Masters Degree Received in San Antonio, TX – January 2017

New Hartford Photographer Earns Master of Photography


Susan Goralski, CPP, of GeminEye Images recognized for superior image making and photographic service with a degree from Professional Photographers of America


Left to right: PPA President, Lori Craft, Cr.Photog., Susan Goralski, CPP, M.Photog., and Goralski’s Sponsor, Madonna Lovett Repeta, M.Photog., Cr., A.C.PH

January 2017—Certified Professional Photographer, Susan Goralski of GeminEye Images in New Hartford has earned the master of photography degree from Professional Photographers of America (PPA). The degree was presented to Goralski by PPA president Lori Craft, Cr.Photog., at the association’s annual convention, Imaging USA, held January 8-10, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas.

The master of photography degree is not merely a piece of paper. It means that Goralski has met the standards of excellence set by PPA. She has been awarded this degree in recognition of her superior photographic competence demonstrated through photographic competition, advanced education and service to the profession.

Goralski’s degrees—and all the expertise they require—illustrate her accomplishments and talent as one of a select few.  In addition to being a PPA member, Goralski is a member of American Society of Photographers (ASP), New Hampshire  Professional Photographers of America (NHPPA), Professional Photographers Association of New England (PPANE), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), and the Farmington Valley Visitors Association (FVVA). Goralski resides in Connecticut.

About PPA

Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest international nonprofitassociation created by professional photographers, for professional photographers. Almost as long-lived as photography itself, PPA’s roots date back to 1869. The nonprofit assists nearly 30,000 members through protection, education and resources for their continued success. See how PPA helps photographers be more at


Three Little Letters…..Big Meaning.

Three Little Letters…..Big Meaning.

Three weeks ago, I became a CPP. a Certified Professional Photographer.

As a professional photographer, I belong to PPA (Professional Photographers of America) and continue to improve my craft through various workshops, lectures, and seminars. PPA’s “Be More” slogan and campaign resonated with me and in April of 2014 I declared my candidacy to begin my CPP certification pathway. Certification is a three step process: you declare your candidacy, pass an extensive written exam, and submit a portfolio for review. This is not an easy task. The study course takes you down many paths, and in the process, you can’t help but become a better photographer in so many arenas of the profession. This intensive program measures artistic and technical competence. Only after you have passed the written exam, may you submit your portfolio for review. While exams are held numerous times and places throughout the year, the portfolio review submission periods only happen five times annually. The portfolio review includes three specific mandatory images, three compulsory images taken from a provided list, and nine client images from your last two years of work. Portfolios are reviewed by a panel of five judges. Your submitted body of work is first viewed all together to insure the color balance is right throughout. If it is not, the judges do not proceed judging your portfolio. If all looks right in the overview, the second step is for the judges to closely inspect your mandatory images. If just one of these judges does not approve this step, your portfolio will not pass the review. After the mandatory images, the compulsory images are next up, followed by the client images. Minimally, three of the five judges must approve your body of work in order for your portfolio to be approved and for you to receive your degree. Many folks struggle through one or both of these steps. If you are a professional photographer, one who knows their craft, passing this exam and portfolio review should come fairly easily to you. You will probably learn a few additional things that help you become an even better photographer along the journey. If, on the other hand, you are a self proclaimed photographer who hasn’t invested in any educational programs, you will more than likely have a difficult time earning your CPP. Those who continue the journey (retaking the written exam and resubmitting their portfolios) learn and develop their craft with the outcome of truly being a professional photographer.

As I already stated, my CPP journey began last April. I purchased my books and study guides in hopes that I would have the chance to study in the following months. At the beginning of November, I attended a 3-day certification course held at PPA headquarters in Atlanta, GA instructed by Eric Richards. At the end of third day, we took the written exam. I am pleased to say that all but one of us in the class passed. I began preparing my portfolio right away even though the next submission period wasn’t until the end of February. On March 19, 2015, emails were sent out all at once to everyone who had submitted portfolios. As I read my email, my heart was in my throat. It starts out…”First of all, thanks for taking part….” and then, there were the words I had been hoping to see for the last three weeks, “CONGRATULATIONS! Your images passed…” I was relieved and thrilled. On March 31st, a gold colored tube arrived in the mail from PPA headquarters. In it was my official certification certificate, my CPP Certified pin and other relevant materials.

There were many reasons I decided to pursue this certification. First and foremost, I did it for myself…to prove to myself that I could indeed earn this degree. That even though I am basically a self taught photographer who has been in the business for over 14 years, that I do have the knowledge required to truly call myself a professional. I did it for my profession as well…to show my commitment to the pursuit of excellence in the field of photography. I wanted to show the public my qualifications to be the best photographer possible for them. Education is the key, the more you learn, the better you become. You wouldn’t hire an unlicensed plumber or electrician, so why hire a photographer who isn’t certified when you have the choice? There are currently less than 2,500 CPPs. Should the government ever require licensing for photographers, it is my hope that those of us with CPPs will be grandfathered in. And just so you know, CPP designation is only good for three years before you must re-certify. Re certification is done through educational merits. This means that a CPP is always learning by attending current workshops and programs. We don’t just stop learning once the certificate arrives in the mail.

I am so grateful and humbled to join the ranks of CPP photographers throughout the world who want the very best for our profession and our clients. Currently there are only 31 CPP’s in the state of Connecticut. I am proud to be counted amongst them.

CPP…three little letters with very big meaning.

Be More.   Start your CPP journey today.

Instructor, Eric Richards,M.Ph, Ph.Cr. CPP, with the November class of CPP students at PA Headqaurters in Atlanta, GA. this past November. (Susan Goralski on far right in second row.) The CPP certificate, pin, and other materials arrived on March 31st.
Instructor, Eric Richards,M.Ph, Ph.Cr. CPP, with the November class of CPP students at PA Headquarters in Atlanta, GA. this past November. (Susan Goralski on far right in second row.)
The CPP certificate, pin, and other materials arrived on March 31st.

Imaging USA 2015 – Nashville

Goals are good, although something I am not particularly good at.  As it turned out, 2014 was a year of setting photography goals for me. In April of 2014, I declared my candidacy for CPP (Certified Professional Photographer) and began my studies.  During  the same time, I ended up missing the North East District print competition deadline by two hours. (One step forward, two steps back!)  As August approached along with the International Print Competition (IPC) deadline, I entered four images without the benefit of the critiques I could have received had I made the NE District submission deadline. In 2013, I had submitted three images in the IPC. One went Loan, one went General, and one, well…went out the window. As luck would have it, my photographic and Photoshop skills allowed all four of my 2014 images to merit, placing all four in the IPC’s General Collection and earning me a 2014 Bronze PPA Photographer of the Year Award.  Which brings me to this year’s 2015 Imaging USA. This would be my second year of attending the annual convention….a bonus of which for me would be being recognized on stage during the Grand Imaging Awards ceremony as a Bronze Photographer of the Year!

My flight to Nashville was slightly delayed due to winter storms but I arrived just in time Saturday night to connect with a couple of the photographers I had met in November  when we all attended the 3-day CPP study course in Atlanta at PPA headquarters. All three of us had taken the written exam and passed. (There are three steps to becoming a CPP: first is declaring your intentions; second is to take and pass the written exam; and third is submit a portfolio for review by 5 judges.  As I write this today, I am within one week of learning my portfolio review status and possibly earning my CPP by the end of the month.) It was great to meet up with Vanessa and Hank for dinner. We talked all things photographic: from the CPP exam and portfolio review, to the array of classes and speakers at IUSA, and speculated over what would be seen on the Trade Show floor.  After dinner, Vanessa and I popped into the PPA Charities Celebration where we purchased benefit tickets in the hopes of winning a $35,000 full studio setup, the components of which were donated by various photography related companies. It was my pleasure introducing Vanessa to PPA speaker,  friend and incredibly talented Photographic Master Artist, Thom Rouse, as well as to one of the “about to be appointed” PPA Board members and excellent Photographic Craftsman, Jeff Dachowski.  The charity event is a great place to connect with everyone and is a fun pre-convention event.

Trying to choose the classes to sit in on is one of the most difficult decisions to be made during the IUSA convention. For any one time slot, you are deciding from a list of 6-7 seminars conducted by some of the best professionals in the creative field.  Maybe you want to follow a Portrait track, a Business track, a Photoshop/technique track, a Wedding tract, an Inspirational tract, a School Sports or a Senior portrait track.  Always, at least once a day, you are forced with deciding between 2 or 3 seminars in the same time slot that you desire to see.  Since splitting yourself in two doesn’t quite work, and time travel isn’t a current available option, figuring which course will be best is a far from easy task with so much talent and knowledge on the line.

Welcome to Imaging USA!
Welcome to Imaging USA!

The first two I had to choose between pitted my talented friend Thom Rouse and “The Case for Fine Art” against Audrey Wancket’sBeauty and Grace of the Classic Portrait“.  This was extremely difficult for me as I absolutely love Thom’s creativity. In the end, I chose Audrey’s class. The deciding factor being I had seen Thom speak a few times and had attended one of his workshop’s a few years earlier, and with my CPP portfolio review on the horizon, Audrey’s Classic Portrait class would assist me in creating my portfolio.  Audrey’s class did not disappoint .

Rod Evans High Fashion Lighting for Seniors was next on the agenda followed by a quick run through a portion of the Trade Show to receive a cherished autographed print from Thom Rouse at the Hahnemuhle booth on my way to the IPC Merit Cafe for their mini talks on various aspects of print competition.  Using Titles to Your Advantage was being discussed by Larry Lourcey followed by the topic of The Judging Process was offered by Donna Goodhale and then  Print Presentation demystified by Carl Caynor.  I picked up some good tips and look forward to using them in my next set of competition prints.  Perusing the Award Winning Images both on the computer monitors and those that were hanging is something that always inspires and awes me. Creativity and technical expertise prevail throughout these meriting images. It is an honor to have four of my images included and I feel humbled by the experience.

Thom Rouse at the trade show. Larry Lourcey & Carl Caynor at the IPC Merit Cafe.
Thom Rouse at the trade show. Larry Lourcey & Carl Caynor at the IPC Merit Cafe.

Ben Shirk wrapped up my first full day at IUSA. His image collages, montages and composites are incredible. Ben shared several good tips on extracting and masking. He is such a talented man with great vision. Being able to view his award winning images in the IUSA Merit Gallery both last year and this year has left an indelible mark in my mind.

Day Two started with a bang to my brain as I listened and watched Kira Freidman & Nathan Rega discuss and give a live demo on “Photographing Ideas – The Unconventional Path of Conceptual Portraits“. Their brainstorming and pre-visualization work on commercial accounts was stimulating and the finished images were mind-blowing!

I stopped in briefly to Russ Harrington’s seminar on “Music & Celebrity Portraits“.  The amazing Julianne Kost was just one room over.  I have seen her present before…actually at IUSA in Phoenix the year before. She is witty, over-the-top knowledgeable in Photoshop – as in off-the-charts intelligent.  I couldn’t resist leaving Russ’s seminar to attend Julieanne’s on “From Camera to Client – Winning Workflow for Success” and I was not sorry. Julianne gives so many useful “nuggets” I wish I could speed write: particularly so, after looking at my nearly indecipherable notes! This woman is AMAZING.

A trip to the trade show allowed my brain to slow down a bit all while being barraged with the sights and sounds of new products and live demos. A true cornucopia of photography related items, the IUSA Trade Show is really one of the best I’ve attended in years.  Even though it is slightly smaller than the PDN Photo Plus Expo held in New York every fall, the live demos and wealth of information available at IUSA’s trade show is so much better….and the vendors are friendlier.

Another stop at the IPC Merit Cafe enabled me to catch additional presentations on print competitions by Ryan Brown and  Jeff Dachowski. Topics ranged from, Recognizing Impact to the 12 Elements of a Merit Image. Each day I was able to network with photographers whether it was grabbing a quick bite to eat at lunch or while waiting for a seminar to begin. Back at the IPC Merit Cafe, I listened to Gabriel Alonso speak on Becoming A Master Photographer while Doran Wilson captivated us with “What the Heck is the Artist Category?”

I missed the last seminar slot of the day which included Hanson Fong  in order to get dressed for the Grand Imaging Awards ceremony where I was recognized as a Bronze Photographer of the Year. How honored I was to stand on stage with the likes of Jeff Dachkowski, Madonna Lovett Repeta, Dennis Harmon, and so many more talented image makers! It was amazing to witness the makers and their images as the higher awards were revealed. The works of the Grand Imaging finalists are outstanding and I congratulate each and every one of them. Several U.S. photographers are in the running to receive the International  Grand Imaging Awards being decided upon this April. Best of luck to you all! For me, a celebratory dinner was in order following the ceremony with my friend and fellow photographer Vanessa Picard.

The Grand Imaging Awards Ceremony. GeminEye Image's Susan Goralski at far left in the center top photo.
The Grand Imaging Awards Ceremony.
GeminEye Image’s Susan Goralski at far left in the center top photo.

The third and final day of Imaging USA dawned bright and early with a stellar line up of speakers. First up for me was Bry CoxBringing out the Best in Every Image – Quick Retouching for the Most Common Situations & Adobe Solutions“…real world examples and crazy shortcuts for tweaking portraits were some of the gems we left with.  Bry is a great speaker injecting plenty of humor into his presentation.

Next up…back to another of Julianne Kost’s seminars. Yesterday’s class was a reminder of just how much I totally love this woman’s classes. This one was on “Mastering Selections, Layers, Masking and Typography to Create Seamless Composites“.  How I wish I could spend a week with this woman learning Photoshop, but then I think my head would explode! In the meantime, I can get my “Kost-fix” and try my best to keep up with her on the Adobe blog.Now if I could just get a recording of her singing the Photoshop A,B,C’s!   🙂

One last lunch with CTPPA photo friends, Marie and Glenn Curtis, before my final trek through the Trade Show. The drawing for the $35,000 studio was taking place and that area became a magnet for people as the excitement built. I didn’t win but the man who did was present at the drawing! He was overwhelmed and so grateful. It was delightful to witness and partake in that joyfulness. The Texas School booth always draws a lot of attention as well. I hear that it is a phenomenal school. One of these days I hope to attend.

Bry Cox & Julieanne Kost presenting on the final day of Imaging USA. The $35,000 Studio Raffle caused a last minute ticket buying frenzy.
Bry Cox & Julianne Kost presenting on the final day of Imaging USA.
The $35,000 Studio Raffle caused a last minute ticket buying frenzy.
Trade Show fun with Clay Blackmore at Canon's Booth and the great lighting exhibit from Sigma.
Trade Show fun with Clay Blackmore at Canon’s Booth and the great live lighting demo from Sigma with Jim Schmelzer.

I struggled to decide which photographer would receive my undivided attention for the last seminar I would be attending that day. Would it be the charming and mesmerizing personality and talent of Peter Hurley? Or would it be the gentle soul and amazing pet photographer Barbara Breitsameter who’s personal story is just as compelling as her animal portraits?  In the end, Barbara’s presentation “Best in Show – Creating Fine Art Pet” won out over Peter’s “From Zero to #SHABANG!”  I have been working with an animal rescue organization for the last seven years.  Having recently seen a Creative Live workshop with Peter Hurley, I thought it would serve me best to attend Barbara Breitsmeter’s class. Her class was inspirational to say the least. This is one amazing lady who’s fine art pet portraits knock your socks off and who has persevered through some very rough times physically to emerge a true winner. I was truly sorry I had to pass on Peter’s class but as luck would have it, I met him in person at the Closing Party later that night.

Day three did not disappoint! What an incredible educational day filled with warmth, humor, compassion, and artistry. A real winner capped off by the PPA Award & Degree Ceremony and the Imaging USA Closing Party.

PPA Degree Awards were bestowed on the last night. Congratulations to friend and talented photographer, Ella Carlson. Madonna Lovetta Repeta photographs me photographing her while Vanessa Pickard joins in on the merriment.  PPA - BE MORE!
PPA Degree Awards were bestowed on the last night. Congratulations to friend and incredibly talented Master Artist photographer, Ella Carlson. Madonna Lovetta Repeta photographs me photographing her while Vanessa Picard joins in on the merriment.

A couple of quick closing notes…..the IUSA Closing Party was held on multiple levels. Having arrived there fairly early on, we didn’t realize there were “things” happening in different areas so we did miss out on some of what was going on.  The complex that the convention was held at,The Gaylord Resort and Conference Center in Nashville, is a 58 acre enclosed resort. Although the garden area was lovely (complete with indoor waterfall) this was one of THE most confusing complexes I have ever stayed at.  I have been fortunate enough to travel throughout the world including being on various cruise ships of all different sizes. Never…and I do mean never….have I ever gotten so confused trying to get from point A to point B. Trying to access the convention center via the hotel hallways was like being in a rat maze. I was not the alone in this observation.  It seemed to be the convention joke. I do hope that PPA will reconsider holding future events in this space. Other than that, the 2015 IUSA Convention was a success from my point of view. Great speakers…good trade show….fun closing party.  I’m looking forward to the 2016 IUSA scheduled in Atlanta next January. With any luck, I will have earned enough exhibition merits to receive my Masters Degree and will walk the stage as a new CPP.  Goals are good.  🙂

My first Imaging USA: 2014

Every photographer I know always glows about Imaging USA whenever they speak about it. I’ve heard so many “OH, you should go’s”.  And this year I did. In fact, I’ve just returned from several days in Phoenix where this year’s Imaging USA (IUSA) took place.

I had entered the International Print Competition (IPC) for the very first time in August of 2012, submitting three of my personal best images. A few weeks later, during the judging, I received instant texts as to how my images were faring in the competition. The first text came in…”We regret to inform you…”  But then the second and third texts arrived “Your image has been admitted to the PPA’s General Collection”. And then I received a fourth text alerting me to the fact that one of my images had made it into the PPA’s prestigious Loan Collection.  I was delighted and thrilled. I started thinking that perhaps I should try to make the trip to Phoenix in 2014, after all, this was my very first Loan Collection image and I really should go to see it on display.  I wavered back and forth for a few months but bit the bullet right before the early deadline in December. It seemed only fitting that I should attend IUSA to view my honored images and see why everyone speaks so highly of Imaging.


Image My PPA Loan Collection image of antique outboard motors titled “All Hung Up” on display in one of the monitors at the exhibition hall.

Image Not a very good view of my PPA General Collection image of a sunflower titled “Waiting to Exhale”.  The reflections in the exhibit hall made for less than stellar photo captures of the collection images.

I have been to a few other photography conventions besides the CTPPA one, generally driving in and out on the same day: Rhode Island, New York, and the Photo North East District one.  IUSA would be two days of air travel and three full convention days.

I arrived in Phoenix on Saturday night and on only a few short hours of sleep, was up bright and early (well…not so bright as it was still dark out at 6 a.m.!) and headed to the first of the several seminars I would attend over the three day period. 

It was a jammed packed three days at IUSA in Phoenix with too many courses to count available to choose from. There was the Photoshop Track, the Portrait Track, the lighting track, and more. My first day there I saw Julie Klassmeyer, Gregory Daniels, Ben Von Wong and Kimberly Smith. I had seen Julie before at Kansas City After Dark. I like her style and her tips and tricks with babies and young children. Gregory was a last minute replacement for Darton Drake. He was unknown to me. His images are outstanding (he does a lot of beach photography) and his high energy was refreshing. Ben….wow! His fantasy images knock me out! I had only recently started following him when I stumbled upon a video of an incredible portrait session he created for Nicole, a woman with stage four cancer who had little time left and had never had her portrait taken. Amazing, amazing work! My last seminar of the day was with Kimberly Smith, another photographer who was unfamiliar to me. A senior photographer, she spoke  from the heart. She has an uncanny knack for seeing great photographic opportunities everywhere she looks. She is also a song writer/singer. Her song about sisters is hauntingly beautiful.


(above photos: Julie Klassmeyer conducting her seminar on posing toddlers and newborns. THE WHCC booth at the trade show. Phoenix skyline from the hotel room looking at the convention center. Creativity with images on wood on display at the trade show.)

In the middle of this were five hours of browsing the trade show, perusing the exhibition gallery where I was able to view both of my IPC accepted images (one Loan/one General), and I was fortunate enough to have  a dozen of my prints critiqued by ASP BOD member, Dennis Hammon. As if that wasn’t plenty for one day, let’s just toss in the PPA Welcome Party!

One of the nice surprises of that first day was running into four fellow CTPPA members: Joan & Rene Genest, Matt Lin, and Deb Key Mundair. It was also impossible to sit in a seminar, or in the Loan or General Collection viewing area without conversations springing up with photographers from around the country and the world. I spoke with so many nice people, all with such positive energy and enthusiasm. It soon became apparent through discussions with others that attending IUSA for the first time AND having a print go Loan the first time entering the IPC was not a common occurrence.  Hearty words of congratulations were appreciatively received  from many folks during my time at Imaging.


(above photos: Ben Von Wong; Phoenix at Sunrise; Welcome Party models.)

Day two, I followed the Photoshop track. Jared Platt rocks as a presenter. Not only does he know PhotoShop inside and out, but his presentation style is interesting and entertaining. Post-Production Speed in Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC was followed by Quick Photoshop Fixes for Common Problems with Dave Cross. Well….is there anyone out there who doesn’t know who Dave Cross is?  Besides being a tremendous PS guru, he is famous for his classy black & white oxford style shoes. The last seminar of the day, Lightroom & Photoshop- New Techniques for a Winning Workflow, was spent with Julianne Kost. OMG! This is a woman not to be missed – EVER! She is off-the-charts knowledgeable. Her delivery style is quick yet filled with humor. Her own photography is beautiful and this woman gives one thousand percent  and then some! By day’s end, my brain was feeling more than a little full.


above photos: Photographer, Clay Blackmore in the Canon booth with a male model, a sculpture from the convention grounds, and the WHCC trade show booth.)

In addition to the seminars available, there was the large trade show and the exhibition of the Loan and General Collection images. Hours were spent wandering around each, soaking up as much as I could. The images on exhibit were just breath-taking and inspiring!  Also on the agenda were the Grand Imaging Awards (GIAs) and for the first time ever, the World Cup of Photography took place with the USA just barely eeking out a win over Australia by just one point!  Being in a room of such highly talented photographers and seeing their work projected was inspiring. Congratulations to all the countries who participated in the World Cup event!   

Afterward, Deb Key Mundair and I rendezvoused with CTPPA late arriver Paulette Mertes  and her friend Rita Hoover,  for a South Western dinner out. It was a great evening of spicy food and photography conversations.

I followed up with another of Julianne’s PhotoShop seminars on day three the subsequent morning. I have to admit that about three quarters of the way in, I thought my head would explode from all of the information she was passing along to us in rapid fire speed! Thankfully, her videos are available on the Adobe site to cement what she was teaching. Julianne is an amazing presenter and totally revered in the Adobe realm. If you ever get the chance to see her, don’t pass it up! 

The final seminar I attended was the perfect note for me to end on:  Brooke Shaden. I’ve been a fan of hers for quite some time. This woman is so incredibly creative it is scary. Along her photographic journey, she has come to a place of high self confidence, creating images from deep within, and insulated in her firm belief  that because she creates for herself, it does not matter what others think of her work. Her work is dark, which she readily admits. But it comes from a place so pure within her that you can’t help but be mesmerized by it and by her process. A live photo shoot/ demonstration was given and Brooke finished up with walking us through how she processes her images.



(above photos: Brooke Shaden in her seminar; Jared Platt speaking about Photoshop)

That last evening, I met up with Deb to watch the PPA Award & Degree Ceremony. It was a surprise to see our own CTPPA Harvey Goldstein be presented with an award. And later we watched with pride as Paulette receive her Master’s Degree. Afterwards, Deb, Paulette, Rita and I attended the IUSA Closing Party together. We ended up talking for hours with Master Photographer, Thom Rouse, who will be speaking and judging at our CTPPA annual state convention in March. So deep in conversation were we that we never noticed the banquet room had emptied out and we were the last ones left! We literally closed down the IUSA!


PPA President Ralph Romaguera congratulating his wife, Cindy.  Jessica Vogel receiving her award. Harvey Goldstein posing with his award. Kenny Rogers with his Honorary Photographer Award.


Imaging Excellence Bar Recipients: Helen K. Yancy, Joe Campanellie, Robert Kunesh, Thom Rouse, Tomas Munoz; Dan McClanahan receiving his Masters award from his lovely wife; CTPPA’s Paulette Mertes with best friend and supporter, Rita Hoover getting congratulated by Ralph Romaguera, PPA President.


Imaging USA 2014 turned out to be a great time with wonderful memories. The days were full and flew by. The photographers attending were positive and fun to converse with, the trade show was really  quite good with loads of fun things happening, and the PPA Loan & General Collection images were outstanding and inspiring. And yes, there was the opening and closing parties, but in reality it is not the parties but the connections (old and new) and all of the positive energy that makes Imaging USA a great convention to attend. I believe I may be hooked…..I am already thinking about Nashville in 2015!  Oh….you should go!

-All images copyright GeminEye Images

Stepping Back In Time

Pittsfield, Vermont is a small New England town where folks can enjoy the best of all seasons. Hiking, biking, tubing, skiing, or even weddings.  Both Riverside Farm and Amee Farm Lodge offer great wedding venues and lodging. Another of the gems in this quaint town is the Original General Store of Rt.100, Pittsfield, VT. Step inside and you will feel like you have stepped back in time. To a time when General Stores were it. There were no big grocery stores like Stop & Shop. You went to the General Store for everything from penny candy to groceries, from a t-shirt to a warm to pair of gloves, from a cookbook to a hot cooked meal. And folks were friendly…always had a smile for you, because time wasn’t rushed. A trip to the General Store was a big day out and you might only go once a week.


Pittsfield’s Original General Store has that same feeling. You’ll find all kinds of wonderful products there – many from Vermont. You’ll also find a huge wine selection, books, soaps, syrups, clothing, and more. But a stop by the Original General Store isn’t complete without  ordering up breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Truly a great all around experience! We enjoyed a robust breakfast after photographing for 2 hours at sunrise in 6 degree weather. After filling our bellies, we filled our shopping basket with Vermont made goodies for Christmas presents for friends and family.

Gen Store Blog Collage-1387764236221


From a stay at Amee Farm Lodge to a visit to Riverside Farm, to breakfast & shopping at the Original General Store, Joe & Courtney Desena have created something wonderful in the little gem of a town of Pittsfield, VT   When thinking of places that truly embody the idea of “New England”, this is at the top of the list.  Whether you stay in Pittsfield or just stop by the Original General Store for a hearty meal, I can’t imagine that you would be disappointed. Happy trails and safe travels!

Riverside Farm – Outstanding Vermont Event Venue

The first thing you see as you approach the event venue sight known as Riverside Farm in Pittsfield, Vermont  is the small covered bridge with a large American flag on the side of it. First thought that ran through my mind: How great is that? Their own covered bridge!  And then, as a photographer, I run through all of the great photo ops that fact presents for an engagement couple or bride & groom.

1_Covered Bridge_VT-0688

The tale of Riverside Farm is really a love story …one which I surely won’t do justice to. The bones of the story follow the usual path of boy meets girl, they fall in love and get married. This love story took a slight veer when the couple decided to relocate to a small town in Vermont called Pittsfield (population 546) where they fell in love with a very special property. Wanting to renovate the barn and move in before their wedding, they worked hard to achieve that goal. Timing being what it was, the barn wasn’t finished before their wedding date and so they moved into the adjacent field stone house, hosting their own wedding in a huge tent on the grounds.  That’s when the love story blossomed. Once you visit Riverside Farm or Amee Farm Lodge, do ask to hear the full recounting of how one couple’s passion to make a better life for themselves became a dream that resulted in the reality of this fantastic event property.


There are now two barns, a stable, a groom’s cabin, and a bride’s cottage all available for the bride & groom to make use of, enabling them to have the New England wedding of their dreams.  The antique barns are all post and beam construction and are nothing short of amazing.  They can easily host rehearsal dinners or large wedding receptions. Many ceremonies take place outside in the large field at what is affectionately known as “the kissing tree”, a lone tree standing beside a large rock.  But make no mistake, there are several wonderful spots where the actual ceremony could take place.  Both barns offer the opportunity to throw open the doors, essentially marrying the warmth of the rustic wood barns with the beauty of the outdoors. 

Riverside Farm

The red barn (closest to the field stone house) is not only perfect for a rehearsal dinner, but also for the bride to make a long, dramatic walk out to the kissing tree to exchange vows.  With the bridal cottage in close proximity, it works really well. A baby grand piano looks very small in the expansive spaciousness of the interior of the barn. Plenty of antique cabinets abound with counter tops just ideal for buffets. This barn includes a large seating area with three red and white gingham checked sofas where folks can relax. Downstairs in the barn are two more rooms, one set up with a bar.


The second barn is located further back on the Riverside Farm property. Its large doors opening at both the front and back make for a truly inviting reception space.  It can easily seat 180 guests with plenty of room set aside for a band and a dance floor.  Antique wagon wheels line the covered walk way into the barn.  A large, lone hanging bell with a long rope pull is situated outside the walkway entrance.  The ring bearer or a young groomsman often receives the honor of ringing the bell to call guests into the reception area for dinner. No doubt  this antique barn with its golden wood floors would have many wonderful tales to tell if it could speak.



The bridal cottage is a bride’s dream. This adorable little red barn/cottage style building is so sweet I dream of living there. (Even without  a closet!) As you enter, there is a little upholstered  bench and a welcome sign in a small vestibule. Open that inner door and step into a bridal fantasy world. Yes, Welcome! The first thing you see straight ahead is a wood sugar-shack type of building inside the cottage which houses the bathroom with the single most fantastic tiled and river stone circular shower I have ever seen. The rainfall shower head has to be a good twenty feet above the ground. The shower is capped with a copper roof, turret style,  which can be seen from everywhere else in the bridal cottage.


Back in the main cottage area,  to the immediate right is a seating area with a comfortable sofa.  Across from the sofa is a large dressing table and mirror, perfect for getting ready for the big day. Beside the dressing table area is a hook perfect for hanging the bridal gown: perfect for photos.

A full working kitchen is done in a most appealing cottage style. Seating at the large kitchen island works well. A second seating area with another sofa is off to the side of the kitchen. Climb the circular staircase, around the copper-topped shower turret, to arrive at the bride’s bedroom: the bed is centered beneath the peak of the roof and a sofa lines one of the walls.  Ladies, this cottage is a bride-to-be’s dream come true.

And gentlemen….don’t think they have forgotten about you! On the opposite side of the property, nestled amongst the trees, is the Groom’s cabin. That’s right.  A place just for you guys to hang out. This two-story building has an open front porch. Inside a large tiled table beckons a deck of playing cards, or maybe even a game of beer pong.  The kitchen area is more like a glorified manly wet-bar. There’s a grand country sink, a microwave, refrigerator, and a coffee maker. A good sized seating area with a sofa, two leather chairs, three hassocks, and a television will keep you occupied once the card games end. Upstairs is a groom’s bed flanked by a couple of twin beds so the best man and groomsmen may stay there as well. Large windows offer you woodland views of the mountain behind the cabin.


The off-white stable barn not only houses a couple of antique vehicles (again, perfect for photo ops around the property) but  it’s second floor has sleeping quarters for up to 24 people (3 per room). Each room has a bunk bed: a double on the bottom and a twin up top.  Not overly roomy but if the bride and groom want their entire bridal party on property with them, this is a perfect  solution.


Throughout the properties, tree trunks from their fallen trees have been utilized as the starting posts for staircases. You will find that many of the staircases, railings, and benches are all hand-hewn as well.  Little touches abound throughout both Riverside Farm and Amee Farm Lodge (see previous post). Owners, Courtney & Joe, have gone above and beyond to create the perfect New England country event space. But then, theirs is born out of love…love for each other, love of people, friends, and love of the earth.  The perfect place to begin your own love story, or to photograph one if you are a photographer.


To reserve a date, book a room, or find out more about Riverside Farm or Amee Farm Lodge,   visit their website at


A Vermont Gem – Amee Farm Lodge

Amee Farm Lodge , a beautiful B&B in Pittsfield, Vermont, is nestled in a valley between two mountains. When I first mentioned taking the drive to spend a night to my husband, I had told him it was just a couple of hours drive (like 2) from where we live in CT.  I had looked up Pittsfield on Google maps. Not realizing it, more than one Pittsfield had turned up in the search and I had selected the first on the list: Pittsfield, MA.  Yes, that Pittsfield is only two hours away. The Pittsfield I had booked an overnight stay in was more like three and a half hours drive. The extra time it took us to reach this lovely destination was barely noticed and allowed for us to leave our daily cares behind. Our reservation being over a Sunday night, we took a leisurely drive through the back roads of Vermont. It was a bright, sunny and chilly late fall (felt more like winter) day . The scenery was terrific and we stopped along the way for lunch in a quaint New England town.



We arrived at Amee Farm Lodge as the sun was starting to get lower in the sky. The building, once a small white post and beam farmhouse, had been relocated from the road to the hillside where it was restored and  a large addition with a huge wrap-around front porch reminiscent of The Red Lion Inn in MA was constructed.  We made our way through a banquet sized room that held a long harvest style dining table with seating for 16 looking dwarfed in the space.  This room is so large that it houses an antique truck, a full size regulation pool table, a brick fireplace, a separate wood stove and a few other seating areas.


Making use of geo-thermal energy, Amee Farm Lodge is a “green” B&B.  A long bench with a basket of slippers awaits guests in order that they may slip out of their wet or muddy shoes and ascend to the first floor, aiding in keeping the wood steps and floors in A-1 condition. We were greeted by Simon who  gave us a tour, acquainting us with the breakfast buffet for weekenders and the common sitting area for watching television, reading a book, or getting to know fellow guests. We were able to walk around the lodge freely to check things out with the exception of any guest room door that might be closed.

Our room “Hannah” was on the first floor in the front corner of the property. Numerous windows kept the room light and airy. Hannah seems to be one of the favorite rooms from what we were told.  I also fell head over heels  for “Goodrich”, a beautiful room on the third floor with wooden beams that reminded me of a Swiss chalet and a 2-person stone shower to die for! Actually, the owners had really spared no expense on the showers in the rooms.  All are made from stone with rainfall shower heads and are just striking.


As the sun was setting, the front of Amee Farm Lodge was bathe in golden light and I looked longingly at the row of Adirondack chairs on the enormous front porch. It didn’t take much to imagine all the chairs filled with folks on a summer evening. (Hear the sounds of laughter and conversational  chatter?) I could easily envision a wedding party being photographed there or in any number of the interesting places on property.  How wonderful to be a photographer and have Amee Farm Lodge in your backyard?  Truly though, there is nothing stopping CT photographers (or any photographers for that matter) from staying at this beautiful property with engagement or wedding couples and making use of this property as a destination wedding.  Amee Farm Lodge has 15 beautiful deluxe accommodations but that’s not the end of the story! In my next post, I’ll fill you in on the fantastic event property, Riverside Farm, not even one-half of a mile away.

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This Local Photographer’s Work Goes to International Exhibition!

Press Release

Photographs created by Susan Wacht Goralski of GeminEye Images in New Hartford have recently been accepted into the Loan  and General Collections of Professional Photographers of America’s 2013 International Photographic Competition. Wacht-Goralski’s work will be on display at the Phoenix Convention Center January 12-14, 2014, in Phoenix, Ariz. This International Photographic Exhibition is held in conjunction with Imaging USA, an annual convention and expo for professional photographers and several photographic associations.

A panel of 43 eminent jurors from across the United States selected the top photographs from nearly 5,000 total submitted entries at Gwinnett Technical College in Georgia. Judged against a standard of excellence, just over 1,800 images were selected for the General Collection and 682 (roughly 7 percent) were selected for the esteemed Loan Collection—the best of the best. The Loan Collection images will all be published in the much-anticipated “Loan Collection” book, and over 200 selected General Collection images will be published in the “Showcase” book by Marathon Press.

Titled “All Hung Up” and “Waiting to Exhale”, Wacht-Goralski’s photographs, one of antique outboard motors and another of a sunflower about to open, will be in the International Photographic Exhibition alongside other top photographic works from the competition and traveling and special invitational displays. These images constitute one of the world’s largest annual exhibits of professional photography gathered simultaneously under one roof.


“All Hung Up”   copyright 2013 GeminEye Images

In the photography industry since 1998, Wacht-Goralski has had numerous images published in local and regional tourism brochures and magazines. She has been a member of PPA and Connecticut Professional Photographer’s Association (CTPPA) for over 6 years. Both of her images, “All Hung Up” and “Waiting to Exhale” received blue ribbon merit Awards of Excellence at the recent CTPPA annual state convention held in March of 2013. “All Hung Up” received a 3rd Place ribbon in the Art/Electronic Imaging Category. “Waiting to Exhale” was honored with a Judge’s Award and the Lenzart Award for most creative in its category as well as a 3rd Place ribbon in the Unclassified/Creative Category.  Wacht-Goralski just recently donated a 30″x40″ canvas gallery print of “Waiting to Exhale” to benefit the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective’s One Big Event on Oct. 26th in Hartford, CT.

Owl Walk

Beautiful feathered owls. How many folks have had the opportunity to see owls in the wild? Or for that matter…how many folks have seen an owl at all? Several weeks ago, we joined our neighbors for an owl walk presentation by Scott Heth, Director of the Sharon Audubon Center, for the New Hartford Land Trust (NHLT). The Sharon Audubon Center is a Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon, CT that features a Wildlife Rehabilitation Programs for birds, specializing in birds of prey. This particular owl walk event was arranged by Madeline McClave of the NHLT. We were persuaded by our neighbors to attend with the dinner carrot dangled in front of us……if you go, we can all go for dinner afterward. It worked as we are not ones to pass on the promise of dinner with friends. I picked up my camera on my way out the door deciding to leave my flash units behind. After all, if we did see an owl in the wild, I didn’t wish to spook it.


  Scott Heth being introduced by Madeline McClave of NHLT.

Scott’s presentation was good, as was his style and personality. From his vehicle, Scott had brought out a tiny owl and queried us as to what it was called. My reply was “little”. Scott was amused.  He shared many little known owl facts….some of which I wish I still didn’t know so I won’t share them here!


Scott and his wife had brought along three owls with him in the event none were seen on the actual walk which would take place after the sun set. This first tiny owl is a miniature version if the classic owl one tends to think of when owls are mentioned, a mini version of the Wise potato chip owl. It’s actually a Northern Saw-whet owl. This particular one had been hit by a car and rescued. It was fascinating to note that the owls will constantly look at the person holding them. That, it was explained, is because they get used to being handled in a particular way.


The tiny little Northern Saw-whet Owl perches on Scott’s finger.


The second owl Scott retrieved from his vehicle had to be about six times the size of the first owl. This one was a barred owl, named so for the striped bars on its body. This owl also has large horizontal bars or bands on the tail which you may see in flight against its gray feathered background. This is how the owl got its name, “bar–ed” owl.  We have one of these living out behind our auction barn in Canton. It is amazing how well it camouflage’s itself against the tree bark.


The third and final show & tell owl Scott revealed to us was a Screech owl. I never knew what they looked like but years ago one scared the daylights out of me. I was returning from NYC late at night with a friend who was dropping me off. I opened the door of the car and heard these blood curdling screams. I thought someone was being murdered and quickly shut the car door. It was summertime. My ex-husband was in the bedroom above where the car was sitting. I cranked open the car window and asked my girlfriend what she thought was going on. We were trying to figure out what it was when from above us came my ex-husband’s voice…..”it’s just a screech owl!” My girlfriend and I had a good laugh. Now here I was, practically face to face with one. It didn’t look at all how I had imagined it would except for its size. It was rather large. It was brown and had “fluffy” ears.


All three of these owls were rescues and Scott enlightened us to the way of owls in a most interesting way. The NHLT had an impressive turnout for the event. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, but we all left for dinner before the sun actually set. Scott had wrapped up his talk and was preparing his owl hoot recordings and flashlight with the hope of locating owls in the wild. We hope he had luck finding some for the folks who followed him into the woods.


Saying Goodbye

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” Albert Einstein

Where does one begin to say goodbye? Last week I attended a memorial celebration for Dr. David Hull. I had known him and his family since 1990 when he first saved my life. Dr. Hull was the head of the Transplant at Hartford Hospital but I was not a transplant patient. I had an extreme case of peritonitis poisoning due to intestinal issues. My GP had called ahead to Hartford Hospital to see who was on staff that Thanksgiving weekend and selected Dr. Hull to be my surgeon. He performed emergency surgery on me and that was the start of a long term doctor-patient relationship. 

During that first ten day hospital stay, I shared the Newtown Bee, Antiques & Arts Weekly paper with Dr. Hull who was interested in antiques. I kidded with him that if he came to the auction, I could recoup some of my hospital bill. In the spring of 1991, he did just that, arriving with his wife, Connie, to a Saturday night auction at the Canton Barn in Canton, CT.

David and Connie became very good friends. The first time I had them over for dinner, I had thoroughly impressed David by de-seeding everything in the salad I served. He looked at me in wonder and said he wished he could get his transplant patients to take “just one pill a day” while here I was de-seeding everything so I could continue living. Unfortunately for me, de-seeding everything religiously wouldn’t keep me out of the hospital.

 In 1996 I was hospitalized twice in 5 days while vacationing in Maui. I called David back on the mainland and asked him to check out the physician who had so rudely walked into my hospital room, telling me he would be operating on me by the end of the day without ever asking me how I was feeling. Although his credentials checked out, there was no way I was becoming another tourist notch on his surgery belt. I flew home and at the beginning of 1997, David operated once again on me.  1998 saw me back in trouble again. I spent three days in the hospital but surgery was avoided.

During all this time, David and Connie, and my then husband Richard & I, spent lots of time socializing together. There were dinners, and the annual Red & Black Ball at Hartford Hospital, holidays & birthdays, and all those auctions they attended. Our bond was strong, our friendship deep. David was an incredible surgeon, a caring doctor, a good friend, an honest guy, a great family man and a loving husband. David always inquired after my health and my diet in a way that made it clear how much he cared for my well being.


 (David and Connie in the mid-1990’s at a holiday party I hosted.)

Richard and I amicably divorced in 2001. That caused a disconnect in our socializing with David and Connie. David treated me again in 2004 and medically counseled me in 2007, referring me to a superb gastroenterologist . Between 1997 and 2008, whenever I was in Hartford to visit a friend in the hospital, or had other business there, I would stop by David’s office to say hello. He always took time from his busy schedule to sit and chat with me for a few minutes…inquiring as to my health and how the auction gallery was doing, of course, and I would ask about Connie and the kids before the conversation would turn to our love of photography. He would share photos with me of the family trips and I would long for the closeness the four of us had shared.

After 2008, I never saw David again. My life was full as I had entered a new relationship a year earlier. In 2010, I had a severe intestinal flare up on Halloween night. I called David that night and spoke with him. He sounded very tired. David said he was currently out of the state and I should get myself to the hospital soon if my systems didn’t start to ease up. I apologized for calling him so late and hung up. That was my very last conversation with him. I was back in the hospital again within an hour of that phone call.

When I saw the Hartford Courant “Surgeon Survives Own Transplant” article by M.A.C. Lynch  in July of 2012, it felt like I had been kicked in the gut. I immediately sat down and wrote out a long note to David which I included in the card I sent. I hoped and prayed he would make it through his battle with lymphoma. This gifted doctor with his transplant surgery expertise, who had given so much of himself to a medical career by helping so many people be able to continue living, was now facing a cruel twist of fate. 

I replayed that phone conversation in my head over and over. I knew something wasn’t quite right but David was never one to complain or focus on himself. He was always more concerned about how the other person was doing/feeling. Maybe if I hadn’t been so sick myself that night I would have known it was something greater than his being tired and possibly being woken up.

David lost his battle in February to graft-versus host disease related to the treatment of his lymphoma. The memorial service took place at Hartford Hospital’s Education Resource Center last week. The room was decked in blue and orange, David’s favorite colors. The space was filled to capacity with family, friends, colleagues. Photos of his life slid across a projection screen in the beat  to David’s favorite music, some of which he like to listen to while performing his transplant surgeries. I saw Connie for the first time in many years and I could have held her and cried for days.


 (The striking blue and orange flowers that decorated the tables at the memorial celebration of Dr. David Hull on April 26, 2013.)

The world has lost a brilliant surgeon, a caring doctor, an amazing man. His family has lost an incredible father and a loving husband way too soon. And I have lost an amazing doctor, surgeon, friend. It is difficult for me to think about what the Hulls have had to bear in the past 5 years, and especially in the last 6 months of David’s life. I would have been there in a heartbeat to support them. I am sorry beyond words that I wasn’t.  David and Connie have three beautiful, smart, articulate children – young adults now: Jason, Stephanie and Aaron. Jason spoke with incredible candor about his dad and how all three of them had been shaped by their parents. He gave me a solid glimpse into the years I had missed being a part of their family circle and for that I am grateful. Several people spoke at the Memorial Celebration. I had wanted to so very badly but, in my grief, was at a loss of where to begin and where to end. What would I say? How could I tell my story in a few short sentences?  How could I ever hope to convey what Dr. David Hull, surgeon and friend, did for me…what he meant to me? How do you thank someone for saving your life more than once when he is gone? How do you say goodbye?  And in the end, surprising me, my new husband, Steve, stood up with tears in his eyes and shred the following: “Unlike many of you here tonight, I didn’t know Dr. Hull. He saved my wife’s life more than once. If it hadn’t been for Dr, Hull, my wife would not be here now and I never would have met and married her.”  Thank you, Steve. You said something when I could not. I will be eternally grateful. David, you are missed and will continued to be loved by those of us who cared so much for you. RIP

“You can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails.”   A German Proverb