The bigger picture

City College student’s photograph hangs in the Smithsonian

Originally published in the May 1, 2012 print edition of the Sac City Express

Sandy Follett’s photograph, “Tunnel View Rainbow-Yosemite,” of Yosemite National Park is on display in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Sandy Follett.

When it comes to art, patience and luck can go a long way and for Sandy Follett, 54, a photography major who attends both City College and Cosumnes River College, those principles meant capturing a breathtaking moment in time with a photograph that is on display in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C., through January 2013.

Follett’s photo was chosen as one of 48 winners from 21,000 entries in Windland Smith International Awards landscape photography competition. It was taken at one of Yosemite National Park’s best-known scenic spots—Tunnel View—with Yosemite valley and Bridal Veil waterfall in the distance, and a prominent rainbow shining through a mist at the tail-end of a rainfall. In addition, the photo has been published in Smithsonian magazine and hangs in the office of California Gov. Jerry Brown.

“Just to be a part of the magazine was big, but to be a part of the Smithsonian was huge,” said Follett. “I’m excited to be in the museum.”

Follett said landscape photography is all about patience, the right conditions and being in the right place at the right time. She recalled that the weather was cloudy and rainy the day she made the photograph and that the sun would periodically poke through the clouds between downpours. Follett said she had to wait most of the day in order to get the shot she wanted.

“I knew what time the light would hit that day, and I knew it had potential to get a rainbow,” said Follett. “And I got lucky. [Getting the right shot requires] part knowledge and part luck.”

Follett said she became serious about taking pictures four years ago when she returned to school to pursue a career in photography. She won a film camera in a contest years earlier and had dabbled in black and white, but it proved difficult for her to find time to spend in a darkroom.

“It started out as a hobby,” said Follett. “I didn’t get this far without the help of the photography department.”

According to Follett, she enjoys landscape photography over other forms because she has a background in horticulture, or garden cultivation, and she enjoys plants.

Follett said she entered the competition after learning about it from another photographer’s resume. According to the Smithsonian’s website, “The exhibition was created to recognize this public dedication to nature through the art of photography.”

“I had seen the exhibit six years ago, but after hearing about the contest, didn’t realize the pictures were from the same competition,” said Follett. “I thought, ‘How do people get a photo on here?’”

Paul Estabrook, department chair of photography at City College, is currently teaching a Commercial and Advertising photography class, in which Follett is enrolled. Follett said that Estabrook was a huge help to her because he encouraged her to start showing her work.

“The teachers and students are great. We have a lot of fun, and everyone is supportive of each other,” Follett said. “That’s where I learned to take a photograph, in the junior college system.”

Estabrook noted that the Tunnel View area in Follett’s photo is a highly photographed place, but that her photo stands out because it has amazing lighting.

“It’s truly unique,” says Estabrook. “I was blown away by [the photo]. I can see why they chose it.”

Estabrook said Follett is very committed to her work and that she works harder than a lot of his other students. He said landscape photography is the most common type that students want to do, which makes it a very competitive field.

“It’s a rarity to find someone as good as [Follett] in landscape photography,” said Estabrook. “So many people are doing landscape, so it’s an incredible honor for her to have won. This award is huge.”

In the future, Follett said her goals are to continue improving and learning as much as she can about landscape photography, but she wants to shift her focus more to night photography.

“I want to pursue the ranching area in El Dorado Hills,” says Follett. “I want to continue with the fine arts aspect of [photography] as well.”

According to Follett, Cosumnes River College photography Professor Patty Felkner has been a huge inspiration. Felkner said that Follett is extremely passionate about landscape photography and puts a lot of effort into gaining exposure for her work.

“I was really thrilled to be her adviser at the time she got this honor,” said Felkner. “We couldn’t be more thrilled about what’s going on with Sandy.”

Felkner said the photo is astounding because of the unique way Follett framed the photo, which refers to the area of the image along the outer edges of the photo. Felkner said Follett’s dedication and patience to get the best possible shot has really paid off for her.

“It really comes down to her commitment,” said Felkner. “What she brought [to photography], she got out. I don’t think another person would have gotten the same shot.”

About Daniel Wilson

Daniel has been a writer for over 25 years and recently earned his Bachelor's degree in journalism. Portfolio:
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