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Picture this: Photo contest reveals campus talent

A section of the photo of "Boy and dog" by PhD student Catherine Febria. To view the full photo and other winning photos, click on the links within the article.

by Mary Ann Gratton

A stunning view of the Great Wall of China, a tranquil lake sunset, and a flower given to a mother in the hospital – they are among the winning visuals in a campus photography contest held recently.

The six beautiful and arresting winners were chosen from 130 entries in the second annual contest organized by the Graduate Students’ Association at Scarborough (GSAS) at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

All entries in the contest were displayed in the graduate student lounge at an end-of-term event held recently, when visitors voted on the entries in the following categories: landscape, flora, fauna, psychology, miscellaneous, and best overall. The contest was open to faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and postdoctoral students. More than 30 would-be Ansel Adams types submitted various photos for consideration.

“The quality of photos in this year’s contest was amazing,” said Judith Eigenbrod, a Master’s student in ecology and evolutionary biology. She is the outgoing Co-President of GSAS and one of the contest organizers.  “All of the participants entered beautiful pictures that demonstrate the artistic talent present on this campus.” 

The six winning photos are:

  • Landscape“Sunset” by Carl Chan, a staff member in Information and Instructional Technology Services (IITS)

  • Flora – “Awaiting” (Close-up of red flower) by Marvin Macaraig, a PhD student in geography (Department of Social Sciences)

  • Miscellaneous “Boy and dog” by Catherine Febria, a PhD student in aquatic ecology

Ken Howard’s view of the Great Wall of China is taken from inside one of the turrets of the wall itself at Badaling, near Beijing. His other winning photo of “The Thinker” was taken in the outdoor garden of the Rodin Museum in Paris and captures Auguste Rodin’s famous sculpture on a rainy day. He felt that the shot suited the Psychology category.

Howard has won a few photo contests before, and said he used to “lug around” a camera bag with a Minolta X-700SLR, lenses and film in a lead-lined bag. He now uses a Sony Cybershot digital camera that slips into his top pocket. He used the digital to capture his two winning photos in this contest.

He notes that “As a scientist, I take pictures primarily to record information, so close attention to subject and detail are important. Having said that, I still tend to give each digital shot the same level of care and attention I used with one-chance slide shots costing 50 cents a piece or more. Old habits die hard! Oh, and I use two hands! I can’t believe the number of people who take photos holding the camera with one hand who then wonder why the pictures are blurry!”

Carl Chan’s “Sunset” photo was taken from shore looking towards the lake in Killbear Provincial Park, west of Parry Sound on the Georgian Bay peninsula, in 2004. Chan used a Canon S230 digital camera. “I see what’s pretty, and I try to capture it,” says Chan, a client services administrator in IITS. “I use my technical know-how and I like to tinker with cameras to learn every single setting. I’ve been playing with cameras and experimenting since I was really little.”

The “Elks in the mist” photo was taken by Guillaume Tixier, a postdoctoral student from France who has just completed his year of research here at U of T Scarborough. His photo was taken at dusk in Wyoming’s Yosemite National Park in 2004. He used a Canon EOS 500N film camera. “I like to photograph animals,” says Tixier. “You have to be kind of undercover to do that – you have to be fast and quiet. In this case, I was just walking when I saw the elks, and the mist around them is coming up from the hot springs.”

“Awaiting” (Close-up of red flower) was taken by Marvin Macaraig, a PhD student in urban and environmental geography (Department of Social Sciences). The red tulip was part of a bouquet given to his mother while she was in the hospital for cancer surgery in 2005. “My mother is an avid gardener and my interest in gardening can be traced back to her,” says Macaraig. “Moreover, my mother has made a full and complete recovery from her cancer, and now identifies herself as a ‘cancer survivor’. She is back to tending her garden whenever possible.” He says he called it “Awaiting” because it suggests a flower awaiting pollination, but the title also conveys a sense of mystery. Macaraig used a Nikon D-70 digital camera with a special macro lens. Although he photographs many different types of subjects, he says floral photography has the appeal of bringing a whole new perspective. “This tulip is the kind of thing people see every day -- but the close perspective and macro photography brings another angle to it and many people have asked what kind of flower it is.”

Macaraig has been interested in photography for 20 years, and this is his first time winning a photography prize. He says he enjoys the immediacy and convenience of digital photography. “My philosophy now is that you can never shoot too many photos. In the days of film, you were limited, but digital photography is cheap and convenient, so you can keep on shooting and trying to get different angles.”

Catherine Febria’s “Boy and dog” photo was taken on a day of rain and mist from the mountains during Febria’s visit to the Philippines in March 2007. The PhD student was standing on a dirt road between the towns of Hapao and Banaue, the latter being famous for its rice terraces along the mountainside, considered among the man-made wonders of the world. The boy was resting there with the dog.

Febria used a Nikon F-65 film camera with a 70 to 300 zoom lens. “I think the boy’s facial expression and the mood captured in this grainy black-and-white shot is what did it,” says Febria. “It’s dramatic because of the weather, and although it is peaceful, there’s a sadness to it.” This is Febria’s third time winning a photo contest, and she has been involved in photography for 10 years.

The winning photos can be viewed in the Graduate Studies Lounge, located in S-524A (across from the Life Sciences office), which is open between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. for the lunch hour on weekdays, and otherwise by key signout from the Life Sciences office, S-521-A. 

© University of Toronto Scarborough