Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Picture Perfect?

I love purple. As K-State fans, my family often jokes that we have purple coursing through our veins. Of course, I love what our school calls "royal purple," that dark and intense color of royalty.  


But I'm pretty fond of lavender, too. (My childhood bedroom had blue and lavender carpeting, which I picked out when my sister and I moved to individual basement rooms after the birth of our brother.)

And this year, lavender was the color of ribbon I received for my top-rated photo at the Stafford County Fair. The photo I took the morning of Flag Day was the Reserve Champion in open class at last week's fair. Nothing like a strong southerly Kansas wind before 6:30 in the morning to make a flag fly!

As I've said before, I enjoy entering open class photos at my county fair. As always, the rankings reflect 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.

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. 

Blue in Digital Composite

Then, both Jill and Brent chose 4-H photography. Jill moved on to other things, but Brent kept that project through 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 of the blog, compared to now, and I think there's been significant progress. 

Blue in People category

Weeding through hundreds (OK, thousands) of photos is a daunting task. 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. I polled the kids via text as I was vacillating on a few entries. (Kudos to them: All four responded ... though not all four agreed. And that illustrates the whole idea that the ribbon placings are one person's opinion.)

The flag photo was in the "miscellaneous" 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. 

Blue in Agriculture, Black and White

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

This year, I collected eight blues, seven reds and four whites. Seven of my photos didn't place. Besides the regular open class photography competition, there's also a photo contest sponsored by Stafford County Economic Development. Two of those photos got first in their category and two were honorable mention, with two not placing.
I'd be lying if I said that it doesn't give me a thrill to have my work recognized. But entering the fair is also about being part of a community. Having entries to look at gives people a reason to come to the fair. 

Wheat appeared to be a theme throughout several of my blue-ribbon winners.

Blue in Agriculture, Color

 But wheat wasn't the only subject matter.


Blue in Nature

A bumblebee visiting my backyard lilacs made an appearance.

Blue in Human Interest

So did lighted "butterflies" from a Wild Lights display in December at the Sedgwick County Zoo - both in color ...

Blue in Human Interest, Black and White

... and in black and white. (Which do you like best? I could never decide.)

You never know how things will do. One of my favorite photos from this year just got a 3rd place ribbon. It was taken in December at Quivira. I liked it well enough that I made it into a canvas for my new daughter-in-law, and she has it in her office at school. (And I may get a canvas for myself, too.)

My winning photos from the Economic Development contest are below:

1st Place in People, Stafford Eco/Devo contest
Thanks to my friend, Linda, for serving as my patriotic model at the Nora Larabee Memorial Library's July First Friday event.

1st place in Commerce, Stafford Eco/Devo contest, Corn harvest

This sunflower photo was from corn harvest.  

I also entered a couple of my books in the computer-generated scrapbook division in Arts and Crafts. My fourth-quarter blog book from 2021 got 1st place. A book I did for Kinley and Brooke after our February ski trip got 3rd place in the same class. (The books arrived after the girls were here for harvest, so I am more excited about giving them their copies than I was about how it placed in the fair.) I think this is the 11th book I've done for the girls. I use my photos and write the stories in rhyme as a remembrance of outings.

We'll see how retiring from farming affects my photo taking and subsequent entries into the fair. There may be less wheat next year (though maybe not). But perhaps there will be more from places beyond The County Line.


  1. Congratulations. Photography brings so much joy and awareness of our surroundings. The winners for me are Blue in Agriculture and Blue in People, with Grand Champion, December at Quivira!

    1. Isn't it funny how we all gravitate toward different images as our favorites? I'm going to help our oldest granddaughter with 4-H photography next year. I hope that's a lesson she'll remember and understand - no matter her ribbon placings.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes. I ordered some 4-H photography curriculum and it came this week. (I had some before from my days as a 4-H photography leader, but it was a victim of my Covid decluttering. I could tell my kids, "I told you I might need it!" But I guess I won't - ha!)