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BY PAT WRAY
Back in the 1980s and 90s many of the world’s best outdoor photographers took part in OWAA’s Photo Scavenger Hunt Contest during the annual conference. The results were spectacular. Attendees lined up early at registration to sign up and received a list of subjects they had to capture at conference, each in a single photo, to be shown at a public session accompanied by judges’ commentary. The slide show of submissions was among the mostly anticipated and attended activities at conference.
We used color slide film at the time and entrants captured 10 instead of the current five subjects. The first 10 shots on your roll comprised your submission, and with only one attempt at each assignment it was a high pressure environment. No do-overs meant there were some remarkable failures, but the majority of photographs were excellent and the competition was keen.
Judging the contest was both an honor and a burden. At our 1985 conference in Phoenix, the late Ed Park and I stayed up all night judging entrants and made the presentation without sleeping at all.
In the early days the more pedestrian photographers among us could not hope to place high enough to win prizes that included gear, sometimes worth thousands of dollars. Still, we entered every year just to learn at the feet of the masters. Not only was it educational seeing the professionals’ work, but hearing the judges’ commentary was like listening to an advanced photography course. With their assistance some of us began to improve enough to occasionally place in the top tier. Not me. Still languishing among the bottom-dwellers, I shifted my focus, if you will, to taking crazy pictures that would make people laugh.
It’s fun setting up weird photos, especially when your models include made-for-the-camera hams like Bill Monroe, Chris Hunt and Mark Freeman, but I have to tell you, it’s no way to win prizes.
The Photo Scavenger Hunt Contest has fallen on hard times in recent years. Participation dwindled, prizes shrank and fewer people watched the presentation. But this year in Knoxville, Tennessee, we are revitalizing the contest. Many of OWAA’s best photographers are taking part, guaranteeing a presentation of entries worth seeing. Simplified assignments mean participants won’t need to dedicate as much time to finding subjects and they won’t need a car to compete. You’ll be able to check at least one subject off the list at the combined Shooting and Demo Day.
The presentation of photos, along with the judge’s comments, won’t compete with any other conference sessions. So make sure to sign up when you fill out your early registration form for conference. There’s a limited number of spaces and this year we know those spots will go fast.
We’re also adding a new, and separate, all-comers contest challenging participants to capture the essence of the conference in a single photo or 15-second video. Those entries will be shared with members before the final banquet.
Photographers of all abilities are encouraged to compete in this contest and the scavenger hunt. Those who never wield a camera should still attend the presentations. While creativity is encouraged, the basic photographic tenets of composition, lighting and focus are paramount. It’s a free lesson in advanced photographic techniques with the added benefit of prizes. ♦
—Pat Wray is a former Marine helicopter pilot, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife information supervisor and for 20 years, a full-time freelance writer and photographer. He’s been an OWAA member for 30 years and served on the board twice and on all but one OWAA committee.