2020 Photo Contest Winner: Derin Kiykioglu

‘Crowns of the Dipsea’ by Derin Kiykioglu

We are excited to feature the 2020 winner of our Annual Photo Contest, ‘Crowns of the Dipsea’ by Derin Kiykioglu.

Thank you to all the talented photographers who entered our Photo Contest this year. Your images highlight the beauty and diversity of our region and remind us of how important it is to protect it. We had the pleasure of speaking with Photo Contest Winner, Derin to learn more about her work. Read our conversation below: 

First, please tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a photographer? What inspires you?

I moved to the Bay Area six years ago, and I’m never out of places to explore. I’ve been an amateur photographer since I got my first camera at age five. I would take my bright yellow camera with me on field trips, and I remember the thrill of getting each roll of film developed and reliving my experiences by looking through the photos with my biggest fans (thanks, Mom and Dad!). But ever since I’ve had an iPhone I’ve had the luxury of taking high-quality photos anywhere and anytime. The variety of flora and fauna I’ve seen since moving to the Bay has been astounding–nature is always surprising me! I’m inspired by the way light changes a landscape–whether it’s sunlight changing the colors of the sky at sunset, lighting up a unique pattern of moss on a tree, reflecting off of a field of flowers…or artificial light shining beam shapes through thick fog or lighting up a skyline. I want the photograph to transport me (and others who see it) not only to a place, but to a moment in time.

Tell us a bit about the photo. What inspired you to take it? Why did you choose to submit it to our contest?

I took this photo while on a New Year’s Day hike on the Dipsea Trail. It was my first time on the trail and I was so intrigued by the crown shyness demonstrated by the trees. It was only by chance that I paused and took the time to look up. There are so many things that reveal themselves to us when we give ourselves the chance to notice our surroundings. The pattern is so geometric that it looked like it could have been designed by an architect, but the fact that it happened naturally made it even more beautiful to me, and I wanted to share it with others by submitting it to this contest.

What do you hope people reflect on or understand when they see your image?

I hope people see the peace and organization that naturally exists in something that appears as simple as tree crowns. In light of the recent wildfires (and with wildfire season getting earlier and more intense each year), we’re losing these beautiful natural areas and the wildlife within them at an alarming rate. It’s important that people consider the importance of protecting these natural areas by living more sustainably year-round, and not just paying attention when they personally experience the impacts.

How do you think photography can inspire people to be more sustainable and passionate about protecting and restoring nature? 

As someone who didn’t grow up in the Bay Area, I didn’t always have the oceans or mountains within easy driving/biking/walking distance. Before I saw these areas with my own eyes, I saw them through photographs. Photography helps connect people to places even if they don’t see them in person, and it helps them understand what out there needs protecting. The world is a big place, and it can be difficult to remember what is out there without seeing it. When it comes to nature, there’s so much cool stuff that it’s hard to believe it exists until you see it. Crown shyness was one of those things for me. If trees are smart enough to use crown shyness as a way to protect themselves and each other from disease, then humans need to be smart enough to protect them. Photography can also open our eyes to what’s wrong with our current way of living. We’ve all seen the photo of the turtle with the straw in its nose, we’ve seen photos of birds whose legs are caught in nets, and we’ve seen photos of plastics covering our coasts. When humans see these photos, I hope we become more conscious about consumption and feel inspired to contribute to sustainability and clean-up efforts.

Where are your favorite outdoor places in the Bay Area? And which is your favorite to photograph? 

How can I just pick one? The Bay Area is one of the most beautiful places I’ve experienced, and there’s inspiration everywhere I look. Part of that is because each piece of the Bay Area is so unique. You can travel to the coast and photograph the ocean, or you can hike up in the mountains and photograph trees, or you can climb to the top of a parking garage and photograph the skyline. I love going on long walks, and sometimes I’ll see deer and owls in driveways, or I’ll notice unique flowers in peoples’ gardens. But something I can see over and over again and never get tired of is the view of the SF skyline from the Bay Bridge–especially while traveling eastbound.

Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to share? 

I wanted to give a shout-out to the photographers of the 11 other images selected as finalists in this year’s photo contest. I am honored and humbled that my photo was selected to be among this group. In looking through the photos, I was in awe of the Bay’s natural wonders and the way in which each photographer captured them. I can’t wait to keep exploring this place we get to call home. Finally, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who voted for my photo for the People’s Choice Award. Winning the award was truly a bright spot in my year, and I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about photography and sustainability with Save The Bay because of it.