Ansel Adams in training

By Mary O’Keefe

Photographer Ansel Adams is quoted to have said that a good photograph is made from an intuitive sense. That theory seems to hold true with young photographer Anthony Avellano.

Avellano is only 12 years old but has the eye and the intuition of a seasoned photographer.

“I look at the shadows, at the light,” he said.

That talent guided him to be one of the grand prize winners in the “See the Bigger Picture” photo contest sponsored in part by National Geographic. The winning picture is of a banana slug eating a golden raspberry.

“We were at Redwood [National] Park,” Avellano said of where the photo was taken.

The green forest background is blurred as the muted yellow slug rolls its mouth onto the golden raspberry. The photo is so clear that the tiny droplets of water can be see on the canister the bug had climbed onto. The photograph is so beautiful the viewer forgets they are looking at a slug.

Camille Avellano said her son had always loved to photograph. He began with a simple camera and has moved his way up to more advanced equipment.

“But this one he took with just a disposable camera,” Camille said as she flipped through his portfolio showing other stunning photos.

Waiting for that right time, that magic hour of photography where light and circumstance become one is not for those without patience. Avellano has waited on the sides of hilltops and mountains for hours for just the right moment.

“I see time travel. I see what it will be like in five minutes, or more,” he said.

In his extensive portfolio the young photographer has images from all over the world. He travels with his mother, a violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Together they hike from the most historical spots on earth to lesser known little corners.  In one photograph, a beam of light shines down through a hole in a cave. The colors of red and golden brown seem to swirl like liquid around the walls.

“Just as the sun came in I threw some sand into the light and shot it,” he said.

Avellano wants to be an environmental photographer like his idol Ansel Adams. Working for National Geographic would be his dream job, he said.

He is now preparing for his first exhibit that will be on Feb. 4 at the Croatian Cultural Center in San Pedro.

“I am very excited about the show,” he said.

Avellano combed through 7,398 of his photographs to come up with 48 to exhibit.

“I just had to go through all of them and narrow them down,” he added. “When I take a photo I kind of can tell what one would be good in a gallery. I just know when I take a photo of something that I really like it turns out to be a good photo.”

Many of his fellow seventh graders at Rosemont Middle School are unaware of his photography talent.

“One of my teachers asked me about it because she saw that I won the [National Geographic] award,” he said.

Photography is something he does for himself. Something he loves to do, he said.

“I know people have different opinions of what art is but I just want to [share] my photos. I hope people enjoy them,” he said.

In addition to his award and exhibition, Los Angeles City Councilmember Janice Hahn said the council would like to honor him at an upcoming meeting, Camille said.

The Croatian Cultural Center is located at 510 W. 7th Street in San Pedro. The exhibit will be on Feb. 4 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.