Magnificent Ballerina – 19 years later.


This post is a story about one of my all-time favorite photographs.  I say that because it has special meaning.  It was this photo that completely made me start believing in myself; believe that I could actually be successful in marketing my photography.  Oh, sure, I had been selling a few prints before that, but I wasn’t really convinced that I could get much better than what I was at that time.

It was a Sunday afternoon in the fall of 1998 when I decided to visit the Water Lily Collection here in downtown San Angelo.  Ann was with me.  I had my camera and tripod and a 35mm film camera.  Digital photography was in it’s infancy as far as I was concerned.  I didn’t, at that time, believe that the digital cameras could produce the quality prints that I wanted.  Of course, that is now all changed.  I now shoot with high end Canon digital equipment.

But I digress.  Back to 1998.  I browsed around all of the five ponds of water lilies.  I was searching, not really knowing what for.  Just something that would stop me in my tracks, and say to me, this is the one.  Then it happened.  A solo blossom, a muted pink, juxtaposed next to a large lily pad, with brilliant colors in the water.  I had a 200-400mm Tamron zoom lens mounted on my old Canon.  I maneuvered the setup into position, then rearranged it several times until I had the composition that I wanted.  I called Ann over.  She had been sitting on a bench, just taking in the beautiful surroundings.  I told her to look through the viewfinder.  I told her, “have a look at a winner”.    I knew in my heart that it was destined to be one of my best ever.  Because of it being film, instead of digital, I was limited on how manyshots I could take. I took three shots.  Three different exposures, bracketed.  (Click the image to see it enlarged.)

Magnificent Ballerina - a water lily from the San Angelo Water Lily collection.

Magnificent Ballerina – a water lily from the San Angelo Water Lily collection.

I took the film to a local photo lab to have it developed.  I chose the photo that had the little ripples in the water at the left part of the picture.  I then sent it to a custom lab and had a 20×30 inch print made.  I framed it and entered it in a show at the San Angelo Art Club.  It won first place.  I then entered it in three other local competions and won all three.  At an exibition at Angelo State University, an art professor looked over, and said I should name it, “LaPrima Donna Magnifico”.  Translated into “Magnificent Ballerina”.

Later, in 1999, Photography Forum Magazine and Canon, combined to have an international photo competition.  I thought, this is a chance to see just how good the photo was.  There was 29, 193 entries.  Two categories:  color or black and white.  So you would assume there were approximately 15,000 color entries.  Well, lo and behold, my photo didn’t win first place.  It did win fourth place.  I was elated, because not only did it carry a large cash prize, but it was also published in their magazine and their annual book.  That was the first time, actually the first of many, published credits that I have received in the last 18 years.

I have sold many framed editions of this image for amounts in the upper hundreds.  Enough said about that.  I will just say that it was a very successful photograph that jump-started my career as a professional photographer.  Since then I have been featured in dozens of magazines (including two covers), periodicals, books (including two covers), murals, and even a huge billboard.  I since started specializing in bird photography and am now considered one of the best at that.  I have also published a book of my bird photographs.  I also had a DVD produced with my images.

Well, that’s about that for this post.  I hope you didn’t mind me “blowing my own horn” so to speak.  If you will click on the link at the left, below Bob Zeller Galleries, you can buy prints of this image and other home decor featuring that photo and others.

Until next time, happy shooting. 🙂

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12 thoughts on “Magnificent Ballerina – 19 years later.

  1. I loved this story. It is an excellent picture and you describe aptly the limitations of the pre-digital technology. It is always a treat to see you and your wife with your big lens in our city capturing its beauty and significance.

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