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Local artists in focus at photo exhibit

March 02, 2006|by KRISTIN WILSON

When Richard Schlecht looks at a photograph, he sees a blank canvas.

"When I get the photograph, that's the starting point for me," says the Frederick, Md., resident and watercolor painter. With a digital photo in hand, Schlecht, 69, enjoys working with images to bring out focal points or to enhance natural lighting.

Schlecht's approach to photography earned him best of show in the 73rd annual Cumberland Valley Photographic Salon photography contest.

His image is one of 68 prints and four slides accepted into the juried photo exhibit at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. From March 3 until April 9, these works by photographers living in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, D.C., will be on display, says Amy Hunt, curator at the Washington County museum.

Christopher J. Brownawell, director of the Academy Art Museum in Easton, Md., and Larry Knutson, a member of the Adams County Arts Council in Pennsylvania, chose the winners from 273 submitted works.

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Visitors to the museum will see a wide range of photographic styles, Hunt says. Contest rules allowed artists to submit photographs in any of 10 categories, of any subject, taken anywhere. However, many of the winning selections are of local people or locations.

"Some of the images are of Washington County and, if not Washington County, places people in Hagerstown have been to and visited," Hunt says.

Schlecht's photograph, "Hay Bales in Sunlight," was taken near Adamstown, Md., across from Lilypons Water Gardens.

"It was late afternoon and the hay had just been cut and bailed and we just had to stop and spend 30 minutes shooting," Schlecht says. Because Schlecht's wife, Harriet Wise, is a professional photographer, the couple keep cameras nearby for such moments of inspiration.

"Hay Bales in Sunlight" is a digital photograph originally shot in color. Schlecht used Photoshop software to convert the image into a black-and-white photograph.

"I manipulate images quite considerably to enhance certain areas," he says. Specific to his winning photograph, "some areas are slightly brightened, some other areas are slightly blurred."

Schlecht is a watercolor painter who started experimenting with digital photography about three years ago, he says. He believes his painting background affects the way he works with photographs. His best-of-show photo was also the first-prize winner in the digitally enhanced category.

Richard Amt has worked as a photographer for most of his life, although his two wins in the 2006 photographic salon represent the first time he's captured more than one title in a show.

Amt, 73, of Chambersburg, Pa., won first prize in the black-and-white still-life category for "Mini-Cyclamen" and second prize in the digitally enhanced category for "Altenwald Elevator."

Amt focused on black-and-white film photography for most of his life, but there was no room to create a darkroom when he and his wife moved into a smaller home two years ago.

"I decided to go all digital and have been very satisfied with it," Amt says. "I found this was a very successful replacement for good black-and-white photography."

The "Mini-Cyclamen" photograph was shot as a black-and-white image with a digital camera and was digitally printed, he says. The cyclamen flowers - the subject of his photo - were a gift Amt gave to his wife. "The more I saw (the flowers) sitting there in the house, the more I liked them," he says. He decided to experiment with the flowers that had such an unusual structure and "peculiar-shaped blossoms," he says.

Lynnsay Gudgeon-Erskine, 21, is honored to be included in this year's photo salon.

"I was just very, very excited when I found out that I would be included with all of these other, amazing photographers," she says.

Gudgeon-Erskine won the award for best photograph by a Washington County resident. The Boonsboro native is a full-time student at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind., majoring in photography and art.

She grew up attending the museum's annual photo salon, she says. It was always a goal of hers to be included in the exhibit, but she thought it would take several more years of practice before her work would be displayed.

Gudgeon-Erskine's photograph "Bottles" was entered into the abstract effects category since it was produced using cross-processing, a technique which Gudgeon-Erskine used to make changes to the photo's color contrast.

"I really love the contemporary processes that are out there," she says. Gudgeon-Erskine's image of bottles lined up against a wall was taken at a Papa John's restaurant in Marion. "The very first time I saw that setup was my freshman year," Gudgeon-Erskine says. "I went back for that shot when I found out about cross-processing."

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