I received approval to compete in the 2008 ICF Pro Tour of Nature Photography! I don't doubt their claim as the richest photo competition in the world, at $160,000 in prize money. First prize is $40,000. Only 20 photographers are allowed.
One of the judges last year was Art Wolfe! All of the judges have been published multiple times in major magazines, including Time, Audubon, National Geographic, etc. One of the judges in the Pro Tour this year is the Executive Director at the International League of Conservation Photographers...
The Chairman of the event was intrigued that I shoot with Pentax. He was very kind in his reply:
You have a good looking web site and your photography looks good also. I think you will give many of the pros a run for their money. Plan to get lots of sleep before the competition starts as you will not get much after April 1."
Bad news: The month-long commitment wasn't possible with current work situation... so no Pro Tour... 8-( Had it been any other time, I would have been able to go...
Great News: However, I've been invited to compete in the 2008 Valley Land Fund Texas Shootout, which has a total prize list of $100,000... 8-)
First prize is $12,000! The Chairmen wants me to compete in this instead, to prep me for the Pro Tour in 2010. Of course, that only means I can get better! This is open to pro/am photographers, and the rules are the same. It also includes a rare cat contest: if you manage to photograph a Mountain Lion, Ocelot, or Jaguarundi in the wild, and you have the best image, it's worth $5000!
I will be assigned to a rancher who covers my lodging, etc. for the duration of the competition, and makes sure that I get all the photo opportunities I need for the various categories/divisions. We work as a team (photographer & rancher) to ensure our success, since the prizes are split amongst the team. They often have blinds and watering holes setup for the photographers. I am allowed to submit up to 50 images in my Portfolio submission. The premise of this event is to encourage private landowner conservation efforts: by allowing photographers access to these otherwise off-limit areas of the country.
That's a quick synopsis, but I plan to spend at least 3-4 weeks shooting during the 3 month period that is allowed for the team to obtain images. The shoot will occur inland of South Padre Island, north of the McAllen, TX area. I have been confirmed that I will be assigned to a 15,000 acre ranch for the competition. The competition runs from April 1 - June 30th, 2008.
Now I have to decide if I can get away with the FA* 300/2.8 and a TC, or plunk down some $$$ cash for either a Sigma EX 500/4.5 or
Did I mention that I am very excited??