Eyes On Nature

Serendipity and nature often collaborate to create art. Ansel Adams, that iconic landscape photographer, was driving around after a fruitless day of searching and saw something crazy happening before him.  White clouds backlit by the setting sun, snowcapped mountains and a rising moon in the New Mexico desert appeared before him. He stopped.  He knew he had about 120 seconds before he lost the light that made this scene magical. Ansel took 110 seconds to set up his 8×10″ camera, took 5 seconds to guess his exposure from experience (because he didn’t have his light meter) and 5 seconds to get off one shot before it was too late. He had no time for a second safety shot.  The result was Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico—one of those intense photographs that instantly transfixes the viewer.  He was that good!

Although Adams was a genius with a camera, it was his ability to see and interpret the beauty of nature that established him worldwide as a master artist.   In his day, photography was a highly technical, complicated and detailed pursuit.  Time has changed much. With today’s technology you can channel your inner Ansel Adams with just a smart phone! The Lost Pines Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists, in cooperation with McKinney Roughs Nature Park and Precision Camera & Video of Austin, is providing an opportunity for the public to share nature’s beauty through the lens of a camera—any camera.   November 4-5 will be the first-ever LPMN Nature Photography Contest in the park.

McKinney Roughs is the perfect venue. It’s an 1140 acre nature park run by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), located a short distance from the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort (heading east) or the city of Bastrop (heading west) on State Highway 71.

There are views of large coral and oyster formations from an earlier era when Texas was under water, as well as box canyons and elements of several different ecosystems. The park is located nearly perfectly at the intersection of the east/west and north/south center point of the state of Texas. This means you can find a mixture of pine, oak and other hardwood trees, differing soil compositions, sections of open prairie, riparian habitat (The Colorado River runs through the park) and a smorgasbord of wildlife.  The natural beauty of the park is accessible through 18 miles of hiking trails.

The event runs over two-days until dusk each night. There is no registration fee but normal McKinney Roughs entrance fees will be applied ($5 per adult, $2 for 65+ and disabled, children under 12 are free). Precision Camera will provide offsetting gift certificates to reimburse the entrance costs.

Saturday will offer guided hikes to help photographers familiarize themselves with the park. A general orientation will be held at 9:30 am on Saturday in the Learning Center classrooms to provide information important to participants before they begin the competition.

The event will be chocked full of opportunities to pique the interest of die-hard shutter bugs and first timers alike. Both days will sport equipment demonstrations/loans by Sony Corporation and basic photography classes by Precision Camera. The idea is to get people off their sofas and out in nature during the relative cool of the fall season. We have already placed our order for good weather and beautiful seasonal colors! Although focused on amateur photographers, anyone is welcome to compete. There’s even an award for the best young photographer.  In all, there’s six winners to be recognized in four categories (includes a best young photographer and an overall winner).

Top prize will be a 24 x 36 professional quality canvas gallery wrapped print ($160 value) and a $50 gift certificate to Precision Camera & Video. Category winners will receive 20 x 24 canvas wrapped prints ($100 value). Participants may submit up to 3 photos for judging and receive one free 8 x 12 print of their chosen image by sending or presenting it to Precision after the final judging on November 20th.  Rules for the competition can be found at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lost-pines-master-naturalist-photo-contest-tickets-38307711396 and judging of entries will be done by a team of professionals at Precision Camera & Video.

If you plan on coming out, we’d love to see you! Some overflow parking exists but carpooling with friends makes a lot of sense for this event. After parking, be sure to stop in the Visitor’s Center to verify registration and claim your gift certificate.  Then browse the vendor booths until orientation time. Since this is a nature photo event come prepared for the weather and a day outdoors.  Sun protection, hat, closed-toe shoes or hiking boots, snacks and plenty or water are suggested.  Free bottled water will be available at the Information Booth as long as it lasts and a limited number of box lunches from Subway will sell for $7 apiece until they are gone, beginning at noon.  Participants can register and find a complete schedule of events at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lost-pines-master-naturalist-photo-contest-tickets-38307711396.

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