Sandra Van Der Lubbe was out photographing fungi at Virginia Lake when the Chronicle phoned to talk to her about her winning image.

She has won the New Zealand Institute of Architects Western Branch digital photographic competition for the second time, with a photograph of a derelict coolstore at Pātea.

Van Der Lubbe has been a keen member of the Whanganui Camera Club for about 15 years. Photography takes up a lot of her time - both out with a camera and at home on her computer.

Nature - especially birds and bugs - is her thing. She's out photographing insects two nights a week, and the nature group she started at the club is out at least once a month.

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She's always chasing "that ultimate photo".

"My main thing with photography is simplicity. You want to focus on what you are photographing and you don't want anything distracting in the background."

Her secret with winning the architectural competitions could be understanding what the judges want from the themes they set.

This year's theme was "An Open and Shut Case". Van Der Lubbe looked through her files and found a photo she took at the former Pātea freezing works late last year. It fitted the brief nicely.

"The freezing works is closed, but the doors were open."

Judges Mark Brimblecombe and Fran Loader noticed exactly that. They said the image had "a lovely grittiness" and a great composition, and its angles and shadows contrasted with weathered building elements and graffiti.

Van Der Lubbe gets a prize of $500, presented at the 2019 Western Architecture Awards in New Plymouth on May 10. She may use the money to buy a new lens.

She won the same competition in 2017, with a photograph of St Mary's Church at Upokongaro, and she was highly commended for her 2014 entry.

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This year Sophie Ross and Sonia Forsey were highly commended for their entries.

All the photographs in the competition had to be taken in the Manawatū/Whanganui/Taranaki region, by a resident, during the last year.

There were nearly 50 entries, competition convenor Duncan Sinclair said. The winning photographs can be seen on his Black Pine Architects Facebook page.