Rebecca Sanchez

'The Secret Garden'
third place People of the Peninsula

As a photographer, Rebecca Sanchez has an uncommon advantage: Her sources of inspiration are never too far away. In fact, these same sources act as the subjects for most of her work.

Sanchez's two daughters, 6-year-old Alexis and 9-year-old Diana, provide their mother with endless, energetic material to photograph. She captured her winning image, "The Secret Garden," at the Japanese Tea Gardens in San Mateo's Central Park, after a professional photographer had finished his formal portraits of the girls.

"The kids were running down a path, and I happened to be standing on a little hill when I took the shot of Alexis," she said. "I like the picture because Alexis is running from the shade into the light, and the path seems to go up to the sky. I think it was a pretty lucky shot."

An office clerk at Brentwood Oaks School in East Palo Alto, Sanchez became interested in photography a little over a year ago, when she rediscovered the Cannon A-1 her father had left her. It did not take long before she was bringing in rolls of film full of pictures of her children to be developed.

"I love taking pictures of them," she explained passionately. "I can just sit there and stare at those pictures of my kids for hours."

Except for a photography class in high school and a few one-day courses over the past year Sanchez does not claim a photographic background. This year's contest is the first she has entered.

Despite this relative inexperience, however, she has learned a lot simply by taking her camera with her on weekends and outings.

"I used to be intimidated taking pictures in public, but I've lost that inhibition because I don't take myself seriously," she said with a laugh. "If I feel instinctively that something is going to be a good shot, then I'll squat down or look awkward to get it. I don't care if I look like a fool. I'm going to get that picture!"

-Rico Sablan