When I was in second grade at Lanier Elementary School in my hometown of Tulsa, a scenic painting I did was selected by the art teacher for display in the school hallway.
It was a painting of a green pasture with a white picket fence and curvy road. I don’t remember if I painted a horse in the pasture or not. It was displayed above the hallway lockers next to the entryway into the gymnasium/auditorium. Every student who walked by that area had a chance to see my painting and those of the other students. I was so proud!
I never realized at that time that that painting would be a precursor to a career in journalism and photography. At a young age, I was already seeing lines and angles and planting a seed to greater accomplishments.
Writing was never easy for me. I struggled in English and most often did poorly on grammar tests. To attend and graduate from one of the top-notch journalism programs in the nation is a story I love to tell. Yes, I have made lots of mistakes. Probably the worse was the time I put the name of the wrong dead person in the paper. Ask me about it if you are curious.
Something deep in my heart gave me the drive to be better, to try harder, to work through obstacles and challenge myself to achieve good things. Everywhere I went, I had people pushing and believing in me.
I returned to community college in my late 20s to study photography. That led to me continuing my educational pursuits and earning an Associate of Applied Science in Graphic Technology (photography) in May 1991. I applied and was accepted into the University of Missouri-Columbia in my early 30s where I worked my way through school, first as a casual clerk at the U.S. Post Office Mail Facility at the Columbia Airport. I then spent more than four year emptying trash cans, cleaning toilets and mopping floors in various MU campus buildings at night while attending school during the day. I graduated in December 1997 with a degree in Agricultural Journalism.
One of my photojournalism teachers helped me land my first job in North English at the Record newspaper. In July 2000, I landed in Montezuma and met my wife, Debbie, three years later. What wonderful experiences life has afforded me.
Making a positive impact on others something I enjoy doing and being ajournalist and photographer has given me that opportunity.
Since 2012, I have been judging 4-H photography at county fairs. I’ve judged every year but 2014, having judged at fairs in Washington, Keokuk, Linn, Mahaska, Marion, Iowa, Benton and Warren counties and also at the Iowa State Fair in 2019. I’ve also judged open class projects in Poweshiek and Iowa counties a number of times.
And new this year, I will be judging photography for the first time virtually.
I signed up earlier this year to judge at the Linn County Fair in Central City. I judged there last year and was impressed with the facilities and process. Plus, they had the best snacks for judges of any fair I have judged.
Well, this year, the Linn County Fair was cancelled, but thanks to the good folks there, they decided to offer 4-H’ers the opportunity to have their projects judged virtually.
I chimed in to a Zoom meeting last Wednesday and learned the details of how the process will go. I will judge the photo, type my comments on a provided form and send it back through email. It’s something new and will be a learning process.
I was visiting with a friend a few weeks ago and he asked me how I judge photography. I told him about the rule of thirds and using the intersecting points to place the subject, which gives the photograph depth. Another good tip is keeping the horizon line offset. You don’t want it right in the middle of the photograph. That is a common problem in sunset and beach photos. All you have to do is move the camera up or down to change the horizon.
Keeping the background simple and uncluttered, using lines to draw the eye, watching for objects growing out of people’s heads, framing the subject and using natural light are all good tips for taking great photos. Keep it simple. You don’t want the viewers eyes to roam all over the photograph trying to figure out why you took the photo.
Learning is never a missed-opportunity, no matter your age, ability, background, skill set or life upbringing. Never quit trying, never quit learning, never quit moving forward.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.