My IPC 2016 Challenge Entry: mandalas (a non-event album)

by Christine

When I teach about photographic competition, I talk about utilizing it to challenge myself to learn a new skill, or improve upon a skill that I’m having trouble wrapping my head around. This year was no different. When I create a competition entry to specifically address a personal/skill weakness, I call it a “Challenge Entry”.

In 2015, I tackled my first album. I had never done one before and considered them beyond my capability, so it became a challenge entry. It was a simple black and white portrait album that earned a loan at IPC 2015 and went on to place 10th in the non-event album category at the Grand Imaging Awards at IUSA2016. It also placed as a top 10 Impact Award recipient from PPA Charities.

That was some pretty cool stuff for my first album – so I’ve kind of got a bug going on for the non-event album category, now. I think it’s a great challenge to assemble a consistent body of work into album form. I plan on doing at least one every year, and I’ve started encouraging my students to do the same if they’ve gotten their work up to a point where they’re exhibiting a consistent style and theme within their images.

So, of course, this year, I wanted to enter at least one album. I didn’t have any ideas about what that might be, so I sort of set that goal on the back burner until I came up with something brilliant (ie loan-worthy) and worked on some additional challenges.

I didn’t talk much about this next challenge because frankly, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off and I didn’t want to get too braggy about it, just in case. I dig down deep sometimes and get honest with myself about what I need to work on, and I kind of hated to admit the reasoning behind this one, but here goes…

Teaching a shooting class terrifies me.

If you are in a class of mine and I’m up front with a camera, lights and a model, you can lay a pretty hefty bet on the fact that my stomach is in turmoil. If I have a slideshow and images, it’s all good, but the moment I have to “perform” – ugh.

In my Murphy’s Law-filled world, these are the classes that have the most tendency to go haywire. There’s always some piece of equipment that doesn’t work like it’s supposed to, or I forget to bring something, or some other hiccup happens that threatens my ability to create an image in front of a class that I could easily do in private.

I get stage fright. Plain and simple.

But anyways…I like to teach. I like to teach a LOT. I want to be able to be a versatile teacher and when I’m asked to teach a lighting/posing/shooting class, I want to be able to confidently say “absolutely!”

I’ve taught a number of them, and they’ve all worked out fine – but I didn’t have a handle on *my* comfort level with them.

So…the challenge I gave myself was to teach a shooting class.

And within the images created during that class, utilize one for competition.

Yeah. Now you see why I didn’t mention this challenge…

I set these goals shortly after IPC 2015, so that I would have plenty of time to work on them. I already planned on doing something about the shooting class problem, so I had submitted a Super One Day class for October 2015 that included studio lighting, posing and post-processing techniques that I employ in competition.

I hired two models for the class, and for each technique I taught, I demonstrated the lighting setup we were after, and then turned the shooting area over to the students for them to capture a correct example, as well. (I hear the wheels turning – don’t worry – everyone gets the Wootnessy “I’d better not see these images in your portfolio” lecture first).

One of the techniques I taught was rim lighting and an accompanying Adobe Photoshop layer technique that I use to create graphic designs with rim-lit images. I’ve been using that technique in competition for a few years and have made it part of my signature style.

It took 4 tries to get the lighting where I wanted it:


And this is the example graphic that I created during our class to demonstrate the Photoshop technique:


Now, the above example is in no way, shape or form, anywhere close to what I would put in competition. It was a very quickly-worked, basic assembly demonstration, however, the base image, exposure number 21 was a perfect place to start a new project.

Later, after the class was over and the students had gone home, I sat down and created design after design incorporating the base image hundreds of times in various positions and angles. Hundreds and thousands of layers. Dozens of final designs. More designs than I’d ever created from one image before.

Enough for an album – to satisfy the album goal that I’d put on the back burner.

I like it when a plan comes together, don’t you?

I took this project just a little bit further in the “out there” department and added an element of geekiness to it via Carl Jung. I have an interest in psychology and find certain theories very interesting. I had a LOT of fun incorporating the psychology geekiness and the photography together for this project.

At one point, I felt it was finished. And then I put it in a competition. And then another. And another. I printed out hard copies of the spreads and hand-carried them to IUSA 2016 to get the opinion of someone from the mentor booth (Thank you, Cindy Behnke!). And after some revisions, I put it back in competition.

The last step before IPC was Northeast District where it earned a seal (and scored an 88!). I had ordered a critique, and although my reviewer pointed out some areas for consideration, I did not feel that the entry was weak enough in those areas to warrant breaking the seal. I had broken a seal on a different entry, so I wasn’t afraid to do it – it’s just that I felt that this album was finished and any additional tweaking would be messing with a good thing, you know?

So off it went to IPC, where it was selected for the Loan Collection for IUSA 2017.

That makes me really happy. Two black and white albums, two years in a row, two loans in a row.

I think I’m gonna feel a lot better about my next shooting class, don’t you?

I’d like to challenge *YOU*, person who is reading this – challenge yourself for IPC2017. Do one entry that takes you outside your comfort zone. Give yourself a goal and don’t let yourself off the hook. You just never know how it might turn out. 🙂

For your enjoyment, I present mandalas:

Countdown to IPC 2016; What’s in *YOUR* Case?

by Christine



***NOT SAFE for IPC 2016 JUDGES!!!!***

***I repeat, if you are an IPC 2016 Juror, you need to turn back now!!!***

Well, howdy there! How have you been? If your life is anything like mine – you’ve been so busy you haven’t been able to take a breath. Or get your IPC entries done. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, anyway, it doesn’t have a thing to do with procrastination, no matter what my personal organizer tells you…

So, I’m still on that “oh my goodness I got it done!” high that’s been going strong for about the last hour. I’m pretty sure I’ve never waited this long to enter, and I really don’t know why I did. I had the files mostly prepped about a week after I got my critiques from Northeast District, several months ago.

I guess I thought… ok, I *know* I thought this… but it’s kind of embarrassing…. I thought I could pull out some extra awesome shots/entries that I could use to replace every “not so strong” entry in my case. I figured with the right attitude and energy expenditure I could pull out all the stops and “go Diamond”…

Yeah, right…

Basically, this year’s case is what it is. I had some stuff going on and didn’t give competition the time and attention that I normally do. It’s all good, though. I gave priority to the things that needed it and let those that didn’t hang out on the back burner.

I did that thing I advise against doing – I waited until the last day to enter my case for IPC. I had three seals going in. One for a non-event digital album, and two for printed portraits. I let the album and one print alone and dealt with the remaining two entries.

One of the portraits had the most embarrassing retouching error in it. Even though it scored in the merit zone at districts, I knew it probably wouldn’t go loan at IPC. There’s no rules or anything that would let me know for sure, but I know *I* would think the error that was in place would keep me from voting it a “loan” image, so I’m going off that.

Here’s the before and after images – look at the string hanging off the officer’s camera left sleeve:


That was a pretty easy fix that I took care of back in March, so all I had to do was break the seal and replace the file.

I saw this screen for the very first time… I have to admit, it was a little scary to push that button…



But, I did it, and now I’ll just wait to see if the IPC judges think he’s worth a merit.

Or two. 😉

The real difficulty lay in my choice for entry #4. I’ve been working on a series of illustrative images for the last several months that I wanted to use, but none of them worked out the way I wanted. I was stressing myself out, trying to shoot something new. Every single year, I’ve shot an image fairly close to the day of the deadline. Last year, I yanked an entry and created a brand new album on the day of the Northeast District deadline… which eventually went loan and placed #10 in the Grand Imaging Awards non-event album category… so… I thought it would be no issue to pull some kind of miracle out of my rear-end once again.

::pause for laughter::

Again…yeah, right. That was *SO* not happening…..

It boiled down to this… I had my previous entry #4 from districts. A portrait that scored an 80 and then was pulled back when some technical issues were noticed as it was spinning away… an image that re-scored at a 78.

So much OUCH.

Normally, I consider these “dead in the water” and I just yank them and don’t mess with them again. I prefer images that score higher and do not straddle that 78-81 zone.

But sometimes, you deal with what you have. And I had a 78.


I brought out the print. I brought up the digital file and did a self critique on it (much like I do for my mentoring students) and then I pulled up my district critique from Randy McNeilly. I re-calibrated both monitors and I immersed myself in the image. I did everything I could to bring it up to snuff. I fixed the background retouching issue that was noted in my critique. I checked my levels to make sure my blacks weren’t blocked up. In the actual judging, the judges said that the print had a greenish cast (it did – & that seemed to be a lab issue) – but that wasn’t something that needed fixed in the digital file, so that input, I ignored.


With some concentrated effort, I made the corrections in short order and submitted my case.


I know, right?

There’s still a tiny window of time before entries officially close, but after today, we’re just waiting for the official start of IPC 2016 judging, which begins on August 1, 2016.

I wish all of my fellow competitors the best luck in the world. I hope that 4/4 pins need an extra production run and that everyone that needs those last merits for their Master’s of Photography Degrees is successful in that quest.

Peace, love and merits,

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,



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: My Images have Been Judged, Now What? [Part 1]

by Wootness


The morning of Day 3 of the 2015 International Photographic Competition (hereafter known as IPC2015 and sometimes #IPC2015) has dawned. Early morning birdies are bellowing songs of joy and abandon. Obviously they don’t have images being judged or they wouldn’t be so bloody happy…

But anyways…

Some of you are just as happy as those birds. You have the fortunate luck to have gotten in on the beginnings of the loan judging on Tuesday and you have your final results.

Before you go all hog wild on Social Media sites, you need to ratchet it down a little bit and pay attention to some details…

PLEASE do  NOT post your competition images on social media. Anything that was awarded a LOAN designation still has one more phase of competition to go through.

Hang tight for a few weeks or so – the Grand Image Award (GIA) selections still need to be made and those are done AFTER IPC is over and all of the judges have returned home. Anything that was given a LOAN designation can still be chosen as a GIA category finalist. So, you can share your merit images (if they have already been judged for LOAN) and those images that did not merit, but please don’t show your LOAN images yet.

If you’d like to be totally on the safe side – here is a set of directions on how to close down the permissions on a personal photo album on Facebook so that you can share your images there – but you MUST follow all of the directions (the ones about putting all of the judges in a special “group”). These instructions work on your personal page only and do not work on a business page. It’s better to not share at all – but if you just GOTTA:

Image Competition and Facebook Images

I advise against posting anything on Instagram, Google+, etc, as I do not know if there is a way to limit the audience on those sites.

If you’ve done well, congratulations!!! I know it’s exciting, but to maintain the integrity of the GIA judging – please be careful over the following weeks and wait until all the judging is done before you have the billboards made, mkay?

[Stay tuned for additional articles on this topic, which will be posted at the conclusion of IPC2015].

SEPPA 2015/IPC 2015: “The tribe has spoken” – the images that didn’t make the cut…

by Christine

*****This post is SAFE for 2015 IPC/GIA Judges*****

It is done. The whirlwind that is PPA District competition season is over.

Thank. Goodness.

SIDEBAR: In addition to entering two districts, I spoke and judged at the state conventions for Montana and West Virginia as well as worked the Ohio Convention/Northeast District Competition. *whew!* Obviously my time management skills need refined in a major way – my hat’s off, once again to the judges that have done this for years, you obviously have this down to a science and possess superior organizational skills.

For you results oriented folks – the official results are HERE.

For you number-crunching geeks – by my calculations (unofficial, of course) there were 959 total entries, 439 scored 80 or above (45.78%) and 520 (54.22%) did not. There were seven 100’s. Seven.

Yes, I know that IPC has yet to open, but that’s a whole other blog post all by itself. I’ll get to that later.

And now, for a story:

My first PPA-level competition was the 2010 Mid-East Regionals. It was the last year before PPA reorganized us into Districts.

Back then, image competition was prints only, and I remember that I ordered 11 physical prints of 4 image files in order to get my final case of 4 entries. I don’t know if money was growing on trees back then, or what, but I ordered multiple copies of almost every image. Some on different papers, some from different labs, and some were reprints after making “one last tweak.”

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Five years later, in 2015, I prepared to enter the Northeast District with quite a different set of circumstances.

I had changed my attitude about print competition a number of times over the past year. I tried a variety of new things. Probably too many. OK, definitely too many. Like the kid in a candy store, I flitted from one shiny thing to another until I’d made myself quite dizzy. And sick.

In my twisted journey of discovery, I went in so many different directions that I wound up with 8 possible images for Northeast District. I’m sure some are envious of such a “problem,” but for the artist in me, it caused me great consternation.

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.


By the time I whittled those eight down to the final four, my case was a reflection of the turmoil I’d felt as an artist over the past number of months. It was split down the middle. Two color images and two black and whites. Those who know my work, know me to work almost exclusively in black and white portraits for competition.

But this year, I was questioning… my art… my self… my style…

For the first time my case did not contain four portraits.

For the first time, I created images as an extension of my soul – from anger to annoyance to spite to heartbreak; I can point to each image and tell you what corner of my heart it came from. Some of it was a pushing of my technical skills and some of it was just pushing my heart.

For the first time I paid for someone else to retouch and print some of my entries. I’ll get to that later, too.

For the first time I entered in other states’ competitions as a non-member. Yet another topic we’ll chat about later.

For the first time I entered more than one district. My scores at Northeast were 88,83,82, and 79. I took the 79 , changed it and added in 3 more portraits to make a case for Southeast District, where the 79 blossomed into an 85 and the three portraits got 80’s.

I still wound up with 2 competition prints I didn’t use at all. And I have this perverse need to reprint the 79/85.

And at the end of it all, I still have no idea what I’m doing.

Or at least it feels that way.

I feel a little sorry for the 3 80’s from my SEPPA case. I feel like I just orchestrated a print competition version of Survivor…

Yeah, I sent you guys to tribal council. Sorry for your luck, you’re outta here.

Although I have not made my final choices for my IPC 2015 case, I have narrowed the field and here are the images that did not make the cut.

These two orchids were shot in 2014 and reworked so many times I’m just tired of looking at them. Since the bulk of my work is low key portraits, I know these high key florals are just about the exact opposite and some of my meh attitude is that they are so different from the norm. They don’t interest or excite me. I don’t know – they really never had a chance. They never made it into comp. They’re the old maids of image competition. I also worked them up and had them printed VERY early, like back in December-early, so they were at a bit of a disadvantage to begin with. Poor little things – at least they have each other…

Orchid 1 - Rejected

Orchid 1 – Rejected

Orchid 2 - Rejected

Orchid 2 – Rejected

 Next up for eviction are these three portraits. The each scored an 80 at SEPPA (not my district so they didn’t “seal”) but for me, an 80 isn’t a strong enough score to indicate to me that it’s the best choice as the 4th image for my IPC case.

So, torches have been extinguished for:


Jonathan, the tribe has spoken…

The Benchsitter

Bryon, the tribe has spoken…

and last, but not least…

Kyle, the tribe has spoken...

Kyle, the tribe has spoken…

Stay tuned for the next episode of Survivor, IPC 2015 …

Self-Portraits in Competition: Amy Feick’s “Held by Demons” & “Almost Broken”

by Christine

Second in the self-portrait series is artist Amy Feick from Port Huron, Michigan. Amy is a Master Photographer, Certified Professional Photographer and operates Twin Shutterbug Studios. Amy shared her images with me during her post-processing workflow and I must say how intrigued I am by the influence that songs and lyrics have within her work. Although the end result is a two-dimensional image, it’s interesting to me that an additional art (music) played a large hand in its creation.


held by my demons

“Held by My Demons” by Amy Feick. Feick utilized this image at her state and district competitions in 2014.

1. Tell about your main comp image. Why did you create it? What about yourself were you trying to say?

A few years ago, I created a self portrait expressing how I feel bound and silenced by photography sometimes. At IPC, it failed to merit. At the time, I was encouraged by Christie Kline to try again the following year with another self portrait. Until this point, most of my competition entries had always been client work. Instead of improving the same image, I wanted to try for a different story. Throughout my life, like many people, I’ve turned to music to help express what I’m feeling. I’ve always been drawn to introspective lyrics, and this is what inspired my image.

“I wanna feel the change consume me,
Feel the outside turning in.
I wanna feel the metamorphosis and
Cleansing I’ve endured within
My shadow.” *

*lyrics by Tool, “46 & 2”

While the inspiration comes from the whole song, these lyrics just gave me a starting point to visualize how I felt inside. There is that strong desire for change, to let go of the past, but the fear keeps me held in place. As women, we tend to find all of our flaws, and magnify them. I’m a very modest person by nature, and it took a true leap of faith for me to be willing to silence my fears and allow myself to be bared (soul and otherwise) for the story I wanted to tell.

2. How did you execute the shot?

I used a self timer, but a remote would be much easier. I’d set a stuffed animal where I knew I was going to be, auto-focus, then turn it to manual. I’d take about 25 shots in each set, and then review. One of the hardest things was to make sure the light made sense. The light couldn’t be too pretty, even though this was a fantasy piece.

3. Tell us about your post processing & presentation. Print or digital ?

Print. Always print.

I had a lot of little pieces that got composited together for the image. A hand from this frame, face from this one, etc. I created the demons in Corel Painter, and then overlaid them in Adobe Photoshop. I have several layers of texture added, including the cracked texture over my skin. I faded the lower half of my body to black and white, to help symbolize the emerging from the dark.

4. The journey of this image through comp. Different levels you put it through, scores, challenges, advice for changes & any changes made, competitor angst while waiting, etc..

This is not the image I ended up sending to IPC in 2014. I had entered “demons” first at our state competition. Putting an image of yourself out there is harder than entering any other image. It’s YOU getting critiqued. My goal was entirely self expression, what it scores is just the icing on the cake.

At PPM it received a score of 87, and had much discussion. I listened to several of the changes suggested, but chose to ignore others. One suggested changed was the expression- it was much too complacent for the image. That expression was exactly what I was going for, so I chose not to change it. I didn’t want a pained expression, I felt like what I was trying to express wasn’t a pained feeling.

At districts I changed the title and made a few other tweaks. The title change proved to be fatal. The image scored a 78. The title was a big part of what held it back per the critique, but so was the expression. Title is very important to the story you want the judges to see!

I went to work trying to photograph a more pained expression for the image, finally willing to give in. In the process I decided that my first image told the story I wanted it to tell, and I didn’t want to change it. Since this image was about self expression more than it was about what it would score, I decided to not make any changes and leave it as it was. In that decision, I knew I also didn’t want to send it to IPC.

The image I did submit to IPC, Almost Broken, gave me the same sense of self expression, without having to compromise what I wanted to be in the Demons image. Broken is much more simple. It did merit at IPC, but failed to go Loan. I didn’t get the critique because I had three seals, so I don’t know why it wasn’t loan. It could’ve come down to paper choice, or many other factors. There are a few tweaks I could’ve made, but since I shot this image 2 days before the late deadline, I didn’t have time.

almost broken

“Almost Broken” by Amy Feick. PPA 2014 General Collection.

5. How you feel about this image now? Did you successfully execute your plan and convey your message?

During PPM competition one of the judges said that he could really relate to the image. Who hasn’t felt held back by the things they keep inside? I think in both images that what I was trying to accomplish was done.

I’ve done quite a bit of healing thru the process of self portraiture and I’ve discovered things about myself I never knew. I don’t love images of myself, and it’s been a goal of mine to learn to be okay with being photographed. I’ve had others tell me that these two images have resonated with them. These things are more powerful than any score or award.


Thank you, Amy for sharing your creative process with Wootness readers.

If you or someone you know would like to be featured in this series, please email for consideration

Competition Self-Portraits: Christie Kline’s “Soul Salvation”

by Christine

One of the great things about image competition is that you can utilize it to challenge yourself in a variety of ways. When I teach  my print competition classes, I talk about the variety of ways I’ve challenged myself – but one of the challenges that I respect wildly, but have yet to approach myself is that of creating a self-portrait competition entry.

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve learned of a number of artists that challenge themselves in this way and I’ll be bringing you their stories  – let’s call it a series, shall we?

The first featured self-portrait guest competitor is Master Photographer, Photographic Craftsman and Certified Professional Photographer Christie Kline from Illinois featuring her 2014 image competition entry “Soul Salvation”. (WEBSITE)


Why did you create it?

I have made it a competition goal to do a self portrait every year. This portrait is meant to show me and where I am in my life at that moment. We all experience different things through life. Some people are a closed book and some are wide open. I experienced something at a young age that destroyed me and my walls built up and I was a closed book for many years. Two years ago there was the start of a transformation a “salvation”. We all have insecurities, these insecurities could have formed from things we have gone through? Being told you aren’t good enough, your body isn’t what it should look like, being bullied in grade school. All these “things” we go through make us who we are and then you have a life changing experience that is just the icing on the cake. The book that was written starting at a young age closed up and had a dead bolt on it. We have the freedom of waking up and making choices. I woke up and made the choice to face this all head on. Facing those demons that you kept in for so long and opening that book. The image “Soul Salvation” is so many things for me. It was me putting my self out there like an open book. Realizing these experiences I had gone through have made me who I am. Embracing who I truly am and loving myself. In the midst of all this coming to know who I really was, I met and fell in love with a man that supported me, loved me, pushed me,trusted me and this was the most freeing amazing feeling I have ever felt. He was a huge part of “Soul Salvation”.

How did you execute the shot?

I had the idea of what I wanted. First time attempting I was on a dark background, with the white cheesecloth and my studio strobes. 142 exposures and I wasn’t happy. It simply wasn’t what I had in my head. Frustrated at the time I just let it be and walked away from it for a few months. Second time attempting I stained the cheesecloth, chose a lighter background and used window light. 190 exposures in I thought I had to have had something in there I was happy with. That lucky 178th image was it! When I do my self portraits I setup the camera on a tripod and place a full length mirror in front of the tripod. For this image I had a background stand setup above where I would be standing, that is where the material used hung from. I use a tiny remote when doing these. You have to focus your camera on something where you will be then go to that spot. If you do not use the remote in a certain amount of time you have to start over.

Where do you hide the remote ?

For this specific image the remote was in the cup of my right hand. It is not easy to hide I have learned over the past couple years.

Post processing & presentation. Print or digital?

After I did my normal retouching to the image the manipulation began. I switched my hands from a different image to get it exactly how I wanted. I had to straighten the material above me. To get the long and skinny composition I had to stretch the image a bit. Made the image black and white pumping the contrast making the highlights and shadows more pronounced. Added a tiny bit of grain. Then I made a new file the same size as my cropped image making the background white. Bringing my original file on top of the new file and lowering the opacity down to 50% for a faded black and white. I printed on a watercolor paper and did a simple double white mat on top of that.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.51.00 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.52.04 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.52.12 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.53.48 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.56.18 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.57.46 AM

The journey of this image through comp. Different levels you put it through, scores, challenges, advice for changes & any changes made, competitor angst while waiting, etc….?

I usually take advantage of all the levels of competition to get a good feel on how my images will do. This time I skipped the state comp and went into district. I am a print competition junkie and I love going and watching front and center at the actual competition. Receiving a text message saying your image “Soul Salvation” is now in que to be judged. My heart started pounding from deep within, palms starting to clam up. Sitting there and every time they read a title anxiously awaiting for your title to be read… about 10 minutes later the turn table starts to rotate with the little sliding noise we all know all too well and the Jury Chair reads “Soul Salvation”. There it is… in front of the panel of judges that is going to place it into a category by putting a score on it. I now feel like my heart is going to jump out of my throat, nails are digging into the leg of the person sitting next to me and drops of sweat are beading up while I watch every single judge get up and inspect the image sniffing every inch of it. They all sit down and seconds later the Jury Chair said 88. Whew, I gasped and was so excited! This was the highest score I have ever got out of the box!!! And then I heard CHALLENGE! Oh my here we go, back to my chest pounding and anxiously awaiting what each judge had to say about it. Listening to all the things they loved or disliked about the image. It is really all a blur everything that was said.

The challenged score was announced as a 98. Whew, I can breathe again. After that the judges all took a 10 minute break. We all resumed back into the room for more judging. The first thing the Jury Chair says is we have a challenged print… “Soul Salvation”…. I’m thinking, wait… what???? Oh my gosh AGAIN??? So here we go again after I had gotten my heart rate back to normal. It was one of the quickest challenges ever all the judges said why isn’t this at 100? I literally about wet myself… a 100?!?! One of my images? I couldn’t believe it. Still to this day I am in shock. This was one of the coolest most rewarding experiences I have ever had! Receiving the CPP award, lexjet award and highest scoring case for the North Central District I was on cloud 9 and in disbelief. A few months later it also went loan at the International Photographic Competition.

How do you feel about this image now, did you successfully execute your plan and convey your message?

I am very proud of this piece now. What I learned in the process is to keep trying if you do something and it is a fail… try again and try harder. I have the post it note the print committee used during the competition stuck on my computer to remind me that I can meet my goals and to never give up.


Thank you Christie for sharing your image and process with Wootness 🙂

Enter PPA’s Southeast District for Score/Critique Only!

by Christine

Southeast District Photographic Competition Banner

Yes, it’s true! The PPA rules allows its members to enter any other PPA district competition for SCORE ONLY. You may also order the optional critiques. You WILL NOT earn seals and you ARE NOT eligible for district awards.

If you’re like me and like to see official proof, please go HERE to see it for yourself on the PPA website.

For those of us that aren’t all that happy with the results of the Southwest, Northeast, Northcentral or Western district results – we have an unofficial do-over – kind of – sort of. We’ve got the opportunity to make some changes or substitutions to the images that didn’t do so well, and place some alternate images before a set of affiliated judges. We can also take advantage of the critiques, which are available for an extra fee.

Now, I’d be irresponsible if I made any claim that one can be assured of a merit at IPC if one gets a 80+ score at Southeast District. For my own self – I only need one new entry for my IPC case, I’m going to see what happens at Southeast District and most likely will choose whatever scores the highest. Maybe. Because you just never know what might happen. Sometimes “different day, different panel” kicks in with more vengeance than usual and things just don’t go your way. So – take it for what it is – an opportunity to get a little more feedback on a couple of images you’re considering for your IPC case.

Now – there’s one more thing – so listen up –

I’ve been hearing a variety of folks registering for the Artist Category by mistake instead of the Photographic Open or vice versa.



There are two different links to register, one for each category – so go to the right one. Go to the PPA website to see the page with both options and then pick the right one. We’re grown adults, now, and can read, so let’s do this right, ok?


Alrighty then – if you suck it up and take a risk at Southeast District, let me know and I’ll watch with you – we will have a “I hated my district case so much I entered it twice club” viewing.

Entries open: March 23, 2015
Judging dates: May 1-May 3, 2015 Charlotte, NC
Entries close: April 24, 2015


2015 PP of Ohio and PPA Northeast District Results

by Christine

Northeast District Photographic Competition Banner

The 2015 PPA Northeast District Results are at

2015 Northeast District Results

The 2015 District Trophies and Category Awards are at:

2015 Northeast District Awards

And the 2015 PP Of Ohio Awards are at:

2015 PP of Ohio Awards