Popular Photography's 15th Annual Readers' Photo Contest
First Place Winner: Gail Vitikacs
It's 1 a.m, and the world is quiet. Most people are dreaming, wrapped in the pitch-black comfort that the deep of night affords -- but not Gail Vitikacs. By day, Gail is a wife, mother, and IT employee. But nightfall often finds her in downtown D.C., Nikon in hand, among the shadows of monuments on The National Mall. Were it noon, the place would be thick with tourists and she'd have to vie for Lincoln's gaze. At her chosen hour, it's just her, a photographer friend, and sculpted marble, granite, and sandstone bathed in moonlight.
On the frigid January day that this photo was taken, the tilt of the earth brought dusk by 5:40 p.m. As the crowds dispersed to seek shelter and warmth, there was Gail, under the Ulysess S. Grant Memorial, waiting for her friend to finish up a shot at another location. "All of a sudden, I looked up and saw this perspective," she says. "I immediately set up my tripod." Through her lens, she captured the furious energy of the horses and a sense of pride. She calls the photo Freedom's Run.
Part of a military family (her dad was a Marine, her husband was in the Army, and her daughter is in the Air Force), Gail's passion is Americana. During the three years she's worked on her monument series, Gail has had her moments of comedy (she's fallen off the Lincoln Memorial and convinced a White House guard to let her climb the back fence for a better angle) and managed to capture humanity (an embrace in silhouette by the Rainbow Pool at the World War II Memorial; grief beside the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall). To view more of her work, visit www.zenfolio.com/gvphotos or www.betterphoto.com/?gail.