Leo Modica's journey with photography began 40 years ago when, as a teenager, he would take photos with an old film camera in his spare time.
But the Wheaton native has transitioned rather well to the digital era. He now processes most of his images, transforming them to the point where they look like impressionist art.
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Each week, our Neighbor section includes at least one entry in our Photo Finish photography contest. If you would like to submit a photo, email it in .jpg format with at least 300 dpi resolution to email@example.com.
"I consider myself more of an art photographer and I translate a lot of my photography into artwork," he said. "I run my images through a process that pixelates and creates 3-D imagery, and I modify colors and enhance things."
Modica's photo of a paddler in the midst of a Lake Michigan sunset was chosen by the Daily Herald's DuPage photo staff as the July winner in our monthly Photo Finish contest.
"It's just gorgeous color and I like the composition," DuPage Photo Director Scott Sanders said. "And having the guy in the raft adds a human touch to it as opposed to just having an ordinary sunset."
For his efforts, Modica will receive a $50 gift certificate to PJ's Camera and Photo Supply in Glen Ellyn.
Modica ran his winning photo through an HDR, or high dynamic range, process that allows him to blend three pictures into one.
"It really does give me the ability to blend the various tones and contrasts together," he said. "It allows me to neutralize the intensity so you can see what you would see there with your naked eye."
Modica snapped the photo last summer in Sawyer, Mich., with his Canon 50D camera, using a super wide-angle lens to give him a panoramic view.
While at his home that sits on Lake Michigan, he goes down to the lake with his camera during most sunsets. But it's when there are people enjoying the lakefront that he really tries to capture the moment.
"It was an interesting picture where the subject was the paddler but also the sun," he said of his photo. "I like those pictures because they show humans in nature."
And nature is Modica's specialty -- most of his photography focuses on landscapes and wildlife, specifically birds.
"I've just gotten really good at taking pictures of birds," he said. "I'm just really captivated by birds."
Modica says his love of photography is twofold: he can engage people so they find themselves emotionally in his photos, and it allows him to stop and appreciate the moments he is capturing.
"It lets me see things in a way that I wouldn't otherwise see if I wasn't using my camera," he said.
The perfect photo for Modica is one that excites something in him and doesn't get old. He has a few of those in his collection, he says.
"It's fresh, even though you've seen it a hundred times," he said. "It's a picture you always come back to."
To see more of Modica's photos, visit his website at pbase.com/leomodica.