Two days later and I’m still struggling to find the right words.
During the 2017 Hoosier State Press Newsroom Seminar & Better Newspaper Contest Awards Luncheon on Saturday in Indianapolis, I repeated as having the best sports action photo in Division 3 (dailies with circulation less than 6,000).
The photo, which is below, was selected as the photo of the year finalist for its division.
(I also won first place in sports commentary for my weekly column, “Line Drives.” It was my first HSPA award for column writing.)
In 2016, I was awarded first place by the Hoosier State Press Association for three photos. One of those — best feature photo — was selected as a photo of the year finalist.
I was also runner up for spot news photo.
Those honors came as a surprise to me considering I think of myself a writer first, a photographer second.
Not the other way around.
In 2011 I graduated from Central Michigan University with a bachelors degree in journalism with a concentration on news writing. I also minored in sports management, knowing very well I wanted to be a sports writer.
I was required to take a photography class as part of my major, and had dabbled in the hobby post graduation. It was never really a passion of mine, because I didn’t think I’d use the skill at a professional level. But when I began my career at The Commercial Review in July 2013, I was required to take pictures to accompany my stories.
And recent events have forced me to reconsider my evaluation of myself, and my feeling toward photography.
In 2016, 3 Bar J Rodeo appeared at the Jay County Fair for the first time, and I went into the assignment having never been to a rodeo, let alone shooting pictures of one.
This particular day was incredibly difficult to shoot. From where I’m standing I am facing southwest, and the setting sun often peeked through clouds. It made for a tough environment to shoot since the action was heading toward me, away from the sun.
But there was a brief moment there were no harsh shadows and I was able to capture the above picture.
Here are the judge’s comments on the photo:
‘If a picture is worth a thousand words, this picture is a novel. Great composition tells the story of the intensity of the moment. Good lighting and a fast shutter stops the action on a dime.’
Judges select one finalist from each of the six divisions, and then a separate panel of judges chooses the photo of the year.
For the second year in a row my picture was not selected as the photo of the year.
But that’s OK.
Being selected as a finalist last year was an honor and a humbling experience.
Repeating as a finalist? I just don’t know what to say.
First, for how I’ve been able to grow as a sports photographer. I used to shoot hundreds of pictures and hope I got a good one. Now I shoot far less, instead focusing more on quality than quantity.
Second, for seeing my photos appreciated by many. Photos get more likes, retweets and shares than do stories.
Lastly, I’m grateful to even be in a conversation with some other spectacular photographers across the state; they’re on a level I can only wish to attain. Sometimes I just don’t feel worthy to be in the same breath as them.
Almost everyone who sees me on assignment notices my camera. They think, and consider, me as just a photographer.
Most of my readers don’t always realize how much other work I do; write and design my sports pages on a daily basis, to name a few.
Photography is just a small part of my job. But it’s becoming my favorite.