“I was just overwhelmed because I wasn’t thinking I would get anywhere near the top three this year, because there were some really good ones this year,” Torbett said.
The student now has the opportunity to compete in the national Skills USA competition.
“That’s extremely exciting,” Torbett said.
A senior at Walker Valley High School, Torbett competed in the photography category as a sophomore and junior. He did not make it to the top three either year.
Torbett said he used what he learned from those years to perfect his entries.
He first became interested in the artform because of his mother.
“My mom had worked in photography, and I had always been around cameras, so I just picked up one of hers and got interested,” Torbett said.
Torbett said the photography category is “probably one of the longest, most tedious” Skills USA competitions.
The competition lasts for two days, the third day being an awards ceremony. The competition includes two pre-submitted photos, a field shoot, written test, studio photography and digital editing.
Each year the digital editing portion of the competition is different. The written test focuses on the mechanics of the camera, methods of photography and on the history of photography.
Torbett said he knew from past experience that the judges like abstract photographs.
“Also, they look for different uses of composition,” Torbett said.
For the field shoot, student photographers are given a time limit to take photos in the Tennessee Aquarium.
“I went through the whole thing and I was just looking for exhibits that a lot of people weren’t exactly visiting,” Torbett said. “I spent a lot of time with the penguins because there were eggs waiting to hatch.”
While Torbett didn’t catch any new chicks emerging, he did catch a penguin squawking to protect her eggs.
“You just have to know when the right moment is,” Torbett said.
He said the lighting in the aquarium presents an added challenge. From the shoot, students submitted four photos for the competition.
The digital editing portion requires students to complete different projects in Photoshop within a certain time limit. On this portion, the judges focus on composition, not perfection.
The competition took place April 22-24.
Torbett said he has enjoyed getting to know students from other schools while competing in Skills USA.
First place comes with a gold medal and a scholarship.
“I get the opportunity to go to any of the Tennessee Technology Centers absolutely free,” Torbett said.
WVHS Skills USA advisor Jennifer Poole said Torbett has been accepted to the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s architecture and design program. However, he is considering using the scholarship to attend the Tennessee Technology Center in Knoxville at night.
“It’s one of the hardest programs to get into (as a freshman) at UTK,” Torbett said.
Torbett said many freshmen are not accepted to the architecture program. Most have to reapply as sophomores.
Torbett said he has always been interested in architecture and has wanted to pursue it as a career since sixth grade.
While he is not sure if he will pursue photography as a career by itself, Torbett does hope to incorporate it.
“I have always wanted to do interior design and feature my photography in that,” Torbett said.
Poole said she is working to get sponsors for Torbett to be able to go to the national competition.