18th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Photo Contest
First Place, Views Beyond the Peninsula


"Leaving Japan"
By Jack Simon

About Jack Simon

Click on photo for larger image.

Learning the ropes on a film camera can be difficult. It was for Jack Simon. The 65-year-old Palo Alto psychiatrist says he didn't start taking his photography seriously until about seven years ago when he got his first digital camera.

“They never were quite what I wanted," Simon says of the photos he used to take on film. "With digital and the more immediate feedback, I found that the photographs were closer to what I wanted to take."

The immediacy of digital photography helped Simon get the image he wanted in "Leaving Japan," which he took in an airport lounge in Tokyo. While waiting to board a flight back to the United States, Simon spied an opportunity to take what turned out to be his favorite shot of the whole trip. He took many versions of the scene, each time with the luxury of instantaneously evaluating and then adjusting until he ended up with his award winner.

"That is one photo where I could see what I was going to get," he says of the photo, which, at first glance, appears to be a dual exposure, but is in fact a single shot. Through the airport lounge window the viewer sees an airplane ready for boarding beneath wispy cirrus clouds. The window's reflection reveals a lone traveler ascending a staircase that snakes up and over the docked aircraft.

"I just loved the image, so I took out my camera," Simon says. "It obviously suggested to me a movement into the sky."

That his favorite picture of his venture to the East should come from such a Western source as an international airport does not bother Simon. In fact, he embraces the fact that the image came to him so unexpectedly.

"I like the surprise of photography," he says. For Simon, the hunt for the right photo is what thrills him most -- to find stunning images in the day-to-day.

"Initially I was pleased to find a composition I thought worked well," he says. "Then I actually started to get interested in finding scenes that were more exotic. That has shifted. Now I'm interested in finding an interesting picture in everyday life and the mundane."

Judge's Comment

The compelling reflections taken from inside an airplane terminal in Tokyo, Japan, in Jack Simon's "Leaving Japan" caught our eyes right away. The solitary figure seems to be descending from a stairwell of the sky; a ghost suspended against a backdrop of airliners departing and arriving, luggage carts whizzing by and the shadows of empty seats waiting within the terminal.

- Veronica Webber


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