When The Bishop’s School senior Brittany Comunale was tasked with finding a project to earn her Gold Award — the highest achievement in Girl Scouting — she had no trouble picturing what she would do.
A former intern tasked with photographing events in and around La Jolla, Brittany was dismayed to learn how few people attend many of the city’s annual or visiting events — including the 2010 FINA World League Super Finals water polo competition, held at the aquatic complex near La Jolla High. Though the competition featured teams from around the world, the stands were virtually empty, she said.
“That was an eye-opening experience,” said Brittany, 18. “There are amazing things happening in San Diego — and especially in La Jolla — that no on really knows about.”
For her Gold Award, Brittany compiled an array of annual events throughout San Diego County, from La Jolla SummerFest to the Miramar Air Show and San Diego Asian Film Festival, which she posted with her photos at projectperspectivesd.wordpress.com.
As an adjunct to her blog, which is updated on a regular basis, Brittany also published a coffee table book, “Project Perspective: San Diego through the Photographic Lens,” as well as a photo DVD and civilian and military photo calendars.
“I wanted to show people how awesome San Diego really is,” said Brittany, who roamed the county for a year with her Canon 5D Mark II camera at her side.
Alongside photographs of treasured pastimes, such as the San Diego County Fair and San Diego Chargers games, Brittany captured offbeat activities, like her experience flying above the city in a Word War II-era biplane (which is offered through Barnstorming Adventures at Montgomery Field).
The final photograph in her book is of a sunset reflecting brilliant gold on the San Diego Bay and Coronado Bridge — one of several shots she captured during the flight.
“I figured I could get a different perspective of San Diego from the air,” Brittany said. “It was a little scary, I’m not going to lie, because it’s a rickety old biplane. … It could have been unfortunate for my camera at many times since it was very windy that day.”
Several other photos pay homage to subjects close to Brittany, including one of fellow Girl Scouts participating in a memorial for Ashley Heffington, a 9-year-old Girl Scout who was killed in a car crash on New Year’s Eve of 2010.
Another photo shows two young Cub Scouts saluting a grave at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
“It’s a big ceremony,” Brittany said. “Everybody puts a flag at each grave, then respectfully salutes.”
Brittany’s mother, Mariacecilia Comunale, leads Brittany’s Girl Scout Troop 3145. Comunale said her troop developed a special relationship with the military at the onset of the recent war in Iraq.
One of three active duty servicemen the girls had been writing to in 2003 was the best friend of Lt. Thomas Adams, a La Mesa resident who became the war’s first Naval casualty.
“His best friend was unable to fly home (for the funeral) because of his deployment, so our troop decided we would go to his grave and honor him,” Comunale said. “It just stuck in the girls’ heads, so every year we go back to place flags on the graves.”
Brittany, who also serves as photo editor for The Bishop’s School yearbook, said she chose from about 3,000 photographs taken at 50 events and locations to come up with the best for her book, blog and calendars. After graduation, she plans to major in history and minor in photography at Brown University.
Reflecting on her years as a Girl Scout, Brittany said she wants people to know that the organization is about more than selling cookies and collecting merit patches.
“It was more of a community-building experience,” she said. “Girl Scouts is essentially the reason I started community service back when I was five years old and it’s such a big part of my life now. It’s what introduced that to me and wanting to be altruistic and help others.”
During their years in Scouting, girls learn everything from changing tires to kayaking , surfing and self-defense, Comunale said.
“Scouting helps girls reach their highest potential and it opens opportunities that many would not be able to see or afford,” she said. “It allows them to develop their independence and leadership capabilities that will take them through college and beyond.”