Consultant Turned Photographer Awarded National Geographic Prize

A California photographer is headed to Thailand, thanks to an image that earned a National Geographic prize.

Harvey Abernathey, of Novato, Ca., is one of seven winners of an international photo contest called “My Thailand, My Story.”

Abernathey, 60, worked for most of his career as a construction consultant, but in semi-retirement he has turned to the camera and now has his own photo business.

“I’ve always been able to see images. I just haven’t been able to capture them very well in photography,” he told the Marin Independent Journal. “I’m pretty excited about it,” he said of his award.

The image that brought Abernathey recognition is “Harold’s Tree,” a nighttime photo of a bristlecone pine.

Many of Abernathey’s photos are taken at night, when he says “there’s always some sort of magic.” He has called his business Night & Day Photos.

“I really love photographing at night,” he said. “The camera sees beyond what the eye can see. It absorbs light over time because the exposure’s over a longer period of time.”

Alison Wright, the photojournalist who judged the National Geographic contest, said “Harold’s Tree” felt otherworldly. “It portrays our magnificent yet minuscule sense of our place in the universe surrounding us. And what can be more humbling?” she said.

Wright will be traveling with Abernathy and the six other winners for the weeklong trip to Thailand.

Abernathey’s works also are on exhibit locally.

He has studied photography at the College of Marin and PhotoCentral and attended a workshop on the abstract.

Abernathey, who is a fan of the French master Monet, sees connections between abstract photography and impressionism.

“I began to integrate movement into the abstracts and I really started to fall in love with colors,” he said. “The colors integrated together along with movement creates more of an impression of what’s there more than the specifics.”

Four of his photos are on display through December 13 at an exhibit called “A Single Step … Begins the Journey” at PhotoCentral in Hayward.

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