Sometimes holiday presents come from the most unexpected places.
That's how it was for Robert Wilson, who woke up Christmas morning, padded into the kitchen of his Glen Ellyn home for a cup of coffee, and happened to glance out the window toward a bank of trees standing, oh, maybe 40 feet from the back of his house.
About our contestEach week our Neighbor section includes at least one entry in our Photo Finish photography contest. If you'd like to submit a photo, email it in .jpg format with at least 300 dpi resolution to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And there, nestled in the bare branches against a drab winter background, was an incredibly vibrant red cardinal that seemed to be gazing right back at him.
"It looked," Wilson says now, "like he was staring at the Christmas tree in our family room."
So, like any good photographer, the retired Villa Park firefighter scurried off to get his camera in hopes the bird would still be there when he got back. The cardinal didn't flinch and neither did Wilson as he returned to the window and snapped off several shots with his Nikon D40.
"I thought, seeing it just with my eyes, that he really stood out," Wilson says. After seeing the image on his camera, "I thought it turned out pretty decent."
His wife, Shirley, was even more enthusiastic. When she urged him to enter the picture in our Photo Finish contest, he smiled and told her that if she felt so strongly about it she should do it on his behalf.
"I never assumed it would win," he says.
He was wrong. The DuPage County photo staff picked Wilson's image from among all our January contest entries as the best picture of the month.
"I like it because the contrast is striking between the bright red color of the cardinal and the complete lack of color everywhere else in the photo," DuPage Photo Director Scott Sanders says.
For his efforts, Wilson wins a $50 gift certificate from PJ's Camera, 662 Roosevelt Road, Glen Ellyn.
Wilson says he started taking pictures in the late 1970s when he was an investigator with the Villa Park Fire Department. Back then he was using a 35 mm Minolta and shooting black and white images of fire scenes, often using a flash in very low light.
His interest in photography gradually expanded and he started taking pictures during vacations and family events. Shirley, a retired teacher, also got interested in the hobby and is a regular contributor to our contest.
"She's got an eye," Wilson says. "She takes good pictures."
As it turns out, so does he.