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Home Sweet Home

Top entries beautifully capture a sense of place in our annual
Best of the South photo contest.

It was an admittedly broad category for our photography contest. With the theme of “Home Sweet Home,” we wanted to know what photographers throughout the South imagined when they heard those words and how that theme could be conveyed.

Dozens of photographers answered with entries that showed that the South isn’t just a place but a way of life and a state of mind. The entries included live oaks in Louisiana, fly fishermen in Arkansas, and Mississippi plantation ruins. They trained their cameras on lazy rivers, sparkling sunsets over lakes, moss-draped live oaks, and a reconstructed 19th-century gristmill clad in red wood siding.

It was no easy task, but a panel of editors and photographers pored over the entries and selected the top three along with a runner-up based not only on how the photos captured the essence of the theme but on the technical aspects of the photo and the composition. It’s our pleasure to present the Best of the South annual photo contest winners for 2015.


Location: The Old Mill
North Little Rock, Ark.
Photographer: Cal Britton
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II

A Wedding Present

As a gift for his wife on their seventh anniversary, Cal Britton returned to The Old Mill in North Little Rock, Ark., where they had been married in 2004. He thought that photos of their wedding site would be a unique present for Susy because it was a special place to them.

“We chose to get married at the Old Mill because it was scenic and romantic,” he said. “I knew I would marry her within a week of our first date.”

Perhaps it was kismet, then, that one of the two thoughtful photos of the mill that he presented to his wife was thought of highly by a panel at the AAA Southern Traveler. The photo earned first prize because of its strong compositional order, engaging subject matter, and sheer beauty.

“I am surprised it won. I know there are many good photographers and photos out there,” he said. “I thought it was a good picture when I took it but you never know till you upload it for further scrutiny.”

Britton took the photo a few years ago in the spring. On that afternoon, he said he was fortunate to have soft light and “good photography clouds” hovering over the mill, which is a replica 1800s-era water-powered gristmill that was featured in the opening credits of Gone with the Wind.

A podiatrist by trade, Britton said he bought his first camera about 30 years ago and has been actively pursuing photography as a hobby for the past decade.

“I try to find things that are interesting to shoot and then I vie for that angle that others would not consider using,” he said. “I was never good at art. That was until I picked up a camera and discovered I could capture and present my surroundings from my perspective.”


Location: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Bentonville, Ark.
Photographer: Jean Berg
Camera: Nikon D200

Crystal Reflections

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., contains countless works of art that span five centuries of American masterworks, but Jean Berg appreciates the museum’s buildings as much as the priceless art that’s contained within them.

The second-place winner of our contest, Berg was awed by the complex, which is nestled into a natural ravine. Built to complement the surrounding Ozark landscape, the museum integrates the element of water through two spring-fed ponds that are spanned by two signature bridge structures. “The building is an architectural wonder in itself. It’s gorgeous,” she said. “I wanted to photograph it at night because I wanted to get the reflection of the lights in the water.”

A retired nurse who lives in Bella Vista, Ark., Berg said she’s been interested in photography “forever.” She began taking pictures in the 1950s, but not very many. “Film was expensive, and we didn’t have a lot of money, so we probably took one roll of film a year,” she said with a laugh.

As a retiree, she has more time to devote to her craft, including serving as secretary of the Bella Vista Photography Club. She works to get images taken by club members displayed at venues in town, in addition to taking her own photos often. In striving to perfect her craft, Berg said she finds great satisfaction in capturing the artistry and grace of the natural world and sharing her viewpoint with others.

“I look to find the beauty in nature and in landscapes, like at Crystal Bridges. It spoke to me. Nature speaks to me, particularly the birds, the trees, landscapes, the mountains. It’s so peaceful,” she said.“There’s a beauty and a mystery to photography if you know how to take a picture correctly.”


Location: Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
Photographer: Sara Goughenour
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel SL1

Harbor Lights

When Sara Goughenour recently went to take some evening photos of Mississippi’s Bay St. Louis Harbor, she wasn’t exactly sure how they would turn out. A relative newcomer to the hobby, she had taken plenty of photos in the daytime but precious few after dark.

Judging by the results, she has a bright future in photography.

The third-place winner of the Best of the South photo contest, Goughenour’s image captures Old Town Bay St. Louis nestled above the harbor, with the lights from the shops and restaurants illuminating the soft spring night and reflecting off the gulf. The image virtually glows.

“I was just practicing my night shots,” she said. “I knew I had a good shot. It’s one of my favorites. I was very surprised that I won but proud.”

A lifelong resident of Mississippi who moved to the Gulf Coast 25 years ago, Goughenour was distraught when Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed Bay St. Louis 10 years ago. She’s elated to take photos of the area now–during the day and night–because of how beautiful it looks.

“It’s one of my favorite places to hang out,” she said.
Goughenour’s passion for photography began when she started taking photographs with her cell phone. She knew she needed more than that, and after purchasing a Canon digital camera nearly two years ago, she took a one-day course and then started practicing.

Focusing her camera on landscapes, nature, birds, and whatever she can find, Goughenour typically takes photos a couple times a week. It’s not unusual for her to snap hundreds of photos in one session.

“I practice a lot. I’m just really proud of how I’m doing in such a short period of time,” she said. “The more I’ve gotten into it, the more I enjoy it. I learn something new every day. It’s a great hobby, and I put all of my heart in it. It’s just fun.”


Runner Up

Location: Eden Falls
Buffalo National River
Ponca, Ark.
Photographer: Sharon Rasmussen
Camera: Kodak Easyshare Z612


To see the memorable mention entries of the 2015 Best of the South photo contest, click here. Thanks to all who entered this year.




July/August 2015 Issue

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