“Your Entry Has Been Accepted!” or ‘What can go wrong will go wrong’

This year The Philadelphia Flower show is doing something new. They are holding a photo contest. I heard about this contest last summer through my nephew who works for the Flower Show. Knowing how much I love to shoot photographs of my flowers, Andrew thought I would be interested in entering.

After he sent me the link to the contest I entered six of my photographs in three of the six categories.  Knowing that the judging and notification of finalists was around the same time I would be on a Panama Canal cruise with a friend of mine, I decided to get prints made of all the photos I entered. Although there was no fee to enter, it was up to finalists to mount each selected photograph on black foam core, trim it to size and then mail it to the contest coordinator by Feb. 25th. I thought I had a slim chance of having any of my photos selected but, just in case, I would be prepared if I was pleasantly surprised.

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When I returned home to PA on Feb 4th, I spent a couple of days deleting emails. While at this task one afternoon I received a text from Andrew

“Congratulations! You made the cut for category 195-Avant-Garde at the Flower show.”

I did? Wow!

Turns out I had accidentally deleted the notification emails. I went back and scoured through my trash bin and found all 3. Two were rejections but sure enough, there was one –

“Hello Jennifer Congratulations!”

This is where Gremlins took over what should have been a relativity easy process and turned it into an absolute fiasco.  I’m talking about the Gremlin that ate after midnight, and got wet. Not the cute fuzzy Gremlins.


I quickly opened the email and I was crestfallen. Wouldn’t you know the one photo that was accepted was also the only print  that looked terrible. Either I provided Shutterfly with a crappy file or they printed it badly. In any case, I had to have this photo reprinted and rushed to me so I could get it mailed out by the deadline stated in the email of February 15th! This didn’t leave me much time.

For 12 years or so I was a certified picture framer. I even had my own shop at one point. So I have a shops-worth of framing supplies and equipment in my basement. I have mounted and trimmed maybe 50,000 photographs and posters in my lifetime. This should be like riding a bike. Should be…

While I waited for the rush delivery of my accepted photograph, I rooted around in my boxes of mat boards hoping to find a piece of black foam core. Wouldn’t you know  I have several sheets of white foam core and hundreds of mat boards but no black foam core.  Luckily, my local Walmart had some black foam core and spray adhesive.

I was nervous unwrapping the photograph when it arrived, fearful that it would look dull and out of focus like the first copy. If that were the case I wouldn’t be able to send it. I would have to withdraw. But no, it looked great! I got it flattened out and ready to mount.

While looking for the foam core in my studio, I too was searching for my heavy metal utility knife. It was one that had belonged to my dad and I had used it for years. I couldn’t find it anywhere. But my husband & I keep a yellow plastic one in the kitchen that we use for opening packages.  I believe the blade in this knife had never been changed. It wouldn’t cut butter let alone trim this photograph so I replaced the blade.

And, I promptly poked my finger.Blood was everywhere!

I wrapped my finger in a paper towel while I trimmed the mounted photo. Luckily no blood got on my picture, but the yellow cover of the utility knife looked like it had been lifted from a crime scene!


Off to the post office I went, finger now wrapped in a band-aid. As I drove into the parking lot, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was packed with cars. I swear it looked like 3 days before Christmas and everyone in town had forgotten to mail their packages! Once inside the tiny room, I found a line of about 10 people. I busied myself finding an envelope big enough for the photo and I finished taping the cardboard around my photograph. After about twenty minutes, it was my turn.

“This has to arrive by Friday 15th. ”

“Not a problem”.

I included a self-addressed stamped envelope, sealed up the whole package and finally breathed a sigh of relief when my photo was among the huge stack of mail collecting behind the counter.

Friday night I’m watching TV and decide to check my email. I see an email from the contest coordinator:

Jennifer,  I received your beautiful photograph today and unfortunately two corners are badly bent! Can you please reprint, matte and send to me again ASAP! Unfortunately I can not pass this for the show. Your deadline to have to me is no later than Feb 22! If you can not make this happen I will need to know ASAP so I can let the alternate know.

Thank you and I’m so sorry. Next time please use a much thicker, cardboard material to support the photo in shipping.


Oh no! This is Friday the 15th. I am supposed to leave for Florida on Wednesday the 20th. Panic sets in. Can I get a new photo printed, shipped to me, mounted and mailed to her in a week? Shutterfly was giving me a guaranteed delivery date of Feb. 20th. It could work but I would have to have the supplies on hand when I arrived in the evening and rush the picture to the post office the next day mailing it next-day-air. I could do it but I would need help.

I called my husband and asked him, if needed, could he could go to the Walmart near us in Florida and get a piece of black foam core. ”

Yeah, no problem. Just let me know. I can go tomorrow.”

I also sent a text to my sister & brother-in-law asking if there was any place around here that could print the photo while I wait? No sense having to pay for rushed delivery if I can take care of this locally.

Turns out our local FedEx does do printing! They do what’s called-Personal Prints up to 8×10 and they also do Poster Sized prints starting at 16×20.


I bet you can’t guess what size my photo needed to be.

Right, 11×14. And, they don’t offer 11×14.

Back to the Shutterfly rushed delivery option.

My sister in law suggested I have the print sent to her, she would mount it and get it mailed for me. I thought about it for a minute and decided it’s too stressful a task for someone who has never spray-mounted before. Also, that utility blade does like to draw blood. I declined that offer and, afraid I was going to lose the guaranteed delivery from Shutterfly of Feb.20,  I quickly placed a super-rush delivery with Shutterfly and I decided to go with my original plan of having the print sent to Florida. I could do the work when I arrived.

Gremlins don’t like getting wet and my plan was beginning to feel like a wash out.

Monday the 18th was Presidents Day & there is no mail. Does Shutterfly use regular USPS, UPS or FedEx to deliver? couldn’t remember. Did their guaranteed delivery take this holiday into account?

A giant snow storm is forecast for Wednesday. Of course it is. It always snows when I go to Florida in the winter. it doesn’t matter what day I decide to fly down, it’s going to snow and I’m going to have to reschedule my flight.

I kept a close eye on the tracking of my Shutterfly order and the weather forecast. Both were dismal. Shutterfly’s guaranteed delivery of Feb. 20th was changed to Feb. 20-21st.

No, no, no. This is no good. There is no way I can get my mounted picture delivered to the contest coordinator by the 22nd if I don’t receive it by the 20th.

The snow storm forecast went from bad –

‘Snow and ice from Tuesday 19th through 20th’

to, hey wait this might work

‘Snow starting Wednesday night through Thursday’

to I’m doomed and probably won’t be leaving Wednesday after all-

‘Snow staring early Wednesday 6-8 inches with ice in the afternoon’

Oh great. Plan B. Marcus isn’t going to like plan B.

Turns out Shutterfly uses UPS and delivered my photo on Monday 18th. Really? I wish I had known they were going to be able to deliver it early. I could have mounted it and and mailed it out in plenty of time. No need to worry about snow or Plan B.

Plan B, as it turns out didn’t work out as expected.

On Valentines day Marcus calls me from Walmart to tell me they only have white foam core.

“Really, oh ……! OK, OK, you will have to find a Michael’s or a frame shop and get a piece from there. ”

I texted him the addresses of Michael’s stores near us in Florida. Turns out there are three pretty close by our apartment. He got two pieces ‘Just in case” and also got a new utility knife, a cork-backed ruler and some sturdy cardboard.


When I saw that the photo would be delivered on Monday the 18th I suggested he go ahead and mount it and get it in the mail.

“I may not make it down in time because of the snow.”

Always the optimist, “Na, you’ll be okay, I’ll wait.”

Today Feb. the 19th, I called Marcus telling him it’s looking more and more like i’m not going anywhere on Wednesday. There is already a ‘No fee for rescheduling canceled flights’ notice on Jet Blue’s website and no snow is falling…yet.  Anyway, I walked him through how to spray mount a photograph and trim it. I suggested he do a practice magazine cover or something to get the feel for it and call me back. He agreed to give it a go.

“I can’t get the page to stick.”

That’s weird.

“You may not have used enough spray stuff. Try again while I have you on the phone.” he put me on speaker phone.

I hear the spray can over the phone and then he says “It stuck that time. I think I used too much, there is a sticky puddle outside the photo.”

“Try another page and don’t hold the can so close. 3-4 inches away should be fine.”

This worked fine.

“My fingers are full of glue.”

“You can get that off with alcohol or acetone.”

“Okay that worked but I’m afraid I’m going to get fingerprints all over your photograph.”

“You’ll be fine. You just washed your hands in alcohol. There’s no oil left to leave prints.”

Now I suggested he try trimming the foam core to get the feel of it.

“I don’t want to cut these out because I’ll get glue all over the ruler. then when I trim the photo, it will get glue all over it.”

I suggested he do a practice cut on the extra piece of foam core that doesn’t have any glue on it yet. I could hear him through the phone grunting and groaning as he tried. It didn’t sound like it was going well at all.

“Marcus, come here. Stop. You’re too nervous and getting too worked up. Something will go wrong because you are too worried about messing it up. Take the photograph and the black foam core back to Michael’s and ask them to dry mount it for you while you wait.”

“They can do this?”

“Yes. they do it all the time.”

“What if they mess it up? You only ordered one copy. What happens if they mess it up?”

“How about we don’t create another problem before we have to? If that happens, then I email the coordinator telling her Michael’s ruined the photo & I will not be able to send my photo. I’ll be screwed. but, this isn’t going to happen. Relax.”

I’m happy to report that Michael’s broke the Gremlin’s spell over this endeavor.  My photo is mounted, trimmed and wrapped in heavy cardboard. The gal even adhered the required information on the back of the photograph. It’s ready to go into the mail and will arrive by Friday.

This free submission contest has cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 so far. I wonder how much rushed delivery costs?

I’m not saying I’d like to go through all of this stress again. This hasn’t been fun. But somehow it’s worth all of this to have my photograph among the other finalists in the Philadelphia Flower Show! Maybe it will win a ribbon!

If you go, send me a photograph of the display. Unfortunately, after all of this, I won’t be able to make the show this year. When I finally do get out of town after the snow, I will be testing out my new camera on a much anticipated Galapagos Island trip!




Enjoy the show! Get your tickets here

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