Vanessa Pan was all instinct when she saw her mother and brother side-by-side in bed, cooling off after a hike in Yosemite last summer. She thought "photo moment," grabbed her camera, and fired away. Pan, a 15-year-old freshman, is now taking photography class at Palo Alto High School, but had no training at all when she shot "Family Siesta."
Pan's mother has no qualms about being the underwear-clad subject of the photograph. In fact, she encouraged her daughter to enter the contest, and when she heard the picture had won, "she was bouncing off the walls," according to Pan.
While Pan enjoys photography, she is even more interested in playing guitar and singing in The Fink, an alternative rock band she and some friends recently formed. Their first show is coming up, and Pan is glad she'll be on stage, rather than taking pictures of somebody else performing. She finds music a little more personal than photography. "When I'm down, I play my acoustic and cry my eyes out," she said. "I don't go take pictures." She also enjoys painting. Her "photo moment" is good news for her step-father. He's the family photographer, Pan said, and he wouldn't be too happy if his award-winning step-daughter tried to take over that role. -- Cross Missakian
X Ray of a Seagull
As the only staff photographer for Palo Alto High School's Verde Magazine, Robin McNulty creates a photo essay for each issue. She was shooting at a duck pond for her spread "Around the Baylands" when she took the picture that became "X-ray of a Seagull."
Medical equipment was not involved. The original negative was used to create a color slide, which was then printed in black and white. The process reverses the shading in the finished product, creating the "x-ray" effect.
"I was just experimenting, and I liked the result," McNulty said.
She hopes to someday combine photography with her passion for politics. The 16-year-old Palo Alto High School junior has already worked as an intern assistant to the photo editor of Mother Jones magazine. Her ideal job, she said, might be shooting an event like the Democratic National Convention.
Next year, she'll become photo editor at Verde, but she's not too worried about the increased responsibility. The difference between staffer and editor, she said, probably isn't that significant when you're the entire department. -- Cross Missakian
The Old Point Loma Lighthouse, in Cabrillo National Monument near San Diego, has been restored to its 1880's condition. Kevin Chung stopped there while on a family vacation over Thanksgiving a couple of years ago.
"You could look through these windows into the rooms, and see what it was like for the people who used to live there," he said.
But he found himself more interested in the building, which struck him as "a lonely lighthouse on the coast," than the lifestyles of nineteenth century lightkeepers. From the top of the lighthouse, he leaned over a rail to get just the right shot of the swirling staircase.
Chung, a freshman at Gunn High School, may have inherited his interest in photography from his photojournalist father. He would like to take photography at school, but so far, between track and field, playing clarinet and tenor saxophone in the band, plus all those academic classes they make you take, he hasn't found the time.
-- Cross Missakian
Summertime Memories at the Rockies
When Albert Hong first visited Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, he was 4 years old - too young to imitate his father's passion for photography.
But by the time the family returned to the Rocky Mountain retreat last summer, Hong's father had given him a camera, taught him how to use it, and explained how different techniques might work in different situations. The instruction served Hong well when he saw his 9-year-old sister running through a meadow, and he captured her moment of excitement, the surrounding natural beauty, and the Prince of Whales Hotel off in the distance in "Summertime Memories at the Rockies."
Hong, 15, attends Pinewood High in Los Altos Hills. He would like to take photography class, but Pinewood no longer offers it, so for now he'll have to keep learning from his dad. Hong's father is proud of the way his son has developed his own style of shooting nature, but his little sister, the subject of the photo, has another thought. "She thinks it won because she's so cute," Hong's mother said. -- Cross Missakian
icky Hughes didn't have any grand aspirations when he pulled out his camera during a trip to Colorado last summer.
He was visiting his brother at music camp, and found himself outside the Aspen Lodge. He thought he would "just take some pictures of the hummingbirds," and wasn't even aware of the neon bar sign in the background. It was his father who later pointed out the amusing juxtaposition between the "on tap" sign and the birds suckling at the tap of the feeder.
"I thought it was pretty cool," Hughes said, "and maybe kind of lucky."
Hughes, a 16-year-old sophomore at Mid-Peninsula High School, prefers to shoot with a digital camera because he likes to play around with the images. Easier storage is another advantage. Hughes estimates he has 20,000 photographs saved on his computer. If "On Tap" involved an element of luck, it was the well-earned result of persistence.
-- Cross Missakian
Sometimes, inspiration strikes a shutterbug long after he has put his camera aside. Will Delong snapped the four photographs that became "Symmetry Study" without any particular agenda.
It was later, while studying the contact sheet, that he noticed the similarity of form between the walkway, speed bumps, bike rack and river. He applied a technique learned in photography class at Sacred Heart High School and projected all four images on to one photograph. The result is a striking study in perspective and angles, with the camera's eye finding a common shape hidden in four seemingly disparate subjects.
Delong shot the four photographs while visiting U.C. Davis last winter break. Does he want to attend Davis after high school? "Not sure," he said. But he is sure he wants to keep taking pictures. -- Cross Missakian
:Who Are You
The woman in "Who Are You" had gone to an art show at Mid-Peninsula High School to see some of her grandson's photographs, not to end up in one. But when she stopped in a hallway to examine a portrait of a wild-looking young man, Nicky Hughes saw a different side of his grandmother, Norma Levitan. She had never seen a mohawk before, according to Hughes.
"She wasn't quite sure what she was looking at. She was shocked." He couldn't resist capturing it on camera.
Fortunately, Grandma likes the picture, and doesn't think Hughes was poking fun at her when he took it.
Hughes, a 16-year-old sophomore at Mid-Peninsula High, has been taking photographs since he was 10, and doesn't ever plan to stop. -- Cross Missakian
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