USCG Members Judge Our Photo Contest

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In order to add a little dose of healthy competition...

Colette initiated a monthly photography contest five years ago, and it involves everybody in the office -- Colette included!

The first place winner receives a cash prize of $75, second place receives $50, and third place receives $25. The judge differs per month, and the one chosen cannot be a part of the contest, nor can they correlate certain photos with their photographer. 


This past month of July's topic was "Patriotism." The genre for the month prior was "Yellow." The winners and their photographs are shown below. Each month, there are around 18 photographs printed out 5x7 that are displayed at random. The winners not only receive cash prizes, but they also get their photographs displayed in the monthly newsletter sent out via E-mail!

Of course, photography is an art, and the interpretation of the contest can vary. Since the subject was "Patriotism," not "American Patriotism," various photographs may be submitted. Although, much like the game "Apples to Apples," the judge has the right to his or her own interpretation, as well.

Photograph courtesy of Robert Bender

Photograph courtesy of Robert Bender

In lieu of this month's subject, Colette decided to contact the closest US Coast Guard base.The designated day for judging the photos was July 25, and the day she decided for a change of plans was July 25. Spontaneity. 

We’re an aerial photography company, and this contest gives these guys an incentive to take different types of photos.
— Colette Eddy

She called the Coast Guard branch on Davis Islands, and presented this idea. She thought it would be even more special for the Coast Guards to judge this month's contest; her father was recently recognized for his service, and she attended his change of command ceremony in early July.

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This contest, albeit a little goofy, supports healthy competition within the office and brings us all together. The contest encourages those involved to rifle through old photographs, and find connections that maybe they didn't see before. 

"We're an aerial photography company," Eddy says. "This contest gives these guys an incentive to take different types of photos."

It re-contextualizes old work.
— Ian Foe

Ian Foe, Aerial Innovations photographer, explains his take on the photo contests. Even though he generally tries to take new shots per contest, sometimes he sorts through old photographs. Going through old photographs helps remind him how he's evolved as a photographer. 

Photo courtesy of Ian Foe

Photo courtesy of Ian Foe

"Use my baseball photograph, for example," Foe says (see above.) "I was just flying by and didn't think it was in particularly patriotic. But going through my photos now, baseball is patriotic, and now I see this photo as a patriotic one. [This contest] re-contextualizes old work."

Initially we were going to have Jessica, our senior administrator, judge the photographs the morning of so we could send out our monthly newsletter that day. Yet, fate didn't want that. Next Tuesday I was scheduled to drive to CGAS Clearwater, the Coast Guard base.

Although, for E-mail purposes, the photos Jessica chose are shown below. 

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Met by a service member at the gate, I was led to LTJG French, who is the Public Affairs Officer. I met with French and a group of Coasties who agreed to take time out of their day to judge our photographs; everybody was eager to get the ball rolling.

LTJG French laughed about the phone call she received a week before about the unusual request from a member at the USCG Marine Safety Office in Davis Islands; he had received the initial call from Colette. The request was then forwarded to LTJG French's office.

"He told me it was an unusual request, but I told him I was used to unusual requests," French explained. "He said, 'No this one is really unusual.'"

Featured from left to right: LTJG Diane French, LT Andrew Connell, LTJG Ryan Stille, PA1 Michael DeNyse, PA2 Ashley Johnson, and PA2 Barry Bena.

Featured from left to right: LTJG Diane French, LT Andrew Connell, LTJG Ryan Stille, PA1 Michael DeNyse, PA2 Ashley Johnson, and PA2 Barry Bena.

I placed the photographs on the table in no particular order, and the group simultaneously began to pick out their favorites. Since there were so many people judging the photographs, they had to agree on the top three. 

They were all beautiful, but these last really provoked some sort of emotion—pride, happiness, innocence. We are impressed.
— PA2 Ashley Johnson
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A tally list was initiated through the notepad, but it was later scrapped in replacement of the classic elimination system. The majority of the photos were placed in a separate pile, away from the remaining candidates.

Featured from left to right: LTJG Diane French, LT Andrew Connell, and LTJG Ryan Stille

Featured from left to right: LTJG Diane French, LT Andrew Connell, and LTJG Ryan Stille

The group channeled their creative side, resulting in concentration and discussion of the photos. Some liked the American flag solo pictures, and some preferred the pictures featuring children. They reviewed why they liked certain images over others.

Featured: Michael DeNyse

Featured: Michael DeNyse

Even though the group decided on a final three, the exact order was more challenging. Ultimately, a consensus was made. 

1st place - Robert Bender

1st place - Robert Bender

The Adorableness is strong in this one.
— LT Andrew Connell

The child Captain America picture was chosen for first place, a piece submitted by Robert Bender. 

Whatever was behind this picture, it feels patriotic in an innocent way. He’s not trying to be patriotic, he just is.
— LTJG Diane French
2nd place - Robert Bender 

2nd place - Robert Bender 

From one service member to another, we can appreciate patriotism for our country.
— LTJG Diane French

For the special ops training program, Robert took photographs for the event in downtown Tampa. The reaction was great. 

"It's an American-made helicopter," PA1 Michael DeNyse said. "What could go wrong?"

[Insert helicopter noise here]
— LTJG Ryan Stille
3rd place - Ian Foe

3rd place - Ian Foe

There’s no denying the patriotism in American baseball. It’s great from the motion, the shadow, and even the catch.
— PA2 Ashley Johnson

Beyond the top three choices, the group went above and beyond. They chose a runner-up and an honorably mentioned.

Runner up - Colette Eddy

Runner up - Colette Eddy

"It's a Coast Guard shout out," one of the members smiled.

Honorably Mentioned - Sarah Adamson

Honorably Mentioned - Sarah Adamson

Out of box creative.
— PA2 Barry Bena

"I really liked that one," PA2 Barry Bena said. "It's out-of-box creative."

The trip to USCG Air Station Clearwater was an eventful one, and I think everybody in attendance enjoyed it. A special thanks for their time: 

LT Andrew Schwalbenberg
LT Andrew Connell
LT Cory Pray
LTJG Ryan Stille
LTJG Diane French 
PA1 Michael DeNyse
PA2 Ashley Johnson
PA2 Barry Bena

Thank you for your service, and thank you for an enjoyable morning.