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.

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.

VT_Amee Farm_Adirondack Chairs_-0715

VT-Riverside Farm_HDR


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.


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.



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.




 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.















The Angel Strikes Again

Shonya is no stranger to animals. In fact, she is no stranger to this blog either.  I wrote about the Angel Among Us a year and a half ago when I first had the opportunity to meet this woman with a heart full of love for animals, particularly, feral cats. I was on a photo session for Our Companions Domestic Animal Rescue when I first met Shonya.  In addition to photographing a few rescues at her home, I helped to place one of them, Tiger, who now lives the life of luxury in Canton.

There is something quite special about Shonya and her assistance to rescued cats.  She has four cats of her own: Joy, Happy, Runt, and Mocha who all happily seem to take a  stake in additional rescues, helping them acclimate, comforting, and teaching them the ways of living in a house. . . and “omh my gosh!” with humans, too!

And so it is my pleasure to once again host Joy, Happy, Runt & Mocha on this blog, as their “mom”, Shonya, begins a new chapter in her quest to aid animals.  This true Angel is creating a non-profit animal welfare organization titled “No Animal Left Unfed”. The goal? To assist families in greater Hartford, CT keep their pets, especially in these tough economic times. Shonya still works with Our Companions and with the CT Humane Society to help place pets in Forever Homes. GeminEye Images applauds Shonya’s efforts and wishes her bundles of food donations to help her succeed in her goal!

Helping paws: Joy, Happy Runt & Mocha:

Joy: Oh JOY!
Happy: A Happy Camper!
Runt: Too adorable!
Mocha: So Sweet!

To donate food or assistance, contact  Shonya via:


According to Wikipedia: “Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction, frequently featuring elements of fantasy that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s.” The 1999 remake of the film, Wild,Wild West, was one of the first contemporary Steampunk motion pictures.

Think of Johnny Depp in Edward Scissor Hands.

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to photograph Steampunk hats and jewelry on eight ladies ranging in age through five decades.  Having put a “shout-out” on my GeminEye Images Facebook Page for models, three of the young ladies came from a local area middle school. As luck would have it, the models arrived early and the designers arrived late. Even though that cut into the photography time, it gave me the opportunity to speak with the moms prior to the shoot, so it was time well spent.

With Lady Gaga playing in the background, hats were matched with the models of the day and the photo shoot began.  Lights, ladies, props, hats, jewelry and camera equipment were everywhere I turned! One by one we shot the individual ladies wearing their Steampunk hats.  The hats were absolutely adorable and were made by two designers (one from New York, one from New Jersey).  Basic black is the foundation upon which embellishments of all types are added: keys, gears, buttons, pins, lace, feathers, and flowers.  The finished products are these adorable miniature hats that are just too cute!

With our time coming rapidly to a close, we quickly assembled the girls for a few group shots and before we knew it, the moms had arrived to pick them up.  It was a whirlwind of an afternoon for everyone!  Kudos to all the young ladies who hadn’t modeled before!  You did an excellent job! And to those who have been in front of my camera before, many thanks for returning and being a part of this photo shoot!

Thanks to Alyssa, Allie, Alex, Robyn, Shanoah, Olivia, Leanne, and Megan.

And to the designers, Debi, Red Robyn and Megan….thanks for bringing your amazing creations and taking the time to make the trip to CT.

Check out Wikipedia for some more interesting reading on Steampunk.

Flyt Squad

Earlier this week, the universe seemed to come into alignment . . . with the exception of Mother Nature and her arctic blast of chilly temps . . . for a photo shoot at a nearby local airport.

Two local hip hop rappers known as Flyt Squad have been involved in a radio contest for unsigned artists.  I happened upon this information via our hometown web news, New Hartford Plus.  My curiosity peaked, I took a listen.  More than one, I might add. These guys are good.  Their lyrics are engaging and I was impressed at the lack of profanity and promoting in them.  You might say that these guys are trying to bring hip hop back to its roots.  They aren’t about pumping themselves up, or going for the shock value.  They are about expressing how they feel about life and love.

Peter Pobuda and Brian Heller, known as Psquared and Cash, are Flyt Squad.  Both are equally involved in writing the lyrics.  You can check out their music via their website at either  or and on YouTube.

Photographing Pete and Brian at an airport was one way to photographically express their name, and in their words… “incorporate the thought of climbing to the top of the charts, “taking flyt”.  We sort of embody the slogan, “fly high or get flown over” meaning we will stay on our own path and leave the competition. Because of the name “Flyt Squad” we tend to have the image of a jet flying high or something to do with the sky.”

As luck would have it, there would be a jet available for us to use in our photo shoot.  I arrived at the airport early and eagerly watched as the jet was brought out of the hanger for the shoot.  The guys drove up shortly afterward.  I have to give the guys a lot of credit.  First off…not only did they agree to an early morning shoot…but they showed up early for it! Secondly, they both ditched their coats a couple of times for shots. Thirdly, a special shout-out to Pete … not only for taking off his coat, but also for changing his shirt in 20 degree temperatures! You rock!

Flyt Squad's Psquared & Cash

You can see more of the images from this photo session very soon on Flyt Squad’s web site.

Special thanks to Brian O’Leary and Jeff Tomolonious,  Interstate Aviation Inc. and  Phil Worley from the Canton Chamber of Commerce.

Thanks also to my assistant for the day: Aleks.