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posted: 10/6/2012 10:50 AM

Naperville photographer wins monthly Photo Finish contest

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  • Larry Pearlman of Naperville won our September Photo Finish contest with this image that he calls "Polished Rails -- Sunset in Tolono, Illinois."

    Larry Pearlman of Naperville won our September Photo Finish contest with this image that he calls "Polished Rails -- Sunset in Tolono, Illinois."


When you ask avid shutterbug Larry Pearlman where he takes his camera these days, he matter-of-factly rattles off the hot spots.

Rio, of course. A stop in Alberta's oil sands. Oh, and Equatorial Guinea. No big deal.

Yet it's an image he snapped in Tolono, Ill., about a month ago of a mundane subject that really makes him smile.

And that's something, considering the self-described "picky" photographer deletes the "overwhelming majority" of the roughly 300 images he captures on a typical night.

Pearlman considers the image he submitted of a sunset a success because it revolutionizes the standard image taken at his location of choice: empty train tracks.

And our photo staff agreed, choosing it as the winner of our September Photo Finish contest.

Instead of waiting for a train to whiz by and focusing on that subject at street level, Pearlman propped his camera on the tracks.

And what's more, his image of choice transforms the emotions of the location -- the lonely train whistle, remote in the distance, and adds warmth.

Pearlman's image captures the precise moment of a sunset caressing the tracks in shades of reds and yellows.

How did he do it?

A mix of timing, equipment (a Canon EOS digital camera) and something you can't really teach.

"It's having the eye," Pearlman, 45, said.

As his prize for winning our monthly contest, the Naperville man will receive a $50 gift certificate from PJ's Camera, 662 Roosevelt Road in Glen Ellyn.

DuPage Photo Director Scott Sanders praised the image's vivid colors and simple composition.

"The photographer clearly put a lot of thought into the subject and the time of day and camera position to get the effect he wanted," Sanders said. "He combined common objects such as the rail and train signal, along with a common everyday occurrence, the sunset, into a very artistic photo."

Turns out Pearlman enjoys framing common objects, especially large machinery, despite all his travels for his job in management consulting in the oil industry.

He became fascinated with trains about the same time he picked up photography at only 5 years old with his first camera: a little Kodak Brownie, a simple device first introduced in 1900.

While he honed his skills in a photography class in college, an online community of fellow photographers sharpens his techniques. Pearlman said he often posts thousands of photographs on Flickr for feedback and critique.

What has he learned?

"To try and get something different and captivating that would otherwise be ordinary," Pearlman said.

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