An ethereal landscape of clouds and mountains, an abstract view of a chair and window blinds, and a powerful evocation of man's effort to harness the forces of nature — these three subjects reflect the creative diversity of the entries in this category. Deven Hickingbotham's "Mountaintops in Clouds" takes us far beyond the hustle and bustle of everyday life to a serene place. We were struck by the elegant simplicity of this image, especially the delicate rendering of the clouds. One would not normally think that an office window looking out on flat brick surface would provide much of a "view," but Ellen Konar's "Filtered Light" makes much out of little. We loved the strong, graphic quality of this image: the contrast of light and shadow heightened by the play of diagonal lines against verticals. David Gollick's "Rock Power" is all about opposing forces. His choice of a long horizontal format is effective here, as it opposes the vertical thrust of the smokestacks against the massive solidity of the rock and the sweeping flow of the clouds. Danny Colligan's "Salty Conversation" intrigued us. Here are two people talking, which is not very remarkable in and of itself, yet everything around them is extraordinary: the white billowy clouds, the floating clumps of salt brine and that vast lake, so shallow that the conversationalists seem to be standing on water. Why, we wondered, are they there? Steven's Shpall's "Dance" captures perfectly the fast, lively pace of a flamenco dance. The slightly off-kilter camera angle, the blur of the dancer's skirt, and the expressions on faces of the musicians all contribute to this effect.
Mountaintops in Clouds
Almost entirely drained of color, two mountaintops rise above the clouds. They are spotted with thickets of dense, dark trees that alternate with patches of bare white snow. The rest of the landscape remains obscured, further bringing out the mountaintops as isolated islands among a sea of white, buoyant clouds. When all of these elements are put together, they make for an iconic and captivating photo.
Palo Alto resident Deven Hickingbotham has always possessed a passion for photography. He started during the late 1960s when he was in the eighth grade, working in the darkroom in his home. His hobby later became a career in professional sports photography, and his work has been featured in national magazines and newspapers. He has photographed sports events ranging from cross-country running to football, including many at Stevenson High School in central California, where his daughter and son both attended school. He said he now primarily focuses on photographing alpine ski races. In addition to his professional focus, Hickingbotham also has a keen interest in landscape scenes.
"Mountaintops in Clouds" was taken in the Donner Summit area near Tahoe around Christmas last year. Hickingbotham was skiing at Sugar Bowl when he saw he had "certain weather conditions that covered everything but a few mountain tops. … It was a composition that was clearly attractive." He pulled out his Nikon B40 and snapped the photo.
Hickingbotham said that winning first place this year "fulfills a goal I've had since 2004, when I first entered the contest and placed third." He added that the competition gives him "motivation to capture unusual and artistic images that stand out from the crowd."
Hickingbotham plans to travel to more scenic locations and attend photo workshops to help further hone his photography skills. And sometime in the future, he harbors another ambition.
"As a culmination to all these efforts, I'd like to together an exhibition," he said.