John’s Picture Perfect Contest: Best of 2020

Alive! presents some of our favorite winners from ‘John’s Picture Perfect’ contest from last year.


Photos compiled by John Hawkins, Club CEO

A ‘Picture’ of 2020

Many of us might wish to forget that the year 2020 ever existed at all. But our impressive Club Member photographers and their photographic eyes found beauty in the challenging times.

For the John’s Picture Perfect contest’s 10th anniversary in January 2015, we printed our favorite photos from contest’s entire span. Readers liked it so much that we decided to run an annual recap.

In 2020, Club Members submitted hundreds of entries and many dozens of winners. Here are some of them.

So, as we look forward to better days ahead, we republish John Hawkins’ favorites from among the winners, along with his original comments.

Keep submitting your great photos, and keep looking up with hope and a grand sense of wonder.  

“Some folks celebrate the New Year Countdown with champagne and biscuits. For some other folks: A quaint gathering with friends and family that involves good food, small chit-chat and some (competitive) games.”

– Dominique Daito

John’s comment: Dominique, you have a great way of capturing people in moments that are real, and never staged. That’s hard to do, but you have it down. Great to see you contributing again; send in some information about what’s going on in this photo!

   “Here’s an image of the beautiful cloud reflection over Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.”

– Jill Weiszmann, Club Member

John’s comment: Oh wow, Jill, are you living in paradise, or what! I have been there myself. This is just an awesome photo of a beautiful lake.


“Pictured here is a cancer survivor and an inmate inside Folsom State Prison, ceremoniously walking the yard during a Relay for Life Fundraiser with the American Cancer Society. Fundraisers inside prison can help incarcerated people make amends.”

– Ike Dodson, CDCR, State of California

John’s comment: Ike, I can’t tell you how many ways I love this photo. Just on photographic terms, it’s one of the best portraits I’ve seen submitted for our monthly contest. But more than that, the self-respect of doing charity is really obvious here; how much better we would all be if we thought about others. The angle is strong, and the soft focus in the background leads you right back to his face. Awesome!

  “They can be extremely skittish at times, but once in a while even a suspicious feral cat needs to relax and let its guard down just for a little bit. It was at one of those moments when I was able to take this close-up of a beautiful stray that’s recently been hanging out with us in our backyard. (I’m not sure whether it’s because we are great company or because of the overabundance of the squirrel population.)

– Yves Didier, Airport Police

John’s comment: I’m guessing because you’re great company, Yves … My family has a cat, but I have never gotten this close. Look at that detail! What a miracle the natural world is. Thanks for the reminder.


“COVID family camping/fishing trip at Silverwood Lake, Calif. Look at how beautiful nature is and the kids enjoying a much-needed break outdoors.”

– Firefighter Ly Leng, LAFD

John’s comment: How true that is, Ly, a much-needed break. Your photo feels like exactly that – relaxed and beautiful. I hope you enjoyed your relaxing day; thanks for keeping us safe.


“This is a macro shot of a bee in my garden on a flower.”

– Ondrea Tye, Retired, Planning

John’s comment: You had to be awfully patient to wait for that bee to get in focus in front of your macro lens, Ondrea … and keep everything sharp. Thanks for submitting!

 “Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be!”

– Carlos Aranda, DWP

John’s comment: OMG! I still haven’t been here. It looks unreal – and having the person in the background really gives it perspective on how large it really is! Thanks, Carlos!ng!

“A night in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. It’s a prominent landmark in NYC, known for its Neo-Gothic style.”

– Corleto Manuel, Building and Safety

John’s comment: Corleto, I’ve seen St. Patrick’s many times, but I don’t remember seeing it with such an unusual blue tint. How did you capture this? I also like your angle, looking up at what looks like a slight tilt to really emphasize how impressive it is. Nice!

“A night in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. It’s a prominent landmark in NYC, known for its Neo-Gothic style.”

– Corleto Manuel, Building and Safety

John’s comment: Corleto, I’ve seen St. Patrick’s many times, but I don’t remember seeing it with such an unusual blue tint. How did you capture this? I also like your angle, looking up at what looks like a slight tilt to really emphasize how impressive it is. Nice!

“A pre-COVID-19 Mother’s Day at Central California Women’s Facility provided a special moment for incarcerated moms who got to renew bonds with their children during an extended visiting event made possible by CDCR and the ‘Get on the Bus’ program.”

– Isaiah Dodson, Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation, State of California

John’s comment: Isaiah, just like you did with your previous winner, you really know how to capture that moment on a person’s face that says it all. I’m glad you sent in a description, but their smiles are unmistakable. Thanks!

“I took this picture during a field trip to San Francisco. I wanted to catch the man rowing his canoe.”

– Rose Serrato, Retired, LAPD

John’s comment: Catch him you did, Rose. This is magnificent. I don’t think I’ve seen another photo in this contest with these bronze-ish color scheme. California’s gold! And the canoeist is perfectly placed in the sunset’s shadow. Awesome!

“A Titan missile in the silo at the Titan Missile Museum in Tucson, Ariz.”

– Dennis Eigel, Public Works/Sanitation

John’s comment: Your change of angle gives this image a fresh feel, Dennis. The flattening out of the dimensions also creates more of an oval shape, forcing the energy and making it feel as if the missile were ready to thrust right at you. It’s poised and ready to go, even though it no longer is. Thanks!


Honorable Mention

“Hand-blown glass is just so beautiful.”

– Renee Ramirez, LAFD

John’s comment: You’re right, Renee, it is. These baubles aren’t exactly holiday-themed, but in these days of COVID-19, I’ll take anything that reminds of me of the holidays to come. Nice shot!

“A poppy field in the Owens Valley.”

– William Arriola, DWP

John’s comment: I’m not sure what kind of lens you used here, William, but it really makes the poppies, well, pop in the middle of this three-section composition. And it reminds me we need to get back to covering DWP stories in Owens Valley, when the pandemic is over!

“I was taking my morning walk by the beach, Playa La Ribera, when I saw the driftwood. I had to stop and freeze this moment.”

– Rose Serrato, Retired, LAPD

John’s comment: Rose, I’m glad we’re publishing these photos on the Alive! Website, because I’m not sure the colors you’ve captured here would show up in print; that’s how subtle they are. I also love the contract between the cloudy soft pastels and the rough driftwood at the end of my eye path down below. Well done!

“This is the Royal Clipper, a five-mast sailing ship. We took a beautiful weeklong cruise in Italy. This shot was taken off of the Amalfi Coast in October 2019. In the background is Stromboli erupting.”

– Cherie Ivers, Harbor

John’s comment:  Wow, what a stunner, Cherie. The subject is great, the angle is powerful … I can feel the wind and the waves. But what I really love about this photo is the time of day you shot it, the golden hour (probably late afternoon). The golden glow and rich mood double the feeling. Nice!











Harvest season in Washington state.

Jill Weiszmann, Retired 

John’s comment: Jill, have you ever seen the movie Days of Heaven? It’s kind of obscure, I know, and slow; it’s not exactly a thriller! But it’s well known for its gorgeous grains, fields, and simplicity. That’s exactly what you have here — pure beauty of the earth. Time stands still to remind us that life is beautiful if we only notice. Thanks for submitting!

“It was very exciting to know that Huntington Library has reopened after it was closed for so long due to the COVID-19. I went to visit the gardens in Huntington and saw many beautiful flowers, especially the water lilies and lotuses. I looked at them and asked myself, ‘Are they real? Or just a Japanese picture?’ They were so special!”

Virginia Wai Ching Lit, Retired, Public Works/Engineering

John’s comment: Very nice, Virginia! I used to go to the Huntington when I was a little boy with my family. It was such a magical place! Thank you for submitting this.

“Jellyfish at Monterey Aquarium.”

Dennis Eigel, Retired, Public Works/Sanitation

John’s comment: I love this abstract explosion of color, Dennis. Sometimes I like framing devices, but in this instance you were right to move in and capture just this, rather than including things outside the frame. It makes it more intense, more eye-popping. Outstanding!

“July happened. Anyone can take photos of the fireworks, but the spectators watching the spectacle …”

– Dominique Daito, LAPD

John’s comment: As soon as I saw this photo, I knew it was from you, Dominique. You know how to capture the exact, dramatic moment of real people. That’s not easy to do, and you do about as well as anyone I’ve seen. Glad to see you contributing again!

“I was going to spend June in Italy cruising round with my Italian cousins, but that’s now on hold. Our last trip was in February this year to the Valle de Guadalupe, wine tasting. It is located 20 kilometers north of the City of Ensenada and 113 kilometers southeast of the border crossing from San Diego to Tijuana.”

– Capt. Michael Barnes, Retired, Harbor

John’s comment: You never know where you’ll be when a photo opportunity grabs you and won’t let go. I’ve probably been in buildings like this before, but I didn’t see it like you did. You’ve used the symmetry and artistic repetition effectively. I need to pay attention more! Well done!

“I took this picture a few weeks ago when I went fishing to Bishop, Calif. just before the stay-at-home order was issued. I can’t wait to go back.”

– Marco Sanchez, Harbor

John’s comment: The colors are amazing, Marco! We travel (or used to) to Bishop on Club business pretty often, but I’ve never seen them that vibrant. I know you shot this before the coronavirus crisis, but it feels like the atmosphere had already cleaned up a lot, as the experts are telling us. Anyway, nice shot!

“Rowing down the beautiful Tam Cóc River in Ninh Binh, Vietnam. The river takes you through the rice fields, limestone karsts and three natural caves.”

– Theresa Forand, DWP

John’s comment: Breathtaking, mystical and beautiful, Theresa. I love the feel and wide perspective of this shot. Thanks for submitting!

“Scene City — nighttime street photography on the Strip means no tripod for lighter load. So taking a two-second handheld shutter shot, on top of the pedestrian bridge, was a bit of a challenge. Mission accomplished after trial and error, but can you imagine (my expense) if we’re still shooting with film, instead of RAW?”

– Dominique Daito, LAPD

John’s comment: Dominique, I was reminded of this Vegas shot when I saw a different photo the other day of what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to the Las Vegas strip – it was completely empty of life. So I thought, there’s no better time to post this stunning photo — no better time for a reminder of what awaits us when we get through this crisis. Thanks for sending it in

“Here’s a ‘Picture Purrfect.’ I can’t seem to decide on the most-fitting title between ‘One for the Road’ and ‘The All-You-Can-Drink Bar Is Now Open.’”

– Yves Didier, Airport Police

John’s comment: How about, “Two Licks and I’m Outta Here!” What a gorgeous cat! Our cat finally slept on my part of the bed last night. I am still in pain because I was afraid to move and scare her away!


  • Please submit the full, original digital file (up to 3 megs file size).
  • The contest is open to all Club members in good standing. Non-members are welcome to submit, but only Club members are eligible to win the monthly prize.
  • Photos can be of any subject matter: vacation, portraits, families, landscapes, still lifes, pets, etc. Subject matter must be appropriate for Alive!
  • If your photograph does not win, you are welcome to re-submit.
  • Winners are chosen by Club staff. All decisions will be final.
  • You must certify (if asked) that you indeed took the picture. No ringers!
  • The contest is all in good fun: The Club cannot be responsible for delays in delivering Alive!, or for delays in the transmission of responses.

How to enter:

Do you love to take pictures? Submit your photos to the Picture Perfect contest. Once a month, the best pics are selected for publication. If your photo is published, you’ll receive a $25 Amazon e-Gift Card!  ENTER PICTURE PERFECT CONTEST