Winner’s Circle: Christen Graham (December Contest Winner)

Our BEST OF 2012 December Photo Contest brought in a ton of great entries. Not that we were surprised, considering we have super-talented customers and fans from all over the world. But one photo stood out among the rest and was voted as the Grand Prize Winner. To our pleasant surprise, that photo just happened to have been taken in the Columbus Metro Parks by local photographer Christen Graham.

Photo courtesy of Christen Graham
Photo courtesy of Christen Graham

We were struck by the colors, the light, and the perfect timing captured in Christen’s photo. We bugged her with a few questions about the winning photo and being a Columbus photographer, and she was nice enough to oblige us with excellent answers! You can find more of her work at her Facebook page while her brand new website’s under construction, and you can find out what gear she used to capture the winning photo here.

The MPEX staff voted your photo, “Sharon Woods Sunrise,” first place in our BEST OF 2012 contest. It’s a striking photo with a very unique effect. Tell us how you managed to capture such an awesome moment.

This was a lucky combination of my unhealthy affinity for coffee (which often leads to staying awake until sunrise) and venturing out to the right place at the perfect moment.

The photo was shot with a tripod-mounted Canon 7D and a 17-55mm f/2.8 lens. My goal was to keep the majority of the frame in focus, freeze the individual rays of the sun hitting the mist through the trees, and prevent the brightness of the sun from blowing out too much of the detail. I found my exposure sweet spot with the aperture stopped down to f/22 and a shutter speed of 1/60 sec. I tweaked the white balance of the RAW image in post to bring some more vibrant blues back into the scene, gave the contrast a boost and there you have it.

Many might have packed up after the sun broke the horizon and the color disappeared from the sky, but I resolved to stick around until every bit of fog burned off the lake. Mother Nature rewarded my patience by lining up this fantastic scene long after sunrise peaked. It’s a pretty great reminder to stay vigilant and flexible as the shot you originally intended may have the potential to be replaced with something even better.

Photo courtesy of Christen Graham
Photo courtesy of Christen Graham

You are a photographer from the Columbus area. Obviously, Sharon Woods is a part of the Columbus Metro Parks system. What do you like most about being a Columbus photographer?

Being a Columbus-based photographer offers tremendous variety. Whether you want to get away from it all in one of the numerous metroparks or you’re in the mood for the faster-paced sights and sounds of downtown, both urban and rural environments are accessible within minutes of one another. Opportunities to try new techniques or experiment with different types of photography are easy to come by in a city that hosts a thriving arts community, a myriad of festivals, performances, cultural events, workshops… there’s always something interesting to shoot.

Photo courtesy of Christen Graham
Photo courtesy of Christen Graham

Did you have formal training as a photographer?

I have no formal photography training, so I am fortunate to have a natural eye for composition, a passion for learning, and a really great coffee maker. As a self-taught photographer, what I know has been a blend of hands-on experience and a relentless pursuit of information via YouTube tutorials, library books, magazine articles, and Google searches.

Photo courtesy of Christen Graham
Photo courtesy of Christen Graham

What kind of photography do you prefer to shoot? Are you mostly a landscape photographer, or do you work in other genres?

I lean toward shooting landscapes and nature as a means to quietly unwind, but I typically prefer the more interactive and human elements of portrait and event photography. The challenge of documenting overlooked details, capturing fleeting expressions, and conveying the character of any given environment in a visually appealing way is the thrill for me whether there is a live band, a toddler, or a tree in my viewfinder.

Photo courtesy of Christen Graham
Photo courtesy of Christen Graham

Which photographers inspire you?

Joe McNally. His photojournalism, lighting work, and ingenious solutions for shooting on-location are pretty incredible. He is truly a master at manipulating what he has available in the moment to craft an image that really tells a story.

Photo courtesy of Christen Graham
Photo courtesy of Christen Graham
Midwest Photo

3 thoughts on “Winner’s Circle: Christen Graham (December Contest Winner)

    1. We think so, too! It was really cool to see more of Christen’s work and to see how consistently good her work was. Thanks for the feedback, Samantha! We’re glad you enjoyed Christen’s images.

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