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Contest winners share love, respect for natural areas

Special to the Courier Hill Country Alliance

Sometimes the Texas Hill Country shares its bewitching beauty openly; other times it requires planning to be in the right place at the right time to see an especially magical scene.

Thirteen photographers will share their stunning photographic scenes when the 2013 Hill Country Alliance (HCA) calendar goes on sale this week.

"All the photos selected for the calendar not only delight the eye, but convey the fragile relationship we have with the trinity of land, sky and water in the region," said HCA Executive Director Christy Muse. "HCA and its partners are committed to protecting the ecosystem of the Hill Country so that it can be enjoyed responsibly for years to come. We're gratified that these photographers have depicted our region with such meaning."

Muse continued, "This year our calendar committee chose four of the 13 photos for special recognition.

The winners receive a cash prize, and the grand prize photo also graces the cover of the calendar."

Grand prize-winning photographer Rob Greebon made several trips to Pedernales Falls State Park to plan and photograph the night sky vision of the Milky Way above the park. "I've always been amazed looking up in the night sky," Greebon, a fourth-generation Texan explained. "I grew up in the country without much light pollution so from an early age I enjoyed stargazing - this is just an extension of my childhood dreaming."

First place winner John Bryant Baker took his winning photo on the San Marcos River in the early spring 2011. "My best friend Casey, who is in the photo, and I were in the midst of an 83-mile, 3½-day paddleboard trip from San Marcos to Gonzales."

Baker added, "I grew up in Fredericksburg so the Hill Country is in my blood, and developing a deeper connection and understanding of this land and these rivers is important to me."

Leslie Shoots, second place winner, shot his winning photo last summer during the long hot drought.

"I first came across this dried up mud hole along the banks of the river. Later when long-awaited rains finally came, I found it filled with water with the cracked mud still visible on the bottom," he said. "Seeing the lone bush reflected on the surface, I turned my camera upside down to put it on the horizon."

According to Shoots, he had personally gone through a long drought. "This was an encouragement to me - a kind of a message - from our Creator that everything was going to be okay."

New to the area, third place winner Jim Beckett was exploring Pedernales Falls when he shot his winning photo. "My family was with me and after our picnic dinner I saw we were going to have an interesting sunset and interesting lighting down along the falls. I always bring the camera when we go to parks and other natural areas," he said.

The 2013 Texas Hill Country Calendar goes on sale this week. Single and bulk-order quantities are available at www.hillcountryalliance.org. The website also features additional information and photos by the winners of the 2013 photo contest.

Pictured: Grand Prize Winner, "Milky Way above Pedernales Falls State Park," Rob Greebon

First Place Winner, "Morning Paddle," John Bryant Baker

Second Place Winner, "R U Thirsty?" Leslie Shoots

Third Place Winner, "Pedernales Sunset," Jim Beckett