Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park’s Spring Photography Weekend returned to the local event calendar last month, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were changes to the traditional contest.

There were no divisions for this year’s competition (advanced, intermediate, beginner, etc.), with all participants competing against each other — except for children.

There was a separate children’s division, but according to the resort’s Facebook page, the children’s category only had one competitor — Ava Jo Shelton, who took third place in the landscape classification.

The major change for the 2021 Spring Photography Weekend was the strictly virtual format.

“We are trying to remain as contactless as possible due to COVID-19,” said Haley Joseph, park naturalist. “This year, since we are doing the judging on Facebook, there are no divisions.”

Traditionally, there are seasoned judges brought in to judge the entries and decide winners in each respective division in the categories of wildlife, landscape, wildflower, reflections, and the bonuses of props, sunrise/sunset, and up-close.

Winners were announced via the park’s Facebook page on April 26. The photo receiving the most votes overall from the resort’s social media following was named “Best in Show.” That honor went to Jason Jones of Dawson Springs with his entry in the reflections category.

“Any image that a natural reflection is the main focus of the photograph,” Joseph said. “These photos can be landscapes or close-ups — a subject as big as a lake or as small as a water droplet will work.”

“For this photograph, in the reflection category, I had checked a few creeks and streams,” said Jones of the contest champion subject. “Usually the water is more tranquil and you can get a better reflection in smaller bodies of water versus lakes. I finally came across the turtle. I had to wait for it to make its way up the log a little.”

Jones has competed in the resort’s Spring Photography Weekend in the past and has conflicted feelings regarding the traditional contest versus the virtual one offered this year.

“I had mixed opinions about not having a judge this year and instead virtual voting taking place,” Jones said. “I was kind of disappointed there was no judge — and then I thought to myself rather than one person or judge picking a winner, you have a large group of people picking their favorite image.

“No guest speakers and no official awards ceremony are the main differences,” Jones explained, comparing and contrasting past and pandemic. “It’s always nice getting together with fellow photographers and viewing everyone’s entries in that group setting. Also, I usually compete in the advanced category and we were all grouped together this year for the virtual contest.”

Local photographer Josh Morgan will be donating a print of the photo awarded “Best in Show” to the lodge at Pennyrile so that visitors to the resort can enjoy the image and get a glimpse at what the park has to offer.

“I’ve participated in the photography contest for several years and want to show my appreciation for the hard work the staff at Pennyrile do hosting this contest,” Morgan said. “I decided last fall to donate a custom built canvas to the park of the ‘Best in Show.’

“The canvases I create are made from archival paper so they can be enjoyed by park visitors for many years to come,” said Morgan.

“I’m glad folks enjoyed my turtle image,” Jones said. “To be honest, it wasn’t my personal favorite image I took that weekend — my personal favorite was my turkey image — maybe because I had to work harder for that photo.”

Jones’ photo of the aforementioned turkey won first place honors in the wildlife category.

Other Spring Photography Weekend first place winners included Verna Brown, landscape; Jessica Shelton, wildflower and up-close (bonus category); and Jennifer Fey, props and sunrise/sunset (bonus categories).

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