Soaring Into Summer
The Winner and Runners-Up in Our Annual Photo Contest

By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 6, 2008

The summer solstice began a tick before 8 p.m. June 20, so the first full day of summer 2008 was Saturday, June 21, and what a day it was. Partly cloudy, high of 84 -- so pleasant that the Varacalli family from McLean decided to play in Arlington's Gravelly Point Park, near Reagan National Airport.

At some point, a man with a camera approached them and sheepishly asked if they wouldn't mind posing for a picture. Mike Varacalli, 38, said sure and was then directed to lift his 2-year-old daughter, Ashley, into the air as a plane took off. At 1:05 p.m., the man got the shot he wanted after two tries, expressed his thanks and left the park.

That's how Mike and Ashley wound up on our cover, courtesy of Springfield resident Bobby Standridge, 41, who took the winning shot in the Sunday Source's second annual first-day-of-summer photo contest.

"Fortunately, the second plane that flew by worked out perfectly with composition, the clouds on one side and she mirroring what the plane is doing with her arms," says Standridge, a computer animator, who used an 18-200mm lens on a Nikon D80. "The picture makes you want to smile. It's also about dreaming. She is smiling and feels she's flying, and it just sums up that spirit of freedom that kids have."

Summer came at us in many other snapshots: carnival rides whirling in the night, softballs whizzing through the air, dogs and children exulting in water. You can see our four finalists plus some other favorites in the gallery at right.


This is Wind, Rain and Sunny, with Cloud in the back [in Photo 6 in our gallery at right]. Wind and Sunny are Cloud's parents. Rain is Wind's sister. They enjoy the pool during the summer.

They're also remarkably well behaved, which is what struck us about Pam Prott's photo. The golden retrievers are looking directly at the camera as if keenly aware that they are posing for a photo contest. Their mix of cuteness and intensity, and the striking image of their golden fur catching the midday sun, was enough to send them to the finals.

"That's their pool," says Prott, 52, who works for a nonprofit group and lives in Mechanicsville in St. Mary's County. "We bought it just for them, because gas prices are so horrendous and we're not driving to a beach."

2:43 p.m.

Jason A. Flakes, 27, was going out for a bike ride in his Annandale neighborhood when he heard the familiar sound of an ice cream truck. He grabbed his camera and snapped a photo of Good Humor vendor Wahab Ogunmona of Hyattsville as he teased kids who were clamoring for iced treats on Cliffhaven Drive. Flakes took other photos on the first day of summer, but he submitted this one for nostalgia's sake. [Photo 10]

"I remember being a child and the ice cream man coming to our neighborhood and kids running out," says Flakes, an architectural systems designer. "The kids are out of school, and the ice cream guy is around. It reminded me of summertime."

4:55 p.m.

Greenbelt resident Cynthia Cummings and her daughter go for a walk around Greenbelt Lake nearly every day, so it's logical that the stroll produced a submission for the Summer Photo Contest. Here she caught a duck and two little ones paddling. It's a simple photo, but the painterly quality of the reflections on the water is perhaps the most appealing part. [Photo 17]

"I really like the reflections," says Cummings, 48, an editorial assistant for Physics Today magazine in College Park. "I was aiming at the ducks, but the composition ended up very nice."

10:04 p.m.

Ashburn resident Joni Doyon recently took a photography class. She decided to put the lessons to use by setting up a tripod and slowing her camera's shutter speed to properly capture the nighttime landscape of a roadside carnival off Route 7 in Dulles. It was her first attempt at night shooting, and it worked well enough for us. [Photo 23]

"I just thought this shot was the one that really showed the atmosphere, really showed the carnival's whole carefree thing," says Doyon, 46. "In summer you suspend reality."

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