Open Space Photo Winners' 'Transporting' Work

Whether it's dodging a rattlesnake, slogging through mud, or waiting hours until the light is right, residents from Cupertino, Mountain View, Portola Valley, and Redwood City captured stunning images, in our local preserves.

Need a quick mental getaway? Check out the transporting work of your fellow hikers, who captured winnning images on the trails of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Five winners were chosen from 186 entries to the 4th annual photo contest of the Los Altos-based open space district. The photos were chosen, in part, for their ability to transport the viewer to any of the district's 26 preserves spread from 60,000 acres from Half Moon Bay to Monte Sereno, said Nate Donovan, a Los Gatos professional photographer who served as a contest judge.

Other criteria included technical excellence, originality, composition, overall impact and artistic merit.

ARTISTIC/CONTEMPORARY: Kimmy Zalec, “Russian Ridge on Canvas,” Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve

Redwood City resident Kimmy Zalec came across a painter at just the right time to catch “Russian Ridge on Canvas,” which won the Artistic/Contemporary category. If she had been any earlier, the painting wouldn’t have reflected the view, Zalec said. “That’s what made it so special, timing is everything.” Zalec said she grew up before the District’s preserves were open to the public, but now spends as much time as she can exploring them by joining group hikes. “We’re so lucky to have these beautiful places around here,” she said. 

LANDSCAPES: Chow Hong Liu, “Sunset from Turtle Rock,” Long Ridge Open Space Preserve

Chow Hong Liu, of Cupertino, said he waited two hours and dodged a rattlesnake to capture his vibrant “Sunset from Turtle Rock” photo, which won the Landscapes category. A self-taught photographer, Liu is an engineer during the week and spends his weekends hiking. He said he thinks he has visited almost every preserve.

PEOPLE:  Charles Tu, “Explore,” Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve

Saratoga resident Charles Tu waded through mud to catch “Explore,” a shot of a mother and child near the Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve pond that won the People category. Tu picked up photography as a youth in his native Taiwan and has become a frequent visitor to District preserves since he retired. “We were so busy with the Silicon Valley life, I never realized we have so many great places around here. It’s really amazing,” Tu said.

PLANT LIFE: Ken Fowkes, “Late Afternoon with the Ancient Oaks,” Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve 

Mountain View resident Ken Fowkes frequently visits—and photographs—the grove of stately oaks depicted in “Late Afternoon with the Ancient Oaks,” which won the Plant Life category. “I really love those trees—they’re just amazing,” Fowkes said. Gnarled and moss-covered, the oaks are survivors, he said. “They’re very inviting.”

WILDLIFE: Niki Muller, “Barn Swallow and Family, ”Long Ridge Open Space Preserve"

Portola Valley resident Niki Muller captured the gaping mouths of baby swallows at feeding time in “Barn Swallow and Family,” which won the Wildlife category. The parent bird swooped in to the nest filled with the sleeping babies, deposited food, and flew off – all within seconds, she said. After watching and photographing the swallows, Muller said she was motivated to learn more, discovering research showing that babies with darker mouths receive different amounts of food than their nest mates.

The winners were awarded prizes including Roku 2 XD Streaming Players, SmugMug subscriptions and Amazon gift cards. The photos are published in the district's newsletter. 

The open space district was created by voters in 1972, with a mission to acquire and preserve a regional greenbelt of open space land in perpetuity, protect and restore the natural environment, and provide opportunities for ecologically sensitive public enjoyment and education.

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