Valley News -

By Joe Naiman

Ross wins Best of Show at San Diego County Fair, Serrano receives honorable mentions


Last updated 6/28/2018 at 4:12pm


Anita Ross takes many of her award-winning photographs on a trip to Alaska.

Photographer Anita Ross of Temecula won Best of Show at the San Diego County Fair's Exhibition of Photography.

Her work, "Nesting Time," which features a bird with a small branch in its beak, also won first place in the Wild Animals – Birds category. It was taken in Escondido.

"It's very special to get that award," Ross said. "I was really surprised that I won Best of Show."

The Exhibition of Photography received approximately 4,300 entries and approximately 1,300 of those were selected for display. Ross entered 20 photos, and 18 of those were accepted for display.

"She's just very detailed, pays real attention to her craft," exhibit coordinator Gene Wild said.

Ross, a member of the Inland Empire Photography Club, received first place in the Wild Animals – Mammals class as well and received a donated award for a photo she entered in the Black and White Nature category. Ross added five honorable mention awards in Wild Animals – Mammals, three honorable mention ribbons in Wild Animals – Birds, two honorable mention recognitions in the Large Prints category and an honorable mention apiece in Black and White Nature and Digital Photographic Art.

"She's a very versatile photographer," Wild said.

Ross' awards last year included honorable mention recognition for photos in the Still Life and Family Moments classes.

"I love taking pictures of animals and trying to find the emotion in them. They have feelings just like we do, so I try to capture that," Ross said. "I was observing this black-crowned night heron making a nest. The bird kept going back and forth. It was so fun to watch."

Ross used a Canon 1DX Mark II and a Canon 100-400 mm II lens set at 200 millimeters to photograph the bird.

"I was fortunate the bird was pretty close," she said.

The sky also worked in Ross' favor, she said.

"I was lucky because it was a cloudy day," she said. "The background is really important."

She won first place for "Daydreaming," which she took in September 2017 on a trip to Alaska guided by Nathaniel Smalley. A coastal brown bear cub wandered through the meadows at Lake Clark National Reserve, Ross said.

"The little cub was in the meadow with its mom and its siblings," Ross said, and the mother bear didn't perceive the photographers as a threat. "They didn't seem to care. I was impressed with how we trusted them and they trusted us."

Ross took a 400-millimeter prime lens to Alaska, and three of her photos from that trip were given honorable mentions by judges. "The Eyes Tell the Story" was also taken at Lake Clark National Reserve. "Catch of the Day" was taken in Brooks Falls and shows a coastal brown bear with its salmon catch. A coastal brown bear in Brooks Falls shakes off moisture in "Shake It Off."

"It was raining nearly every day, and they were trying to fatten up for hibernation time," Ross said. "It was a wonderful, magical place, and the trip was very special. I plan to go back and do it again."

Although "Watching Over Me" did not receive a place award in the Black and White Nature category, Kurt's Camera Repair bestowed a donated award upon the photo of two lowland gorillas. Ross took the photo at the San Diego Safari Park in San Diego and used her 100-400 millimeter lens.

"I was very happy to get the donated award," Ross said.

In 2016 Ross traveled to the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya.

"That was my first wildlife photography trip," she said. "I had never traveled much before that."

Ross used a 100-400 millimeter lens for her Africa trip. Two of those photos were given honorable mention awards in this year's Wild Animals – Mammals competition. A cape buffalo from the Masai Mara is featured in "Emerging from the Shadows." A male lion named Scar, who was speared in the eye when he wandered off the Masai Mara Reserve, is the subject of "Scar, King of the Mara."

Ross took most of her bird photos in northern San Diego County and southern Riverside County.

"I love to go wherever I can locally," she said. "It's fun to watch the wildlife and capture what I can."

Two of her photos which were given honorable mention ribbons for the Wild Animals – Birds category.

"I really love birds in water because of the reflections and motion effect," Ross said.

An Escondido photo of a wild pelican in water is titled "Flying Feathers." "Nature's Reflection" is of an Egyptian gosling looking at its reflection in water.

Ross' other honorable mention photo in the Wild Animals – Birds category, "Look! It's a Bee," was taken in the Salton Sea area and captured three burrowing owlets on the ground and a bee in the background.

The two Large Print honorable mention awards were for an Alaska photo and an Africa photo. "Happy Mama Bear" was taken in Lake Clark and displays a coastal brown bear with a fish in its mouth. "Gentle Giant" features a headshot of an African elephant.

The Black and White Nature honorable mention was awarded to "Sad and Lonely" and is of a cheetah in the Masai Mara.

Ross used a textured background for her photo "Display of Elegance," the shot of a white-faced ibis on a branch. It was entered in the Digital Photographic Art category and gave Ross an honorable mention.

Ross printed her own photographs. ABC Design Mat and Frame in Escondido matted her photographs. The Large Prints entries were printed on metal by Metalography in Temecula.

Ross is originally from Ventura County, but she moved to Temecula in 2009. She said she enjoyed photography briefly in earlier years but retiring from her job as a court reporter allowed her to reconnect with photography and engage in it at a higher level.

"It's really a passion that I feel very fortunate to have discovered," she said. "It's such a wonderful gift that I really appreciate."

"I love when people enjoy my images," Ross said. "It's really special to me."

Kurt's Camera Repair also gave a donated award to Hemet photographer Maria Serrano for "Childhood Dream" in the Family Moments category which features Serrano's daughter embracing a puppy.

"I thought it was really special; it got a special award," Serrano said. "It was a surprise. I was very happy."

Her piece, "I'm a Big Boy," received an honorable mention ribbon from the Our Best Friend judges. The two-week-old foster puppy was howling in the photo.

"I can't make him howl. He just decided to do it," Serrano said.

In March, Serrano joined researchers in Panama, and her photo, "Lined Up," features three leaf tent bats roosting at the Cocobolo Nature Preserve. The shot received honorable mention recognition in the Black and White Nature class.

"That one was very special to me," Serrano said.

Serrano used a Nikon D810 for all three of her award-winning shots. Artsy Couture printed and matted the photos. Eleven of Serrano's 18 submissions were selected to hang in the exhibition.

Serrano was raised in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and moved to Murrieta briefly before settling in Hemet approximately 14 years ago. She became serious in photography five years ago and has been a member of the Inland Empire Photography Club for the past five years. Serrano teaches second grade at Lisa J. Mails Elementary School in Murrieta.

Two photos taken by Lora Ortiz of Murrieta received second-place awards. "Flower of Sunshine" was given second place in the Flowers class and features a multi-petaled yellow calendula. Ortiz' second-place photo in the All Other Plants and Trees category, "Sweet Succulent," portrays a close-up shot of a succulent in Temecula's natural light.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected]


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