OAKHURST – Local photographer Virginia Lazar has a tendency to capture the bigness of small moments.
With trademark emotional awareness in the capture of images, and sharp-eyed clarity while editing, the frequent Sierra News Online contributer recently entered a number of her favorite pictures into a series of categories at the Mariposa County Fair.
This is the Oakhurst resident’s second time at the fair; in 2013 her prints took 1st, 2nd and 3rd, for a clean sweep of the People category. This year, Lazar admitted it helped having been through the process once before and knowing, to a degree, what the judges are looking for. Ultimately, she entered in the categories of Animals, Children, People, Nature and Yosemite, and her instincts for what prints to include were right on target, if a basketful of winner’s ribbons is any indication.
Click on images to enlarge.
“I chose the photos that I had the greatest connection to, since I’m all about triggering some sort of emotion in the viewer, and these are the ones that really moved me.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Lazar traded a fading hobby for what has turned out to be a most rewarding obsession, and even profession. “I sold my stained glass workshop to purchase a camera,” the wife, mom and circuit board designer explained. It wasn’t exactly love at first click of the moderately-expensive camera. “Thinking the price of the camera was reflective of how good a picture I could take, I was quickly proven wrong.”
Lazar was discouraged at first, until a friend gave her a few short lessons, including diagrams on how to balance exposure. Since then, she said, “my camera has never seen a setting other than manual.” With knowledge, her passion exploded. “Now I could make the camera capture the image I wanted. It put me in charge.”
Shooting in RAW format as she does requires digital photo editing skills, something that’s not unfamliar to Lazar since she has her own tech business. “My profession as a Printed Circuit Board designer has had me working on a CAD system for the past 25 years. Because of this, post processing tools such as Lightroom and Photoshop were somewhat easy for me to navigate. That shortened my learning curve once I learned the terminology.”
Arguably the best tool Lazar has for creative photography is her infinite curiosity and clever eye, useful for composing the pictures and then knowing which ones to keep. She had a feeling one of her entries in particular would strike the right chord with many.
“My image of a fisherman, taken over the summer on Ventura Pier, is one of my favorites by far. To me, every wrinkle in his face is a chapter in his life. His eyes are so deep with emotion. This image must have moved the judges as well, since they voted it Best in Show for People as well as Overall Best in Show.”
Two different portraits of teen girls captured the judges’ appreciation, as well, garnering 1st and 2nd Place, and for girl with the cowboy hat, a Special Award.
One commanding image came about as the result of the Lazar family spending spare weekends in Nelder Grove for the past few months. “I had leisurely mornings for walks with my camera and tripod. The photograph of the Bull Buck tree was taken on one of those mornings,” says the avid biker and hiker. The Bull Buck tree at Nelder Grove photo won 1st Place in the Nature category.
For the last two years, Lazar has volunteered her services for Sierra News Online, lending countless personal hours on dozens of shoots, while perfectly capturing moments that ranged from puppies rolling in the dirt to dignitaries taking stage at official ceremonies, and everything in between.
“One of my assignments with SNO was the Diabetes Alert Dogs, photographing the family and dogs,” Lazar said. “I was invited back to the Beckers’ home later, when one of the dogs had puppies. The whole Becker family was involved in this photo shoot, helping me to get the best shot. We had to overcome harsh lighting and mottled shade, but we did it and it worked, resulting in a 1st Place winner, plus a Special Award for my Welcome Puppy image.”
Lazar recognizes that, as a relative newcomer to the art, she’s a strong sapling among undeniable giants when it comes to taking pictures of Yosemite and its grand surroundings. That’s okay. “There are so many talented landscape photographers in our midst and there is no way I could ever compete with them at my level.”
She’s found that being in the right place at the right time helps when it comes to photography, and often results in photos worth preserving.
“I had the opportunity to attend the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act at the Park over the summer and it allowed me to photograph a few of the people participating, including Ranger Miles Standish portraying Galen Clark and Ranger Shelton Johnson portraying a Buffalo Soldier.” Those images captured 2nd and 3rd Place ribbons from judges at the Mariposa Fair.
Being on assignment for various clients has enabled Lazar’s instincts to become more honed and let her to brush up against some old pros with vast experience and generous attitudes that made them share their tricks.
“It has allowed me access to people and events and given me the opportunity to meet professional photographers in the industry. A few in particular have had tremendous influence on me, continuing to shape me into the photographer I wish to become.”
Lazar has simple advice for anyone looking to improve the quality of the photographs they take, whether as newbies to the craft or those who want to step up their game a bit. She recommends doing what she did. “Learn about exposure and then turn your camera dial to Manual Mode. Once you take control of the settings, a whole new world opens up with your photography.”
All in all, said Lazar, it was a terrific experience to participate in the 2014 Mariposa County Fair, and she’s grateful for the chance to shine.
“I thank the Fair Committee for reconizing my work, along with my husband Justin, who is perhaps my biggest supporter. He is always encouraging me to keep moving forward with my photography.” Lazar continued. “It was a very succesful show for me, coming in 2nd for the Sweepstakes Award.“
With no shortage of subject matter in the mountains and opportunities abounding in her new profession, Lazar knows what she wants to cover the most. “People or animals. I have a love for both. Actually, anything with eyes! That’s my point of focus in most of my images.” Her dream job would be to travel the world taking photographs for National Geographic.
In the meantime, we’re glad she’s here, and Lazar is glad that she entered her pictures in the Mariposa County Fair, with great results. “It inspires me to keep taking pictures, knowing others are enjoying my work.“
Others shall continue to enjoy courtesy of Virginia Lazar, as she is on the Sierra Art Trails open studio tour this year, showing with with “two very talented artists, Monique Wales and Steve Montalto.”
Wales, Lazar and Montalto are numbers 45, 46 and 47, respectively, on the Sierra Art Trails self-guided tour. Click here for info on how to purchase a Sierra Art Trails Catalog, which is your ticket for two to the multi-day event.