Beast Within Me by Piedra
Image by familymwr
Staff Sgt. Pablo Piedra took third place in the Division I digital darkroom category of the 2010 Army Digital Photography Contest with the self portrait "Beast within Me." Photo by Staff Sgt. Pablo Piedra
Photographers expand horizons in 2010 Army Digital Photography Contest
By Tim Hipps
FMWRC Public Affairs
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Brenda Walker strolled upon “one of those right places at the right time” alongside East Fork Indian Creek River when she photographed “Morning Serenity” on Fort Campbell, Ky…
Retired Col. Richard Pugh shot three photographs of “Point Lobos,” just south of Monterey, Calif., and combined them into one image by working 15 minutes with Photoshop…
Staff Sgt. Pablo Piedra won a footrace with his wife to the bottom of a stairwell at Heidelberg Castle in Germany just before he looked up and photographed “9”…
…all three were winners in the 2010 Army Digital Photography Contest sponsored by the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.
There were 3,691 entries from around the world – 1,348 in Division I for active duty military personnel and 2,343 in Division II for other eligible MWR patrons. After Army garrisons selected their best entries, 664 Division I and 1,031 Division II photographs were forwarded for Department of the Army judging.
“There were many really excellent photos, which made the judges’ decisions a difficult task,” said Linda Ezernieks, who monitors the annual contest at Army MWR Headquarters in Alexandria. “Originality, creativity and technical quality were the main criteria in making final selections.”
Winners in each category – animals, digital darkroom, design elements, military life, monochrome, nature & landscapes, people, and still life – were posted on a website where Army Knowledge Online account-holders voted for their favorite photo in each division.
Walker’s “Morning Serenity” took first place in the nature and landscapes category and was voted the most popular photograph in Division II.
The subject of the photo is a fisherman wading and casting in the middle of East Fork Indian Creek River while the sun shines through the lush, green trees and casts a rainbow-like appearance off the steam hovering above the stream.
“It’s back on Fort Campbell,” Walker said. “I take my dog running back there early morning. It was really hot and the steam was rising and the rays were going through the trees. It was absolutely beautiful back there.
“I take my camera everywhere I go now.”
Walker left her business card on the windshield of a truck parked nearby and later learned the fisherman was Sgt. Randy Shorter of Fort Campbell.
About five years ago, Walker took some of her photographs to the MWR Custom Framing Shop at Fort Campbell, where she found out about the Army Photography Contest. She has produced prize-winning photos for the past three contests.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to get exposure, plus cash prizes,” said Walker, 48, a military family member. “I enjoy looking at everybody else’s work. It inspires me and motivates me to get out and get more interesting, different shots.”
What does Walker enjoy most about photography?
“Just being able to capture what I see through my eyes, my heart and my head,” she said. “A lot of it comes out through your emotion. It’s another form of art.”
Pugh, of Clarksville, Tenn., took first place in the Division II digital darkroom category with “The Owl,” second in design elements with “Blue Mosque,” and third in nature and landscapes with “Point Lobos.”
Pugh shot the high-tech looking photo of “The Owl” at Land Between The Lakes, a national recreation area located south of Paducah, Ky., and embellished it in Photoshop, as he did with “Blue Mosque,” a shot of the roof of a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
“I like this contest,” said Pugh, 65, who photographed winning entries in each of the past three years after serving 30 years in the Army. “It gives people a chance to show off something they did, which is great.”
Piedro, 31, an Army recruiter in Douglasville, Ga., is a former combat photographer. His “9” earned first-place honors in the Division I design elements category. He took third place in digital darkroom with a self-portrait called “Beast within Me” that would make a dandy Halloween poster.
“I got the idea when I was in the gym working out with my partner and a couple people came up to us and said: ‘You guys are lifting like beasts.’ The idea just popped into my head, so I got home, took the shot, and just started editing,” Piedro said. “That’s where that photo came from.”
The subject of the photo looks like a cross between a werewolf, a vampire and an Avatar, complete with fangs, dagger-like fingernails and alien ears – seemingly howling at the moon that looms behind a naked tree.
“The fangs, the ears, the eyes and the hands are all Photoshopped,” Piedro said. “And the stomach that’s concaved a little bit, that was done in Photoshop. For the background, I took certain parts of images from other photos, adjusted them, and made everything into one image.”
So what’s real?
“The body, and the face,” Piedro replied. “That’s it.
“If you look closely, the eyes are actually black and the pupils are red, so that’s been Photoshopped.”
Piedro, however, does not think of himself as a Photoshop expert.
“I actually don’t do too much Photoshop,” he said. “I try to keep my images as pure as possible. But every now and then, I get my creative side and I do a little bit of Photoshop – just trial and error, playing around.”
Piedro won two categories and received an honorable mention in the 2007 Army Photography Contest but missed the competition the past two years.
“I think it’s a great, great program,” he said. “It’s a great way to get the creative process of people that do see the world and travel the world by being in the military, and not even just as Soldiers, but supporting staff, civilians, wives.
“It’s a great way to get recognition for something that we love to do.”
As is often the case with photography, Piedro did not know exactly what he shot that day in the stairwell to the gardens at Heidelberg Castle – until he downloaded the photo.
“When I got home and I looked at, I was like: ‘That’s 9, yeah.’ And that’s where the title came from.”
Piedro cherishes photography’s uncanny ability of giving him the opportunity of “freezing a moment in time that only I can see and sharing that with others.”
Several other military photographers earned multiple places in the 2010 Army Digital Photography Contest.
Holly Swegle of Fort Hood, Texas, took first place in Division II monochrome for “Dress Shop,” second in animals for “Painted Birds” and third in people for “American Woman.”
Lt. Col. Mark Bonica of Fort Sam Houston, Texas, took second in Division I still life with “Reflections in Soap,” third in monochrome with “… and We All Fall Down” and received an honorable mention in military life with “Free Gift When You Join Today.”
Staff Sgt. Brandon Quarterman of Fort Bliss, Texas, won the Division I popular vote contest for “Reaching Perfection,” which topped the still life category.
Here are the results of the top three finishers in each category with photographer’s rank, name, installation and photo title:
2010 Army Digital Photo Contest
Animals – 1. Pfc. Amber Smith, Yongsan, Korea, What’s for Dinner; 2. Staff Sgt. Wilberto Sierra, Fort Bliss, Texas, Dragonfly; 3. Staff Sgt. Robert Curtis, Vicenza, Italy, Tough Love.
Digital darkroom – 1. Spc. Thomas Mort, Fort Knox, Ky., Over the Top; 2. Sgt. Shawn Cassatt, Yongsan, Korea, On the Range; 3. Staff Sgt. Pablo Piedra, Fort McPherson, Ga., Beast within Me.
Design elements – 1. Staff Sgt. Pablo Piedra, Fort McPherson, Ga., 9; 2. 2nd Lt. Thomas Malejko, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Arch Elements; 3. Lt. Col. David Tygart, Stuttgart, Germany, Sunset Under Glass.
Mililtary life – 1. Sgt. Darlene Martinez, Fort Drum, N.Y., The Sacrifices We Make; 2. Staff Sgt. Joey Suggs, Fort Meade, Md., Dental Care; 3. Sgt. Shawn Cassatt, Yongsan, Korea, Remember Me.
Monochrome – 1. Sgt. 1st Class Lance Widner, Mannheim, Germany, Great Grandmother; 2. Col. John Powers, Camp Zama, Japan, Calm Morning at Mount Fuji; 3. Lt. Col. Mark Bonica, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, … and We All Fall Down.
Nature & landscapes – 1. 1st Lt. Christopher Snell, (unknown location), Sunset Swim; 2. Spc. Juan-Pablo Marin, Fort Benning, Ga., Moon Set; 3. Spc. Jenny Lu, Hohenfels, Germany, Hong Kong at Night.
People – 1. Capt. David Callender, (unknown location), Anna’s Dream; 2. Lt. Col. David Tygart, Stuttgart, Germany, Eval Fairy; 3. Col. Joseph Mancy, Stuttgart, Germany, Eyes that Speak.
Still life – 1. Staff Sgt. Brandon Quarterman, Fort Bliss, Texas, Reaching Perfection; 2. Lt. Col. Mark Bonica, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Reflections in Soap; 3. Warrant Officer Larry Olson, Wiesbaden, Germany, Sunflower in Contrast.
Animals – 1. Susan Doran, Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Defiance; 2. Holley Swegle, Fort Hood, Texas, Painted Birds; 3. Eric Armstrong, Camp Zama, Japan, Man O’ War.
Digital darkroom – 1. Col. Richard Pugh, Fort Campbell, Ky., The Owl; 2. Stephen Cullum, Stuttgart, Germany, Volksfest FDR; 3. Gary Cashman, Yongsan, Korea, BMX Composite.
Design elements – 1. Robert LaPolice, Selfridge, Mich., Just Riveting; 2. Col. Richard Pugh, Fort Campbell, Ky., Blue Mosque; 3. James Holbrook, Stuttgart, Germany, What do I call this.
Military life – 1. Nell Williams, Fort Stewart, Ga., My Dad, My Hero; 2. Rebecca Colburn, Fort Carson, Colo., The Test Drive; 3. Ann Marie Detavernier, Baumholder, Germany, The Love Letter.
Monochrome – 1. Holly Swegle, Fort Hood, Texas, Dress Shop; 2. Barbara Underwood, Fort Lee, Va., Light and Shadows; 3. Jeffrey Kline, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Texas Snow.
Nature & landscapes – 1. Brenda Walker, Fort Campbell, Ky., Morning Serenity; 2. Mylan Dawson, Kaiserslautern, Germany, Ash Clouds over Holland; 3. Col. Richard Pugh, Fort Campbell, Ky., Point Lobos.
People – 1. Sherry Keene Hobbs, Garmisch, Germany, Belly Dancer; 2. Eugenia Whittenburg, Fort Shafter, Hawaii, Happy Beach Feet; 3. Holly Swegle, Fort Hood, Texas, American Woman.
Still life – 1. Mylan Dawson, Kaiserslautern, Germany, Green Tomato; 2. Michael Slone, Fort Meade, Md., Morning Coffee; 3. Frank Leon, Fort Knox, Ky., The faucet chronicles.