Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Photo Finish


At the end of the Kentucky Derby a couple of years ago, it took eons for the winner to be determined. Yes, they had a camera at the finish line. But there was some scuffle during the race, and the winner was in question for quite some time.

I'm guessing the same could be said for the decision on the grand champion ribbon in open class photography at the 2021 Stafford County Fair. There were no scuffles. However, there were many worthy contenders. One of my shots just happened to edge out the others for the win. As always, it was that one judge's opinion on that particular day at that particular time. A different judge would likely have yielded a different outcome.

Me in 4th Grade
As a Pratt County 4-Her, I entered foods, clothing construction and reading and leadership posters or notebooks in the fair. I suppose photography was one of the options back then, but it wasn't one I explored. Still, old habits die hard.

When my youngest sister was in high school, she took a college math course at Barton County Community College one summer. (I think it was calculus, but math abilities skipped my genetic code.) I was a journalism student at K-State, and BCCC had a photography class offered at the same time. I figured it was a good skill for a burgeoning journalist. So we car-pooled to Great Bend. It was my first opportunity to work in a dark room.

Blue ribbon, Miscellaneous

When I was a beginning reporter at The Hutchinson News,  I'd carry a camera along if a "real" photographer wasn't available to go with me. And I loved entering that "tube" at the north end of the news room and retreating to the dark room there, even though I wasn't the one usually developing the film.

Then, both Jill and Brent chose 4-H photography. Jill moved on to other things, but Brent kept that project through almost all his 4-H years. As often happens when you have kids in 4-H, you take on the role of a project leader. I always felt like I learned just as much as the 4-Hers (and maybe even more) as we went to workshops and did our own photo project shoots in parks, backyards and mini field trips. And I was always eager to hear what the judge at the county fair had to tell Brent and my other photographers. I usually got the opportunity to listen in when I'd help with the behind-the-scenes organizing, etc. I learned a lot.

The photos I took of my kids fill multiple plastic tubs in our basement. (Oh, if only things had been digital sooner!) Even though I did a lot of purging last year, that's still on my to-do list (way, way down the list). 

Starting the blog in January 2010 further spurred my interest in photos to illustrate a story. I look at food photos I took in the beginning, compared to now, and I think there's been significant progress. 

It was a thrill to walk into the fair building and see the purple ribbon hanging from the photo I took during harvest 2020.  As with many things in life, it was a case of being at the right place at the right time. I certainly can't compete with God's handiwork. 

This fair was a bit different in that entrants could bring photos taken after the 2019 fair through 2021. Because of Covid, there was no open class competition last year. Weeding through hundreds (OK, thousands) of photos is a daunting task most years. It was even more difficult since I was drawing from two years. Thankfully, I kept a notebook with some of my favorites, which speeds the process some. (Decision making has never been my strongest skill. Just ask my parents or my siblings or Randy. OK, the list goes on.)

The harvest photo was in the scenic/landscape category. In open class, only three ribbons are awarded in each class. Stafford County fair contestants can enter two per class, so you're competing against yourself and anyone else who enters that particular category.

This photo at Peace Creek (taken Palm Sunday 2020 and another of my favorite photos from that year) was 2nd place in scenic landscape. 

True confessions: I entered a lot of photos. It's not inexpensive when you buy enlargements, mat board, etc. But, as Randy says, I could have worse vices. 

This year, I collected a lot of ribbons. And I'd be lying if I said that it doesn't give me a thrill to have my work recognized. But it's also being part of a community. Having entries to look at gives people a reason to come to the fair. 
Here are my other blue ribbon winners:
Action, Blue, taken harvest 2020
Animals, Blue, taken July 30, 2020

Humor, Blue, Sedgwick County Zoo, March 2021

Black & White, Humor, Blue, working cows and calves, March 2021

Miscellaneous, BW, Blue, taken February 2021 of an icy puddle during that solar plunge

Agriculture, BW, Blue, taken silage harvest, September 2020

People, BW, Blue, taken winter 2020

Nature, BW, Blue, Winter 2021

Scenic landscape, BW, Blue, Taken July 2021

Animal, BW, Blue, tired ape at Sedgwick County Zoo, March 2021

Action, BW, Blue, taken at Sedgwick County Zoo, March 2021

Our zoo trip with the girls and Jill during spring break also netted me a 2nd place finish in the computer-generated scrapbook division. I did a book with photos and told the story in rhyme. My PEO history book, marking 100 years of the Stafford PEO chapter, got 3rd place.

I also entered six photos in the Stafford County Economic Development contest. The photo with Randy's hands in the wheat got the top prize in commerce. That photo also got a blue ribbon in Human Interest in the open class photography.

Randy says it's all because of him and his hands. I'm not sure. But I think these cute models helped me gather an honorable mention in the People category. (It also placed 2nd in the People class in the open class enlargements.)

I also was awarded honorable mentions in Stafford County Places, for a photo from our trip to the Quivira Kids' Fishing Pond this May ...

... and a photo of cowboys helping us round up bulls, which also got an HM in the people category.
I had an additional three reds and two whites, and eight of my photos didn't place. All in all, a great fair! Our son-in-law is negotiating for a cut of the premium money for some of the models used in the fair winners. Everyone needs a good agent. But I think he needs to read the fine print on the Grandma photo contract.


  1. Congratulations! I agree with the judge (s?). You do take excellent photos...and for many years to come.


    1. I appreciate that, Terri! It's a fun hobby to have.

  2. How wonderful! Congratulations. I can think of many others that would get my Grand champion rosette.

    1. We're always looking for that elusive shot, right Helen?