Ellen Hatfield-Nicholson found the perfect shot while vacationing on the Greek island of Santorini a year ago.
"I guess it was one of those good moments," Nicholson said. "As I was walking down a street corridor, I looked up and noticed that someone had hung their feet over the edge."
As it turned out, it wasn't just perfect timing but also a skillful performance. The winning photo was the only frame Nicholson shot of those fancy feet. "I never really plan shots," she said. "I just take my camera along. It's all about good timing and good light."
Nicholson grew up on the East Coast and studied fine arts and design at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. But her experience with photography began as a teenager when she took a job at a studio.
She said she never took any photographs then, but she knew how to work in the darkroom and did just about everything else. "I learned a lot just by being around it all the time," she said. Nicholson developed a feel for photography, but she never considered it as a career.
Years later, working for an architecture firm in Palo Alto, Nicholson spent most of her vacations traveling to different countries around the world. Returning to the office she found an enthusiastic audience for her photographs. A friend who had seen many of her slide shows about Asia and Europe, encouraged her to enter the Palo Alto Weekly contest.
"I didn't expect to hear from the Weekly at all," said Nicholson. "I'm still surprised."
Nicholson is a marketing coordinator at Botanika Fine Gardens in Palo Alto.
"In a lot of ways, winning this contest inspires me to work more in photography," said Nicholson. Examining her possibilities, she said she might put together a portfolio for the company by documenting clients' gardens.
Nicholson's creative ideas also come through in her private interests. She says she is always working on some sort of project that involves sewing, bookbinding, designing or printing gifts for her family and friends.
"I think that's what art is all about: It keeps you sane," she said. "Creating something of yourself for other people brings the greatest joy."