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Zappia earns outdoor photography award for Golden Retriver cover photo

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MASSENA - Massena resident Tony Zappia and a Golden Retriever teamed up to earn Mr. Zappia a 2014 Pinnacle Award from the Professional Outdoor Media Association.

Mr. Zappia, a freelance photographer and writer who has been outdoor editor of the Massena Observer, Advance News and Watertown Daily Times, shot the photograph for the cover of “The Retriever Journal” magazine.

“Each year they have a number of awards. In order to enter, you have to enter a published work that appeared that calendar year. I did that with a cover photo that I sold to ‘The Retriever Journal’ magazine,” he said. “You were allowed three submissions. I sent one. Lo and behold, I won.”

POMA’s Pinnacle Awards honor journalists for remarkable achievement in traditional outdoor sports-focused communications, including writing, photography/illustration/art, broadcasting as well as content focused on wildlife conservation. Mr. Zappia took top honors in the photography category for his cover image.

He said the contest is open to member writers and photographers of the Professional Outdoor Media Association from around North America.

“You can imagine it’s a pretty outstanding field of photographers from all over,” Mr. Zappia said.

The honorees were announced by Kevin Tate, vice president of media production at Mossy Oak, during POMA’s Annual Business Conference in Knoxville, Tenn. Mossy Oak has been the presenting partner of the Pinnacle Awards since the program’s inception.

“We’re proud to sponsor the Pinnacle Awards to recognize the best of the best every year,” Mr. Tate said. “It’s an important way to reward excellence in outdoor journalism and encourage more in the future.”

Mr. Zappia said he had no idea his photograph, “Retriever with Training Bumper,” would earn an award.

“Not with the caliber of photographers out there. With photography it’s like art. While it may appeal to someone, it may not appeal to the next person. I was totally surprised,” he said.

He was contacted after the annual conference to let him know he had won the award.

“They don’t tell you ahead of time. They announce it at the conference,” Mr. Zappia said.

He said he developed his love of photography because of what the photographs could convey artistically.

“I was just drawn because of the artistic nature of it, the light and the composition and what you could do in the darkroom at that time. It was just fascinating to me,” Mr. Zappia said.

His first article was published in 1983 when he was an English major in Potsdam, and his first published photograph was around the mid-1980s. Since then, his images have been published in numerous magazines, calendars, books and national advertising campaigns.

“The first time I ever grabbed a camera I lived on Cherry Street. My next door neighbor was Phil Sheehan. Phil used to do a lot of black-and-white photography. He had a darkroom in his cellar. He guided me. He was the guy that really got me involved in photography. He let me use his darkroom, and he’d show me how to process film,” Mr. Zappia said.

Photography has changed since then with the advent of digital photography and computer photography software, but the premise remains the same - producing works of art that photographers can be proud of.

“Lately I’ve doing quite a bit of sport dog photography, hunting and waterfalls photography,” he said. “What draws part of me now is being outside working with the dogs with whatever the subject matter is, capturing that one breathtaking image. It’s like Christmas every time.”

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