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Eye for Fashion

WHEN LOCAL high school student Renee Topete returned from a family vacation in Milan, the Italian capital of couture, photos weren’t her only keepsake. Topete came home with a clear picture of her career destiny: She would work in fashion. Now that path is visibly clearer: Topete was recently announced the winner of the Art Institute of California–San Diego’s “Passion for Fashion” contest and will receive a full scholarship to attend the school after her June graduation. Topete’s winning entry, belts constructed from recycled bicycle tires, represents her desire to use sustainable materials to create wearable art.

“We recognize that an interest in fashion has to start somewhere, and for many young men and women, that passion is nurtured in high school,” says Sheena Gao, the institute’s director of fashion design and fashion marketing and management. As the national winner, Topete will also get to rub elbows with fashion elite during this month’s Fashion Week in New York and visit the offices of Seventeen magazine.

Polar Perspectives

IF RALPH LEE HOPKINS had to choose one word to describe his excursions to exotic locales, it would be “humbling.” He’s the founder and director of the Lindblad Photo Expeditions, which has teamed with the National Geographic Society to provide photo buffs with picture opportunities in the most remote parts of the world. Hopkins has led expeditions from the Arctic to the Antarctic for more than a dozen years, and many of his photographs are taken aboard the National Geographic Endeavour, a small ship equipped to navigate icy waters. His lens has captured the court ship dance of king penguins, sleeping Weddell seals and towering glaciers that rise from the deep-blue ocean like icy monuments.

About a dozen of his images, along with those of numerous local and National Geographic photographers, are displayed in “Photography at the Poles” at the San Diego Natural History Museum’s Ordover Gallery. The show, on view through May 5, offers a window to Arctic and Antarctic landscapes and wildlife, above and below the water.

Hopkins has made a career of leading travelers to places that offer the possibility of great pictures and a bit of adventure. “There was one incident when I was on assignment for Lindblad Exhibitions to take photos of wildlife,” he says. “We dropped our Zodiac, an inflatable boat about 18 feet long, to cruise around icebergs. We were photographing a bear, and he started leaping between the icebergs toward us. We would have had a situation if our engine konked out. The bear was definitely pursuing us, but we were able to maneuver away.”

He says the team he travels with doesn’t chase after wildlife——they let the wildlife come to them. It’s a waiting game, but catching creatures in their natural environment can result in some amazing shots. In the Antarctic, “There was this one iceberg with about 50 penguins using it as a jungle gym,” he says. “They were jumping from point to point and pushing each other off. In the show you’ll see a vertical sequence of three of them.”

Though taking photographs of fantastic and remote areas is a thrill, Hopkins has another motive. “When you see nature and the Earth, where man’s impact is minimal, it humbles you,” he says. “It’s a privilege to go to these places, and we feel a great sense of responsibility to get the word out to the masses. We need to protect these areas. Extinction is forever, and climate change is real.”
——MARCIA MANNA

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