Chris Marolf

"Golden Gate Bridge"
third place Peninsula Images

Chris Marolf loves to travel all over the world. But he didn't have to go far to shoot "Golden Gate Bridge," the photo that earned third place in the Peninsula Images category.

Marolf carries his camera wherever he travels. "I tend to do a lot of travel photography," he said. He doesn't shoot just landscapes, but "anything that looks good, that has good colors and shapes."

Marolf, 34, grew up in Switzerland and has traveled to several Asian countries, including Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. "Once you get to know certain countries, you start to wonder what the country next door is like. It's like putting pieces of the puzzle together," he said of his many travels. One of his photographs, a black-and-white shot of a sunset in Cambodia, earned him an honorable mention in last year's contest.

Marolf, who lives in Palo Alto, doesn't care for elaborate equipment. He took this year's prize-winning picture with a point-and-shoot camera. "I want to record what I see with the naked eye," he explained. "I don't even use flash."

He also dislikes the bulk and expense of camera accessories. "If I travel in foreign countries, I don't want to be carrying tons of lenses and stuff," he said. "And I'd rather spend a thousand dollars going to a country than on equipment (and) then not be able to travel."

But he does try to bring an artistic element into the picture. Take the bridge shot, for example. "It's just as much a picture about the graffiti on the concrete as it is about the Golden Gate Bridge," he said.

Although Marolf has always taken photography seriously, he has never taken a photography class. One reason is that he really doesn't want to take beginning photography, usually a prerequisite for the intermediate class.

There are four siblings in Marolf's family, each of whom is a serious photographer. "I don't know where that came from," he said.

Although his brother loves to photograph people, Marolf seldom takes such photos. "I feel like the camera gets in my way when I'm with people. I feel uncomfortable."

He has sold a few of his photographs at cost, but he has never tried to profit from his talent. He sometimes gives pictures away as birthday or wedding presents.

Marolf insisted he share the credit for "Golden Gate Bridge" with a man named Aki, the operator of a small photography shop in San Jose, who developed the photo. "I told him he had to do a good job because I was going to submit it for a contest," he said.

--Dwana Bain