12th Annual Readers’ Photo Contest: Artful Contrast

Editorial StaffMay 5, 2022
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By Shradha Krishnamurthy, Haley Smilow & Brooke Tyburski

From more than 100 submissions, our editors picked the 12 entries that best evinced the “Artful Contrast” theme. Those dozen photos were then posted on Facebook for a two-week public vote.


Thom Barbour
“Eight Minutes Before 7:50 a.m.” 

Thom Barbour resides in Scottsdale and makes his living as a graphic designer. His entry is interesting in that it is not one image, but rather a composite of several. “I noticed the blue heron watching walkers [on the Indian Wash Greenbelt in Scottsdale] and decided to shoot multiple images over an eight-minute period,” Barbour says, choosing his Sony AR7 III camera. He shot the images at a low angle, placing the focus on the heron. “The contrast of temporary and permanent dwellers of the lake resonated for me, walkers passing through and the wildlife habitat,” Barbour says. Find his work on Instagram @thombarbour.

—Shradha Krishnamurthy


John Bratcher
“Rich Man Poor Man”

Retired supply chain director John Bratcher of Chandler took this photo of a man experiencing homelessness in Bisbee three years ago using a Canon EOS 70D. Bratcher often visits Bisbee and regularly spends time talking with homeless folks there. Bratcher asked to take this man’s photo and he obliged, striking several poses. “Here was a man who struggled for food and water, but had a really nice cigar,” Bratcher says of the poignant disparity. “A poor man with a rich man’s vice.” Find his work at facebook.com/john.bratcher.9.

— Brooke Tyburski


John Wagner 
“Punch Card and Palm”

Phoenix-based photographer and woodworker John Wagner works out of Downtown Phoenix, where he engages with his surroundings to produce unique street photography. In “Punch Card and Palm,” taken this past Superbowl Sunday, Wagner used a Rolleiflex SL66 camera with Kodak T-Max 100 film to capture a unique shot, juxtaposing nature and sharp architecture. “The Phoenix Financial Building [Center] is such an iconic bit of architecture along Central Avenue in Phoenix,” Wagner says. “I saw the shot while sitting in traffic on Osborn at sunset. I really loved the way the narrow palm tree plays against the long vertical ‘punch card’ windows.” Find his work at wagnerphotographs.com.




Vanessa Weaver

Gilbert school administrative assistant Vanessa Weaver moonlights as a photographer, finding inspiration in the things dear to her. “Opposites” (alternatively titled “Perfectly Made Freckles”) splices together photographs of both of her children, highlighting their shared characteristics and diverging ones. “Even though they have a couple of years in age difference and are male and female – they have so many similarities as siblings, but are different at the same time,” Weaver says. “As their mother, I will cherish this photograph forever.” Weaver captured the images with her Nikon D750 with a 50mm lens. Find her work at weaverpinephotography.mypixieset.com.



Jody Tanner
“Passing Freight”

Flagstaff retiree and semi-professional photographer Jody Tanner captured this photo using a Nikon D810 at the local Amtrak train station one night in June of 2021. Tanner waited more than three hours to get the perfect shot showcasing the dichotomy between the dynamic modern trains and the static historical depot. “We have freight trains coming through Flagstaff like every 20 minutes, and the station has been there since 1926,” Tanner says. “There’s constant motion of the trains, but the train station is always there.” Find her work at jodytanner.com.



Andrei Stoica
“The Sands of Time”

The Alcove is a lesser-known feature near The Wave, the famous and oft-photographed sandstone rock formation near the Utah border. Chandler native and hobbyist photographer Andrei Stoica has visited The Wave many times, but on this trip he looked beyond the typical frames and captured a picture-perfect moment with his Canon R5. “It’s one of the most scenic locations,” he says. “It’s a matter of proportions, and shows how small human nature is.” Photography – specifically nature portraits – is a side business for Stoica. For his 9-to-5, he can be found at Wells Fargo, where he is a software engineer. To view more of his work, visit arizonaphotoadventures.com.  

—Haley Smilow


Samantha Chow 
“In the Mist”

Arizona State University journalism student Samantha Chow ventured out of her comfort zone with “In the Mist,” trying her hand at nature photography. “I took this photo in December 2020, during peak COVID times,” says Chow, who attends ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. “Because of the circumstances, I didn’t have many opportunities to take photos. That’s when a guest speaker in my photojournalism class suggested nature photography.” Chow took the opportunity to photograph black-necked stilts at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert with her Sony A7 III camera, reveling in the “clean, airy white background that allowed the black color of the birds to pop in contrast.” Find her work at slchow.myportfolio.com. 



Jeff Luth

Résumé writer and former corporate banker Jeff Luth channeled National Geographic when he shot this photo of a zebra at Phoenix Zoo using a Canon 6D. Luth is particularly fascinated with capturing natural scenes and animals in his photography. “It’s only when you get close that you realize the complexity of nature,” says Luth, who previously lived in the Valley but now resides in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. “I was just struck by the contrast of the black and white and the way the hair feathers out. From far away, you can’t see that kind of texture.” See more of his work at luthphoto.com/jeff-luth.



Timothy “Bullet” Kump
“Arcosanti Truck”

Graphic designer and photographer Timothy Kump snapped this photograph on his first visit to the experimental town/art colony Arcosanti, about 70 miles north of Phoenix. Kump, who lives in Phoenix, was fascinated by the abandoned truck he found and the delicate glass chandelier that hung inside. “The road leading to Arcosanti is so bumpy, that chandelier would have shattered in a second,” Kump says. “The juxtaposition of this chandelier hanging in this steel truck is crazy.” He documented this incongruous find with his Canon 6D. Find his work at bulletflashphoto.com.


Carol Grosf 
“Chihuly in the Desert”

“The thing that intrigued me about this particular group was the textures,” photographer Carol Grosf says of her shot of curly tendrils of blown glass snaking among the cacti at Desert Botanical Garden. “There was the contrast between the smooth and the shiny, and the contrast between the living and the not living. What was made by God versus made by man.” Like many Valley dwellers, Grosf enjoys visiting DBG on occasion, and she especially loves when the gardens feature installations by world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. On this visit, she brought along her Canon 60D to document Chihuly in the Desert, an exhibition currently on display at DBG and at Taliesin West (chihulyinthedesert.org). Photography is a hobby for the north Peoria retiree, who used to do volunteer work.



Gene Sparks
“Horses on the Road”

Tempe retiree Gene Sparks was hiking the Wild Horse Trail in Mesa in January 2020 when he spotted this scene, an amusing juxtaposition of modern and ancient modes of transportation. “The timing was perfect,” he says. “The contrast between the bikers, the horse on the trail and the mountains led me to taking this photo.” Since retiring from a career in electronic manufacturing, Sparks loves spending his time out and about taking pictures – mostly of nature, with the occasional city scene. Find him on Instagram @sparks_wild_photography.  



David Robinson
“Snow on Saguaros”

Scottsdale resident David Robinson enjoys exploring his creativity in all spheres of life. For his career, he’s a guitarist who plays at special events like weddings. In his spare time, he enjoys the pursuit of photography, toting his trusty Sony A7R II on his adventures. “I was out scouting to take a photo because there was really great snowfall on the Four Peaks,” he says of a February 2019 jaunt that yielded many beautiful images. He took this one just north of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale. “The subject appealed to me because of the dichotomy between snow and desert saguaro.”



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