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Outdoor School clicks with fundraising photo contest

by: COURTESY OF CHAN KWOK HUNG - The 2011 Photo of the Year first place winner was Chan Kwok Hung of Hong Kong, whose photo, 'Pray,' was taken in Gansu Province of China, where Tibetan women were waiting for the Buddha festival outside of temple.
Ready, set, click: The 11th-annual Photo of the Year contest is under way.

The contest — a benefit for Outdoor School — is accepting entries through Thursday, Jan. 10, and for the first time will hold open its voting process to the public, from Jan. 13 to 27.

There’s a youth category, in which kids younger than 18 can enter up to 10 photos for free for the first time in the contest’s history, thanks to a new sponsorship from the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition.

There’s also a professional category, and for the first time a category for Outdoor School-inspired photos, to more directly tie the contest to its fundraising mission.

“We had a lot of supporters who didn’t really get the connection,” says Kate Schaeffer, development assistant for Friends of Outdoor School, who’s helping to organize the contest this year.

Since 2004, Photo of the Year has donated more than $100,000 in proceeds from photo entries and award gala tickets to the Friends of Outdoor School. The nonprofit uses the funds to send Portland-area sixth-graders to its environmental science-based Outdoor School programs every fall and spring. As school budgets have decreased, local districts including Portland Public Schools have cut their six-day programs down to three days.

PPS nearly cut Outdoor School altogether last year, but retained it after the community rallied and pressured local governments and other groups to step up and fill the gap.

After Photo of the Year entries are submitted (usually there are about 1,000), judges will comb through the photos and award them numerical scores.

The panel includes local photographers, Outdoor School staff and supporters and for the first time, someone younger than 18. The top 100 photos and the top 10 in each category will then be posted online, and the public voting begins. That’s a new method of judging than in years past.

Winners will be announced at a “gallery opening” Feb. 9 at the Northwest Children’s Theater, including snacks and live music. Tickets to the event will be just $10 online, a more simple affair than the “award gala” in prior years.

The winners will receive their professionally printed photo and cash prizes of $100 or $200, depending on the category.

Last year’s professional category winner was Squid Vicious, a 94.7FM radio DJ who will be a judge this year.