My entries for the 2021 Iowa State Fair Photography Competition

And on Friday afternoon … Competition Season 2021 officially began for me.

I sent four photos to the Iowa Sate Fair’s Photography Salon.

I’ve had some success with Iowa in the past – in 2018, two of my pictures made the walls of the art gallery on the Fairgrounds, with What the Grasshopper Saw taking a third-place silk. In 2019, I claimed my first blue at Iowa, by dusting off my classic The AGFA Bridge Over Ansco Lake, and that blue made me very happy. Three other photos of mine, while not claiming ribbons, still hung on display at the Fairgrounds’ Cultural Center in the past two years.

But although I had four pictures ready to go for 2020, the Fair was postponed – and then later shuttered – for the 2020 season. Thanks, COVID.

Because that just meant that I had four quality pictures for 2020 that I could consider as “Kings of the Mountain,” in that if I take a better photo between then and now, one of those images can be replaced.

So which photos survived into 2021, and which photos knocked off the competition?

Ah, this is where the fun starts.


After the Rain. Nikon Df camera, HELIOS-81 50mm f/2 lens on extension tubes. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

A “triple blue” is an image that has scored a blue ribbon in at least three competitions. So far in my photographic career, I’ve had three images earn “triple blue” status. The above image was my fourth “triple blue,” snagging silk at Altamont, Durham and the Big E. Plus, it’s one of two “Photo Regionals” winners I’m entering at Iowa this year. Now it has a chance to become my first-ever “quad blue” if it claims that azure hue in Iowa. I entered it in the category #25 – Plants, Flowers and Trees, Black and White. No way, shape or form will I let Iowa go by without giving this image a chance to shine. This was scheduled for the 2020 Iowa show, and it’s good enough to stay for 2021.


Five Tickets to Ride Day and Night. AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera, Kodak Instamatic Gold 200 film (two rolls) and Kodak Verichrome Pan B&W film. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

My layered “day-night” Ferris wheel photo still has a chance to earn its stripes.  It’s also a Photo Regionals winner, as well as a second place claimer at Durham in 2019.  So this is actually the chance for this photo to shine. I did have to make one slight adjustment – the Iowa State Fair limits the titles of photography entries to four words or less. So goodbye “Five Tickets To” and leave it just as “Ride Day and Night.” I entered this in Category #41, “Anything Goes,” which is a perfect location for experimental photos that mix black-and-white Kodak Verichrome Pan and expired Kodak Instamatic Gold 200 film. This was scheduled for Iowa 2020, and it’s good enough to make the show for 2021.


Say hello to my macro photograph of the vintage stitches on a baseball. This is the first time High and Tight has been exhibited anywhere. There’s a “Macro” category at the Iowa State Fair; however, the “Macro” category at Iowa excludes macro photos of flowers, of insects, or if living animals. But nobody said anything about creating a macro photo that used animal by-products, such as leather cowhide and woolen sheep fiber, now did they? (checking around) (we’re good) So welcome to Category #46, “Macro.” This was originally a shot for Iowa 2020, so now it gets a true premiere in Iowa 2021.

And our fourth entry will be …


Strasburg Number 90. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 lens. Photo (c) 2021 Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Of the four I submitted for Iowa, this is the only image of the four that I captured this year. It knocked out the image I had considered for Iowa, my photo of the distressed Grateful Dead Super Beetle, but I can save that image for Iowa 2022. This iron horse will be entered in Category #45, the “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” category. So here’s hoping.

So I’ve got some time to stew over this. Although the deadline for shipping out my images approached quickly – I think they had to be postmarked by no later than this coming Friday – I won’t receive the little yellow postcard o’ worry until late July or early August. If at least one of the four images is accepted – my photos will remain in Des Moines until the end of the Fair run. If none of the pictures are accepted – they will be returned instantly.

Let’s hope that at least one of these four images gets some quality time in the Midwest.

Fingers crossed. And here we go.