The Big E / Durham Fair results run, 2016 edition

Competition Season 2016 has been, for all intents and purposes, a stone cold flop.  Outside of photo-specific category contests (like the triplet goat photo We Are Not Chickens), and competitions where my photography is not the primary focus (The Cathedral of St. Philco, Dream Window 17: Friday Night Fish Fry), only one picture taken during the past twelve months has scored honors in a general photo competition – my B&W shot of the silhouetted Milky Way in the Adirondack Mountains, The Heavens Above, The Forest Below.

The Heavens Above, The Forest Below. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
The Heavens Above, The Forest Below. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And part of me keeps thinking, “Geez, if I had entered this in the New York State Fair this year… but I didn’t… well, if ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, I’d be ready for the trick or treaters at Halloween.”

But I still have two final photo competitions this year – the Big E in Massachusetts, in which I hope to extend my streak of taking a ribbon for every single photo I’ve entered; and the Durham Fair in Connecticut, in which I have a little streak of claiming a blue ribbon for at least one photo entered in that show.

This year, the early rules stated that the Big E would only accept two pictures, so I submitted two photos.  At the last moment, the rules changed, allowing a third entry to be submitted; however, I decided to just go with the two pictures I initially entered.

Sunday morning.  As I did last year, I’m going to try to hit both fairs on the same day.  Which, in itself, is kind of a cool new “competition season” tradition for me.

Also … this two-fair, three-state journey will be the first time my 2013 Chevrolet Cruze “Dracourage” has traveled outside of New York.  I know, I know, I’ve had the car for a few months now, surely I should be able to handle a trip to the Berkshires or something… but no, this will be its first excursion to New England.

Bright and early arrival at the Big E.   It took about 90 minutes to get to Springfield, and then another 90 minutes to get into the parking lot.  The Big E sometimes is harder to get into than a Taylor Swift concert.  Anyways, after visiting a couple of the statehouses (as is tradition for me), I went into the New England Center to see how my two pictures did.

Oh look, here’s The Saratoga and North Creek Railroad, which has a …

A ribbon of red like a rooster's head!!
A ribbon of red like a rooster’s head!!

Red ribbon for second place!  Best showing by this picture so far!  And the first time this little artwork has earned a silk of any sort!

Nice.  Now where’s my heavenly shot of the Essex County sky, silhouetted by the trees …

Blue ribbon for The Heavens Above, The Forest Below!!
Blue ribbon for The Heavens Above, The Forest Below!!

Ka-BANG!  Blue Ribbon!!  First place, my fourth blue at the Big E (joining Poestenkill Falls, Jesus Saves and The Jumbuck!!)

After a half an hour of getting my car out of the Big E parking lot, I finally navigated through the bumpah-tuh-bumpah traffic until I finally saw the best part of Springfield (which is seeing it in my rearview mirror), and now it’s off to Connecticut.

Road trip to the Durham Fair, which is tucked in somewhere between Hartford and New Haven.  And once again, I had to find the satellite parking lot – Strickland Farms, where the dust is so thick and airborne, that I swear there were boil weevils and tumbleweeds in the vicinity.

One shuttle bus ride to the Durham Fair later, I arrived at the fairgrounds.  Of course, I had to hike up and down the inclined plane known as the fairgrounds, but hey that happens.  I even tried a local beverage delicacy there, something called a Lime Rickey.  It was a sliced lime in a cup with lime juice, lime syrup and carbonated water.  It was okay, maybe I should have ordered its citrusy brother, Orange Julius.

All right, where are my pictures.  Oh there’s The Walkway, down in the lower corner –

No ribbon for The Walkway...
No ribbon for The Walkway…

At the Durham Fair, pictures receive colored dots to designate their successes or failures, and a dotless photo means that it did not earn any silks.  Sorry, The Walkway, I guess that red you took at the New York State Fair last year is all you get.

Okay, I know there’s a Saratoga and North Creek Railroad picture here somewhere…

That's a red dot in the lower right corner, red dot for second place!
That’s a red dot in the lower right corner, red dot for second place!

All right, two red ribbons for this shot in the same day!!  Awesome!!

Hey, what if The Heavens Above, The Forest Below got two blue ribbons?  Wouldn’t that be super-awesome?

It's a red dot for second place!
It’s a red dot for second place!

Well, it didn’t claim a second blue, but it did get a second ribbon today – and third overall!

But there’s one more picture I entered.  A shot that I took two years ago, a photo that I thought had enough power and energy and amazingness to give it one more exposure in competition.

That blue dot means that Jesus Saves took a first place silk!!
That blue dot means that Jesus Saves took a first place silk!!

Holy Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus Saves with its third-ever blue ribbon!!!  Three time! Three time!! Three time!!!

And as I drove home yesterday afternoon, I thought about where Competition Season 2016 turned out.  It wasn’t a great start, but it ended nicely.

Not counting three-dimensional constructs like The Cathedral of St. Philco or mixed media pieces like Dream Window 17: Friday Night Fish Fry, my photos claimed seven silks this year, including three blues.

  • The Heavens Above, The Forest Below became my fourth-ever blue ribbon in the Big E, and had a nice “triple” of a first (Big E), a second (Durham) and an honorable mention (Altamont).
  • Jesus Saves joins The Jumbuck as Chuck Miller artworks that have earned three blue ribbons in competition (Jesus Saves earned blue silks at the 2014 Vermont State Fair and at the 2014 Big E).
  • The Saratoga and North Creek Railroad garnered two red ribbons for second place, my first picture to ever snag multiple reds.  And I’m an idiot for not entering that picture at Altamont or at Iowa.  Short pile 2017 for that.
  • We Are Not Chickens, my photo of the triplet goats of Mack Brin Farms, snagged a blue at Altamont, as well as my second-ever goat photo to claim a blue (Rutland the Goat picked up a blue at Altamont in 2015).

Wow.  Lots to think about.  But Competition Season 2016 is in the books.

And as far as I’m concerned, I’ve already got a couple of pictures in the pipeline for Competition Season 2017 – The Switchback, for one, and maybe an extra showing of The Saratoga and North Creek Railroad if things progress.

Oh, and one other thing, while driving home…

I gotta find a rest area.  Those Lime Rickeys may be tasty, but man they go through you like a waterfall.


5 thoughts on “The Big E / Durham Fair results run, 2016 edition”

  1. Finally I can say congratulations on your silks at the BIg E. Actually I emailed them about the 2 vs 3 and she said there was a glitch and it was only suppose to be 2 something happened and it reverted to an old version. Of my 2 only one made it with a 3rd place this year. Congrats on the Durham silks as well. As always I enjoy following you competition season journey.


  2. Congratulations, Chuck. Well deserved, indeed! I’m thinking The Heavens Above, The Forest Below for the 2017 NYS Fair?


    1. Bill W – I’m seriously thinking about it. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t call an audible and swap it out in place of one of my other images. But yeah, it’s definitely on the short list for 2017.


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