Finalist for NZIPP Creative Portrait Photographer of the Year

Well, the NZIPP photographic awards and conference are over for another year and I have yet to come back to earth. I have had the incredible honour of being a finalist for NZIPP Creative Portrait Photographer of the Year, being awarded a Master of Photography honours, achieving my first Gold Iris Award and also winning two more Silvers and four Bronze awards. My head is the size of a beach ball and my behaviour has become insufferable. I have rubbed shoulders with the photography greats, seen many mind-blowing prints, listened to inspirational speakers, caught up with old friends and made wonderful new ones. It is just so awesome to be able to thrash the subject of photography with other like-minded people and not be afraid that we're boring each other!

I was stoked that five of my entries generated discussion amongst the judges this year, as it is so often the case (70 percent of the entries I reckon?) that the prints simply receive a numeric score and then disappear, either to feature later on the awards boards or to vanish anonymously from the public record (I have to say that sometimes that anonymity feels like a blessing though, if the print has bombed. :))

The best comment I received, and which I will cherish forever, was from NZIPP Grand Master of Photography Tony Carter, who was on the judging panel when my Gold award-winning print came up. During the discussion he said: "When this photo flashed up during the category preview I thought to myself - excuse my language - 'F&@! me!!'"

This is the shot that got me Gold:

It is of Fred, a wonderful man from my camera club whom I have wanted to photograph ever since I met him about five years ago. He has the most amazing eyebrows, and in fact once contacted the Guinness Book of World Records because he thought he might have a winner! It was only something like 14.5cm long though, and needed to be 16cm to be a world champion. And then it fell out.

To get this shot (which was taken vertically and then flipped onto its back) I created a 'tent' of black velvet over his head and down in front of him, only centimetres from his face. That created the black edging I wanted around his profile, but of course it also sucked up all the light, so his eye was too dark. I got around that by taping a small piece of white card onto the velvet just in front of his eyes - it wasn't much but it reflected just enough light into his eye. The judges initially weren't sure about the dark vignette at the top of the frame but then ran with the landscape concept and decided that the halo it created around Fred's profile was like the sun setting on his life. And they remarked that the mountains even had foliage. So there you go, Fred - you might not have set an international record but your eyebrows have still generated national interest.

My other entries in Portrait Creative that saw me become a category finalist were this pool photo, for which I was thrilled to get a Silver (I really love this shot!):

and these two below of my kids, which earned me Bronzes. In this first one Eva is showing me how she does a praying mantis attack. :)

In the Illustrative category I won a Silver with this 'pear' photo:

I got a Bronze in Portrait Classic for this quiet picture of my friend's son George:

And finally I got a Bronze in Wedding Classic for this photo, which I felt was technically my weakest (it was a very quick grab-shot!) but which really made me smile:

Three of my 10 entries were judged to be professional standard but not award-worthy:

The full set of Iris award-winning photos will shortly be available to view on the NZIPP's website and is really worth taking the time to visit!

This blog post is starting to get a little unwieldy but before I sign off I just want to say a massive thanks to my gorgeous, ever-supportive husband Alistair and kids/muses Alexander and Eva, who know how much photography means to me and do everything they can to help nurture that passion.

Also a big thanks to fellow Wellington photographer Melissa Waite, who did all my printing for me this year. It was so exciting to see the stunning prints rolling off the machine and she inspired me to buy my own printer at the conference trade stands this weekend. I am really looking forward to taking control of that side of my business and creating gorgeous art prints for my clients!

The Lewis family

Iris entries - done and dusted