2007 Reader's Photo Contest

The winners of our 2007 Annual Reader's Photo Contest are taking you to Buenos Aires, Venice, Boulder, and... their backyard?

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Photo by Kenneth Mucke
Photo by Don Charlton Photo by Jon Orlando Photo by Jeff Rayner
Photo by David Michael Photo by Kathryn Obermaier Photo by Karen Batal

Just as we have done for 14 years, we pored through thousands of entries, looking for those that enlighten, transport, and make us laugh out loud. We awarded one Grand Prize and six stand-outs in the following categories: Action/Sports, Architecture, Candid/Humor, Nature, People, and Travel. These talented photographers all received fabulous prizes from our sponsors, as well as exposure in this section and on popphoto.com. Launch the gallery, or continue to the following pages and let our winners take you to moments and places we're so glad they captured through their viewfinders.

Kenneth Mucke Lawrenceville, GA

If this woman wasn't pressing her face ever so slightly to that of her partner's in a moment of pure surrender to the tango they were dancing, you might notice that she is wearing dark lipstick, that her brows are perfectly arched, and that her skin is smooth and warm. Then again, you might not. You could, as many people in the crowd on the streets of Buenos Aires did that day, become totally lost in the moment -- the raw display of romance at an arm's length in Argentina.

Kenneth Mucke was far from his Georgia home when he captured this scene, but luckily, his camera rarely leaves his side. "I wanted it to look like they were in their own world," he says. And yet instead of feeling wrapped in an aura of privacy, the image seems to beckon onlookers, creating what Kenneth calls a "nostalgic feel" where age and time don't exist. In fact, Kenneth added lines using different filters to create the look. "The exact process is somewhat of a secret and I have been asked many times how I created it," he says.

The owner of pharmaceutical recruiting company, Kenneth is a self-taught photographer with about 36 years of "trial and error and the graciousness of other photographers" under his belt. "Photography is not my profession, but my wife might say otherwise," he says with a laugh. Though not a pro, he has won several contests throughout the years, including the July/August 2007 photo competition by VisionAge, and has had his work displayed several times, for example, the Fay Gold Selects show at the Atlanta Photography Group gallery.

Although he and his wife try to make one big trip a year, Kenneth doesn't have to look far for inspiration. He's documented homelessness in the Atlanta area and is currently working on a series with the Center for Puppetry Arts, also located in the capital city. He says, "Since I can remember, I've been looking at the world and wanting to capture what I see. The only way I know how to do that is with a camera." To view more of his work, visit photoartcreation.com.

Photo by Kathryn Obermaier
Click photo for more images.

1st Place Winner: Kathryn Obermaier Brooklyn, NY

It took Michelangelo three years to chisel "David" from an 18-foot block of marble. Nearly two million people a year shuffle past the sculpture, absorbing its representation of the perfect human form, which has remained relatively unchanged in 500 years. It took this bodybuilder months of training and discipline to chisel muscle from his frame. A panel of judges watched him this day at the Keystone Pro Classic Contest, comparing his form to their idea of the perfect human form. Kathryn Obermaier caught him after the competition -- tanning oil and sweat running down his face -- in a moment of self reflection. "Most bodybuilders don't drink or eat before they pose. Their bodies look physically the best, but they are exhausted," she says.

The Brooklyn-based photographer should know. While a student at the International Center of Photography, she documented the sport for a six-month project. She chose black-and-white film to make the subject more approachable -- "People think of bodybuilders as freaks of nature," she says -- and "to give them a silver quality like marble sculptures." To view more images from her project, visit kathrynobermaier.com.

Runners Up
Frank D. Scharf Madison, CT Mario del Valle Huntington Beach, CA Charles Cleverly Butte, MA

|| |---| | | Photo by Don Charlton| | Click photo for more images.| Architecture

1st Place Winner: Don Charlton Salem, OR

Storm clouds began to invade the late afternoon sky of Salamanca, Spain, as Don Charlton and his wife, Ginny, were exploring the city last September. People ducked into doorways and cafes as the rain began to hit the ancient stone streets, but Don and his friend Robert took this as their cue to hail a cab and seek out Salamanca's hidden beauty. As they arrived in this alley, Don recalls that "it had just quit raining, and people hadn't gotten back onto the street. The sky cleared enough for the sun to come through and bounce off the wall in the background."

Don, a retired dentist from Salem, Oregon, has seriously pursued his passion for photography for 30 years. "My house and office ran out of wall space a long time ago," he says with a laugh. Six years ago, his brother gave him a digital camera, and he's used it to document his travels to such countries as Guatemala, Peru, Italy, and Austria. He even attended Popular Photography Mentor Series workshops in Egypt and Turkey. Not only did he sharpen his skills during these trips, he also met Robert, who frequently joins the Charltons on their travels and shoots with Don. Visit charltonphotography.com to view more of Don's work.

Runners Up
Emin Kuliyev Bronx, NY Emin Kuliyev Bronx, NY Nicole Prada New York, NY
Photo by Karen Batal
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1st Place Winner: Karen Batal Minneola, Fl

What do you get when you mix a precarious 7-year-old, a pair of magnifying glasses, and a mom with a camera at the ready? Karen Batal's winning image in this year's humor category. Karen says of her willing model, daughter Jillian, "She's the queen of faces. It was all her idea. We took it right in our backyard. She's standing against the wall holding her hair up."

In fact, Jillian has always been Karen's muse. "Her birth sparked my interest in photography," she says. Since then, Karen has captured a variety of landscapes and portraits, specializing in images with a funny bone. "My eye is drawn to humorous moments," she says.

Runners Up
Rick Mason Cogan Station, PA Ken Hall San Lorenzo, CA
Emin Kuliyev Bronx, NY

|| |---| | | Photo by Jeff Rayner| | Click photo for more images.| Nature

1st Place Winner: Jeff Rayner Los Angeles, CA

When Jeff Rayner's mother loaned him a small camera years ago for a school trip, little did either one of them know that little Jeff's first "terrible" pictures would begin his love of photography and one day lead him face-to-face with a hungry white Bengal tiger.

The English-born, Los Angeles-based freelance photographer shoots for several American and British papers, but this day took him to a zoo on assignment with an Australian newspaper. The tiger, Odin, has become quite a celebrity for his daily dips into the pool to chase food thrown in by his trainer. The zoo put up a plate of glass so the public could see the swim. "It was a bit of a nightmare to shoot with the sun reflection through the water and onto the glass," Jeff remembers. "Then it went behind a cloud and I got it." As Odin swims, he blocks his nose and ears, which causes his lips to raise in a ferocious smile. Jeff says, "The image's blue element, the bubbles, and the white tiger is almost dreamlike."

Runners Up
Ken Deitcher Albany, NY Slobodan Blagojevic Naperville, IL Dale Williams Sebastopol, CA
Photo by Jon Orlando
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1st Place Winner: Jon Orlando Lyons, CO

Sometimes when it snows in Boulder, Colorado, the air is thick with white like the furious flurries of a just churned snow globe. However, as Jon Orlando and his girlfriend, Candice, were hiking last winter, it was a gentle fall -- the kind that tickles cheeks and catches on eyelashes. Jon, who keeps his digital SLR at hand, froze this moment with a click. "I always try to get a strong expression," he says. "Here the eye draws you in. You want to know, 'What is she thinking?'"

Many of Jon's memories, like this one, are captured in his photography. One that isn't -- but is just as vivid to him -- is the first time he held a camera as a kid. He says, "I picked one up and knew that's what I wanted to do." He studied photography at Northern Arizona University and is now in the process of starting his own photography business. His describes his work as an effort "to invite intimacy and find truth in that single moment when the shutter clicks." Visit jonorlandophoto.com for more information.

Runners Up
Nicole E. Leever Mission Viejo, CA Laura Guerrant Danville, KY John Lagomaggiore Niagara Falls, NY

|| |---| | | Photo by David Michael| | Click photo for more images.| Travel

1st Place Winner: David Michael Cincinnati, OH

The best opera singers can hold an audience captive. Language is not an obstacle nor is time. There is just the music, the voice, the moment, and -- if the performer is truly a master -- the feeling of being transported.

David Michael knows this well. He is a professional opera singer and was in Italy appearing as Porgy in Porgy and Bess when he took this shot. He says, "I was in Venice, turned around, saw this angle and this view, and knew I had to get it." The image captures centuries-old buildings and the midday canal traffic: steadfastness and hustle-bustle in one frame. Without even the slightest lift of voice, David has created the photographic equivalent of operatic escape.

Although he has been only seriously shooting for less than two years, he says, "Once I get interested in something, I get a little intense about it." He used his digital SLR in Venice and continues to take landscapes and portraits, his primary focus. It was his first time entering the competition.

Runners Up
Arjun Veer Chadha Fargo, ND Daniel Kohanski San Francisco, CA Snehendu Kar Los Angeles, CA
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Grand Prize Winner:Kenneth MuckeLawrenceville, GAClick here for more.Photo By Kenneth Mucke
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*Action/Sports*1st Place Winner:Kathryn ObermaierBrooklyn, NYClick here for more.Photo By Kathryn Obermaier
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*Action/Sports*Runner Up:Frank D. ScharfMadison, CTPhoto By Frank D. Scharf
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*Action/Sports*Runner Up:Mario del ValleHuntington Beach, CAPhoto By Mario Del Valle
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*Action/Sports*Runner Up:Charles CleverlyButte, MAPhoto By Charles Cleverly
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*Architecture*1st Place Winner:Don CharltonSalem, ORClick here for more.Photo By Don Charlton
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*Architecture*Runner Up:Emin KuliyevBronx, NYPhoto By Emin Kuliyev
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*Architecture*Runner Up:Emin KuliyevBronx, NYPhoto By Emin Kuliyev
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*Architecture*Runner Up:Nicole PradaNew York, NYPhoto By Nicole Prada
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*Candid/Humor*1st Place Winner:Karen BatalMinneola, FlClick here for more.Photo By Karen Batal
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*Candid/Humor*Runner Up:Rick MasonCogan Station, PAPhoto By Rick Mason
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*Candid/Humor*Runner Up:Ken HallSan Lorenzo, CAPhoto By Ken Hall
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*Candid/Humor*Runner Up:Emin KuliyevBronx, NYPhoto By Emin Kuliyev
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*Nature*1st Place Winner:Jeff RaynerLos Angeles, CAClick here for more.Photo By Jeff Rayner
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*Nature*Runner Up:Ken DeitcherAlbany, NYPhoto By Ken Deitcher
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*Nature*Runner Up:Slobodan BlagojevicNaperville, ILPhoto By Slobodan Blagojevic
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*Nature*Runner Up:Dale WilliamsSebastopol, CAPhoto By Dale Williams
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*People*1st Place Winner:Jon OrlandoLyons, COClick here for more.Photo By Jon Orlando
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*People*Runner Up:Nicole E. LeeverMission Viejo, CAPhoto By Nicole E. Leever
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*People*Runner Up:Laura GuerrantDanville, KYPhoto By Laura Guerrant
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*People*Runner Up:John LagomaggioreNiagara Falls, NYPhoto By John Lagomaggiore
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*Travel*1st Place Winner:David MichaelCincinnati, OHClick here for more.Photo By David Michael
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*Travel*Runner Up:Arjun Veer ChadhaFargo, NDPhoto By Arjun Veer Chadha
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*Travel*Runner Up:Daniel KohanskiSan Francisco, CAPhoto By Daniel Kohanski
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*Travel*Runner Up:Snehendu KarLos Angeles, CAPhoto By Snehendu Kar
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