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