The timing could not have been better.
“On that particular night, the moon was perfect,” Lori Brightwell, Zephyrhills librarian, said about her prize-winning photograph.
The former professional photographer also noted: “With the right lighting and cropping, basically anyone can have equally good pictures.”
She used her iPhone to capture the moon shining through clouds, above Zephyrhills City Hall, with a fountain lit up in the foreground.
She knew it was a great photo, but was totally unaware of the photo contest.
It turns out that Kevin Weiss, the city’s public information officer, submitted the image as an entry in the Florida Cities and County Management (FCCMA) 2022-23 Membership Directory Photo Contest.
It was one of 47 submissions from jurisdictions across Florida that generated more than 25,000 views.
Brightwell’s photo garnered 360 votes, which yielded her third place in the competition.
Her photo now will be featured on the FCCMA home page from Jan. 1, 2023 to March 1, 2023.
“I’m very happy people voted for it,” Brightwell said.
She said it didn’t matter that her photo didn’t capture first place.
“I’m glad it’ll be on the cover, so everyone can see a part of this town that I just think is beautiful,” Brightwell said.
Before “accidentally becoming a librarian,” Brightwell worked as a professional photographer in the Temple Terrace area for more than two decades.
She graduated from the University of South Florida with a major in photography; she specialized in shooting weddings and national horse shows. In those days, Brightwell shot film and developed it in a darkroom at her house.
“I was told I would never get a job in photography,” she said, noting at that time, “there weren’t many women in photography either.”
But she worked as a photographer for 22 years.
When photography turned digital, it was harder to find work, Brightwell said.
That’s when she bought a horse from a principal, who helped her get a job as a school’s media specialist for a year while she also taught photography as an online class.
Shortly after, she became a librarian in downtown Zephyrhills and never looked back at photography — except when she has some free time.
“Honestly, this city is really a gem of a city,” she said.” There are so many little places that I wish I could do nothing but take pictures, if I weren’t always in the library. The snapshots that tell the story of Zephyrhills — the little details. That’s how you see the whole story of this town, which, in my opinion, is really beautiful.”
Especially late at night.
“I sent it to the city, just joking about how late us librarians leave, and I thought they might not think it was funny,” she said. “They loved the picture.”
“So, sometimes,” Brightwell said, “it’s worth it to leave that late.”
Published March 23, 2022