2015 Australian Professional Photography Awards

The Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPAs) are held annually and would have to be one of the most exciting and elite competitions on the planet.  I don’t say that lightly as not only do our best Australian photographers enter, but it also draws entries from amazing overseas artists as well.

This year the awards were held in Melbourne in October and over three days of judging, several thousand images met their destiny.

The first challenge for me was to select four images as that is the maximum you can enter.  This year I was fortunate to win my first gold award and six silver awards at the 2015 Queensland Professional Photography Awards.  Entering eight images at the state awards was supposed to help my dilemma in choosing four images to enter for APPAs.  Ummm, I still had to cull further!

Many photographers seek out opinions from their peers when choosing their images because it is easy to be emotionally attached to them.  When the prints are turned around for judging, it doesn’t matter what you did to get that shot, how many miles you walked, or how many hours you spent on post-production, the judges don’t know that, don’t care, and base their score on what they see.  I decided to go with my gut and put my favourite shots in.

‘What did the photographer bring to this image’ is often mentioned during judging discussion and images which have a storytelling aspect and can evoke emotion, often score well.  All images need to be technical brilliant and scores of 70-79 are given to those which are of a high professional standard but below award level.  It is no shame to get a score in the seventies!

I am proud to say that this year my images scored 3 Silver Awards and the fourth entry scored a 75.

Here are my entries!

Silverton Donkey

“Dollar – The Silverton Donkey”

This image received scores of 81, 83, 83, 84 84 from the five judges.  A final score of 83 and a Silver Award.  Thank you to the judge who spoke after the image had been judged and mentioned that he appreciated the humour in the image as that is what I was hoping would be seen.  Wild donkeys used to freely roam Silverton but now Dollar is the only one left.  I also photographed him one morning coming out of the local church!

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“Not Impressed”

This image scored a Gold Award at states and I hoped it would do well again at the nationals.  It scored 80, 82, 83, 83 and 87 with a final score of 83 and a Silver Award.  It was taken at Allora and is part of a dog show project which I have now wrapped up shooting and hopefully will create a book to celebrate the year that Ruby and I went to many dog shows while she earnt her Australian show champion title.

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“The Crow”

This image received scores of 78, 80, 81, 84 and 87 with a first-round score of 82.  The judge on 87 put in a challenge and the image was discussed further amongst the panel.  It was rescored with 82, 82, 84, 84 and 87 with a final score of 84 and a Silver Award.  The excitement didn’t end there as it went to another panel for consideration of a Silver with Distinction.  It stayed the same but I was pleased with the outcome.  It actually scored lower at states with a 80 and received a Silver Award there.  It is my favourite shot of the four images I entered and was taken at Bribie Island one morning at sunrise while Ruby was having a run.  Moments earlier there were two Brahminy Kites sitting on the branches but by the time I had raised my camera, they had taken off.  The crow also took flight and this is the shot.  I liked the balance in the shot but also the misperfection of the missing feather.  In post-production I chose a square crop as I wanted the branches to rest on the edge of the frame as I thought that it held the shot together better.  I used a blending mode in Photoshop to strip out the colour and added a frame to give a fine art feel.  The image was also printed on a textured fine art paper.

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“Lake Blur”

This image scored 70, 72, 75, 78 and 81 and ended up with a final score of 75.  The judge on 81 could have challenged but did not.  I enjoy creating abstract blurs in camera and this one is reeds in a lake somewhere on the west coast of New Zealand.  I always shoot raw plus jpeg, and cranked up the saturation in camera to get the strong opposite colour effect.  I have a gallery of abstract images on my website if you would like to take a look at more of these type of images.

The points for three Silver awards brought up my Associate Membership in the Australian Institute of Professional Photography so I was pretty chuffed with this year’s results.

A big thank you to Living Image Fine Art Printing for ensuring my images were printed perfectly!

Now….best get planning and shooting for next year’s awards!

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A Jig at the Big Dance – 2013 Australian Professional Photography Awards

Social media is currently going crazy with news and wahoos as a result of the most important photography event on the calender in Australia, the Canon AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards.

It was my first year as an entrant and I travelled down to Melbourne to soak up the atmosphere, learn, be inspired, and rub shoulders with some of the finest Australian and international photographers.  I did all of that, and more, and what an incredible experience it was!

For three days, I sat glued in my chair watching some amazing images being judged.  As the panel chair said “next print please’, my heart skipped a beat and hoped that mine would spin around.  When it didnt, I was able to relax and marvel at the thought process and craft that had gone into the image being presented.

I was very pleased that I was achieved a Silver Award for my Autumn Blur image which was created in Queenstown earlier this year.  It was taken late in the afternoon and the golden light was streaming through the trees.  The image was achieved in camera by using a slow shutter speed and panning upwards.   My other two images scored respectfully at 77 and 78 and both of them had support from judges scoring them in the silver award range.  Scores in the 70s are regarded as a good standard of professional practice.

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Autumn Blur

Tony Hewitt took out the big gong, taking out both the Landscape Photographer of the Year and the overall 2013 Professional Photographer of the Year titles.  Here is a link to the category winners.  The gold and silver galleries should be posted on the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) website soon.

So what did I learn?   Well, in my humble opinion, the type of image rewarded is one which has to be super special, it needs to be something new, one that will evoke an emotional response, convey a sense of place, or one which will challenge a judge to interpret the story or meaning.  In short, turning up to capture  amazing light at sunrise or sunset for a landscape shot just wont cut it.  All types of images were awarded, from the very simple and perfectly executed, to more complex images where judges were challenged to interpret what the picture conveyed to them.

I was particularly impressed with the way the judges critiqued the images.  They articulated the reasoning behind their scores during challenges and conveyed respect for both the artist and their fellow judges whilst doing so.

I really enjoyed networking with other photographers and continue to be amazed at how supportive the AIPP and its members are at encouraging newcomers to the industry.

In conjunction with the awards, the biggest Digital Show in the Southern Hemisphere was held at the venue, the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.  There was no shortage of expensive camera equipment to look and touch and I enjoyed spending time at the Kayell stand learning about the the different Canson art papers available.  During the judging, it was interesting to see the different choices that photographers had made to print their images on for the competition so that they could achieve a look and feel which suited their images.

I would have liked to buy a big whopping Canon lens but my modest purchase at the Digital Show was a book on plastic cameras, which hopefully will help me make my bad photos look good!  There is a comp run by the Soho Gallery in New York every year that I hope to enter one day.  It is called the Krappy Kamera comp and embraces all things not quite right !  I love the mystery and intrigue of these type of images and hopefully my plastic Holga that I won whilst attending a photography workshop in Santa Fe will finally be unwrapped and unleashed.

Finally, a big thank you to the fellas at Living Image Fine Art Printing, Darren Jew and Andrew Merefield, who ensured that that my images were beautifully printed and matted for APPA.

Big congrats to Darren for taking out the Science, Nature and Environment category for another year.  His image of a little humpback calf is simply gob-smackingly awesome.  It scored a Gold with Distinction and the capture has me mesmerised everytime I look at it.

Melbourne put on its usual charm for the weekend, with weather ranging from four degrees to sunshine and rain. I loved the charisma of the trams, the old buildings, the vibrance of Southbank, and of course, the marvellous coffee!

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Flinders Street, Melbourne

The whole APPA experience has inspired me to be more thoughtful and creative about my photography and I look forward to lining up next year for another dance at the big jig!

Next print please!