This past weekend the Professional Photographers of Iowa (PPI) convention was held in Des Moines. Last year was my first year attending and it was an amazing time with lots of great speakers. They were impressed with my work enough last year that this year I was honored to be asked to be a speaker and teach a class on my popular composite work that I do. I was very nervous for my class but it went very smooth and I actually had a great time doing it.

At the state convention there is also a print competition that is held every year. Over 400 prints were entered, and one of my favorite parts is seeing the culmination of everyone's very best work from the past year.  To give a brief explanation of the process, you can enter 4 prints into the competition to be judged by a panel of judges and awarded points on a scale from 0-100. In the competition there are two main categories of photographers, master and non-master.  Photographers achieve the designation of master by earning service, speaking, & exhibition merits - in other words they have had high scoring prints in numerous contests and have spoken and assisted at many events. Since last year was my first year, I am still in the non-master category. 

An awards banquet was held on the final night.  I was honored when they announced at the awards banquet that my prints had outscored all but one other photographer - master photographer Micheal Cerizo.  I was named Iowa's 2011 Top Photographer of the Year in my category and brought home a bunch of awards.   

 The following print was named Desolate Determination and scored an 88.  It was awarded a ribbon for judge's choice and 1st place in women outdoor.

In the illustrative category, I took 2nd to the very talented Dan McClanahan.  This is the image I entered - titled Return To Me.  It scored a 96! It is stitched together from a bunch of panoramic shots.  I created it as a 20x80 inch print and it is really amazing up close.

Quick story- The McClanahan's are very close friends, and earlier in the year when we were hanging out Dan & I had made a pact that we were both going to make the top 10 photographers in Iowa this year (despite the fact that last year was both of our 1st time even  entering the competition!).  Our pact ended up working out well for us with me earning top photographer and Dan taking a close second.

This is another image I entered titled Desolation.  It scored an 84 which is still a very very good score.

The final portrait in my print case.  I really liked this one because of the gritty emotion it portrayed.

The following print was entered for score only, just to see how good it was. (It doesn't count as part of your final score, but the judges don't know which prints are for score only so that they judge everything the same.)  This wedding image would have scored a 91 if I had entered it into the competition!

Finally, I swept the digital competition for the 2nd year in a row with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. The images below each poster are some of the original elements I used to create the poster.



  1. Killer work. Always inspirational to see! repeat next year?

  2. Congratulations Ben! That's awesome. It's no surprise with your beautiful stunning images!

  3. No surprise there! Your work is amazing!

  4. CONGRATS! You earned it!

    I was incredibly impressed with you work- I'm glad to see new and fresh stuff coming about- Adam hunter, Dan McLanahan, you, etc, etc... this last year was awesome. A few years ago it was much more traditional stuff, so I was excited and inspired to see work that was outside the norm- a bit edgier.

    If you're ever in Cedar Rapids and want some cool places to shoot at lemme know, we still have tons of abandoned spaces from the flood I shoot at for fun.

    I'm glad to see photogs pushing the media into a more visually-current-realm- not so much standard-portrait-traditional stuff of the past (although all of those rules still apply).

    keep up the good work and keep in touch!
    -craig volesky