Niki Muller

"Ladies at the Duck Pond, Palo Alto"
Third place Peninsula People

After the flood waters subsided last February, Niki Muller ventured to an unlikely spot: the Palo Alto Duck Pond. Once there, she found a particularly tranquil scene. Two women, dressed in what appears to be ethnic attire, were happily feeding the damper-than-usual waterfowl. Muller, 57, aimed her Nikkimatte camera and captured the moment.

"I sort of had a feeling while I was out there," she says. "It was very calming."

Photography is just one of several hobbies that Muller pursues when she's not seeing patients in her practice as a gynecologist. She also cultivates her "couple of acres" of rhododendrons, board sails and skydives.

"You get bored, you know," she confides. "You have to do something."

The Portola Valley resident also belongs to a camera club in Los Altos that meets once a month to show slides of their work and share stories and advice. According to Muller, they're very supportive of each other.

"People will say things like, 'That's interesting, dear... What is it?'" she laughs.

While "Ladies at the Duck Pond, Palo Alto" clearly displays a strong feel for mood and composition, Muller says her technical training has been limited. She attempted to take photography classes at Foothill College on occasion, but says she never made it past the basic 100-level courses.

"I got depressed because I always failed them," she says.

Citing her dyslexia as the main pitfall, Muller says it was difficult for her to keep the times and chemicals straight.

Despite the challenges, Muller seems to be thriving as vigorously as her cherished rhododendrons. Her growing interest in photography over the last couple of years has given her an artistic release in the midst of her active lifestyle.

"I love to ... show other people the world from a different viewpoint," she says.

--Kate Manning