Swept the stage

Photography staff wins big at ATPI Winter Conference


Submitted Photo

Submitted photo. Texas High Photography Staff poses with their awards after the ATPI 2020 Winter Conference.

Story by Margaret Debenport, opinion editor

The time was 7:45 a.m. when the Texas High Photography staff packed up two Ford Expeditions, one carrying their weekend’s worth of clothes and the other a hefty bank account’s worth of gear. Sipping coffees just to keep them awake enough to get in the car, the photogs were ready to take a rest for the duration of the five hour drive to Austin in preparation for the grueling contests they would begin the next day. They had already entered pre-conference competitions that kept them awake juggling homework and the time-sensitive deadlines, and the anxiety of it all hadn’t yet reached its peak. It was time to begin the trip to the Association of Texas Photography Instructor’s 2020 Winter Conference.

“It was so much fun, and I felt like it was a good bonding experience with everyone that rode in the car with me,” junior Sophie Spakes said. “It was a lot of fun getting to be with the seniors.”

After the car ride, the photographers ventured to Precision Camera for a reception that included classes, as well as trying out cameras and lenses they couldn’t otherwise use. Students that traveled from all over the state were able to try gear from Canon, Sony, Panasonic and Tamron.

“It was really cool to be able to experience new gear that we don’t have on campus, and it helps me know what I want to have in the future,” junior Peyton Sims said. “It helps me to know the gear that I want to save up for and put my money forward to enhance my career after I get out of high school,.”

In the same parking lot as Precision Camera sits another shop, known as Terra Toys. The students then ventured to the doors that opened to childhood joy and odd finds. 

“I’ve never seen Russian nesting dolls up close, and they really reminded me of Chad Evans,” Junior Assad Malik said. “I feel like that’s something he would have inside of his house.”

After a carb-filled dinner at Gino’s Italian restaurant in Round Rock and a grand finale of cookies and ice cream from Tiff’s Treats, the photogs went to sleep for the last time before their on-site competitions would begin. The next morning, Friday, Feb. 21, the staff gathered for breakfast at 8:15 a.m. before travelling to the Texas State Capitol. 

“Since we were at the capitol this year, it was really hard to figure out where you’re going and where all your rooms were and everything,” senior Merideth Stanfill said. 

On top of the chaos of knowing your location, the Digital Editing, Digital Image and Cropped Scavenger Hunt competitions all took place on Friday in the capitol. Students did everything from search for an albino squirrel to stitch together images in order to create something bizarre.

“There were so many people competing against you in digital editing, and because I didn’t know how good they were, I felt intimidated by them,” sophomore Allyson Smith said. 

After a long day of running up and down the stairs of the capitol, it was time for a snack break. The team headed to Amy’s Ice Cream for a sweet treat to calm their nerves before they listened to a keynote speaker and anxiously awaited to hear news of awards. After a view of her portfolio and an explanation of her work, students had the ability to ask award-winning journalist Donna DeCesare questions about her work.

“I was in awe of her portfolio and the way she was able to capture raw emotion and important information that the world needs to see and hear in a deeply personal way,” senior Margaret Debenport said. “Talking to Donna DeCesare was such a cool opportunity for me. I was able to ask her about ways to be involved in photojournalism in Austin when I live there next year, and she gave great advice to me. For that, I’m so thankful.”

Once awards started, the tension in the room ran high with students hoping to be recognized for their hard work. Texas High’s photographers held hands as the first competition was announced, and names started to be called out. With each successful placement announced, cheers ran out through the room, and students walked to the front of the legislative auditorium to be recognized. 

“Winning and placing, in general, was just such a huge relief and it just made me feel so great knowing that all the time and effort put into a hobby or future career was worthwhile,” junior Abby Elliott said. “It’s just such a big relief to know that you did good and that people see your work for what it is and the work you put into it.”


Advanced Portfolio – Art

Kaitlyn Rogers – 1st Place

Bailey Groom – 2nd Place

Abby Elliott – 3rd Place

Sophie Spakes – HM

Advanced Portfolio – Photojournalism

Margaret Debenport – 1st Place

Jonathan Naples – 3rd Place

B.I.G. 72 Video Contest

3rd Place – Texas High School

Beginning Portfolio

Peyton Sims – 2nd Place

Caden Rainwater – 3rd Place

Allyson Smith – HM

Hollan Reed – HM

Cropped Competition (similar to Food Network’s Chopped)

Margaret Debenport – 1st place

Digital Editing

Margaret Debenport – 3rd Place

Allyson Smith – HM

Self Portraits

Brooke Knight – Superior

Merideth Stanfill – Superior

Caden Rainwater – Excellent

Margaret Debenport – Excellent

Abby Bunch – HM

Peyton Sims – HM

Abby Elliott – HM

Jonathan Naples – HM

News Video

Assad Malik – 1st Place

Picture Package

Peyton Sim – 1st Place

Margaret Debenport – 2nd Place

Sophie Spakes – HM

School Portfolio Team 1 – 3rd Place (Hollan Reed, Kaitlyn Rogers, Margaret Debenport, Bailey Groom)

School Portfolio Team 2 – HM (Peyton Sims, Abby Elliott, Merideth Stanfill, Caden Rainwater)