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Crowning Achievement



Text by Martha Blanchfield Images by Bruce Boyajian

Ask veteran photographer Bruce Vartan Boyajian how he's stayed the course and he'll assert that a combination of the right equipment, the right team, and constant shooting have helped him land golden shooting assignments-like this year's Miss America competition.

A photojournalist for 28 years, Boyajian cut his teeth on breaking news and major event photography for the Associated Press and various clients. For Boyajian, it's all about speed and raw talent-getting the shot right the first time.

His move to digital was a crowning event, allowing him to consistently produce high-quality images in record time while shooting on the road. "With digital, all pieces of the puzzle are available now-super-responsive digital cameras, ample lens selection, high-capacity memory cards, powerful and fast image editing software and systems," says Boyajian. "I can shoot for an entire day and not stop to reload film, unnecessarily change camera bodies, or lug around all that extra equipment.

" An American Icon Goes Digital
In 2000, the Miss America Organization (MAO) decided to go all digital, relying on Boyajian to help with the transition. "When I first started shooting in Atlantic City for the AP, I would process film in a bathroom sink, make B&W prints, then transmit to the wire. The procedure took about 45 minutes. Now we shoot, use the computer alongside the runway, and post images in less than a minute."

This year, his team shot some 4,400 digital photos in Atlantic City. Throughout the competition, they switched from indoor to outdoor shoots, creating posed group photos, catching candid rehearsal and competition shots from dark corners of the auditorium, constantly on the lookout for spontaneous photos family and friends would want. And they did it all while dodging TV cameras and stage props, without obstructing the judge or audience views.

He relied on his Canon 1Ds and 1D with a range of Canon lenses, and high-capacity SanDisk Ultra II CompactFlash cards, Canon EZ550 flash units powered by UnderDog batteries, a Manfrotto monopod, plus a Lightware rolling lighting case filled with Dyna-Lite 500 power packs.

After each day of shooting, Boyajian started the editing process by resizing and color correcting all images, and preparing them for upload to a Miss America online studio from Printroom.com, an online storefront and digital lab for professional photographers. He then processed the day's list of printed image requests using an Epson Stylus Photo 2200 printer. Boyajian stored all images on his Apple laptop computers, plus external LaCie hard drive. CDs were burned and given to the Miss America Organization each morning, and on a daily basis, a Miss America associate went through all images creating folders for each contestant and loading the files onto the MAO server. The final step: uploading the created folders directly to the custom website.

Prior to digital, only news and wire services had immediate access to a limited selection of Miss America images. To meet contestant and other image requests, the Miss America staff produced a photo catalog-a good solution, but one that proved to be a bottleneck project for a staff whose mission it was to manage a nationwide scholarship competition-not to identify, process, print, and mail photo orders.

Online galleries to the Rescue
In 2000, Printroom worked with the Miss America organization to bring customized online pageant and contestant albums to reality, developing custom online galleries for each of the 51 contestants, plus a grand album for final night.

Carlton Osborne, CEO of Printroom, notes, "By setting up online galleries, the Miss America organization has saved thousands of dollars and countless hours processing images. Today, each contestant is given a personal online gallery, which is updated daily. Friends and family can track their favorite contestants and purchase images from the site."

"The Miss America Organization has a reliable outsourced online operation for its annual event that's contributing a notable revenue stream for scholarships," says Osborne.

Onsite Printing FOR Instant Gratification For the second year in a row, Epson offered onsite printing capabilities, providing a Stylus Photo 2200 printer and UltraChrome inks. During the competition, nearly 500 images were printed and given to contestants and staff. This was a big hit with friends and family who wanted to go home with photo in hand.

"Digital has ended most of my photography challenges-no more film, no more chemicals, and no more making prints on an enlarger in a bathroom," says Boyajian. "I shoot with an 11-megapixel camera that rivals most 2 1/4-inch film images.I use a computer to work on images I could never have edited with an enlarger. The Epson printer makes prints of this once-in-a-lifetime event that will look beautiful now and for generations to come.

"At the end of the competition, when it all comes down to one shot-the crowning moment-digital gives me the confidence of knowing I'll get 'The Shot' just as the new Miss America is crowned, plus the ability to make the image available on the Web almost as fast as it happens."

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