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.

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“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.

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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.

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  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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 (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.

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 (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

CT Votes For Animals -2013

Every year, usually in March, CT Votes for Animals hosts a gathering at the Connecticut State Legislative building in Hartford. At this event, supporters of legislation in favor of animal rights are informed as to the organization’s successes with regard to CT laws. Each year, at least one special speaker addresses the gathered group.  Last year, it was Chris Sparks, Senior Animal Control Officer in Bloomfield, CT, who told the story of a poor dog who was chained and unable to defend himself in addition to being left outside year round in all kinds of horrendous weather conditions.

This year, CT Votes for Animals had a very special speaker;  Jennifer Hubbard from Newtown,  CT, the mother of red-headed Catherine Violet, one of the 6 year old victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Catherine was only six but already had proven herself to be an animal advocate. Her mother spoke lovingly of her daughter’s love of animals…..how Catherine would save her allowance money to purchase dog biscuits for the dogs at the shelter, and how Catherine loved all animals.

Through the heartbreak of Newtown comes a ray of sunshine. Catherine’s love of animals will be honored along with Catherine’s memory as an animal sanctuary is being constructed in her name from contributions sent in to the family. Read more about it at http://www.theanimalcenter.org/sanctuary/#statementoflove

The tragedy of Newtown will remain with all of us through our lifetimes.  It is heartwarming to know that positive acts are rising from such a senseless act of violence. Below are a few of my photographs of the event. My personal thanks to Jenny Hubbard for having the courage to speak at the CT Votes for Animals event when the pain of her family’s loss remains so fresh in their hearts and minds. Be assured, Catherine Violet’s spirit and her memory will live on.

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Jenny Hubbard shares memories of her daughter, Catherine Violet, at the CT Votes For Animals event in Hartford this past March.

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On left, President of CT Votes For Animals, Amy Harrell. On right, Susan Linker,  CEO of Our Companions Animal Rescue & Board Member of CT Votes For Animals.

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Artist Janet Bogon Romanowski with her compelling work titled “365  24/7”

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Leyla Nichols of the Animal Center with Jenny Hubbard

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The talented Erin Vivero plays her flute for the annual for CT Votes For Animals event at the Hartford Legislative Office Building.

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Competition Print Time for Connecticut Professional Photographers Association

It was that time of year again….annual Print Competition for Connecticut Professional Photographers Association. It comes along usually in February or March. This year it was on March 15th at the Hartford-Windsor Marriott.  The print judges included Ella Carlson, Jack Holowitz, Steve Bedell, Bernie Littlefield, Nylora Bruleigh, Diane Miller and Joan Genest as print chairperson.

Print competition is always a fingernail biting kind of experience. There is so much riding on the panel of judges. How many women vs men will be on the panel? Will it make a difference in how the numbers fall? Will they appreciate floral still life’s? Will they enjoy seeing lots of wedding images? Will they prefer more traditional poses or perhaps embrace a more contemporary style? Will they understand the Art/Electronic Imaging category and give points for creativity and the hours of work that might have gone into creating such an image? Or the ultimate, burning question…the only one that counts at the end of the day…..Will they/Did they like my image?

I consider myself fortunate this year, having received three “deserving of a merit” blue ribbons and three “above average” red ribbons. In addition, I was surprised and elated to receive a “Judge’s Award” from Steve Bedell for my “Waiting to Exhale” image of a sunflower yet to bloom. That same image was also selected for the Lenzart Award for Most Creative in its’ category as well as taking a third place ribbon in the Classified Category.  The awards were well beyond my expectations and I am humbled and grateful that the judges awarded my image in so many ways.

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My other two blue ribbon winners were “All Hung Up”, an HDR (High Dynamic Range) composite of antique motor boat engines hanging on a wall, which received Second Place honors in the Art/EI category, and “Floral Origami”, of a tulip opening.

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My additional three images in the red ribbon category are titled: “Head’s Up”, an HDR image of a field of sunflowers; “Opening Day”, a peony in bloom; and “Siren Sea”, a portrait of a young woman and her reflection.

At the end of the day, I was able to answer that burning question (Did the judges like my images?) with a resounding “YES!”  Does that mean I can rest on my laurels?  Not even close!  There is so much more to learn and still higher scores to earn. But for a few moments, I could breathe easily and happily knowing I had pushed myself and in doing so, had received the most blue ribbons and awards I have to date.

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 I will continue to enter print competitions searching for the Holy Grail….first to place all 6 in the blue merit category and then to score a perfect 100 on at least one image. Kudos to those photographers who have scored 100 on each of four of their entered prints in the National and International Print Competitions where only four entries are allowed.   I don’t know if I will ever reach such lofty goals but if I sit on the sidelines, I’ll never know.

All images copyright 2013 GeminEye Images.

 

 

Time Flies…..the Wedding Reception & Behind the Scenes

It has been over 6 months since my last blog post. My apologies.  Somehow, life seems to get in the way.  I resolve to do better moving forward.  When we last visited, I had posted photos from my May 2011 wedding and Trash-the-Dress session.  With our first year anniversary already behind us, detail shots from our CT wedding dessert & champagne reception held in June of 2011, two weeks after the wedding, are long over-due. Pink and white colors with a tropical theme set the stage.

It turned out to be a most magnificent weather day, stunningly gorgeous with just the right amount of sun & puffy white clouds.  A Kauaian sea turtle garden flag marked the entrance to the property where the reception was being held.  Large pale pink and white balloons dotted the lawn and lined the drive along with frosted glass candle lanterns sporting ties of pink ribbons.  The white party tents were festooned with paper poms in shades of pink. On the food tables were white linens with fuschia pink embroidered silk banded toppers. Guest tables were decked in white linens and pink table toppers made by yours truly and an oval hinged box filled with Hawaiian themed key chains for wedding keepsakes had been set out.

Sheer white embroidered panels graced the wedding cake tent and were held in place with bright fuschia ties. The cake tent showcased one of our wedding photos from Kauai along with the two special umbrellas that Steve had painstakingly custom lettered for us.  Orchid blossoms surrounded the ten individual cake stands for the ten small round wedding cakes: one for each initial of our first names.  Wooden letters that Steve had painted topped every one of the cakes, spelling out each of our names.

Umbrella tented round tables displayed tiers of various home-made desserts filling antique glass and silver-plate serving dishes clearly marked by miniature chalkboard signs embellished with mini oriental paper umbrellas. Hawaiian themed cookies included mango ginger and a pistachio-almond.  Sugared hearts , Viennese finger cookies, pineapple frosted tropical cupcakes, brownies and other desserts were on hand.  Bowls of custom M&M’s included sentiments that held special meaning to us: “Can’t Help Falling/ In Love With You”, “Kauai 5-23-2011” , “You Wash, I’ll Dry”, “Susan & Steve”,  while blooming orchid plants dotted the tables.  In a nod to my co-ownership of the Canton Barn antiques gallery, an antique wooden washing machine complete with hand-crank rollers held wash tubs full of iced sodas and waters.

Special thanks to the talented Sweetheart Mountain trio for providing outstanding music perfectly suited for a magical afternoon, and to photographers Kristina Hill (Kristina Hill Photography), Ralph Rookey & Melissa Knox (Ralph Rookey Photography) who documented the day, and to neighbors, good friends, Best Man & Better Woman, Patrick & Tammy Casey who not only flew to Kauai to stand up for us, but who graciously opened up their property for our CT reception. Additional thanks to Andreas Obranovic, Gloria & John Lobre, Deb Kusjac, Bob Pulford , and Mike Reilly for all their help with setting up, and to Mandy, Miranda & Brittany who served our guests with smiles and polish.  🙂

Photos for this blog provided by Kristina Hill Photography, Ralph Rookey Photography, GeminEye Images, Tammy Casey and Ginny Lindroth.  All images are copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form.

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Trashing the Dress

Trashing the Dress:  a chance to wear one’s wedding dress a second time, documented photographically in places that mean something to the wedding couple.  I knew that this time around I would be “trashing” my wedding dress.  The day after our Kauai wedding, we headed out at sunrise. There is a little restaurant that we enjoy dining at whenever we are on our way to the airport to leave this gem of an island. Dining is on the second floor and the wall opens up so you have a beautiful view of palm trees and the gorgeous blue ocean waters. This is not a swimming beach area so there are generally very few people out and about in the area. I love the way the palms dance in the tropical breezes and gazing out at the ocean blues just makes me want to linger there forever…so we both knew this was one of the places we would want photographs at.  Once again, good friend and photographer, Kristina of Kristina Hill Photography, did an amazing job capturing some stunning images that not only look Hawaiian, but feel that way as well.

We ended our Trash the Dress session in Hanalei Bay where the scenery can’t be beat with a walk on the Pier, a snorkel session and a final dip in the ocean! Aloha!

All images in this post are copyrighted by Kristina Hill Photography.