People, Places & Things: Our Ninth Annual Photo Contest

To submit an entry for the 2016 Contest click here.


Grand Prize Winner

085-PPT-Grand-Prize“Lawrence Fly-By” by Jared Birkholz, Appleton

“If it makes your eye travel throughout the rest of the photograph, that makes a good photo,” shares moderator Debbie Daanen of a key characteristic this year’s panel of judges took into consideration, along with color, detail in shadows, highlights, story telling and personal connection, when selecting the grand prize winner.

Judge Paul Brunette felt “there’s a lot of strength in the photograph with the eagle, and the cupola and Lawrence behind it.” And he adds, the “tie to the community” also grabbed his attention and vote.

“I love the eagles, I love birds. I take a ton of photography. I’m kind of an obsessed hobbyist, I guess,” confesses Jared Birkholz who managed to snap this eagle in flight on the south side of the Fox River facing Lawrence University at the end of April during his lunch hour.

“I thought in my mind it would always be cool to get a photo like that,” he adds. “It was one of those photos where I don’t think I’ll ever get another picture like that.” Birkholz had been to the spot many times and seen eagles in the area previously perched on trees and watching for fish. It just happened on that particular day before he was about to leave, he was able to catch an eagle emerging from the water’s surface after going down for a fish. Birkholz shot a sequence of 10-15 images with his Canon DSLR and a lens for shooting wildlife, which he lugs around in a backpack, he says. This shot was from the middle of the pack.

“I definitely will keep that as one of my favorites for a very long time,” Birkholz shares of the shot.


First Place – People

085-PPT-People-first“One photographer, a Thousand Islands” by Beth Spiering, Combined Locks

What started as an outdoor outing, turned into friendly competition between Beth Spiering and her husband, Weston (also a winner in this year’s photo contest). The couple had ventured to Thousand Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna for the first time after Beth found images that intrigued her from previous photo contest winners through a Google search of area nature centers.

At eight months pregnant, Beth took the image of Weston with her iPhone in October 2014 while he was using their new Nikon DSLR, she says. “We were competing with the new camera and the iPhone,” she adds and the composition of the shot caught her eye. The judges appreciated the inclusion of the nature center.

“We really like to explore nature centers in the area,” Beth shares. “At least once a week, we try to get out, weather permitting.” The couple’s 8-month-old son, Liam, now joins his parents on their excursions.


Second Place – People

085-PPT-People-second“Autumn Afternoon” by Christine A. Jackson, Grand Chute

During a Saturday afternoon in late October with friends, Christine A. Jackson was able to capture a sincere shot shared between two young girls at the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton.

“She was walking and carrying my basket, and I just caught it at the right time,” Jackson says. “I just captured that moment when the two were bonding and sharing a moment, and they didn’t think anyone was looking.”

Jackson enjoys shooting at the nature preserve and says “the leaves were almost completely off the trees” when she took the “afterthought” image with her Canon EOS 7D in fall 2014. She jumped around with the color of the image, but ultimately went with sepia.

“For some reason, the sepia worked so much better than the black and white did,” she says. While the judges liked the sepia of the photograph, they would have preferred more highlights and lowlights within the image.


Third Place – People

085-PPT-People-third“Rowing Under the 441 Bridge” by Dolores Howse, Appleton

Motion created an obstacle for Dolores Howse with her photograph.

“That was the major challenge. The boat was moving and you’re moving, so I got a lot of blurry photos,” she shares. Howse was perched in an old aluminum coach boat taking shots of experienced and beginning rowers during a session of the Fox Valley Rowing Club’s Learn to Row Classes with the Appleton Parks & Recreation Department.

“It’s a little bit of encouragement for the new rowers,” Howse explains of why she took on the task with her Canon. This image was taken somewhere between Telulah Park and the Roland Kampo Memorial Bridge on Wisconsin Highway 441 near Northland Avenue.

“You know it was on the river and the people aren’t perfect. … It speaks to the average Joe,” says Pam Seidl of why the shot caught her eye.


 First Place – Places

085-PPT-Places-first“Urban Vibe” by Justin Meyer, Menasha

Justin Meyer was able to capture his colorful creation off of Drew Street in Appleton, near Lawrence University.

“I kind of knew about the area and came across that spot after parking my car,” he shares. “I just liked the urban feel of it. … I thought the color of it was really cool and vibrant.”

The hues also caught judge Julie Poburka’s attention. “There’s so much color and movement in it without being gaudy, which surprised me,” she shares.

Meyer, who typically shoots nature photography, shares that this was his first time doing graffiti work.

“It wasn’t too hard, the traffic was pretty slow,” he says of standing to the side of the wall on the curb “on a really great sunny day” around noon in June. The image was taken with a Nikon D7100.


Second Place – Places

085-PPT-Places-second“Nightlife on College Avenue” by Dolores Howse, Appleton

License to Cruise in Appleton has become one of Dolores Howse’s favorite Fox Cities events to shoot photos at and last year’s September festivities were no exception. This time, however, Howse went later in the evening instead of going right after work as she had in the past.

“There were a lot of people milling around and I knew I wanted some people, but not too many,” Howse explains of the shot she took with her Canon. “I like the older cars. I like the shape.” She wanted to show that people were attending the downtown gathering, but have the focus remain on the car since it’s an event that draws people because of the variety of vehicles,
she explains.

Judges Paul Brunette and Matthew Carpenter both liked this selection.

“I’m a car guy,” shares Brunette of being drawn to the color and saturation in the shot. “I like its tie to College Avenue and License to Cruise.”

While Carpenter was torn about it’s category. “I kind of want to move it to ‘Things’ and have it win,” he says.


Third Place – Places

085-PPT-Places-third“Star Spangled Lambeau” by Cara Jakubiec, De Pere

“I took the photo at a Monday night game. It was just the perfect photo,” recalls Cara Jakubiec of the Dec. 8, 2014 face-off between the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field. “At that moment, I didn’t realize what was happening, I just started snapping photos and the fireworks went off at the same time.”

Jakubiec, a Packers fan, attended the game with her family and went onto the field prior to its start due to a family connection. She remembers the game being “really cold” and shot the lasting memory with her iPhone.

The judges all agreed they enjoyed the patriotism of the image, along with its connection to the Packers.


 First Place – Things

085-PPT-Things-first“Beyond the Eye” by Weston Spiering, Combined Locks

“The composition of the photo looked really good to me at the time,” says Weston Spiering of his winning photo.

Moderator Debbie Daanen also took note of what Spiering captured.

“I ride my bike down there all the time,” she says of the photo. “I don’t know where that cleat is, but whoever saw that had a vision.”

A lunchtime walk led Spiering to a pleasant surprise along the bike trail that runs parallel to the Fox River in the Eagle Flats area of Appleton. Spiering discovered the shot with his Nixon DSLR.

“I would go past that area quite frequently,” says Spiering. “It was just an awesome day out and a friend of mine and I wanted to shoot in the Locks area.”


 Second Place – Things

085-PPT-Things-second“Double Flight Landing” by Beth Spiering, Combined Locks

Sitting along the runway at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh watching planes come in prior to AirVenture, landed Beth Spiering her second win in this year’s contest.

“That photo just happened to have both planes at the same time,” she says. “It was a very sunny day. “I was just trying to get as close a photo as I could. I wanted to capture the planes coming in and seeing that experience.”

It was her first time at the airport watching the event set-up and she used her iPhone in July 2014 to capture the photo.

Judge Michael Spurlock was drawn to the photograph because of the reach AirVenture has around the world and the visitors who attend each year.

“You’re just talking to so many people,” he says. “You feel so global, yet so cosmopolitan.”


Third Place – Things

085-PPT-Things-third“Intense Young Owl” by Rod MacKenzie, Appleton

Just outside of Thrivent Financial on Ballard Road in Appleton, Rod MacKenzie came across a face that wasn’t too pleased to see him.

“We had seen them when they were little and I didn’t have my camera that day,” MacKenzie recalls of discovering a pair of owls.

“There were two, but one flew away,” he says. “He didn’t act too happy to see me, but I took the photo.” The remaining owl, captured in this photo, was clicking back at MacKenzie as he clicked his camera, a Nikon P500, which he zoomed in 30 feet away to get the owl who was about 15 feet off the ground by MacKenzie’s estimate.

“Most of the pictures I take are just for me. It was just a nice shot. The owl was sitting up for once,” MacKenzie shares of the early afternoon in April. “He’s just staring right at me. It was basically eye to eye.”

The judges also were drawn into the owl’s expression. “That little guy with his tongue out just makes me happy,” says judge Pam Seidl


 Honorable Mention

085-PPT-Honorable-Mention“Winter Fog” by Christine A. Jackson, Grand Chute

“I drive by that tree all the time,” says Christine A. Jackson of this photograph’s subject matter. “It just amazes me that this tree stands year after year and hasn’t been knocked over. … Every time I drive by it, I’m like ‘Where is that tree?’”

On her way elsewhere, Jackson stopped to photograph the dead limbs, with the barn in the background, as it was surrounded by the effects of fog during the month of January.

“I always come back to this photo because it’s one of my favorites that I’ve shot because it’s so simple, yet has a feeling to it,” says Jackson who took the photo with her Canon EOS 7D. “There was no need to change that photo because I liked it exactly the way it came out.”

“I like the honorable mention because people drive by there and know where it is,” says judge Michael Spurlock. The other judges agreed.


Panel of Judges

Julie Poburka, assistant store manager, Simon’s Specialty Cheese
Moderator: Debbie Daanen, owner and professional photographer, Debbie Daanen Photography
Paul Brunette, Contractivity! operations leader, Ralph B. Shiner, Jr. Center for Goodwill
Pam Seidl, executive director, Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau
Matthew Carpenter, executive director, History Museum at the Castle
Michael Spurlock, senior partner, Spurlock Runyan Miller & Associates


Sincere thanks to the area businesses that have generously provided our winners with the following prizes:
CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel, Appleton – Grand Prize: One-night stay
Bridgewood Resort Hotel & Conference Center, Neenah – First Place Prizes: $75 gift certificate toward a stay, dinner or golf
The Frame Workshop, Appleton – Second Place Prizes: $50 framing gift certificate
Murray Photo and Video, Inc., Appleton – Third Place Prizes: $25 processing gift certificate

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