“The clouds started to light up, and I knew where this tree was, I knew where this field was, because I’d been out there before. It was still sprinkling when I set up and took about five minutes of shots from there.”
ESSAY by BRAD ROLLINS
Recent prize-winners include images of a standup paddleboarder on the San Marcos River; two young boys flinging themselves into the deep waters of Jacob’s Well near Woodcreek; a foggy sunrise on Cypress Creek near Wimberley; and a lush canyon as seen from beneath the limestone grotto at Westcave Preserve near Dripping Springs.
hope people will
be inspired to
hold on to the
of this region for
While the photos can be breathtaking, the press releases that accompanying them are often frustrating.
On the one hand, they include insightful reflections from each photographer on the nature of their craft or on the intersection of their craft and nature. On the other hand, the photos are so reliably good, the writers of the accompanying press release are forced to reach for a dizzying array of adjectives in an effort to defy the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” We get “dazzling” photos, “bewitching” photos and a surprising number of “ethereal” photos given the ephemeral qualities of etherealism.
And yet I can usually do no better when I set about writing an introduction for a gallery like this one. It takes extraordinary skill as a writer to illuminate the work of an extraordinary photographer. I just end up clicking listlessly through thesaurus.com instead.
The Hill Country Alliance photo contest and its popular photo wall calendar attempt to bridge an even deeper disconnect, the one between the abstract (and often cynically hijacked) goal of environmental conservation and the very real consequences of failing too often to achieve that goal. The photos show us what we have to lose.
“Beyond the beauty and creative photography, we hope people will be inspired to hold on to the precious qualities of this region for future generations to enjoy,” executive director Christy Muse said. “Our familiar swimming holes and favorite vistas need protection, which is why we hope this calendar reaches as many people as possible to create an active citizenry and a conservation mindset.”
The 2015 grand prize winner is Hays County resident Rob Greebon who shot “Wildflowers at the End of the Storm” near Llano in a field of Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes beneath a brilliant sky painted in similar colors.
A Dripping Springs Middle School guidance counselor, Greebon maintains a side business selling stock photos and fine art prints, often of rural landscapes and waterways but also skylines and other manmade landmarks in Austin, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth. He won the Hill Country Alliance’s grand prize in 2012 for a moonlit shot of Pedernales Falls State Park.
“I’ve always been amazed looking up in the night sky. 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,” Greebon said of his 2012 grand prize winner.
Another nighttime photo in Greebon’s portfolio — one of a lantern-lit tent with the “ethereal” Milky Way galaxy overhead — served as an indelible endorsement of Dripping Spring’s successful application to become Texas’ first International Dark Sky Community in 2000. As a result of this designation, and the lighting ordinances that make it meaningful, a kid not yet born in Dripping Springs may be able to see constellations from his backyard decades from now, long after every last star has been wiped from the heavens in San Marcos and elsewhere.
You can’t value something like that in terms of dollars — or words.
“At that time, we get a lot of fog and mist on the river. It’s my favorite time of the year here, and the colors of the bald cypress trees are extraordinary. … You just don’t know what you’re going to see on any given day.”
“I made a couple of trips there, and he introduced me to … the owners of property exactly where I needed to be. I ended up sleeping in my car on the riverbank to see what the light would be like the next morning When I woke up, that’s when I had to go into the middle of the river to take the photograph.”
“Part of their mission is a fierce preservation and protection of their land, so I wanted to reflect that in the pieces I did. … I had set up my tripod overlooking the lake from this cliff on the land. I took a lot of shots, waiting for the sun to set, and then along came the boat around the bend, and I was just going, click, click, click.”
The San Marcos Mercury’s BEHOLD blog showcases the work of Texas artists and photographers. For information, send us a note.