Remember that story about my local newspaper printing the photo I submitted of the baby bird I named after Oprah’s vagina? This photography story isn’t as interesting, but I’m posting it anyway because I love to brag. (I’ll assume no one gasped at that.)
First thing to know: I HAVE NO FRIENDS. And I don’t mean, “I have no friends who are into photography“. I mean, “I have no friends. Period.” It’s all part of the pact I made with the Devil years ago in return for him making me a morning drive radio star. Plus I live in the middle of a secluded forest and go to bed when most people are only just getting drunk after their long day at work. That helps too.
(Aside to NewWifey(tm), whom I know is reading this. Yes, yes. You are my friend. I’m referring specifically here to friends who won’t grudgingly have sex with me.)
So ever since I got back into photography last year, it, like all my other hobbies, has been a very lonely pursuit. This is partly because I bought the camera primarily to take pictures of NewWifey(tm)’s products down in our basement. But it’s also because, like I said, I am devoid of human contact in general.
But then I discovered that a photography club meets at the senior center in our town once a month, and they welcome new members. The only catch was, they meet at 2pm. I work until 1pm in a building that’s an hour away. Since I’d have to divert home to get my camera and spend ten minutes peeing first (thanks, prostate), I’d never make it on time.
However my work hours have just recently changed. I now get out of work 15 minutes earlier, which means I’d have enough time to grab the Nikon, pee, and even down a fortifying beer before the meeting. So I went and checked them out last month.
That first time I went they had a guest speaker talking about the finer points of street photography, and after that they scrolled through everyone’s pictures.
The guest speaker was ok, but the follow-up presentation of members’ photos …..zzzzzzzzzzzzz.
I couldn’t believe it. There must have been 40 pictures put up, one after the other, and after each one….dead silence. No discussion of the picture’s merits by the members, no explanation of what was happening by the photographer. Just 30 or so people sitting with their arms crossed staring dully at the screen until it was over when they all put on their coats and left.
I was aghast. I thought these people were supposed to be enthusiasts. Why weren’t they enthusiastic? I’ve seen more spontaneous emotions burst out at Japanese tea ceremonies.
I decided to join anyway.
When I signed up the president told me that every month the club posts a Theme and members are supposed to bring photos representing that theme to the next meeting. She handed me a sheet which said that for April the theme was “Transportation”. She also asked me what level photographer I was, Beginner, Intermediate, or Expert. I’m probably really a beginner, since this is my very first DSLR. But you know how men are. Levels equate to penis size.
I chose Intermediate.
For the coming April meeting I knew I’d be in for 2 hours of people staring glumly at picture after picture of cars, bicycles, horses, trains, and all the other obvious choices. But I had a plan: I was gonna submit 5 pictures (the maximum allowed), none of which on the surface seemed to be about transportation. Then I, a professional wordsmith who’s not embarrassed to flaunt it, would stand up and spin a tale around each of my pictures explaining why it actually did conform to The Theme. That would get conversations going amongst the peanut gallery, then others would do the same with their pictures, and all would be right with the world. I couldn’t wait.
So this past Tuesday was the April meeting, my first as a paying member and contributor. I had my script for each photo memorized, and I was raring to go. I was gonna save the Vernon Camera Club single handed!
Or so I thought.
To my surprise there were easily twice as many people seated around the tables in the meeting room as there were the previous month. And they were all chattering away, lively as could be. What was going on…?
Then the president of the club stood up. “Please sit down everyone” she said, “and if anyone hasn’t submitted their entries yet, please do so now if you have them on a thumb drive. The judge will be here in a few moments.”
Entries? Judge? What was going on?
I went trotting up to the president to find out.
“Oh yes” she said. “This month is a competition event. I believe we ran out of notices when you were here last time, so you probably didn’t know. But don’t worry, I included all 5 of your pictures in the Intermediate category.”
I was doomed.
Not only was I not gonna be able to deliver my well crafted remarks to wild applause and guffaws of appreciative laughter, but my pictures were about to be judged against 60-odd others in a category that I shouldn’t be in. Judged, I found out, by the soon-to-arrive guest professional photographer who has also been an accredited photography judge since 1975. On top of that, during the judging no one was allowed to talk. I couldn’t explain why my pictures really were about transportation, even if on the surface they didn’t appear to be.
I braced for impact.
Right at 2 the judge arrived, and after he introduced himself and gave a short speech about how good a judge he was our pictures were put up on screen in random order, with no attribution as to photographer. That, at least, was good. Nobody would know it was me who put up all those pictures which seemed to not fit the Theme.
First up were all the pictures in the Beginner category. I groaned. They all looked better than mine. The judge studied each in turn, discussing what he liked and didn’t like, and giving it a score. At the end he put his favorite five up on screen together and decided on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places from them. Everybody clapped.
Then came the Intermediates.
My first picture was #7 in the cue. It went as badly as I thought it would.
“What the hell is this?” said the judge. “I thought the theme of the competition was ‘Transportation’. Didn’t this member get the memo?” He gave my picture the lowest possible score.
It was the same when my next picture popped up. And the next. And the next. I could tell Judge F-Stop was getting more and more peeved every time he had to ask if someone didn’t get the memo. I just sunk further into my chair and tried not to make eye contact.
Finally near the end of the pile it was my last picture’s turn. It was a shot I took this past Christmas Eve. I’d gone into town to take pictures of Christmas decorations, and just as the sun was going down a commuter train from NYC pulled into the station. There was only one guy on the entire train, some poor schlub who had to go in on the holiday and was now finally going home. As soon as I spotted him I sprinted down the tracks as the train was pulling away, then laid down between the rails to get an interesting perspective and took the photo as he crossed the street, all alone. I had to rush it, and I didn’t think it came out very well with a somewhat skewed horizon and other technical difficulties. But I included it anyway because I wanted to spin the tale about it to the audience. I expected to get shot down again.
“Now THAT is a great picture” said the judge. “The guy in the photo is a little too dark – it took me a moment to spot him. But otherwise the composition is terrific, and it really conveys a story.” He gave it the top mark possible.
The woman sitting next to me, some rangy old bird in her 70’s with an ill fitting Samantha Stevens flipped bob wig, leaned over and sniffed, “This judge doesn’t know what he’s talking about. That photo is awful. Look at all those shadows!” I nodded in agreement.
A few more photos, and then he put his top 5 up on screen.
Mine was one of them.
“Ok, let’s take these two out” he said, swiping away two that weren’t mine.
Now there were three. I was guaranteed a ribbon!
“Ok, this one is third“, and he picked…not mine!
That left just me and some loser who shot a picture of a row of golf carts. I held my breath.
The judge studied both pictures for a solid 2 minutes. Finally he said, “If the guy in the train picture wasn’t so dark it would have won. But he was, so I’m giving it 2nd place. First goes to the golf carts.” Everybody applauded, and the president handed me a red 2nd Place ribbon. (For all my snark, it really was a very good golf cart picture. I found out later it also happened to have been taken by a very nice woman who had been very helpful getting me set up earlier. I was very happy for her.)
After that he judged the Expert category, and those were some REALLY spectacular photos. To tell you how good they were, one of the entrants was a retired professor of photography at a nearby college and none of his pictures even made it to the Top Five. The winning shot was far and away the class of the entire competition, and easily coasted to a well deserved victory. The judge said it was good enough to be displayed in a professional gallery, and I wouldn’t argue. And the club president apparently has some real photography chops – she got the 3rd place ribbon.
I got second place in the Intermediate category! Against 63 other people! In my very first photography competition! A competition I didn’t even know I’d entered, and with pictures I never would have entered if I’d known!
Can you tell I’m a bit excited? I’ve got a room full of motorcycle racing and fencing trophies, but this stupid little red ribbon draped over my desk makes me giggle with delight more than anything I’ve won since that time I took third place in the Miss West Virginia pageant.
All the other meetings scheduled for this year are just regular ol’ Show-n-Tell stuff with a few guest speakers and an outing or two. Except one. Later in the fall it looks like they’re gonna have one more competition. And when they do, that blue First Place ribbon will be mine. MINE, I say! BWAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA!!
Er, not that I care, of course. I’m way too suave and sophisticated to get myself worked up over some dumb podunk little photography competition for geriatric losers.
Yeah. Fuck that.
I WILL CRUSH THEM ALL! BWAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
Especially that Elizabeth Montgomery wanna-be. She’s goin’ down.
Pretty cool ribbon picture, huh? I’ve really been nailing my product photography game lately, if I do say so myself. Thank you, thankyouverymuch.
And for being such a good audience, here’s a bonus picture I took of my watch. I was practicing how to photograph highly reflective objects because some of NewWifey(tm)’s products have mirror-like finishes, and watch faces are more mirror-like than even mirrors. After a few
dozen hundred thousand shots, I think I got it:
I wish I knew how to do post-processing, though. I probably would have saved a good hour at least if I could have made it look this good in PhotoShop or Lightroom, instead of getting it perfect in-camera with no editing afterwards. Oh well, it’s not like I had anything better to do….