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Photo contest finds new ways of capturing San Clemente

Slacklining with friends at Top of the World brought this photograph from JR Racine, which won the Spanish Village Foundation’s sixth annual photography contest. Photo: JR Racine
Slacklining with friends at Top of the World brought this photograph from JR Racine, which won the Spanish Village Foundation’s sixth annual photography contest. Photo: JR Racine

By Jim Shilander

The Spanish Village by the Sea has been captured from many perspectives, but San Clemente native JR Racine is doing his best to find new ones.

Racine took home the $1,000 first-place prize in the Spanish Village Foundation’s annual Spring Photo Festival photography contest this week. Racine has steadily improved his place in the six years he’s entered the contest. The 26-year-old took third place in 2012 and second last year. Finally, Racine took home the top prize in 2014.

With the express purpose of finding a unique way to address this year’s contest theme, Racine’s photograph depicts a friend slacklining near Top of the World in March. Racine said he took his improvement in positions each year as evidence of his growth as a photographer.

“I’ve been shooting slacklining for about a year and a half now,” Racine said. “I saw the theme for the contest this year was ‘San Clemente Swagger,’ so I thought that would be the perfect way to go about it. I looked for a beautiful place that showed San Clemente and could show the slacklining at the same time,” he said.

Flip Hickson of San Clemente accepts the award for winning the Spanish Village Foundation’s annual photography contest on behalf of his friend, JR Racine. Board members include John Alpay, Raad Ghantous and Mike Cotter. Photo: Jim Shilander
Flip Hickson of San Clemente accepts the award for winning the Spanish Village Foundation’s annual photography contest on behalf of his friend, JR Racine. Board members include John Alpay, Raad Ghantous and Mike Cotter. Photo: Jim Shilander

Event chairman Raad Ghantous, one of three founding board members of the organization, said the theme was chosen as a way to get unique entries into the contest this year, aside from shots of sunsets or the San Clemente Pier.

The organization has put on the contest each year since its 2009 founding. Ghantous, then Historical Society President Mike Cotter and John Alpay, now president of the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees, formed the group to highlight positive aspects of the city following several contentious elections. 

Hoping to Change Perceptions

Racine, who is currently out of town shooting slackliners in Utah, said he’s become particularly interested in highlining, where, similar to the photograph, the walkers go to higher places, but are tethered in for safety. Racine was recently part of a short documentary called Life on the Line, focusing on slacklining in canyons and other high places. The film includes perspectives from two San Clemente residents. Racine recently relocated to Laguna Niguel after growing up in San Clemente.

One of the slackliners featured in the video, Flip Hickson of San Clemente, accepted the award on Racine’s behalf Friday. He said the activity is safe, so long as a leash and harness are used, but that in many instances, the activity is discouraged by police for the perceived safety issues, though it is not illegal in the state. He said he hopes providing a new perspective through work like Racine’s can effect a change in those attitudes.

“We just want to be able to do it in parks and not be hassled,” Racine said. “Doing it low is not dangerous and it’s not really harming anyone.”

Holding Out for the Right Shot

Second place winner Jolee Cobb, a junior at San Clemente High School, didn’t really plan her photograph out the way Racine did. Rather, a chance shot at Riviera Beach led to her second-place photograph.

Jolee Cobb of San Clemente with Spanish Village Foundation board members John Alpay and Raad Ghantous. Cobb’s photo of her brother’s feet dangling from the Riviera Beach tunnel. Photo: Jim Shilander
Jolee Cobb of San Clemente with Spanish Village Foundation board members John Alpay and Raad Ghantous. Cobb’s photo of her brother’s feet dangling from the Riviera Beach tunnel. Photo: Jim Shilander

“My brother and I were going up to Palm Springs before Christmas,” Cobb said. “I said, ‘Let’s just go take a picture.’ So we went down to Rivi.”

Cobb said she was especially lucky to get the photograph of her brother’s feet dangling from the Riviera tunnel at sunset, given the stress the steep tunnels there were taking on her brother’s balance.

“I told him ‘Just get up there,’” Cobb said. “He managed to perch himself up, but then started falling and I couldn’t get the picture. He said, ‘Hurry up.’”

Cobb said she hasn’t taken photography classes in high school yet, preferring it as a hobby. Her mother has entered the event in the past, however, this was Cobb’s first time in the contest.

Goran Matijasevic, a senior vice chancellor at UC Irvine took third place. He’d taken plenty of photographs at the beach on the day he and his wife visited, he said, but he found a pair of paddleboarders who became good subjects.

“I took a series of pictures when they were paddling out and when they were coming in, paddling out and surfing back,” Matijasevic said. “As the sun was setting the two of them were going out and there was just an iconic picture with Catalina Island in the background.”

Matijasevic said, while he entered a series of shots of the two boarders, the one that placed was his favorite. He wasn’t sure how well his picture fit this year’s theme but felt the paddleboarders exuded something, having to paddle against the currents on the way out and then coming back in as surfers would.

People’s Choice Winner Owes Hot Wheels

Kindle Reeder’s photo received over 100 of the more than 800 votes cast for the people’s choice award.

Reeder, a professional photographer from Long Beach, previously lived and worked in San Clemente, which gave her familiarity with some of the iconic images of the city. When she became aware of the “San Clemente Swagger” theme, she struggled for a bit with plotting out a shot, until deciding she wanted to take a new look at a classic image of the city.

Kindle Reeder’s photo of the young son of a friend was chosen as “People’s Choice.” Photo: Kindle Reeder
Kindle Reeder’s photo of the young son of a friend was chosen as “People’s Choice.” Photo: Kindle Reeder

Her shot, which features the young son of a friend in a horse head mask in front of the Pier, turned out the way she wanted.

“It was exactly as I saw it in my mind,” she said.

Her young subject, Gavin, was equally enthusiastic, especially on hearing that she’d won the award.

“Gavin told me I owed him some Hot Wheels,” Reeder said. “I said, ‘Of course.’”

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