Leigh L. Klotz Jr. is passionate about his camera, a 50-year-old Graflex Speed Graphic, a beautiful American classic.
"I bought it for $300 at a swap meet about three years ago," said Klotz. He hasn't used anything else since.
"Palm Tree at Highway 101 Underpass, Santa Barbara," which took second place in Views From Beyond the Bay, came about unexpectedly during a vacation with his wife last year.
They had planned to shoot pictures later that day, but when they walked under the underpass, his wife turned around and pointed at the palm tree. "We had seen it many times before, but that afternoon, it looked particularly nice," he said.
Although his father was a studio and newspaper photographer from World War II until the 1970s, Klotz, 35, wasn't interested in photography until 10 years ago. He started with a point-and-shoot camera but was never really happy with 35 mm film. When he bought the Graflex, he not only found his favorite format (4-by-5-inch), but also he discovered his interest in the history of that camera.
"It was used by press photographers in the 1930s to 1954, and today people still identify it as a typical news reporter's camera," he explained. "When I'm shooting in Palo Alto, people ask me whether I'm working for the Palo Alto Weekly."
Klotz found that many books about the camera were out of print, but the camera had a large following of people eager to exchange information. Klotz, who is a software architect, decided to create a Web site dedicated to the use and preservation of the Speed Graphic. Since its creation two years ago, the site at www.graflex.org has had about 40,000 visitors.
Klotz grew up in McComb, Miss., and moved to Boston when he was 17. He has been a Palo Alto resident since 1989. He never studied photography formally.
"Winning gives my confidence a great boost," says Klotz. "Now I'm thinking about what to do next."