IPC2017 – Competition as Trauma Therapy

by Wootness

Trigger warning: This post contains photographs that some may find disturbing

For the last year and a half I’ve removed myself to the fringes of the photographic & print competition communities. Over time, my voice has gone quiet in a number of ways. I stepped down from most of my volunteer roles. I stopped teaching, speaking, judging, mentoring…and writing.

The short and not-so-sweet of it is that over the past few years, I’ve experienced a number of traumas. Each one occurred before I’d gotten a handle on the previous one, and when it was all said and done, traumas from my past resurrected and joined in, too.

It was one big hot mess.

When you take a hot mess and add just one more trauma… well, for this girl… it was too much.

I finally made the decision to seek help. (That sounds way stronger than it was – I had no choice – it was one of those rock-bottom situations). After an evaluation, I was placed with a trauma counselor named Jen.

Quite simply, Jen saved my life.

That was a year ago.

It’s taken this long to work through things and get my head and heart in a better place. I’m happy now, and that hasn’t been the case for a very long time.

I did OK working through things – except for one.

I still couldn’t write.

Trauma severely impeded my ability to create. I finally gave up on the writing thing and figured maybe that was just a part of my life that was over. I let it go.

And then I picked up the camera.

I’ve watched other people pour stuff out of their heart right onto photographic paper. I don’t know how they do it and when it was suggested that I try to do the same – well – that wasn’t an idea that remotely appealed. I’m a portrait photographer – I don’t do that artsy-feely stuff.

But again, I had no choice. I had to do SOMEthing.

I got personal with my camera, for the first time, ever. And the results of this wound up in competition during the 2016/2017 season.

I forced myself to do comp. No matter how much I let things go in my life and my business (yes, sadly, it suffered) – it was against the very fiber of my being to not at least TRY to compete. For two IPCs in a row, I struggled. I didn’t go 4/4, either time, but at that point it didn’t matter. The fact that I even got full cases prepped was a small miracle, so just completing the task of entering was an accomplishment.

I wasn’t thrilled with using the camera as a therapy or creative outlet. Once I began, the pain was immense. One particular image took seven sessions to capture the final image. It still didn’t completely work out and I pulled it out of my case before IPC2017, intending to re-shoot it for IPC2018. But now, I don’t think I need to. Those seven sessions and the tears they wrung from me dissolved most of the “feels” that were keeping me from healing. So maybe that’s an image I no longer need to create.

In all, six images were created and judged at various points, but only three made it clear to the end. Those three are the beginning of a new collection of work – I intend on addressing the topic of “trauma” until I have enough images for a gallery show. In addition to creating my own images, I’m now creating images to tell others’ stories of trauma, as well.

At some point I’d like to hang the collection publicly in partnership with some Mental Health/Mental Illness/Counseling-themed event/fundraiser. They say you should put your goals out there – so I am – if you can help with this part or have ideas for me – I’m all ears.

Once again, competition, for me, provided an opportunity, provided inspiration, provided a kick in the butt – whatever you want to call it – competition was the ONLY thing that kept my hands on my camera during what I consider to be the worst two years of my life.

That’s probably enough story-telling for now. I’d like to share three of my images with you. One has a story, two do not. Thankfully, competition has taught me how to title my images well, so I believe you will be able to infer the stories that are too painful to tell.

If you’ve read this far – thanks. It’s been awhile & I’m a little rusty.

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2017 General Collection – Showcase Book

Last September, in the middle of the night, I received the news that all mothers fear. My child, my 31 year-old son, Jon, was in a terrible motorcycle accident. He was rushed to a trauma center, life-flighted to another trauma center and 2AM found us speeding across the state of Ohio to his side.

Just three weeks before I had done a session with him for the first time in a few years. And in the bleakness of a hospital waiting room, I consoled myself that I had this image…

…what very well might be his last image…

Things were very grim.

My boy was gone and in his place was a broken and battered body, hooked up to tubes and machines that made him breathe.

For days and days, this was my view.

I sat and watched and listened. I cried, I prayed and I hoped that the doctors could put my boy back together, again. Somewhere in my head I remembered Humpty Dumpty and laughed a little cynically…

Long story short – he’s ok. He’s very ok.

This was the event that put the nail in my trauma coffin…while the crisis was going on, I was superMom. But once he was fine and able to live on his own, again…superMom became a superMess.

It happens. That’s what they told me, anyway.

In the post-incident period of time, I looked closer at a set of DVDs we’d been carrying around from doctor to doctor. They contained sets of full body x-rays as well as individual areas of injury from the first trauma unit he was taken to.

The black and white x-rays reminded me very much of the type of base images I used to create graphic designs in some previous competition entries. I tried cleaning up the x-rays, but eventually resorted to purchasing a better set through a stock image company.

Those of you familiar with my work will recognize the actual pattern on the egg as typical of some past creations. The balance of the image was created from scratch in Photoshop CS5. It’s not rocket science, I looked up how to draw an egg, how to make a gradient background and how to make an object looked curved and followed a couple of tutorials I found. The image scored in the 85-89 range solidly throughout the year, I made a few improvements over the course of a couple of competitions and eventually it scored a 90 at IPC2017 and was placed in the showcase book.

It was my first entry, ever, into the Artist competition.


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2017 General Collection


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2017 General Collection

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Be more brave – Photographic competition and personal work

by Christine


It’s been awhile. You and I. It’s almost like we’re having an affair, with how little we meet these days. I can give you all kinds of blah blah, but the honest truth is that I’ve been afraid.

I’ve come to recognize that my hands are an extension of my heart when they’re poised over a keyboard.

My writing is art.

My art.

My personal work.

And sometimes the words and feelings and thoughts flow in a way that cause me pain, or perhaps reveals a part of myself to you that I’m just not sure I want you to know.


If ever.


So here I am, after much of an absence because I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff that leaves me in a position of being afraid to write.

Afraid to let my stuff influence my art.

Afraid to let my stuff influence my art.

One more time for those of you that aren’t getting it.


Afraid to let my stuff influence my art.

Those of you still with me, thanks for sticking it out.

I’ve been admiring an artist friend of mine, a talented photographer, who has been pouring her energy into creating competition images.

So what?

The thing is, that energy is being fueled by some personal issues in her life. I don’t know exactly what they are, and it’s none of my business, but I’ve got to admire her guts. Her ability to be all “yeah, things are sucking, this is some art I made about how I’m feeling about that” and then she shows what she created and I’m blown away.

Seriously. Blown away.

Because it’s good. Very good, in fact.

I get it. I feel it.

My heart says

Oh yes!

But more… because she’s just putting it out there. She’s already got a hot mess going on and she’s packaging it all up real pretty for a panel of judges take a gander at.

And others.

Thousands of others.


Here’s my heart.

I want to do that. I want to be like that. I want to rise above this pain that’s silenced me.  I want to wrestle and wrangle it into submission and two dimensions.

But, I’ve been afraid.

I tried, several months back, to create an image as an outlet of some stuff. It didn’t work out so hot, technically, and still needs some refinement. But it was also tough to do, and I might have been using that technical refinement issue as an excuse to keep from finishing it.

It was that uncomfortable.

And then there’s the whole “will they get it?” part…

And then I question whether I’m creating for me or for my audience.

Of course, what I create will be as technically perfect as I can get it because that’s just how I am.

But how experimental and touchy-feely and true to myself am I willing to get with my work, knowing it might not fly in competition?

Knowing the judges might not get it?

Knowing that others will see a piece of me that’s vulnerable?

I’m going to try and change things up. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this kind of thing, lately, and I think I’m going to try to fill that last slot in my case with something intensely personal.

And hopefully, intensely well-done.

I’m going to stop being afraid to let my stuff influence my art.


Peace, love and merit scores,




So, I applied to be a PPA Juror…

by Christine


I had a couple of goals on my list for 2015 and there were a number of them that I didn’t hit. One of  them was to complete my minimum requirements to become a PPA affilated juror.

Which I did.

But having those requirements considered adequate was another story.

To bring you up to speed, the requirements were:

18 exhibition merits
Judges’ Workshop
Four State judgings (PPA approved with Affiliated juror(s) present)
Six reviews from affiliated jurors at those state judgings
Four recorded critiques
Ten image portfolio submission

I took the judges workshop in August 2013 (read about that HERE). I judged my first state judging in February 2014 with South Carolina, and also did West Virginia, Montana and New Jersey in the process that generated seven reviews by affiliated jurors.

I put together a portfolio of competition level 8x10s and recorded 4 critiques inside a 24 hour window to show my skill level (or lack there-of) on critiques.

Everything was due September 4 and then we played the waiting game…

Somewhere my seven evaluations were pulled out and reviewed, my critiques were listened to, my images perused, meetings were had, discussions were held, and in the end, I didn’t make the cut.

I’ll forever remember my phone call from Tim Mathieson, letting me down as easy as he could. I thanked him for his phone call when I saw him a few weeks ago at IUSA. The poor guy probably dreaded making those calls, so I figured I’d let him know I was cool with his call.


Because if someone thinks that I’m not ready to sit in a juror chair, then I don’t want to sit in a juror chair.

It’s as simple as that.

I WANT the bar to be high. I WANT it to be a goal worthy of achieving. I WANT to be 100% ready for the task at hand.

Personally, I feel like the states/ reviews requirement was less than I needed to go through myself, so we were all pretty much on the same page, anyway.

Yes, I cried a little bit when I was alone with my husband and he expressed regret on my behalf. I was disappointed.

But very temporarily. And only a little.

Because that day, I was being reminded of greater things…

It was Thursday, October 8th, 2016. I was in Florida, visiting the home of our son/daughter-in-law and holding our newest grandchild, Tristan. He was three weeks old and I was doing that softly rocking/half walking thing that grandmas do.  We were out by the pool. Throw in some colorful blooms, warm sunshine and the smell of barbecue in the air, and you’ve pretty much set the scene.

It was 12:10 pm

At 12:11 pm, grandchild #4, Audrey, was born back home in Dover, Ohio
AT 12:11:28 pm Tim Mathieson called
At 12:12 pm, grandchild #5, Bane (twin to Audrey) was born

In the midst of overwhelming joy, a tiny nugget of sadness swiftly traveled through. In a flurry of phone calls and texts, only one was not filled with something positive…

I’ve got this thing about Karma and things working out the way they’re supposed to. I can’t imagine a nicer way to find out I didn’t make the cut on something – blanketed on all sides by baby joy.

That’s Wootness right there.

Note to Tim:

I’m reapplying this spring. No one in my family is pregnant.

Just saying.

IUSA 2016: Please put the ceremonies on your schedule

by Christine

*of note; go ahead and take this article with a huge grain of salt, if you wish. I am being honored several times myself and have a vested interest in the topic. However, since personal experience is the basis for most of what I write, it is what it is.

Something that I’ve noticed about IUSA and it’s numbers – not all that many people attend the Awards & Degrees Ceremony or the Grand Imaging Awards.

I’d like that to change.

Whether or not you know any of the honorees, watching the incredible pride in craftsmanship, work ethic and a job well done within our industry can truly be inspiring.

I know that I, personally, am inspired by the Diamond Photographers of the Year (honored at the Grand Imaging Awards). To me, that means that they have achieved perfection within image competition. Yes, perhaps only for that one moment in time, but wow – that’s impressive.

You might not have a clue what I just said, and maybe that’s why you’re not interested. I’m going to explain it in English and very simply – please bear with me for a few paragraphs, k?

Monday, Jan 11, 2016 6:30-7:30 PM Grand Imaging Awards

First of all, it’s only an hour and PPA has this gig down to a science. They get’r’done pretty well and a boatload of people are honored in a fairly expedient, yet not rushed manner. It’s kind of impressive, especially after you see the lengths they go to audio-visually to keep us entertained with image slideshows while we are waiting for the event to start and informational and image slideshows during the ceremony.

In a nutshell, this is where the image competitors are honored. All year long, they work on their best four images (called a “case”) and they go into competition. It’s their absolute best work and many lengths and hours of time may be gone into the creating of them. When all is said and done, your image can either not pass, pass, or pass with extra credit. Your end ranking depends on whether or not all 4 of your images passed and how many of them got extra credit. We call those teachers’ pets that get extra credit for every darned thing “Diamond Photographers of the Year”. (Y’all know I love and respect you, I’m just being funny – see Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friends).

Anyway – anyone who had everything pass (if you pass, we call that a MERIT) gets to get up on stage and they’re in 5 different groupings, depending on how many of their images got extra credit (we call that a LOAN). So the groupings are Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. They’re all called Photographers of the Year and/or Medalists.

All in all, this is a pretty impressive feat. Folks work really hard on these images and getting to this level is fairly impressive. If you’re a new competitor, or interested in image competition at all, this would be a great event for you.

After those groups are honored, they Go on to the Grand Imaging Awards (GIA). The PPA takes those images that got the extra credit and has their judges vote on their top ten images in each category. After the top 10 are narrowed down, the judges vote again, ranking their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place choices. (That is my understanding of the process, any judges reading, feel free to correct me if this is wrong).

Those top 10 images in each category are considered GIA Nominees/Finalists. There are actually 6 overall categories, but the Portrait category is subdivided further, so in total, there are 10 group announcements. The top 3 in each category get trophies, and the 1st place winner gets $500. Then all the first place winners are brought up (6 – there is an overall portrait 1st place – the subdivisions do not appear here) and the overall GIA winner is given another trophy and another $500. *sigh*

ok, and that’s pretty much it. There are a number of other awards afterwards, as organizations tend to do.

Oh – yes – I mustn’t forget – the World Cup…

The World Cup is kind of like the Olympics of photography. The very first USA Team was announced and revealed while I was in the audience at this event several years ago. The absolute top cream of the crop images are chosen from all the LOANS and that makes up Team USA, who then go head-to-head with teams across the world.

“We are watching history being made,” said the voice behind me in the audience. He was right, so very right. The USA has been a strong force to be reckoned with in the past, let’s see what you think when the new team is announced at the ceremony.

Tuesday, January 12, Award and Degree Ceremony 6:30-7:30 PM

Bonus! Another well put together event that only takes an hour, yet is jam-packed with stuff. Way cool audio visual effects last year, too!

The PPA confers degrees to people, again, who have done a boatload of work over the past number of years. These are your competitors, your speakers, your teachers, your organizational volunteers. Those who have shown a level of work and dedication above and beyond. The PPA acknowledges these accomplishments with a variety of Degrees (Master of Photography, Photographic Craftsman, Master Artist). There are also different medallions and levels of achievement beyond the degrees that are acknowledged as well. Each person receiving a degree will be announced and go on stage with the sponsor of their choice who will then place their medallion and ribbon around their neck and then there will be hugs, handshakes and hula dancing. Seriously. One of the delightful aspects is the little twists that folks put into this moment. I didn’t do anything, personally, but my friends thought that yelling “SQUIRREL!” would make the moment memorable. Yes, it’s on video. To those designing the twists – stay classy – I’ve seen it go borderline.

Anyway – those walking across that stage have devoted at least a few years to the process that led them to this evening. The new Master Photographers have amassed at least fifteen images in competition that passed, or if they were exceptionally talented, eight with extra credit (those get double merits). It’s some pretty heady stuff if you think about it.

I want you to experience the same inspiration I get from these ceremonies.

What would be really cool is if you all could go and seek out the folks from your home state that are up on stage at any point in the evening. They worked really hard to be up there, this event might be the thing that swayed them to come, and they very well might be there by themselves. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but (stop reading, honey) I had to find a quiet area a few times the evening I got my Master’s Degree a few years back and regroup. It bothered me more than I realized that my husband wasn’t there. Fortunately, I had a group of very sweet friends who cheered me on (even though it wasn’t allowed) and met up with me at the party later – and that helped me, immensely.

Additionally – if you’re reading this far, I’ll let you in on a secret….. those folks that are GIA finalist/nominees have not been allowed to publicly announce the honor. The ceremony announcements need an element of surprise, and folks have been asked to be discreet. Of course, I’ve heard a number of little birdies tweeting here and there and a couple of not vauge-book enough posts to have a good idea of some of the names, but I can’t help from feeling a little sad that they’re not able to whip up some hooplah prior to the event. You know?

So, I’m betting there are some folks there that could use an extra pat on the back and congratulated.

Or maybe even a social event companion.

I know a number of my competitor friends that travel to these things alone; conjuring up a banquet escort can sometimes be an issue – fellows, you know any ladies there by themselves (or rooms of ladies) ? Not to be sexist – but it’s not necessarily comforting to be slogging around the streets of Atlanta hailing cabs, etc in gowns and high heels  – ask your solo traveler friends to join your group if you can.

And if a friend with a purse needs to go onstage, offer to keep it safe while they do that, nobody wants to drag a purse up there.

OK, that’s all I have – peace, love and high heels,



Yo, 2016… let’s chat

by Christine
 Image courtesy of krishna arts at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of krishna arts at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


So, 2016… you seem all excited, all fresh and shiny brand new… but before you start blasting around with all your glitter and cheer and noise, let’s get something straight…here’s the thing – your predecessor, 2015, kinda sucked a little bit. But… in the interest of fresh starts and all that jazz, I won’t belabor the point. Let’s just leave all that stuff on yesterday’s plate…

This WILL be the year of Wootness. I don’t care what you’ve got planned, what little curve ball you’re going to toss my way, but I’m giving you notice… this WILL be a better year.

And because I know that half the crap that happened in 2015 was of my own doing, I’ll hold myself in a little bit more check as well.

Priority-setting is going to be a big change this year. I have no idea what I’m going to change or how, but something must give.

I found 2015 was a struggle because most of the time was spent trying to please other people. Too many other people. Anyone need a favor? I’m your girl! You’re behind on a project? Let me help you! Someone needs to volunteer for something? I’m raising my hand right here!!

That totally needs to stop.

Not because I don’t want to help, but because I found myself helping others more than I was helping myself. And most of the time, the help I extend, isn’t really returned when I’m in a position of need. Now, I know you don’t do something with the expectation  of receiving something in return, but let’s just say there’s a point where some situations start looking really lopsided in the give/take category and you start to question whether or not you’re being used and/or appreciated. And when you’ve barely got the time left to take care of your own needs with the time that you have leftover, that lopsidedness becomes more apparent.


This year, I’m going to be selfish. That actually sounds kind of negative. I could say “I’m going to be nice to myself” but it’s WAY more than that, these changes that need made.

I spend a lot of my time doing/saying/writing things for other people. I have formulated some warped sense of “how a professional photographer should act” and I’ve spent a lot of time being all prim and proper and not voicing my opinion about the real way I think and feel about things. I’ve been afraid of stepping on the wrong toes, of saying things that will come back to haunt me later; of getting a smart-mouth reputation that will keep me from being selected as a judge or as an Imaging speaker. You know what? I applied to be considered for both those things this year, and neither one panned out, so my plan wasn’t all that effective now, was it?

The proof is in the pudding right here at Wootness. It’s been a long time since I’ve metaphorically touched pen to paper. When I’ve been true to my inner Wootness, I’ve received some negative responses that have shut me down. This happens on a regular basis. Why? Because I don’t have the strength within me to tell those folks to get lost.The fault is not in what I write from my heart but in the fact that some of my readers think that they have a right to tell me how to think and feel.

I’m done with that.

I write Wootness for me. If you don’t like it, find something else to read.

Not only am I going to change how much of my time is allocated to other folks’ causes, but I’m going to keep in check the amount of emotion I invest, as well.

I’m not sure how successful that’s going to be, but since the common theme of 2015 was having my heart broken by a variety of people and situations, well, 2016, you’re gonna get a “not so touchy-feely Christine.” Oh, don’t be confused, I will always have “all the feels” – but whether or not I allow you on my list of “all the people I have feels for” is a totally different thing.

So, here we are, that’s how things stand and I’ll see you tomorrow. Have a happy!





5 rules for event attendees with cameras

by Christine

Over the years that I’ve been a photographer, I’ve covered a large number of events; from stage shows, to pageants, to weddings, to award banquets. And across them all, there’s some fairly similar issues that plague the hired photographer.

Because these events are generally attended by the general public, from guests to ticket-holders, the chance that some of these attendees will have cameras of their own is fairly high. Some of them are just capturing a few shots for their own enjoyment, which is perfectly fine, but others… well , there are others who are trying to utilize the event in a professional capacity that has not been offered to them.

To those, I have these five rules:

1. Get out of the way.

Seriously. Sit in your seat and don’t move. Don’t lean out into any aisles, don’t stand up, don’t move your chair out of the position it’s in so you get a better angle, and especially, don’t stand in front of me.

Just. Sit. Down.

And if you place yourself into the center of the activity, thereby appearing in my photographs, we are going to be having a special kind of chat.

2. Don’t try to share my space while I’m shooting

I’m here to do a job. You are not.

I am not required to give you any kind of preferential treatment because you have a camera in your hands. I don’t care of you’re working for the Associated Press, you aren’t here on the clients’ dime, I am. Allowing you in my work space and allowing you to interfere with the relationship between my clients and my camera reduces the level of quality service that I am providing to them. If you desire to take your own photographs, do so in a way that does not interfere with me. Shooting over my shoulder is just bad etiquette, and asking clients to look in your direction so you can have your own shot is just downright interference.

Occasionally there are circumstances where it behooves me to let another photographer take a shot or two. If you are granted this privilege – here are some special rules for you:

Do NOT assume that you now have control of the photography and can re-pose my clients. Get in, get your shot and get out. You’d want me to act quickly and quietly if our roles were reversed. This isn’t the time to showboat.

Do NOT criticize me, my setup, my photography or my polite request that you just take a few shots so we can maintain our timeline. I’m not being paid to argue with you.

Do NOT complain about me and my limitations on you to my client or on social media. I always find out.

Do NOT utilize the photographs I allowed you to take for anything other than the very special intended purpose that resulted in you being granted the opportunity to photograph. If you do, I’ll assume your very special reason was fabricated. That’s fancy for “lie.”

You were granted a favor. Appreciate it, or you will never be granted that favor again.

3. Don’t ask to pick my brain

I love that you have a passion for photography and I love that you respect me enough to want to ask my opinion on some photographic matter. But please, I’m working. I just don’t have the time to chat with you about photography.

I don’t want to be rude, but introducing yourself and asking me for my business card so you can contact me later with questions is a much better approach, and I will gladly give you a card when I have a moment free.

4. My formal background area is not a photo booth

Time and time again, it seems that folks misunderstand the intention of a formal background area. I pay many many dollars-es for backgrounds and lights and all the accessories that go into a formal photographic setup. If I bring that setup with me, it’s because the client has requested their formal photographs to have a “studio” look. It’s not so you can keep dashing in to use the pretty background when I’m in between shots.

It’s not a photo booth. Seriously. Do you see any crazy hats and mustaches for people to wear?

I didn’t think so.

5. Don’t “gift” my clients with your own images publicly

There’s been a number of times that I’ve been out-spray-and-prayed by an amateur who “only wants to give a gift to the bride and groom.”

Yeah. Right.

You and I both know that you’re an aspiring photographer and you’re looking at this event as an opportunity to either pump up your portfolio or get paying gigs of your own. If you’re wanting to “gift” my client with your own images – do so privately. That’s what you do with gifts. Plastering 839 images on Facebook within 24 hours of an event is not a gift, it’s advertising.

Yours in Wootness,

See the Difference: From MWAC to M.Photog.

by Christine

*MWAC = Mom with a camera, M. Photog. = Master Photographer

I am impressed by befores and afters. If someone is trying to convince me of the results and effectiveness of their methods or system, I want proof.

Just like the diet and exercise infomercials, it’s all just blah blah blah until I see the before and after photos. I want to see proof.

And now for the proof.


This photograph was taken in 2007, a year before I joined the PPA. The subject is my youngest son, Dave, shortly after he received his first official police officer job. He came to the studio in his new uniform to create an image to celebrate the occasion.

I was a part-time newspaper and wedding photographer who only knew enough about photography to properly expose for ambient light.

Although I thought of myself as a professional photographer back then, in hindsight, I realize that was very far from the truth. (Seriously, I didn’t even own a reflector at that point – trust me, 2015 Christine is not very pleased with 2007 Christine).

I did that thing that most new photographers do; I bought a bunch of equipment without knowing how to work it and implored upon my family members to sit for me while I tried to wrangle my equipment into submission.

I had gradually learned how to use a light meter and a calibration target so that my exposure and color balance was correct, but the intricacies of lighting, posing and other studio techniques were beyond my comprehension. With no knowledge to draw upon, I arranged my lights like floor lamps in a living room and called it good.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

And so I learned my first lesson in photography; Buying a camera makes you a camera owner, not a photographer.


I knew I needed help. Enter PPA, stage left.

To make a long story short, I joined the PPA and became actively involved in PPA-based education, joined my state affiliate and pretty much never looked back. In 2009 I became a Certified Professional Photographer, in 2012, a Photographic Craftsman and in 2013, a Master Photographer. I began competing in image competition in 2009 and entered my first IPC in 2010.

Now, that little list of titles may not sound like much, but to those of us that have earned those various certificates and degrees, it represents a heck of a lot of work. Months of study, many classes, speaking engagements and flat out hours of minion labor all tallied up over time to complete all the requirements.

At the end of each of these individual journeys, I was a better photographer, a better member, a better person. As I continued to compete in image competition, my level of knowledge grew, which helped me refine my skills behind the camera.

And then it was 2015.

As I packed for IUSA 2015, my son’s community was hit with tragedy. Two elderly residents, a married couple, were robbed, abducted and murdered. A double homicide. And as I headed for Nashville, a nationwide manhunt was underway for the people that had committed the crimes.

I was scattered at IUSA 2015. I constantly checked my messages and the national news in between classes and events. The murderers were fleeing from Ohio, robbing gas stations as they traveled south, leaving a trail of fear where they went.

I constantly checked in with my son to see how he was doing. I knew that this investigation was very different from anything he’d ever had to do before. My mind constantly replayed the news channel video of the crime scene and grisly thoughts kept me from sleep. I was worried. Very worried.

I knew he was seeing things that no mother ever wants her son to see.

And for the first time, I was having difficulty with my son’s chosen profession.

When I returned from IUSA, with a couple of new lighting concepts I wanted to explore (thank you, Tim Kelly), I began to plan out an image of therapy for me and my “mama angst.”

And this is the result:


“I Had To*” – ©2015 christine walsh-newton

Same subject, same studio, same equipment, same photographer.

What isn’t the same is the level of competence exhibited – and that is a direct result of the education and guidance I have received through my PPA membership, education and image competition participation.

Creating this image served a personal need for me – it was the first time I created an image from within – when my heart was breaking – and each time I look at it, my heart still floods with emotion.

And pride.

Because it was this image, this experience –  that made me feel that I’d finally become an artist.

If it hadn’t been for the classes, the shooting safaris, the webinars, the Super 1 Days, the conventions, the plethora of mentors and instructors that I’ve been privileged to learn from over these last 7 years, I would have never been able to create this image or excel photographically to the degree I have.

I have seen the difference.

I am the difference.

Thank you, PPA.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

*I Had To was chosen for the IPC 2015 Loan collection and was awarded the 2015 PPA Northeast District Kodak Gallery Award and Ohio’s J. Anthony Bill trophy for Outstanding Portrait. It will advance to the 2015 Kodak Gallery Elite competition this fall.

IPC 2015: Diamond – The Goal I Didn’t Reach

by Wootness

So. here we are. Are we going to do that awkward dance around the subject? Nah.

Earlier this year, I made it public that my personal goal for IPC was to “go Diamond.”

Original article HERE.

That did not happen.

Now, I’m not going to beat myself up about it, I came pretty close, with a Platinum Medal, but any time things don’t go the way I want them to, there’s usually a reason why. And it’s generally of my own doing.

Let’s review.

The only issue in my 2015 case was one image that did not go loan.

I present

Simple Pleasures of the 2015 IPC General Collection:

Flowers 1 Final B-web

Simple Pleasures has gone through some change over its competition career.  There’s a story within the timeline, so check it out:

May, 2014: Shot the the following, messed with some color background shifts, couldn’t get it to look right behind water glass, so cropped that part out.


November, 2014: Could not get the purple background to look right behind the water glass, so went back to the original capture of light gray. Entered in PP of Oregon’s annual competition as a non-member. Highest scoring image of the competition: 91. Judge’s choice ribbon.


December, 2014: Took the image with me to a competition workshop where I worked with a retoucher on the purple part behind the water glass and some general sprucing up for competition. Entered in PP of Arizona’s annual image competition as a non-member in January 2015. Score:91.

Flowers 1 Final B-web

simplepleasures results

March, 2015: Entered in Ohio/Northeast district: 82. Seal.

August, 2015: IPC. Did not Loan. General Collection.

Something happened with this image. In both the competitions where it received a 91, it was challenged up several times. Twice on each, I believe. At first score, it landed somewhere in the 82-84 zone and went up from there.

Someone, or several someones fought for it.

And for awhile now, I’ve been thinking about that concept. A common hope during competition, from the seats of the spectators and competitors is that a judge will take up the cause for one of their images. I know I have had a champion or twelve in my competition history, but I have to wonder how wise it is to put one’s faith in an image that needs championed.

I used to caution students to stop hoping for 80’s and begin trying for 100’s. It should probably be a similar caution against placing faith in images that needed a whole lot of assistance getting up to that score.

Looking back, I should have known better. I let the fact that Simple Pleasures had scored a 91 more than once, sway my common sense about competition. I let myself be convinced that surely an image that scored that high several times would “go loan”.

When I took the image to Northeast District and it scored an 82 – I was a bit surprised. An 82? Oh well, a seal is a seal, I figured.

Still swayed by the 91 memories, I had faith that it was my best shot at a loan.

That was the point where I made a mistake. That image landed around the 82 zone right out of the bat all three times it had been judged. In my own personal way of things – that is not a high enough score to convince me that it would go loan at IPC.

Now yes, I know – score has absolutely nothing to do with loans and I also have had 80’s go loan, but this year, I was laying it all on the line and I had to be as positive as possible. And I was feeling really positive about an image I shouldn’t have.

Every time Simple Pleasures was challenged, one or more judges had an issue with the flat lighting. When I worked on it with my retoucher, we talked about the flat lighting and applied some technique to enhance the light. I knew it was an issue.

Yet I entered the image, anyway.

So, although it could be a number of things or a combination thereof, after as objective an analysis as possible, this is the lesson learned that I’m taking from my case this time.

In the future, if any of my images score well in spite of a technical issue, they will not advance under my hand.

So – there it is.

I tried. I tried hard.

And now I’m going to try harder.

IPC2015: “And… Scene!” | The Aftermath

by Wootness
Flowers 1 Final B-web

“Simple Pleasures” | 2015 PPA General Collection




THE event of the year for some of us. If that  confuses you, go away and come back tomorrow, I’ve got some competition addicts to chat with today.

So. How are you all feeling?

I’m feeling a little bit weird. As usual.

I’m reminded of a time from my past. For a very long time I was a “theatre geek.” For 33 years, to be exact. I first donned stage makeup at the age of 17 and never looked back. I went through phases, though. Sometimes I was on stage. Sometimes I worked behind the scenes. I built sets, made props, sewed costumes, curled hair, designed posters, directed shows, set lights and finally landed in my niche as a stage performance photographer.

But for every position I held, every job I did, there was that moment.

At the end of the performance, when the final word has been uttered, the final note has been sung, the final tear has been shed.

That moment.

When you hold.

Your breath. Your gaze. Your position. Your expression. Your pose. Your everything.

While. the. curtain. slowly. comes. down.

And then a pause. And then a whoosh. Of breath. Of body.

And your stage self goes away and your actor self returns.

And it’s that moment. That one right there. That just happened.

“And Scene, ” we say.

It’s over.

And then the truth of your performance hits you.

You know if you did well, if you flubbed your lines, if you did that quick costume change as quickly as you needed to. If you remembered to go into chest voice during the emotional part of the song. If you screwed up. Royally. Or just a tiny bit. You know if you were the best actor you could be.

You know.

And then you decide.

Whether you’re going to let it kick you in the teeth and you need to find a corner to cry into…. or if you’re going to suck it up and nail it to the floor when the curtain comes up again tomorrow night.

Yeah, that’s kind of how I’m feeling. Or rather, that’s where I’m at.

If that’s where you’re at – let me say this…

If you’re feeling discouraged –  If you’re feeling disappointed – Or maybe even a little bit frustrated…

That’s pretty normal. And I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t be. I can’t dictate your feelings, so if you’re feeling them – that’s ok.

But don’t dwell on them and let them grab hold of the negativity that can halt your progress on your journey.

Try and channel your energy into determination and grit to hit this thing head on next time.

And try to keep it a little in perspective.

It was one performance. On one day. In front of one audience.

I know you have it in you to move the audience to its feet in standing ovation.

Let’s do this.

IPC 2015 | the waiting begins…

by Christine

Not too long ago I registered my entries for IPC 2015 and pushed that final little button that sent them on to the netherland of waiting until August 3. Two are physical prints, so they still  need labeled and shipped off. Two are digital entries and are currently in server-land some where.

And I, am just sitting here feeling pretty much like… well…  I’m not sure.

Generally I’d say “I hate my case,” but I’m not sure that’s entirely appropriate this time. There are a couple of entries I really like. One, I love. I don’t really hate any of them –  and overall, there’s not really anything I’d change on any of them. I’m not feeling rebel enough to break a seal and wasn’t particularly feeling the need to do so – so moot point, anyway.

So, what’s the issue?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m taking this all too seriously. Is it possible to even do that? I know I stressed myself out with it this year. I kept pushing and pushing. I kept changing things up – for awhile I was trying to follow too many peoples’ advice and the whole thing became an exercise in pleasing someone else. But that’s the whole “game” isn’t it? Pleasing someone else?

No, not really.

The game is to compete with yourself and do the best possible work that you can. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Did I do that?

Well…. I guess I’d have to say “yes.”

But whether my best is good enough to meet the goal I set for myself – not so sure….

… to be continued