It is that time of year again when I peruse photos from the past year, and choose my best work to submit to Outdoor Oklahoma Magazine’s “Readers’ Photography Showcase”. FD and I both subscribe to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s (ODWC) bi-monthly magazine as well as their weekly email communications. As a state licensed wildlife rehabilitator, I enjoy the magazine articles about various wildlife species. And, as an amateur photographer, I also enjoy the wildlife photography for which the magazine consistently receives national recognition.
My first time ever to submit my wildlife photography work to Outdoor Oklahoma was back in 2012, when I poured over my photographs from the previous year and settled on five photos – the maximum number of entries allowed per individual. Our very photogenic orphaned red fox squirrel, Frosty, won a full-page glossy in the magazine that year! As his photographer, I was elated and felt more confident than ever about my photography skills. In fact, I was so excited about earning a spot in the magazine’s photo gallery, I had to share it with my fabulous followers in the post “Frosty The Squirrel Makes The “2012 Readers’ Photography Showcase” in Outdoor Oklahoma Magazine!”
When 2013 rolled around and it was once again time for a submission to the Readers’ Photography Showcase, I was very hopeful about the photographs I submitted, feeling I had done an even better job with the camera than the year before. During the many outings I managed in 2013, Nature provided some excellent opportunities for me, much of which occurred while walking with Daisy deer to the river to explore a vast area. So, after sending in my five photographs, I was confident about my chances. But when the long-awaited July/August issue arrived showcasing the winning photos, not one of my photographs had been chosen. As I flipped through the many pages of wildlife photos, landscapes, and sporting activity, I was both surprised and disappointed. Compared to the year before, the images selected seemed to reflect the eyes of a novice, an amateur. “Hmm, I mused, it that year’s panel of judges, or single judge whatever it may have been – had a completely different perspective than what was reflected the year before. Oh, well – c’est la vie…”
When this year’s submission period came around, I neglected the email notices too long and missed the deadline. I am not sure what I was so busy with but, in a way, I think I purposefully let the days slip by. It took a lot of work to submit the photos, and document everything correctly, and I often let myself become overwhelmed when there is too much work involved in a project. Deep inside, I also knew I was still disappointed by the photography featured the year before. And then, after the deadline for entries closed, I received an email announcing the magazine was extending the deadline by a month and was encouraging more photo submissions. I felt this was a sign that I should get busy looking at my photos despite my poor attitude. Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a new online submission form made the whole process a breeze! Now I had no excuse not to give it a whirl.
With my spirit renewed, I could hardly wait to see if any of my work had been chosen when the July/August 2014 Readers’ Photography Showcase issue arrived in the mail this summer. With the new magazine hot out of the mailbox, I walked down the long lane on my trek back to the house, flipping pages, looking, hoping, and finally preparing myself for disappointment again. The judge(s) this year seemed to have a particular interest in birds. Page after page reflected migratory and native bird images, bird sporting shots, and bird hunting photos. Only a small number of mammal photographs were represented, and even fewer Oklahoma landscapes. I was surprised to see several reptile and insect images, along with some fishing photos, which were nice additions not normally represented. Then, on page twenty, there was a photo of Daisy’s little buck, Rowdy. It had been difficult for me to look back through photos of Daisy’s first twins after the loss of Rowdy, but the wonder and joy of observing Daisy’s first year as a new mother of two beautiful fawns, had completely consumed me, and was easily my number one subject for photography. As such, I would guess I had thousands of photographs of the three of them. Remembering that special time as I flipped through the remaining pages of the magazine, I felt happy that of all of my submissions, that particular one was chosen.
As I poured back over the magazine photographs, I examined them with more of a playful eye, rather than focusing so much on their composition or technical aspects. So what if birds were mainly featured in this year’s showcase issue? Thinking back to past issues, there tended to be a lot of attention given to landscape images, or photos of large mammals like deer, elk, and buffalo. It would always be a crap-shoot as to what next year’s judges would be looking for, and certainly if the judges were all photographers – amateur or professional – each had their own perception of what made for outstanding wildlife photography. And if the judges were not photographers, their selections would simply be about how the images inspired or delighted them personally.
This coming January, when entries are accepted for the 2015 Readers’ Photography Showcase, I will again submit my favorite photos, and this time not worry about what might be favored. It is always a thrill to be recognized, but really, that recognition is only someone else’s idea of what is exemplary. I like this quote by Salma Hayek to help keep this all in perspective:
“People often say that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.”
© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…