The Lane 2 Surprise

It’s Monday morning.  I’m off to Syracuse to complete the drive of shame – to pick up my four non-accepted artworks from the New York State Fair.  Must get up nice and early, and make this a quick “out-and-back” trip.

Unlike last year, when I had to remove all six of my non-accepted photo, this year I was comforted to know that two of my pieces – the Hamilton College Root Glen black-and-white serene picture The Walkway and the lenticular Vivaldi’s Pond – were staying in Syracuse for the duration of the Fair.

I arrived at Syracuse at around 11 in the morning.  And right off the bat, the organization of the returned artworks was much better than it was last year.  The artworks were carefully organized and stacked; and the return refusal card actually had more information on why the picture was rejected than did last year’s photo-rejection notes.

I discovered that the judges felt that Aerochrome Falls was overexposed; that Parabola: From Hadley to Corinth was unfortunately one of too many Adirondack photos in the same category; and Jessica: Instamatic Dichotomy did receive plaudits for originality and a contoured matte cut, but it just missed the judging cut.

The final photo I needed to acquire was Lane 2, my HDR shot of the untouched decades-old bowling alley at the Takk House in Troy.  Remember this picture:

Lane 2
Lane 2. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens, three images rendered in HDR capture, then flipped to black and white in PhotoShop. Photographed in Troy, N.Y. in April 2015. Photo by Chuck Miller.

I looked at the rejection information.

“Wrong division.”


If you know me, I am EXTREMELY scrupulous when I discover that my pictures are placed in incorrect judging categories.  It’s happened to me before, and I don’t want to earn a ribbon – or get bounced from a competition – based on a technicality.

‘Everything okay?” asked one of the volunteers.

“Can I ask something?” I replied calmly.  “I was under the impression that HDR photography was considered non-traditional photography, that’s why I entered it as a non-traditional photo.”

“I can have you speak with the supervisor, he’s right over here.”

Okay, at least I’ll know for next year what to do.

The supervisor walked into the room and shook my hand.  I immediately thanked him for the two pictures that did get to the walls of the Harriet May Mills Art Center, and then I asked about Lane 2.  “In the past, I’ve been told that HDR photography was considered non-traditional photography and should be entered in that category.”

“Oh, we changed that this year.  With all the digital photography out there, we moved HDR to a traditional photographic discipline.”

“Okay,” I replied.  “I had an HDR picture in the non-traditional category a couple of years ago (Low Tide at Sunrise), so I guess I’ll know that for next year’s competition.”

“Can I see the photo you’re talking about?”

I immediately pulled the picture out of my pile of four unaccepteds.  The supervisor looked at the picture.

“Tell me about this photo.”

Instantly the story came out – Nikon Df camera and lens and tripod and HDR capture and ancient old bowling alley in the basement of an old Knights of Columbus building and –

“Okay,” the supervisor cut me off.  “You know what…”

At that moment in time, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  All I knew was that once I took this photo back to the Capital District, it was promised to the owners of the Takk House in exchange for their gratitude in letting me photograph their basement bowling alley.

“I think we’re going to switch this picture’s category right now.  Congratulations, I’m accepting this picture as a traditional photograph, and it will be part of this year’s show.  And we’ll make the rules more specific next year regarding HDR photographs.”

Huh?  What?  Wait a second – hold on, let me get my bearings here –

You mean to tell me that Lane 2 is staying at the Harriet May Mills Art Center, and it’s joining Vivaldi’s Pond and The Walkway at the State Fair photo competition?

Um… er… um… hand out… shaking the supervisor’s hand… many thanks and gratitudes…

That’s right, everyone.  Lane 2 received a last-minute reprieve!  A judge’s save!!

Which also means… for the first time in seven years of competing at the New York State Fair photography show…

I’ll have THREE pictures on display!  WOO HOO!!

Oh man oh man… okay, now I can go home with a big fat goofy smile on my face…

And as I loaded up the car with my four three artworks, heading for my way home, I remembered something.

I have a couple of my cameras in the car, sitting in the back seat from weekend photo shoots – Leica Green and my AGFA Chief – and some pre-wrapped rolls of boutique film.

And just on a whim, just on a lark… As I made my way out of the State Fairgrounds… and I headed toward I-90 and the New York State Thruway…

I went west instead of east, and I took photos in various places in Western New York until I ran out of film – then I found a store that had some Kodak 400 35mm film on sale, and I bought it and kept on shooting – and I didn’t get back home to the Town and Village until maybe 11:30 last night.

And I don’t care how tired I am this morning, and how much of a “farmer’s tan” I picked up, and how much that bit of color in my face is going to make me ache all day, and how in a few days my face is going to peel like Liam Neeson in Darkman

I’m feeling good right now.

Really, really good.