5th Annual Reader Photo Contest

Written by Alejandra Armstrong & Alexandra Scoville Category: Arts Issue: June 2015
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Avert your eyes! For our fifth annual reader photo contest, titled “Illumination,” you submitted your most blindingly beautiful images of fireworks, starlit desert flora, radiant neon and – of course – that trustiest of Sonoran photo ops, the epic sunset. We selected the finalists and asked our readers to vote for their favorite.

Kelli Klymenko; Juniper Under the StarsKelli Klymenko
Juniper Under the Stars
Photographer and Sedona Arts Center marketing director Kelli Klymenko traded in the bright lights of Manhattan for the starry skies of Sedona 11 years ago. It’s a good fit: Klymenko is a huge hiking and yoga fanatic. “I’m pretty much out on trails every other day,” he says. So when he learned the theme for our 2015 photo contest, he knew just where to go. Klymenko hiked Trail 179 to behind Cathedral Rock, where a juniper tree he’d photographed many times before lay in wait. Klymenko set his Canon 5D Mark II to a 30-second shutter speed before “painting” the tree in the soft light of his iPhone screen. Conditions were perfect to capture a clear swath of the Milky Way in the background, marrying cosmos and Earth in a haunting tableau. “I love natural and dark skies,” Klymenko says.



Olivia Huerta; Blazing HairWINNER
Olivia Huerta
Blazing Hair
A spontaneous photo shoot at the top of the Thunderbird Conservation Park with her cousin earned Olivia Huerta our first-place award. Everything about the scene was “perfect” for the Glendale native and her Canon 60D camera: the sunset, the wind, the silhouette lighting and even her cousin’s “little cowboy hat.” Photography began as a high school hobby for the mother of two, who later studied the subject at Glendale Community College. Today, Huerta shoots professionally, specializing in weddings and family portraits. “I love photography because you know you can express so many different things, you can show so many different emotions, you can show the world,” she says.



Mark Anderson; Ostrich Festival Ferris WheelMark Anderson
Ostrich Festival Ferris Wheel
While his family was busy enjoying the rides and ostrich races at Chandler’s annual Ostrich Festival in March 2014, Mark Anderson explored the fairgrounds for a different kind of adventure. An avid photography hobbyist and professional stage-rigger, Anderson was looking for the perfect shot. “The fun for me is taking the pictures,” the Gilbert resident says. As the sun was setting, Anderson returned to a large ferris wheel he had spotted early in the day. Situating himself behind the rainbow-colored ride to get a different perspective of the festival, Anderson took a three-second exposure with his Pentax K-7, creating a fascinating propeller-like visual illusion.



Steph Belt; The Light of Your IntuitionSteph Belt
The Light of Your Intuition
Gilbert resident Steph Belt created this long exposure image with the help of her friend Denisha Jennings and her light-up hula hoop. The two women spent a night in the Roosevelt arts district in Downtown Phoenix trying to perfect the photo back in February. “I feel like photography and hooping can be very cutting-edge and you can really let your light shine through both,” Jennings says. Belt used a Canon Rebel with an ISO of 100, f/3.5 aperture and a 30-second exposure to create the arresting neon-vortex patterns you see above. Belt is a maintenance clerk for a shipping company but photography has been her hobby for 10 years. She says she likes taking photos of light patterns because “it’s different every time.”



Gene Ames; Phoenix Skyline at SunsetGene Ames
Phoenix Skyline at Sunset
Gene Ames was scouting Papago Park for a photography workshop when he caught the sun setting at a spectacular angle. Ames snapped the photo with his Nikon D3200 – and then sat on the photo for eight  months. When he revisited the image with some new editing software, Ames realized he had something special. “It was one of those goose bump moments,” he remembers. Ames subsequently delved deeper into the art of photography, and what began as a hobby has since become a part-time job for the Phoenix resident and department store manager. The Arizona native says photography allows him to travel and explore his home state in a way he wouldn’t be able to without a camera.



Chris Spratling; Tempe Town Lake at NightChris Spratling
Tempe Town Lake at Night
Tempe resident and Sam’s Club technology specialist Chris Spratling used a tripod and a 20-second exposure on his Nikon D3100 to capture this futuristically luminous photo of Tempe Town Lake on a May evening in 2012. He had snapped some daytime pictures earlier that week and had the idea to return after sunset. “I had no idea the bridge lit up so much,” Spratling says. “I really enjoy the way the magenta pops against the black night.” The avid photographer subsequently took a lengthy hiatus from the camera but started shooting again last year – after upgrading to a Nikon D7000.



Mike Niemira; A Grand CelebrationMike Niemira
A Grand Celebration
After watching a baseball game at Chase Field last season, Tucson resident Mike Niemira and his wife were walking by St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Basilica in Downtown Phoenix when the stadium fireworks started. Niemira was struck by the contrast between the explosive light show and the stately old church. “You don’t think of those two things together,” the economist says. Niemira caught the image with his Nikon Coolpix; he says he prefers his point-and-shoot to a DSLR because he carries a camera wherever he goes, and it’s less unwieldy. “This is the kind of camera I can carry around all the time, and that’s why I’m able to grab a shot here or there,” he says.




Chelsea Clair; Abandoned SparkChelsea Clair
Abandoned Spark
Chelsea Clair had never taken a long-exposure photo before she snapped this image around midnight last January. Placing her Canon Rebel XT on a tripod along Peralta Trail in the Superstition Mountains, the Mesa insurance staffer selected an ISO of 800 and set the exposure for 20 seconds. Graduating directly into PhD-level long-exposure light effects, she hooked a 9-volt battery to a handful of steel wool, then lit the wool with a cigarette lighter to produce the dramatic sparking patterns in the photo. She says this was her last shot before wrapping the shoot. Inspired by photographers she follows on Instagram, Clair started taking her own photos two years ago, and says, “I didn’t realize how beautiful the state was until I started taking photos.”



Anita Weiss; Antelope CanyonAnita Weiss
Antelope Canyon
Anita Weiss grew up with a father who was a compulsive photo-taker. It wasn’t until the Scottsdale lawyer-turned-homemaker started her own family that she caught the bug herself; today, she spends the entire year planning her family’s annual Christmas card photo. In the summer of 2010, Weiss scheduled a trip to Antelope Canyon with the card in mind. She booked a special photography tourism package that affords shooters brief, blessed moments of solitude, as guides temporarily clear throngs of visitors from the tunnels of the canyon. Weiss set her Panasonic DMC-FZ28 on her tripod, framed the photo and waited for the guide to signal the go-ahead. “Run into the beam!” she told her young daughters, resulting in this charming, greeting-card-ready finalist.