Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - June 4, 2010

Views Beyond the Peninsula (Adult)

Judges' comments

"Views Beyond the Peninsula" had many strong entries, which made it a difficult category to judge. Congratulations to the winners — and to all who entered — for making our task as judges so hard.

Joel Henner's photograph, "Sleeping," offers us a puzzle. Why is that figure lying in an empty field? What is that giant, reflective globe? Was the scene we are viewing actually there, captured in a single take, or is it an imaginative reconstruction accomplished through software? The unexpected congruence of these elements invites us, as viewers, to provide our own answers. What makes Henner's photograph so compelling is that it offers no hints.

Robin Apple's photograph, "Lovers," works on two levels. At first glance, the image seems to be all about light and shadow, but then one sees the lovers, nearly hidden by the shadows. I especially like the composition of this image, how the shadows lead the eye to what is concealed.

As a child, I used to help with the harvest at my grandparent's citrus farm. Eleonora Ronconi's photograph, "Story Tellers," carries me right back to that experience. Everything works together in this image: the unorthodox wide horizontal framing, the earthiness of the color, the sense of grit and rough textures, those marvelous hands looming right out at us, offering the apples.

What could be more of a travel cliche than a Venice canal? Yet Kwan Chan's photograph, "Sunsets Over Venice" presents us with a beautifully composed moment that is anything but a cliche. The lighting, which is magical, draws us in. Then one notices the boats and their passengers, so perfectly positioned within the composition, each with an interesting story to tell. •

First place

Sleeping

Joel Henner

It was the day after a storm and the cloud cover had just begun to break, allowing a few beams of sunlight to punctuate an otherwise dreary skyscape.

Joel Henner had set out for Paris's Science and Industry Museum (Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie) a few hours after dawn to photograph one of Paris's lesser-known architectural gems, a prismatic mirrored theater dome known as the Geode, in the ephemeral morning light. He was on a mission to capture the city as it had rarely been seen, taking a conscious departure from popular cultural landmarks like the Louvre and l'Arc d'Triomphe.

Circling around the massive orb, whose triangular facets reflected the lawn around it and the sky above in dazzlingly warped proportions, Henner shot from a variety of vantage points with a wide-angle lens. His winning photograph, "Sleeping," was one of the last shots of the morning, taken at around 10 a.m.

"My idea was to get the sky reflected in the mirrored surface of the dome," Henner said.

"I wanted to capture the surreal feel of it. ... It's hard to describe it, but when you're there, it's kind of eye-popping."

Henner named the photograph after the figure in the foreground, a man dozing in a bare patch on the lawn. He liked the way the lone figure conveyed an air of peaceful simplicity against the dramatic backdrop that loomed before him.

In preparing the final photograph, Henner used a photo editing program to erase distractions and adjust brightness, contrast, and saturation, emphasizing the reflection on the dome and enhancing the overall mood of the photo.

"To me, it's almost like two worlds," Henner said. "There's the outside world, the guy on the lawn...and then there's this globe that reflects an almost crystal clear sky. It looked like an intersection of two very different kinds of environments — one kind of prosaic and mundane and one almost heavenly." Second place

Lovers

Robin Apple

Artist's statement

Walking around Guanajuato, Mexico — a gorgeous UNESCO world heritage site — with its beautifully colored buildings in the golden hour of later-afternoon sun, it was hard not to come away with a few great shots. When I spotted these two young lovers seated on the steps of a church, with the lighting "just so," I decided to hang out for awhile and see what might happen. I was able to capture several images of this pair interacting in slightly different ways, and the scene included at one point a nun who had appeared at the top step overlooking the railing. But this particular image was my favorite, due to the colors, the expressions, the interaction, the lighting and the texture of the railing and the stairs. I am new to digital photography and I had just started to experiment before this trip to Mexico with my Nikon D-90 and a simple 35 mm f 1.8 prime lens.

Third place

Story Tellers

Eleonora Ronconi

Artist's statement

Apple-picking season starts at the end of August and lasts until the end of October. Each year, hundreds of Jamaican farmers travel to Maine to work for the season, to make a better living for their families back home. I photographed them in 2008, and I was amazed by these very same hands that help them survive. ... Each of them tells a story about their hard work, their endless days, and also about their pride in what they do. Each line in those hands looked like a beautifully written poem, and those poems make the most precious book I have ever read.

Honorable mention

Sunsets Over Venice

Kwan Chan

—Aimee Miles

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