Hard work is often its own reward. If you have ever encountered Sara Caldwell, staff photographer for The Augusta Chronicle, you have met hard work.
And she is being rewarded for that.
She won the Georgia Press Association clip contest for 2013.
The rules: Photographers throughout the state anonymously submit their best nine entries across six categories.
The photos are judged by professionals from other states. And the results are tallied monthly.
Sara garnered 300 points in December to take the top spot from a college classmate of hers.
That was what she studied in college: photography.
She wanted to learn to make pictures. Photojournalists know that the secret to taking a great photograph is more than being there. You have to work for it.
And work she did. When she came to The Chronicle, as a summer intern with our photo staff, she described herself as not a naturally talented photographer.
She didn’t see what others saw – either at the scene or through the lens.
But she wanted to learn. And she spent her time that summer shooting. And watching. And talking craft with the talented professionals on our photo staff.
As she went on assignments, she practiced. See and shoot; and see and shoot; and see and shoot.
And as she practiced, she learned patience.
When her internship ended, she joined our copy desk for a few months, working as a late night digital editor, updating our Web site and scheduling and posting social media. Similar to an internship she had done for USA Today.
But she had been bitten by the shutterbug; and when an opening on our photo staff came up, she took it.
And she worked even harder. See and shoot. Take a picture. Make a photo. Create a gallery. Offer an online slideshow and video.
As the other staffers and leadership changed, Sara sought her own opportunities to grow.
The Pictures with Purpose workshop in Tennessee. The Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar. Northern and Southern short courses. Opportunities to learn new techniques and have an impartial critique of her work. Sara takes advantage of every chance to grow.
She beamed with delight when a photograph she shot during her first Masters Tournament was the lead image on the front of that Wednesday paper.
All that practice pays off – and you get the benefit of it – every day.
You see her work in print. And for those of you who have activated their digital subscription, her galleries of photos are amazing in color.
And there are lots more for every photo you see in print.
Her confidence and patience have grown, along with her skills.
And the recognition of that skill – to make a picture – is well-deserved.