Contest Season

April 13, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Award of Excellence-PictorialCowboys watch the action as they wait their turn in the steer wrestling competition at the Sandusky County Fair. The Blade/Andy Morrison

Spring is always a welcome season for photographers. The snow melts away revealing blooming flowers waiting for a lens to be pointed their direction. And after this especially harsh winter, spring has brought a sigh of relief to those of us living in the more northern climates. It's warmer and makes getting outside more inviting.

Spring is also contest season for photographers. There are thousands of them each year ranging from local calendar contests sponsored by park districts, on up to international wildlife and photojournalism contests. Photographers of all levels have spent the past year honing their craft and documenting their subjects.

Around late November photographers began prepping their images according to the standards of each particular contest. It's tedious and time consuming. It's also a challenge narrowing down the best images and putting a portfolio together. Entries are then sent off to make the deadlines, most of which are in January and February. Then the waiting begins. Will I win anything, and if so, which images have the best chance of winning?

Statewide contests are always of importance to photojournalists. It's a way of directly measuring ourselves against our peers, many of whom are also friends and acquaintances.  These contests are competitive, fun, depressing, rewarding, motivating and the results sometimes confounding, all at the same time. They are also educational allowing us to spot trends and see what judges are looking for.

I don't think expectations were very high at my newspaper entering this season. They certainly weren't for myself. The last few years have been challenging while raising toddlers. And it's been challenging for all newspaper staffs which have been systematically cut over the last six to seven years. We just don't have as much time per assignment let alone for extended projects.

fea_jamto_gooseattackThird Place-Feature CategoryTom Deckelman, Sylvania, ducks as a Canada goose attacks him while he jogs in the rain at Olander Park, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Mr. Deckelman was out for a run when the goose went after him defending the nearby nest its' mate was building. The Blade/Andy Morrison

So it's with bated breath we waited for the results of the Ohio News Photographer's Association Still Picture Contest, which was judged Friday and Saturday at Kent State University.

Turns out there was little reason for the low expectations. Our staff did incredibly well. One of the better results I've seen in a long time. Our newest staffer, Katie Rousch, won News Photographer of the Year for the Large Market Category. Katie also won second place in General News. Katie works very hard so it's awesome to see that hard work pay off.

Amy Voigt also had a great year it turns out. Amy won first place in both General News and News Picture Story, along with an Award of Excellence in Spot News-Large Market. Amy is one of my favorite people to work with. She is always up, never complains and always manages to make me smile no matter how grumpy I am. 

Lori King won third place in Spot News-Large Market Category for a photo she shot while on a camping trip with her wonderful family. Lori saw smoke, and as a photojournalist, decided to check it out. She shot an incredible photo, transmitted it back to the paper and returned to her vacation. A perfect example of why it's important to always have a camera.

Our former intern Jeffrey Smith, now at the Times-Herald in Port Huron, Mi., won first place in Portrait Personality. Jeff was one of our best interns in some time and has a great future ahead of him.

I won a third place in Feature and an Award of Excellence in Pictorial. Not my best effort but certainly better than I expected.

We also won as a staff for Team Picture Story for our excellent coverage of the "Search for Baby Elaina". That win was especially nice since the whole staff contributed to covering this heartbreaking story that consumed much of our time last summer and fall.

Our staff at The Blade finished in Third Place for Photography Staff of the Year- Large Market, behind the Columbus Dispatch and Cleveland Plain-Dealer. This is really spectacular considering our expectations.

The complete list of winners can be found at the ONPA website.

While it's great to celebrate this accomplishment, and we will, I also think it's important to focus on what these results really mean. It means we are providing our readers and our community with the best coverage possible. I think it's also important to keep the wins in perspective. Winning, or not winning, is in the eyes of a set of judges and does not define a photographer or body of work for that matter.

The Associated Press Society of Ohio judging is coming up and many of the same images are entered in that contest. It's always great to see how the two similar contests are judged differently.

So while it's fun to win, it should not define us. You're only as good as your last picture as the saying goes. So I'm sure we'll have a few slices of pizza and a couple cold beers to celebrate and then get right back to work giving our readers the coverage they deserve, and more importantly, pay for.


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