoshop.

“Sometimes we’ll add a reflector fill outdoors, or we’ll do subtractive lighting if the flower is in open sun. We’ll use those tactics to control what lighting is available in nature,” Tina explains. “The Iris has a poetic motion about it with the leaves and the way everything blends together. When I work with any flower I’m very cautious about what’s in the background so there’s nothing distracting, including other flowers.”

The standard print medium for competition and the couple’s interior décor work is LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin, printed on an Epson Stylus Pro 9880 wide-format inkjet printer, which is then laminated. Though Curves of Iris was printed in the usual way, it was printed for this competition on a Hahnemuhle watercolor paper to provide a more fine-art look to the image.

Prints that Win: A Bridge to Remember

Black and white photo printed on Sunset Photo eSatin Paper

A bridge can be a metaphor for many things. For photographers, it’s about bridging the gap from capture to print.

Award-winning pro photographer Darrell Moll did just that, both literally and figuratively, with this stunning black-and-white image of a bridge over Cape Cod Sound that commemorates people who have passed on.

Moll bridged the gap between capture and print, ultimately capturing the judges’ attention at the recent Professional Photographers of Ohio conference. The print scored a 96 – the competition’s highest score – garnering a LexJet Sunset Award in the process, as well the People’s Choice Award, and numerous other accolades.

Moll judged the competition in Michigan the previous week, and says: “The LexJet Sunset Award is quickly becoming the most coveted award you can win for an image.”

Printed on LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper by Michael Timmons, The Portrait Gallery, Vassar, Mich., Moll says competition printing is not something to leave to chance. Though Moll prints his own work regularly, he prefers to use Timmons’ expertise for competition prints. “Since I’ve been working with Michael for competition prints, it’s ridiculous how many awards I’ve won. Printing definitely has an impact on scoring at competition,” he says.

“What good does it do to have all this expensive equipment and use the best techniques in the field to make it look as nice as we can and then just send it to the printer and print it on anything? Why not use a RIP and the best media and ink we can? I print everything on LexJet paper; it doesn’t do any good to do all the right things and not follow through with a calibrated monitor and the right print media. It’s the final step for the finished product, so you leave nothing to chance,” says Moll. “Michael [Timmons] thinks eSatin has the best white point of all the papers he’s tried, and I tend to agree. It doesn’t get blocked up, it sets the ink very well and dries nicely. The finished product is what it’s all about, and in this case it was the reproduction of the subtle gradation of tones and light. With really good black-and-white printing there’s a luminescent quality that comes through; the eSatin paper lends itself well to that and a lot of other subjects. It’s the nicest everyday paper you can use.”

Of course this would be all for naught if not for the photographer’s talent to capture the moment properly and at the right time. Moll was on Cape Cod shooting a wedding and would venture out super early each morning (5 a.m.!) to see what he could see and capture.

He ran across this bridge and all the elements were in place: early morning light, fog and still water. He set up with his Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a 24-105 L series lens and graduated neutral density filter to darken the top of the horizon and show more detail in the foreground. He captured the scene at f16 for four seconds at 100 ISO.

Everything was perfectly in place, and Moll knew right away that this scene would render best in black-and-white. “I made sure it was tack sharp after I shot it before I moved onto another subject. The last thing you want to do is go back home 700 miles from the shot and realize you weren’t sharp,” he says.