Joanne Clapp Fullagar's husband sums up her photography in four words: people, bugs and odd things. It's an apt description.

"I love taking pictures of people, but only when they're not aware of it," said Fullagar, who won the 1,000 Words category in the 2012 Alameda on Camera contest at Frank Bette Center for the Arts. "Bugs are a challenge because they're small things that are always moving. And as for odd things, I love distortions and reflections."

All of those criteria were satisfied in Fullagar's winning image. At first glance, "Apocalypse Alameda?" appears to be a futuristic landscape, ostensibly shot with a fish-eye lens and Photoshopped to add angry red, yellow and orange hues. But it's not. It's a straight photograph with no special lenses or enhancements.

"Look further," Fullagar said with an impish grin. "I'm in there somewhere." Sure enough, in the middle of the image is a hidden silhouette of the photographer, holding her camera. "There's another clue in the top left corner," she said. It's a round edge, typical of a distorted fish-eye view.

"It's a gazing ball," Fullagar explained. The entire image is a reflection, distorted by the shape of the ball. Fullagar used a Canon Rebel XT digital camera with a long lens to capture the image in the front yard of a Crown Harbor townhome near Crab Cove. The area was assigned to her as part of the contest; each of 48 photographers was given one of 48 areas in Alameda with a 48-hour deadline to shoot and submit three images.


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"When I first looked in there, I didn't think it was very interesting, but then I got this feeling that I needed to go in and look further," Fullagar said. What resulted was an image that was judged to be worth "1,000 words" -- and the prize sponsored by the Alameda Journal.

Fullagar and her husband, Neil, moved to Alameda from Massachusetts in 1989. They both work in San Francisco. He's a former schoolteacher working as a professional nanny, and she's a project editor for Jossey Bass/Wiley, a company that publishes books about every subject from business to spirituality. Some of those books include Fullagar's photos. She almost always has a camera in her hand.

"I took my first photograph when I was 6," she said. "My father let me use his Argus C3. I still have that photo on my wall; it's a picture of my father in front of our house. I've had cameras most of the time since. It's something I love." Fullagar has shot Quaker conferences and emergency manuals, candid personal portraits and album covers. One of her photos is featured on a CD recorded by Threshold Choir, a network of a cappella singers who serenade the sick and dying at their bedsides. Fullagar has been singing with the choir for 10 years. In some ways, it's like taking photographs--quiet, meditative, focused.

"I really like the stillness," Fullagar says of her love affair with photography. "When I am looking through a lens, I can really look at something with focused attention." To request photography services from Joanne Clapp Fullagar, send an email to her at jcf.photo@sbcglobal.net.