You know you've picked a pretty cool vacation destination when crowds of people come out most evenings just to watch the sunset.
And you know you've taken a pretty cool picture of that spot when you look through the viewfinder and catch a sailboat silhouetted against the vivid orange sky just before the sun slips beneath the liquid horizon.
About our contestEach week our Neighbor section includes at least one entry in our Photo Finish photography contest. Our photo staff picks one overall monthly winner to receive a prize. If you would like to submit a photo, email it in .jpg format with at least 300 dpi resolution to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allen Panek of Naperville can appreciate all that after winning our February Photo Finish contest with his stunning image captured along the waterfront of Key West, Fla.
Panek says he and his wife were in Mallory Square this January, where folks gather to watch the setting sun kiss the ocean good night. There were quite a few sailboats out and he was snapping plenty of pictures when one came into view at the perfect time.
"I knew it was a 'good composition' picture," he says. "I got a few others I like, but I thought this was the best of the group. I knew it was a keeper."
Panek's thoughts echo those of DuPage Photo Director Scott Sanders.
"I like it due to its simple composition and the sailboat in the foreground," Sanders says. "It makes an interesting sunset photo even though there are no clouds in the sky."
For his efforts, Panek will receive a $50 gift certificate from PJ's Camera, 662 Roosevelt Road, Glen Ellyn.
The gift may come in handy for Panek, a retired Naperville water utility director, who loves to travel and take pictures. He was a longtime film guy, but switched over to digital three years ago and hasn't looked back.
"You don't waste film," he says. "You can look at your picture and if you don't like it you just delete it. That's the most outstanding part."
He still has "lots and lots of old-fashioned slides," but now he keeps most of his images on his computer.
Panek's not afraid to share his pictures with others, but always with one important caveat.
Unlike your uncle with his slides of stained glass creations, or that eccentric lady down the street with her countless pictures of her even more countless quilts, Panek always has adhered to the less is more philosophy.
"It's essential to edit the heck out of them," he says. "Every picture should tell a story. You really want to show the highlights so you don't bore people."
There's no danger of anyone getting bored looking at his images from Key West. Better still, it will always provide a happy memory of Key West, Mallory Square and that setting sun.
"If you get a good image you can keep it forever," he says. "You can freeze it in time and always look at it."