Defining Success in Photography

Let’s face it, we wouldn’t enter if we didn’t hope. And that is why after missing the Farm Photo deadline, all my hope was behind the two photographs I entered into the 2017 Topsfield Fair Fine Arts Professional category. And that is why I zoomed passed all the fascinating sights, sounds, and smells along the way to get to the middle of the Fair ASAP. Destination  – Coolidge Building.

IMG_0025 Middleton Stream Team 2016 Contest 8x10 w watermark

My pace slowed as my eyes adjusted and then darted in every direction inside the fine art section. The other entries!!! Wow, such stellar talent on display. My expectations deflated with each in the never ending sequence of awesome photos that weren’t mine.  I couldn’t even locate my entries. Eventually, I found one, and then the other, neither obstructed by any colored ribbon. I didn’t win, even though I really loved my photos.

DSC_6030 2017 PHOTO CONTEST Haverhill Fat bike Race Series at Plug Pond 2017 PHOTO CONTEST

I wrapped my head around the fact there wasn’t going to be a long section in my Christmas letter about photography scores this year. But that mood dampening thought dissolved in the presence of pat-loving sheep, Volkswagen-sized pumpkins, and ice cream melting on warm blueberry crisp. Instead the future called to me in the potential to snag a few photos as the sky warmed then dimmed in a way that really showcased the fair’s neon. Is that portion of ferris wheel at sunset a potential winner? I shot until batteries died, then switched cameras until those batteries died, too,  then dragged myself and my 10+lbs of equipment to the car. I’d be back again at least one more time this year.

IMG_9137 Topsfield fair rides at dusk 2017

The Fair though it spans 10-days was over almost as quickly as my blueberry crisp and it was time to retrieve this year’s best hope. One photo could not be located. Hey what?! I loved that picture; you have to find it. And then hope crept back in as I haltingly queried: “Is it…possible… it sold?” Without knowing me, I got the impression the woman assisting me had sized me up as a procrastinating non-winner, she seemed disengaged.  In her defense, she probably had lots to do to tie up loose ends with this Fair and prepare for the next in 346 days. She went back to look, again. I wanted to shout after her – “I can explain.  I couldn’t come to the official pick up day because my dad went into the hospital, yes I am a procrastinator but not this time… he’s doing better by the way.”

IMG_0475 Topsfield Fair 2017

She came back empty handed and made a call. Then with a simple quiet comment let me know that the other photo had sold. What!!!! I tried to match her professional and quiet demeanor by tamping down my enthusiasm and withholding loud statements like  “WOOHOO! Where are the confetti cannons, the marching band, the interviews on TMZ?” This subduing effort subsequently exploded my brain as I took an email address from her to get more information and promptly lost it even before completing the series of calls I made in the parking lot to hopefully interested family members. I sold a photo, the very first time I offered one for sale at Topsfield Fair! Whoever bought it, you rock.

IMG_0533 Topsfield Fair 2017 rides

I had a day to get over that excitement (okay, I’m not really over it yet) when I received a request asking my husband and me to be part of a new regional photography exhibition to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the 21-city and town Ipswich River Water Shed Association.  And that just jump started my excitement all over. And my Christmas letter, as I write it in my mind,  is sounding pretty good!

(c)Alison Colby-Campbell

Camera Case – Non Essential Equipment Evaluation

A recent surgery required that I not lift anything over 10 lbs for 2-3 months. During the first week of my recovery that was fine; I hadn’t been inspired to stray too far from my bed, much less bring a camera with me. But then my real life started seeping back in… a walk to the back deck required a telephoto lens to help identify a bird, my little container garden was offering up the lush orbs of my better looking than tasting purple cherry tomatoes, the deck spider’s web was bedazzled in mist and security light …. I relocated my camera bag.

IMG_7515 Haverhill Spider webmaking to work up appetite

It is a short distance to carry my camera bag from the top floor to the back deck, but per doctor’s orders, I reviewed the contents for possible editing: extra cameras out, extra lenses out,  tripod gone, extra batteries out… no wait I need those, and so first one then another slid into my pants pockets (pocket stuffers can’t count as lifting, can they?)  The concern was ignored that fatigue might see me tossing the pants and batteries alike into the hamper upon my return to rest.

IMG_6770 HAverhill purple tomatoes

From there I road shotgun with my husband just glad to see something visible beyond our plot of land. He carried the bag to the car and waited within for my mini excursions to tire me out. I wiggled out of the car in my new more cautious gait with a single camera and my battery. Foolishly I’d culled even my phone and edged into the woods on a broad short trail. Prizes winners? Probably not, but at least I’d have something to enter into the Middleton Stream Team competition.

IMG_8297 middleton Stream Team contest

Days in bed meant I missed the cut-off for the Topsfield Fair Farm Photo contest, but that would not prevent me from checking out the beautiful backdrop of early autumn at Smolak Farm with an eye to next year, plus I still had a couple of days to switch out my Fine Arts photography entries if I captured something I really loved. Then like a donkey chasing after a carrot on a stick, I edged from one heavily laden antique apple tree to another absolutely perfect display of apples that was just out of range of my one lens.

IMG_8458 No Andover Smolak apples contest

Between the Middleton wetlands and the farm fruitlands, I probably walked a mile over uneven terrain, up and down modest inclines, knowing full well the next day would, by necessity, be a day of rest…. but I’d be back out the day after that with one camera, one all purpose lens and as many batteries and memory sticks as I can jam in my pocket. Can’t wait until the sun shines again because adding a flash just isn’t in the cards right now.

IMG_8442 No Andover Smolak sunflower flower better

(c)Alison Colby-Campbell

 

 

Photo Year in Review

Wrapping up 2016, Perhaps my most exciting photo adventure this year was being sponsored by Rep Diana DiZoglio for a Massachusetts State House Exhibit in partnership with my husband who is also a photographer. We had a one week show featuring the Merrimack Valley and beyond, towns very near and dear to our hearts. And we are in discussions to restage that show elsewhere! You can see more of Jon’s work at Jonathan W Campbell Photography

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MA State House exhibit with Jonathan Campbell
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Middleton Stream Team Honorable Mention

I was also thrilled to become part of history. Are you kidding me!!!  My 2016 The Heartbeat of Haverhill calendar was juried into a time capsule for a gorgeous new city building that is part of the downtown renaissance of Haverhill, MA. I expect to be in the crowd in 25 years when the capsule is re-opened.

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The Heartbeat of Haverhill calendar is snuggled in a time capsule in this new building called Harbor Place in Haverhill MA.

But don’t stop there – other memorable photo moments included a blue ribbon for the Topsfield Fair Agricultural Photo Competition and two honorable mentions at the Middleton Stream Team contest.

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Topsfield Fair Blue Ribbon of wine grape harvest

I had two cover photos for Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce publications, had two images picked up by a Boston architectural firm, incorporated photos into a new marketing piece for the City of Haverhill, and helped people re-entering the workforce by shooting their profile pictures.

I received no awards at the Mass Audubon competition or Essex National Heritage Competition (you can’t win them all), but I did kind of win for the fact that I got out and explored these wonderful places.

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Middleton Stream Team Awards Ceremony
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Middleton Stream Team Honorable Mention

Personally I love competitions, for as random and perplexing as some results may seem (I cannot tell you how many times I felt someone else was more deserving of my award), but if the judges provide commentary, it encourages me to up my game and look for something others might miss. Plus there are some good prizes that help with this expanding hobby as well as The Heartbeat of Haverhill calendar. Added bonus –  there are always new and inspiring people to meet – other photographers and people in the street and on the trails.

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Snakes fighting over toad was gruesome and so not likely to win a beauty award but it was such a random shot to happen upon that I did enter it into the Mass Audubon competition to no avail. Still feeling bad for the toad.
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Images from The Heartbeat of Haverhill 2017 calendar available for purchase at Positive Images Gallery in Haverhill.

So check out competitions if you love taking photos. You may as well start sharing your work within a larger and mostly supportive circle. I know I’d like to see what you’re shooting! And in the meantime – may you all experience peace along with a sense of beauty, wonder, and joy to inspire you.

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(c)Alison Colby-Campbell