Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

An Angels Camp resident has been selected as one of 30 finalists out of thousands of entries in a nationwide photo contest.

Susan Conner submitted a black and white shot of water lilies floating on Mosquito Lake on Ebbetts Pass to the "Mood" category of "Project Imaginat10n."

A collaboration between the Canon photo company and two-time Academy Award winning film director Ron Howard, the project is the second phase of the "Long Live Imagination" campaign.

In 2011, the campaign set out to prove that photography could be used as a creative vehicle to inspire a Howard production, according to a Canon press release.

This year, the project aims to validate Howard's claim that everyone is creative, the website stated.

Conner said that the photographers have interpreted "Mood" and the other nine storytelling themes in different ways, resulting in a wide variety of images.

"It was an amazing thing to see the creative mix in terms of the approach to the themes," she said.

Judges have selected 30 finalists for nine of the themes after receiving thousands of entries for each. The finalists will be narrowed down to 10 winners - seven determined by online votes and three selected by judges.

The "Discovery" theme, which was introduced Tuesday, is still open for submissions and the single winner will be picked by judges.

Five celebrity film directors will review the winning photos and choose 10, one from each theme, to inspire five upcoming films.

The productions by Eva Longoria, Jamie Foxx, Biz Stone, Georgina Chapman and James Murphy will be presented in 2013 at the first ever photography-inspired film festival, according to Canon.

Five additional directors, whose names have not yet been released, will produce five more films as part of the project at a later date.

Although not all of the 91 winners will contribute to the films, each will receive two free tickets to the festival and a $500 Canon gift card.

"To me, the gift is to be able to have my photograph up on that site and to have people looking at it," Conner said.

Last year's contest, "Project Imagin8ion," invited photographers to submit their most imaginative pictures based on eight elements of storytelling. Eight of about 100,000 images were chosen and transformed into a short film by Howard's daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard, entitled "When You Find Me."

Conner was stunned when contest officials called to inform her that she was a finalist.

"I was crying in a parking lot," she said. "My husband thought someone died."

Conner submitted about 10 pictures in other themes before entering her "Star Lily" photo.

While hiking on Ebbetts Pass over Labor Day weekend, she was intrigued by the sunlight glistening on Mosquito Lake and the water lilies floating in the breeze. She snapped the photo with her Canon 7D camera and 50mm lens, converted it to black and white and submitted it the day before the deadline.

A first grade teacher at Valley Springs Elementary School, Conner developed an interest in photography while taking photos in her classroom and at school events. She documents each school year for the kids and their parents.

She set out to learn the technical aspects of photography about two years ago after switching from a film camera to a digital camera, and learned the basics at a class provided by Amador County.

The photographer who taught the course invited Conner to join a photo group that meets once a month in Sutter Creek, and she has been a member ever since.

Conner entered her first photo competition last year, the annual InFocus show hosted by the Central Sierra Arts Council, and took home third place in the monochrome category.

The photo captured the shadows of her first grade students who were wearing spider headbands and carrying pumpkins during a Halloween festivity.

Members of the public can register with the "Project Imaginat10n" website for free and cast votes in each category once per day. Six categories, including "Mood," will remain open for voting until Sept. 24 and three will remain open until Oct. 1.

To vote for photos, visit

Contact Christina O'Haver at or 588-4526.