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Hill Country 'snapshots' captured in 2023 calendar

The grand prize-winning photo in the Hill Country Alliance's 'Snapshot of the Hill Country' contest is of a yellow-crowned night heron taken by Yu Zhou. Courtesy of HCA

The 2022 winners in the "Snapshot of the Hill Country" photo contest have been chosen, and you can hang their work on your wall with a 2023 calendar. The Hill Country Alliance contest "challenged photographers to capture the fleeting beauty of life" in the region, according to an HCA media release Nov. 2 announcing the winners.

This year's competition received more than 300 photos from amateurs and professionals alike. Photographers were tasked with capturing the special qualities of the Hill Country that are at risk of being lost due to rapid population growth and development.

The four winners were selected by a panel of judges and will be featured in the 2023 Texas Hill Country Calendar, now available for purchase online.

They are:

GRAND PRIZE — Yu Zhou's submission, "Determination," is a close-up shot of a steely-eyed, yellow-crowned night heron in Austin. The birds can be found hunting at night for small fish and crawdads in rivers, ponds, and creeks. These riparian areas are "crucial to the long-term success of waterbirds like the night heron and for our own regional water quality," the HCA stated in its release.

'Lazy Day' by David Satterwhite. Courtesy of HCA

FIRST PLACE — David Satterwhite's photo, "Lazy Day," shows "a curious gray fox, photographed near Sisterdale in Kendall County. Gray foxes are ubiquitous across the region and able to adapt to life in both bustling urban hubs and quiet, rural forests — though they are more commonly seen in edge habitat with plenty of trees," according to the release.

"The long-term success of both of these charismatic species (night heron and gray fox) depends upon our choices," the release continued. "HCA’s Land Program works across the 17 counties of the region to support local land stewardship and conservation efforts — from riparian habitats to live oak and Ashe juniper forests. As development expands and land use changes, it is crucial that we maintain and protect key habitat for these and many more of the species that call the Hill Country home."

'Midnight on the Llano' by Jeremiah Terry. Courtesy of HCA

SECOND PLACE — Jeremiah Terry took "Midnight on the Llano," a long-exposure photograph, of the Milky Way over Mason, highlighting the area's beautiful night skies and the threat of light pollution as developments stretch into the wilder Hill Country.

"Although light pollution is an issue all over the world, the Texas Hill Country is one place where dark, starry skies can still be enjoyed in the less populated, western reaches of the region," the HCA stated. "However, poorly designed, excessive artificial lighting is expanding west from the more developed I-35 corridor — threatening our view of the stars. HCA’s Night Skies program combats this challenge by helping cities and counties minimize the impacts of light pollution through education and outreach, sharing outdoor lighting policies, and supporting new and existing certified Dark Sky Places in our region."

'Window on a Canyon Lake Sunset' by Jerry Sargent. Courtesy of HCA

THIRD PLACE — Jerry Sargent captured "Window on a Canyon Lake Sunset" in Comal County.

"Like many iconic Texas lakes, this breathtaking water body is actually a manmade reservoir, created to harness the water supply of local rivers for human use," the HCA stated. "Built in the 1960s, Canyon Lake is supplied by the Guadalupe River, which gets its start in western Kerr County and eventually flows on until it is joined by the Comal, San Marcos, and San Antonio rivers.

"This year’s ongoing drought conditions have had a tremendous impact across the Hill Country, and they have been particularly noticeable in communities reliant on river flow for summer recreation and tourism," the release continued. "With drought top of mind, HCA’s Water Program is working with local partners across the region to ensure our regional water supply is resilient and prepared for future droughts."

People's Choice photo by Andrea Raynor. Courtesy of HCA

PEOPLE'S CHOICE — Andrea Raynor received more than 1,000 votes and a cash prize for her photo of a field of bluebonnets.

The 2023 calendar features the photos of many more entrants. It is $14.99 plus tax, shipping, and handling. This is the 15th year for the HCA photo contest and calendar. Check the website for future details on the 2023 contest and 2024 calendar. The nonprofit Hill Country Alliance's mission is to raise public awareness and build community support around the need to preserve the natural resources and heritage of the Central Texas Hill Country.

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