It looks like something out of a dream or Gothic fairy tale.
Look closely and you see a tree with twisting branches and sun-dappled leaves contrasted against the hazy sunlight.
Look even closer and it almost looks human, with the branches and twigs reaching upward like gnarled hands and fingers.
But the photo is not from a fairy tale and instead resulted from a combination of talent, timing and some well-done iPhoto effects.
Angela Cichosz, a graduate student at Aurora University, captured the surreal image with a bit of serendipity.
"I've developed a habit of trying to bring my camera along everywhere," she said. "And the conditions that day were perfect."
An unusually wet June made for lush environs on the Aurora campus, and the fog rolling in made for an eerie scene. With sunlight coming through the clouds and enveloping the university grounds, Cichosz instinctively leaned against the tree and simultaneously zoomed in and took shots with her trusty Canon, adding motion to the edges.
The deep contrasts and hazy atmospherics would be enough for most, but Cichosz continued the process back home on her MacBook. Additional blur effects were added in iPhoto, and some color adjustments heightened the sense of unreality.
Cichosz's efforts won her the Daily Herald's June Photo Finish contest. The DuPage County photo staff selected the photo for its atmosphere and unsettling nature.
"I like it because it is a little mysterious and the tree has creepy, human characteristics: arms with branches like fingers, a torso with no head," DuPage Photo Director Scott Sanders said.
For her efforts, Cichosz will receive a $50 gift certificate from PJ's Camera, Pickwick Place Plaza, 662 Roosevelt Road, Glen Ellyn.
When not in class herself, the Carol Stream resident works as a paraprofessional in Carol Stream Elementary District 93 with emphasis on special education. While she is strictly an amateur photographer, this is not her first experience with complex or beautiful shots, and she is a repeat winner of the Photo Finish contest.
"While it is a hobby, I try to integrate (photography) into my job as much as I can," she says.
Since getting her first professional-level camera in 2007 to take pictures of her puppy, Cichosz has brought her photography to the classroom, taking portraits of students and being open minded for creative shots in different kinds of spaces.
"There are usually interesting shots no matter where you look," she says. "And in the case of the tree, I just needed to look up."