Shirley Robinson never intended to be an award winning photographer, like so many things in life, it just sort of happened.

“I began because my husband caught this big flounder and I took picture of it ... but it didn’t come out,” she said with a laugh. “So I bought a Nikon and started shooting.”

That was more than 30 years ago, and Robinson’s passion for photography hasn’t faded. She’s kept learning, practicing and entering photo contests. One of those even netted her a big trip a few years back.

“I won a contest in Southern Living with a picture of my grandson blowing bubbles. I got a trip worth $4,600,” she said. “I have laid back for a while, but I love shooting. I love moving birds and wildlife. And I love entering photo contests, I don’t always come out so great but that’s OK.”

It was with this “you win some, you lose some,” mentality that Robinson recently entered the Big Photo Show, hosted by the Coastal Photographers’ Guild. The annual contest, which is open to its members, awards prizes in a number of categories like “people,” “nature” and “landmarks.”

This year’s exhibit is currently on display on multiple locations — Glynn Visual Arts, 106 Island Drive, St. Simons Island and the Big Photo Show Too, at Creative Frameworks, 1302 Gloucester St., Brunswick.

There’s also a display of past winners, titled the Best of the Best, at the Golden Isles Welcome Center, 529 Beachview Drive, St. Simons Island.

Robinson has photographs in more than one of the exhibits, including this year’s People Choice winner, which is featured at Glynn Visual Arts. The image is of the St. Simons Island lighthouse during a foggy morning.

“I love to go out on foggy days. I love shooting fog. I was walking around and saw this angle with the trees framing the lighthouse. I was in the middle of the street, dodging cars,” she said with a laugh. “I love it. It moves the emotions. It just draws you in.”

For Robinson, a lot of perfecting her skills has come through trial and error. She’s learned a lot and often offers newbie photogs a bit of solid advice.

“I would suggest watching your background ... make sure there are no telephone polls sticking out of people’s heads or anything like that. Be sure you have a high shutter speed for fast moving subjects,” she said. “Also walk around. Look at different angles, don’t stand in one spot. And keep doing it.”

Like Robinson, Bob Kelterborn focuses on trying to see his subjects in a new way. He has won a number of awards for his work, including nabbing second place in the “Open” category for his Big Photo Show entry, “Reflections.”

That image illustrates how everyday objects can become extraordinary when viewed through the right lens.

“The picture ‘Reflections’ of the building across the street from my hotel room in Denver was interesting because its windows reflected the white stone pillars of my hotel façade,” he said.

“I needed a late checkout to have the sun come around to reach the base level of our building. The strong side angle gave good contrast and shape to the pillars.”

Creating that play of light and shade is one of Kelterborn’s key tips for those looking to build their photography chops.

“The sun changes color and direction throughout the day. Does it enhance or detract from the subject, should you wait or return when the lighting is perfect?,” he said.

Waiting for the right moment is a critical concept in photography. Many of the guild members stress that the magic only happens when one is patient. That notion has paid off time and again for Elma Andrews, the guild’s past-president, especially when animals are her subjects.

“Shooting wildlife will teach you patience. My ‘Looking for Love,’ an egret in breeding plumage was a waiting game. You have to wait until the subject does something interesting. Remember with any bird or animal the eyes are the key to producing an image that holds the viewers attention,” she said.

She also showcased the same concept in her “Red, White and Blue,” the first place winner in the Big Photo Show’s “Open” category. It is a powerful image of the American flag waving on the ship, the Lynx, docked in Brunswick. The moment struck her as one with multiple meanings that prompt the viewer to consider a variety of questions. Trying to provoke thought and creating layers of significance is always a priority for Andrews.

“I saw the image and felt that it contained a variety of levels which would communicate with the viewer,” she said.

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