Karen Nakamura

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 Southern California professional photographer Karen Nakamura is pinching herself these days and for good reason. Sheon a winning streak, and sheenjoying the ride.

Soft-spoken Nakamura won the coveted 2012 Canon Par Excellence Award, representing the pinnacle of achievement at the Professional Photographers of America regional level. Image makers must receive a minimum score of 80 on each of the four images entered in their cases to be eligible. Nakamura was the lone photographer to reach that goal this year at the 2012 Western District Photographic Competition with what could be described as her Case”comprised of in Bloom”, Caress”, Bloom”, and Arrangement.”Nakamura also landed the lauded 2012 California Top Ten Photographer award at the 2012 Western District Competition. It marked the second year in a row she earned that prize.

Nakamurarecent competition success doesnend there. PPA honored this child”with its 2011 Silver Medalist Award, including her image Calla Lilies”in its Loan Collection; another three photos made their mark in PPAGeneral Collection. Professional Photographers of California handed her the PresidentChoice Award twice: in 2012 for in Bloom”and in 2011 for Friends.”She also won PPC2011 Nature Photographer of the Year with Paradise.”

Not bad for someone who just started competing at the state level three years ago and at the nationals just last year!

pretty crazy, huh? Inot supposed to be there yet,”Nakamura humbly replies with her infectious grin.

Nakamura gives much of the credit for her competition wins to several years on the Professional Photographers of Los Angeles Countyboard and to PPC, where she currently chairs the Business and Arts Degree program as well as the Conference Speaker and Affiliate Displays committee.

had a great experience with PPLAC, and involvement in PPC has enriched my photographic experience even more. The camaraderie that exists between members is amazing to me. I wouldnbe the photographer I am today without them,”claims Nakamura.

Donget the wrong idea. The photographer is by no means an success”shepaid her dues. Nakamurabeen shooting since college, when her sorority, Sigma Phi Omega at Long Beach State University, named her historian. At the time, she was working towards her BachelorDegree in Fine Arts.

What Nakamura says about her images:

Arrangement”(previous pages)

I love photographing orchids. Kaleidoscope Phalaenop-sis is one of my favorites. Both orchids were shot using my Canon 5D Mark 2 with an 80-200 lens. I used a soft box and white foam core to light the flowers.

Bloom”(above)

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When I first glanced at this orchid plant, I instantly saw that the spray had the shape of a heart. I did everything I could to emphasize the heart shape and added red to my background to give it a sense of romance.

Caress”(left)

When photographing my cut flowers, I now use a Japanese frog. It s like a little metal pincushion that really helps keeps the flowers in place.

What Nakamura says about her images:

Friends”(above)

I loved photographing my friend, Biljana Milasin. She would speak loving, tender words in German to make her kitty cooperate. It was so sweet.

Calla Lilies”(right)

My second attempt at photographing flowers is these three little calla lilies. This image won Best of Show at PPLAC, JudgeChoice Award at PPC and then went Loan at PPA.

in Bloom”(far right, top)

When I photographed this Iris, I saw the all of the ruffles on the petal and stems of the flowers. I wanted to emphasize it by using tungsten light. I also digitally brought out more detail and saturation in Photoshop.

Paradise”(far right, bottom)

This image was taken in Maui. I used a Canon ID Mark 2 with a 24-70 lens. The waterfall appeared to have a dark black area. I digitally placed the bird in front of the hole to fill the void.

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didninitially inspire me; it was art. Ialso a painter. Photography evolved into the artistic medium I prefer. I looked at issues of magazines like Elle and said, want to do that’.”

She took one fine art photography class, and something inside her ’. By the time she attained her B.A., it included a specialty in photography.

Nakamura aimed at a career in commercial photography, but fate stepped in and changed her direction. helped pay for art supplies for school by being a manicurist at Creative Cuts. The makeup artist there asked me to take photos of her children, and my business took off.”

She got hooked on childrenportrait photography, thinking of poses before each shoot, looking for inspiration on the internet, intrigued by her small clients and the amusing things they say. By 2006, she had her own studio up and running.

Then, in 2007, burglars rammed through her studiodouble steel door and robbed her business in the middle of the night-taking her computer, photo equipment and a year-and-a-halfworth of photos. She lost client images, including her brotherwedding. It was a heartbreaking time sherather not dwell on, preferring to concentrate on a positive

future, but she learned a powerful lesson: up. Back up. Back up.”

Nakamurabread and butter income now comes from family and school portraits, which she loves. documenting history. You are creating art for your client. A portrait is a precious moment caught in time that lasts forever.”

But shewidely acclaimed on the professional photographer circuit for her signature style images of flowers, gifted with a unique take on them that evolves with each new blossom she shoots.

Some of her inspiration and creativity comes from an adoration of orchids, which she tended to as a hobby while in college. Then, a few years ago, a client who grows them sought her out to photograph his prized orchids. That love bloomed.

look at it more as an art piece than a flower. I look inside it, see its composition,”explains Nakamura. can see the wings, the head, and the eyeballs in the moth orchid, Phalaenopsis.”

At one of her first print competitions, a judge said, are already beautiful. Ityour job as a photographer to enhance their beauty.”That advice stuck with Nakamura.

search for the beauty within the flowers I photograph. I play with light to see what texture I can find. I play with Photoshop to try to give my images depth,”says Nakamura. , theysubjects that have a definite benefit over people: they donmove.”

Unlike her beloved flowers, Nakamuraon the move, making plans for the future. Sheexpanding her photography business to involve more schools. And, of course, she has her eye on shooting more flowers —doing case studies of different species. Shewait and see what grows from there.

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