Winners in the Hill Country Alliance‘s 2023 photo contest have been announced. The top pictures capturing Central Texas’ diverse wildlife, clear springs, sprawling rural landscapes, historic towns, and bright stars illustrate the HCA’s 2024 calendar, on sale now.
The annual competition focuses on the special qualities of the Texas Hill Country that are at risk of being lost forever due to a rapidly growing population and increasing development in the region. The alliance’s mission “is to bring together a diverse coalition of partners to preserve the open spaces, starry night skies, clean and abundant waters, and unique character” of the area.
Between March and May, the HCA received almost 500 entries in the 2023 photo contest from amateur and professional photographers alike, according to a recent media release from the organization.
Almost 700 people voted for Michael Kinder’s shot of a great blue heron at Inks Lake State Park in Burnet County, winning him the People’s Choice award, a cash prize, and a spot in the 2024 calendar.
The next four photos were selected by a panel of judges and are also featured in the new calendar.
Alan Zhou’s photo “Hawkeye,” a close-up of a red-tailed hawk, was taken at Mueller Greenway in Austin. Hawks are found in a variety of habitats across the Hill Country, from busy urban landscapes to undeveloped, open spaces.
Rob Knerr earned the next-to-best prize with “Enchantment,” a stunning view of the Milky Way over Enchanted Rock near Fredericksburg. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is an International Dark Sky Park and one of a growing number of places in the Hill Country recognized for a commitment to reducing light pollution and protecting clear views of night skies.
Joseph Richards’ photo “United” captures an endearing moment between two gray foxes. These charismatic creatures play a vital role as omnivores, eating small mammals, insects, berries, and more and contributing to the region’s ecological balance.
Wade Blissard’s “Middle Creek,” taken near Johnson City, is a reminder of the vital role that water plays in the Texas Hill Country, especially after several years of challenging drought conditions.
The photos of the following contestants are also featured in the 2024 Hill Country calendar: Jennifer Bauerkemper, Julie Bentley, Sharon Carter, Susan Cherico, Robert Currie, Sheila Ellwood, Matt Erpenbeck, John Freud, James Harris, Peggy Howard, Meghan James, Rita Johnston, Steve Kotzur, Khanh Le, Alison Lyons, Lorelei Murphy, Joyce Owen, Alicia Paparo, Glenn Perrigo, Jerry Sargent, Carol Serur, Winifred Simon, Lance Stevens, Tom Torget, Jennifer Watts, and Brittany Wegner.