Through the viewing lens Amateur photographers take their best shot for contest

Amateur photographers – kids and adults alike, who aspire to go pro one day or just enjoy taking pictures – turned in their best efforts for Weehawken’s amateur photo contest, a part of the town’s summer recreation program, held Aug. 4.

The town’s summer contests typically revolve around kids, but the photo contest didn’t specify an age group, so adults got in on the action too for their own category of awards.

There was plenty of solid competition (28 entries total) with many eye-catching submissions, according to Kate McMahon, activities coordinator for the Weehawken Recreation Department.

Accepted photo subjects included wildlife, landscape, sport, and New Jersey scene, and each participant was allowed two entries accompanied by brief captions explaining the shots.

Rob Ferullo, director of recreation, was one of the judges, and said the turnout was wonderful, as participation has been in all the summer programs and contests this year.

He explained that the judges looked for clarity, composition, as well as the captions that reflected the circumstances of the picture.

“The judging was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be,” said Ferullo. “I was very impressed.”

Capturing the moment

“Everybody was very gracious and they admired everybody’s photos,” said McMahon, adding that prior to judging, curious viewers examined the contest entries display as if it were a gallery.

McMahon was impressed with all the entries as well as those outstanding few who placed. She marveled at the first place photo taken by Rita McLaughlin of a hummingbird caught in mid-flight.

Lifelong Weehawken resident McLaughlin, 21, who won first place in the adult category, also submitted a shot from the salt flats in Death Valley, Calif. She has aspirations of becoming a professional photographer and has taken many shots to build her portfolio.

“I went traveling to [Las] Vegas and California, and that one I actually got in Santa Barbara outside a Spanish Mission,” explained McLaughlin. “That was a lucky shot, because I was standing by a bunch of flowers, and I heard a noise, and I got startled because I thought it was a bumble bee, and then I turned and it was a humming bird, and just started shooting, and I got that one on my second try.”

McLaughlin was surprised when she won, since this is the first time she’s entered her photos in a contest.

First place in the children’s category also went to a novice – namely 7-year-old Gianni Notaro. His winning photo pictured a horse as it turned to look at him on the roadside.

Carmela Notaro, Gianni’s mother, explained, “We had gone peach picking in Sussex County, and as we drove through the area, there’s a lot of farmland, and there was a horse grazing, and Gianni got that shot, and then the horse just galloped away.” Mom Carmela said that he had a photo of a duck picked out as his contest entry, but then, the day before the contest, they went peach picking and came upon the horse, and he decided he really liked that picture. Since he won, Gianni is more interested in photography than ever before. “He got a camera [as a prize] – a little camera – and now he’s constantly taking pictures,” explained Carmela. “He was very excited and very proud – he took a picture of his trophy. He called everybody up to let them know, his grandparents, uncles, and everybody.”

Mom said Gianni loves animals, and he’s not the only contest winner who does.

Five-year-old Kashan Aziz took second place for his photo of a dolphin taking a football from its trainer at a Six Flags water show. His sister Rahat Merchant explained that he really likes dolphins.

“I like them when they jump up,” Kashan told The Reporter.

In the adult category, Robert Heneger, a member of the Weehawken Volunteer First Aid Squad, won second place for his photo of Grafton Pond, N.H., and Danielle Calabrese took third place for her view of the Manhattan skyline as seen through the silhouette of local foliage.

In third place in the children’s category, 11-year-old Leo Hochhauser, whose mother Donna said this is his fourth time participating and placing in the contest.

“He’s a real avid amateur photographer,” said Donna Hochhauser. “His father and his grandfather are both amateur photographers as well. He always has his camera with him. He’s really good at composition. He has a real eye for it all.”

Leo, who has lived in Weehawken most of his life, was on a field trip to Washington, D.C. in May when he took the picture of an iconic structure.

“We were at the World War II memorial, and I had my camera, and I thought the Washington Monument would be a great picture,” Leo explained, but did he realize that the sun behind the national monument would shine down in a shower of light on the scene? “No, I didn’t actually; I just pointed the camera and clicked.”

A seasoned shutterbug, Leo enjoys the effect light has on a photo in particular, and will continue snapping shots for the reason he likes photography the most:

“The fact that it preserves memories, so later on in life you can look at the pictures and say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember doing that.’ ”

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“Gianni got that shot, and then the horse just galloped away.” – Carmela Notaro


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