Margaret Chew was surprised that the judges of the Weekly's photo contest picked "View from 280, Palo Alto" for recognition. It was, after all, what Chew describes as "a grab shot."
"I was driving along 280. ... It was a perfect scene. ... I pulled over and took about five photos."
The judges, however, thought it perfectly captured a moment in time, and they singled her out for an honorable mention in the Peninsula Images category.
Chew, a 72-year-old retired school teacher, has enjoyed photography as long as she can remember. Her father was an amateur photographer who developed black-and-white photos in his kitchen. "He used to hang the strips of negatives up in the kitchen to dry," she remembers. "My dad gave me a little camera and taught me how to use it. ... The boy next door made his own darkroom. ... I used to go over there and develop prints," she said.
Chew loves photographing nature and landscapes, "You can find so many different moods and textures and feelings. You often have to wait for the right lighting, but it's worth it," Chew said.
She often photographed the beach house she owned at Pajaro Dunes and took many photos along the adjoining sand dunes. She also enjoys going on photography field trips. She recently took one to the Farallon Islands with naturalist Michael Ellis. Recently, she had a chance to travel to Tanzania, where she photographed wild animals.
As a teacher, she took piles of photographs of her students.
The key to taking good pictures, Chew said, is "perseverance, patience, and a lot of luck. ... You have to keep experimenting."
Over the years, she has taken photography courses at Foothill and De Anza colleges. But it was not until she retired that she started seriously investing in camera equipment.
She plans to pass on her equipment to her grandchildren, whom she hopes will carry on her family's photography legacy, She often takes her grandchildren and great-grandchildren on outings, giving each of them a disposable "point and shoot" camera.
Chew is no stranger to photography contests. Her entry in last year's contest also earned her an honorable mention. Her work is displayed throughout the Bay Area, including at the San Jose Art League Show and the Dean Lesher Center For Performing Arts in Concord.
What is the appeal of Chew's pictures? "They have a simple quality that to me makes a statement. They evoke a mood," she said.