FOCUS ’16: Golden shot is ‘best of show’

Of 175 photos entered by 106 photographers from Connecticut and New York, Lisa Schneider of Wilton took the Focus ’16 Best of Show award with Let It Rain, an image she caught while on safari in Africa.
The show opened on March 5 at Wilton Library, and awards were given during a reception on March 11. Presented by the Wilton Arts Council, the show was open to adults, high school students, and children in grades five through eight.
Judges were international photographer Daryl Hawk of Wilton, photojournalist Larry Untermeyer of Westport, and former photojournalist Debbi Morello.
Both Hawk and Untermeyer, who were at the awards ceremony, gave Schneider’s photo a score of 10, while Morello scored it a 9.
“It had that ‘wow’ factor,” Hawk said of Let It Rain. “When I saw this photo I fell in love with it immediately.
“It has not been manipulated or altered,” he added. “I have great respect for that.”

Untermeyer said he was drawn by the way “it tells a story. The colors are so exquisite … the walkway takes you right into the picture.”
Schneider took the photo three years ago in South Africa. “We were out on safari,” she told The Bulletin Friday evening, “when a terrible rainstorm came. We went to a lodge and were in a covered outdoor courtyard. I just turned and saw a woman. I saw the light on her shoulder. I thought, ‘This is a spectacular moment,’” and she managed to get off half a dozen shots with her Nikon D7000. “It was all of 30 seconds and she was gone.
The moment she caught is of a woman wearing a yellow skirt and yellow headscarf walking along a path with the sun casting a golden light on the grassland in the distance.
“I think I took two photos that had people in them besides my family,” she said of her trip, and “about 2,000 with animals and scenery. I knew when I took it it was a special capture. I’m happy others feel the same way.”
Photography has been a hobby since college for Schneider, who has lived in Wilton for 20 years. “It’s always been a passion of mine,” she said. “This year I made a private resolution to do more, and entering this show was a first move.”
Schneider has entered the Focus show twice, the first time 14 years ago and this year. Her second entry, A Favorite Spot, was awarded an honorable mention.
“It’s an honor to have both recognized,” she said. Sarah Moore, a senior at Wilton High School, took second place in the high school division with her infrared photo Red City. Sarah said she likes the way infrared picks up the light reflected off an object instead of the actual color.
She took her photo of a building surrounded by foliage from the High Line in Manhattan. It was not until she was editing the photo that she realized she caught the city skyline with the Empire State Building in the background.
Hawk praised Sarah’s creativity and use of contrast, likening it to a professional level. “It’s beautifully executed in printing,” he said.
Untermeyer said it was “quite different from everything else. What makes it work is the foreground — it frames the building and the sky.”

Strong show

Both judges agreed this year’s show had reached new heights in the quality of the entries.
“The work keeps getting stronger,” Hawk said. “What I noticed this year is the trend to manipulate photos is decreasing,” a trend he was happy to see.
“This is a beautiful show,” Untermeyer said. Of the four he’s seen, “this is the best. There’s a lot of talent.”
He liked the fact the awards were mixed, not all adults or all children, “but some of the kids are as good as adults.”
One of those students was Connor Golden of Weston, whose photo Times Square took first place in the youth division. It had a “really extraordinary combination of black and white and color,” Hawk said of the shot of the Manhattan subway station.
He also praised Tracks, a thirdplace winner in the high school division by Katie Sailer of Newtown, commenting on her sophisticated eye. Katie explained that she was outdoors after the first snowfall and noticed tracks in the snow. “I thought, ‘Wow, this kind of looks cool,’ so I took out my phone and just took a photo.”
“She has the ability to see what other people cannot see,” Hawk said of the shot.
Also in the youth division, Vihan Jayawardhane, a fifth grader at Cider Mill, took third place with Tree Hugger, a chameleon he photographed in the Sri Lanka rain forest Sinharaja.
“It’s just one of the many colors it could have been,” he said of the reptile, adding he was more interested in photographing animals than scenery on that trip.
The photographs — color and black and white — feature all types of subjects, including urban scenes, still life, animals, people, landscapes, and close-ups. The show will be on display through April 1. Most of the photos are available for sale.