Youth Honorable Mention: Rohan Vaswani, “Under the Sails” 2019, Sydney, Australia.

This year’s winners offered up an engaging assortment of enticing visuals

Well…perhaps it is just all too easy to lose sight of the craft of photography these days. After all, our phones and apps and Insta have all made point-and-shoot—once a derisive term to any respectable shutterbug—the day-to-day default mode of modern photography.

Best in Show/Travel Winner: Teri Vershel, “Laundry Day” July, 2019, Mykonos, Greece.

With that in mind, we’re really thrilled by the thoughtfulness exhibited this year by the winners of our annual photography contest: the compositions, the moments, the sense for lighting…the collective contemplation that went into each of these images. Indeed, there is a diverse and dynamic range of work displayed here.

So as we present for you these 25 winning images, we hope that we are not only engaging you with a compelling gallery of locally-made photos for your consideration, but also employing the work here to inspire you to raise the bar on your own photography…on where you point your camera and what you post on your feed. Because taking pictures is easy…but making photographs is actually pretty hard.

Big congrats to all the winners displayed here…keep shooting and doing what you are doing.

Natural World Winner: Geoffrey Brooks, “Burrowing Owl On Frosty Morning” 2020, Western Florida.

I photographed this particular burrowing owl on an unusually cold winter morning in western Florida. As the sun rose and hit the chilly ground for the first time, steam began rising around the owl and cloaked the whole scene in a beautiful golden light.—Geoffrey Brooks

Humor Winner: Dan Fenstermacher, “Is Life Worth Living?” 2019, San Francisco, CA.

I photographed “Is Life Worth Living” in San Francisco, CA on Market Street. I have noticed in my travels the Jehovah’s Witness stands in many languages and different cities throughout the world. I am attracted to the shared human element and experience despite our different cultures and upbringings. This woman happened to make the perfect gesture juxtaposing the message on the sign, and I used a handheld off camera flash to create the look and aesthetic of the image. The woman is not in anguish, however, and she is making a playful gesture. — Dan Fenstermacher

Portraits Winner: Sharon Kenney, “The Book Worm” 2019, Mountain View

This environmental portrait of my 4-year-old son was created on a typical summer evening at bedtime. The image captures an ordinary, everyday moment, but it is full of small details that show exactly what I want to remember about what he was like at this age.—Sharon Kenney

Moments Winner: Deborah Lord, “Summer time” 2019.

“Summer time” is a documentary image. I was inspired by a girl’s carefree spirit on the swings during summer. Her shadow best captured that spirit, simplifying her wind-strewn hair and welcome wide-open stance. Lying next to her shadow, abandoned flip-flops. This image feels like summer time to me.—Deborah Lord

Abstract Winner: Ken Fowkes, “Pondside” 2020, Healdsburg, CA.

“Pondside” was taken with a quick upward flick of a long lens. Camera motion has blended the plants growing at a pond’s edge with the light reflecting from its surface. Details are erased, inviting us to explorde the scene through color, shape, and texture.—Ken Fowkes

Youth Category Winners

(Youth) Moments Winner: Alison Soong, “Before the Rain” 2019, San Francisco

“Before the Rain” was taken during a school field trip to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “This photograph aims to capture the sense of wonder that was displayed in a woman’s face as she continued to look up at the darkening sky.”—Alison Soong

(Youth) Manisha Khakoo, “Bright Eyes” 2019, Woodside, California

I captured “Bright Eyes” while playing with the way the grassy shadows fell on my cousin’s face and the way the sunlight illuminated her eyes. I’m really happy with the result that I produced, especially the emphasis on beauty and nature and the intense engagement in this photograph.—Manisha Khakoo

(Youth) Abstract Winner: Emma Sloan, “Unfold” 2019, Palo Alto

“Unfold” was shot using a 35 mm black and white film camera, and features the folds of my bedsheets in the morning sunlight. It captures one of the many marks a person leaves behind as they move on with each day.—Emma Sloan

(Youth) Humor Winner: Neel Fulton, “Smiley Camel” 2019, Abu Dhabi.

“Smiley Camel” portrays the warm and friendly spirit of the camels in the Abu Dhabi desert. It was inspired by their photogenic nature, and demonstrates how even a camel can enjoy posing for a photo.—Neel Fulton

From left: (Youth) Travel Winner: Victor Wan, “The Egyptian Mosque” Cairo, Egypt; (Youth) Natural World Winner: Victor Wan, “Sand Falls” Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona.

[Left:] Our tour group just finished visiting the Mosque Madrassa of Sultan Hassan in Cairo. While walking away from the mosque, I turned my head and between the two walls of the mosque was a stunning, hazy silhouette of the Saladin Citadel. I told myself that this photo would appear wonderful by capturing this citadel between two very lofty walls.—Victor Wan

[Right:] While walking through the magnificent curved walls throughout the Canyon, our tour guide picked up some sand, threw it on top of a ledge, and I captured the stunning slow falling of the bright, smooth sand.—Victor Wan

Honorable mentions

Joel Simon, “Wire Coral” 2018, Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia.
Deborah Lord, “Welcome Home,” 2019.
Geoffrey Brooks, “Tiger Leg Monkey Frog Climbing Heliconia” 2019, Kansas City
Chrissie Kremer, “A Paris Moment” August, 2016, Paris
Clockwise from top: Sharon Kenney, “Speed Racers” 2019, Santa Cruz; Molly Christman, “Contrasted Focus” 2019, Del Monte Forest, California; Alison Soong, “Lonely Beach Boy” 2017, San Sebastián; Alison Soong, “Ghost Tree” 2019, San Mateo.
Clockwise from top: Joel Simon, “Bubble Tipped Anemone” 2018, Western Papua, Indonesia; Bob Rewick, “McCaw Feathers” 2018; Olivia Bocchieri, “Fire and Ice” 2019, Hawaii.
Manisha Khakoo, “Backseat Blues” 2019, San Francisco, California

Stay up to date with other coverage from The Six Fifty by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, featuring event listings, reviews and articles showcasing the best that the Peninsula has to offer. Sign up here!

More local photography from the Six Fifty:

TheSixFifty logo

THE SIX FIFTY staff

Sometimes our work is a collaborative effort, hence the "staff" byline. The best of what to eat, see and do on the SF Peninsula.

You May Also Like

The 12 best views on the SF Peninsula and how to see them

Palo Alto’s kiddie zoo just reopened! Here are 8 animals that zookeepers think you shouldn’t miss on your first visit back.

Poetry and politics: EPA Councilman Antonio López on his new book, gentrification and optimism as social justice

Ferrari and Toyota: Meet the $15 sandwich from the restaurateurs behind Baumé