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Originally published December 20, 2013 at 6:05 AM | Page modified December 21, 2013 at 8:42 AM

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Sunny sailing trip yields prizewinning reader photo

Dale Johnson was playing hooky from a boat chore on a sparkling October day when iconic scene caught his eye.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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One October day from Elliott Bay: foggy, frosty, then clearing, then sunny. Mount Rainier appeared, a majestic setting on the Sound.

Who would want to miss this? Let’s sail, Dale Johnson said to his girlfriend, Pam Hamlin. Off they went, except he noticed a cargo ship he hadn’t seen anchored near the marina before. The ship’s bow caught his eye — the rusty color and the shape of it, the way the anchor chain dangled, with the iconic mountain in the background.

He suspected he had something special and snapped away with his Nikon D800E. “There’s a lot of shots of Seattle from Kerry Park, Gas Works Park, Alki (Beach) Park, and I recognized that this is a unique angle that not everyone gets to see,” said Johnson, whose shot is the grand-prize winner among The Seattle Times’ Reader Photos of the Year for 2013.

Taken from a quarter mile off Elliott Bay Marina, the image shows Mount Rainier framed by the soft clouds and the rusty bow, a contrast in color and texture. The wavy clouds mirror the wavy, S-shaped bow and the sea. The sun was radiating but not casting harsh shadows.

That outing also captured Johnson’s two loves; photography and sailing.

The 52-year-old native of Shelton, Mason County, got his first Nikon as a high-school graduation gift, and he loves the water so much that he lived on a boat while a student at the University of Washington.

A Boeing engineer who works as a liaison between the aircraft manufacturer and civil aeronautics authorities (the equivalent of our FAA) worldwide, Johnson spends 12 weeks a year traveling the world on business, his camera a faithful companion. (See his gallery at For shooting the best reader photo, Johnson receives a $250 gift card from Glazer’s Camera, courtesy of The Seattle Times. He plans to use the prize money to buy accessories for his GoPro camera.

For Johnson, visiting an exotic locale — Ethiopia, India, Iceland — is exciting. But once he lands at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and drives to his house in Fremont, he’s reminded there’s no place like home. Driving on the viaduct, “I see Puget Sound and the mountains and the skyline.”

He also takes in that view from his 42-foot boat at least twice a week, including that special October afternoon. He and Hamlin were replacing the stripe on their 14-year-old vessel when the sky cleared. “We were itching to get out,” he said.

At first, nothing remarkable; not even many boats were out. Then he saw the cargo ship. He snapped a few pictures and then asked Hamlin to circle back so he could line up the shot just right — the mountain framed by the sky, ship and sea, our beautiful Sound and maritime tradition in a single image.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or On Twitter @tanvinhseattle

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