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


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

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.