Entering a contest that I’m ineligible to enter …

Nothing like trying to enter my photos in a competition in which I already know I have no chance of succeeding.

That has to be the epitome of cojones, right?

Let me explain.

The United States Government has an image competition every year for their national Federal Duck Stamp.  Painters and illustrators around the nation compete to have their waterfowl images captures on a special stamp, which is then purchased by duck hunters.  The proceeds from the duck stamp sales are then used for protecting marshlands and other waterfowl habitats.

All artistic forms are eligible for the competition.

All forms … except one.

Take a wild guess which one is not allowed.

You guessed it.  From the Federal Duck Stamp’s website:

“Entry may be in any media EXCEPT photography or computer-generated art. Design must be the contestant’s original hand-drawn creation. The entry design may not be copied or duplicated from previously published art, including photographs, or from images in any format published on the Internet.”


I’m probably able to achieve the only kind of legal duck shooting – granted, my “shooter” is a Nikon Df – but come on now, what’s wrong with photography as a viable entry option?

Then I found out that I know one of the persons involved with the Federal Duck Stamp contest.  He used to be my editor back when I freelanced for the music magazine Goldmine.

Well right then and there, I knew I could not enter the competition – I would be DQ’d as having worked with one of the organizers in the past.  You know, that clause in contests about if you know someone as a judge, or any one of their immediate families …

Well, if I couldn’t enter the contest … perhaps I could find a way to “enter” the contest.

Let me explain.

I contacted my old editor through Facebook – the one who’s now a judge in the Federal Duck Stamp program.  Even though my picture would be totally ineligible for the competition, I wanted to see whether it had enough merit on its own to qualify for consideration for the duck stamp project, had I created it with a Rollerball instead of a Rolleiflex.

You know those students who “audit” a college course, the ones who take the class “pass/fail” just for the college credit and not for the actual grade?

Yeah.  I’m taking the Federal Duck Stamp contest “pass/fail.”

Of course, where am I going to find ducks who are willing to sit still for portraiture?

Yep.  Congress Park in Saratoga Springs.

And last Saturday, I took my Rolleiflex Automat MX camera – which still had four or five frames of infrared print film in it – up to Congress Park.  I figured I’d be lucky if I caught a duck in the water.

What I wasn’t expecting to see … was a mama duck and her little ducklings.

Duck family. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, color infrared print film. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Aw, ain’t they the cutest little things?

Okay, let’s get low to the ground.  See if I can squeeze off another shot.


Duck family 2. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, color infrared print film. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Aw, they’re still cute.  But the ducklings got too close and went out of focus.  Dang it.

All right, let’s squeeze off a shot and see if I can shoot mama duck.

You know that sounds different when you know by context that I’m “shooting” with a camera, right? 😀

Mama Duck in Infrared. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, color infrared print film. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Oh they’re not going to let me have this as an infrared construct.

But maybe if I flip the picture into a black and white image…

Mama Duck in Infrared BW. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, color infrared print film flipped to B&W. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Mama Duck’s blending in.  Almost like camoflauge.

So I looked at the rules again.  Apparently the 2018 Federal Duck Stamp competition must feature at least one of these five species of duck in the picture – wood duck, American wigeon, northern pintail, green-winged teal and lesser scaup.

And I had … I don’t know, a common duck and her ducklings?

All right, let’s look at the dimensions.

“Entries must be 7″ x 10″ and matted over with bright white matting. The matting must be 1″ wide. Total size (entry with matting) must be 9″ x 12″ and less than ¼” thick.”

So a square Rolleiflex-generated image won’t work.  I gotta crop here and there … and add a white image mat to it, to simulate the mat if it were printed for real.


And here’s the results.

Mama Duck in Infrared BW. Rollefilex Automat MX camera, color infrared print film, flipped to B&W. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

But … the more I looked at this, the more I realized …

I’d have a better chance of competing in the duck stamp competition if I submitted a photo of Daffy Duck.

I saw the other images that won the Federal Duck Stamp competition.  They’re twenty miles above what I’m doing.

Well, if nothing else … I did get more duck pictures, so that’s a good thing.  Never hurts to get some peaceful photos on a beautiful day.

And I did send off the Mama Duck photo to the judge … just to see how the picture would have worked had photography been allowed as a discipline.

I’ll keep you updated.  Even if the judge tells me to Aflac off.  😀