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Laurel Highlands Visitor's Bureau to feature contest winners' photos in 2015 destination guide

| Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Denise J. Mayes of Pittsburgh took second place in the places category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest with this photo taken at Ohiopyle State Park.
Denise J. Mayes of Pittsburgh took second place in the places category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest with this photo taken at Ohiopyle State Park.
Judy Gough of Pittsburgh took second place in the plants and animals category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest with this photo taken along Route 711 near Donegal.
Submitted
Judy Gough of Pittsburgh took second place in the plants and animals category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest with this photo taken along Route 711 near Donegal.
Stokes Clarke of Hidden Valley took first place in the altered images category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest with this photo taken at Laurel Hill State Park.
Stokes Clarke of Hidden Valley took first place in the altered images category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest with this photo taken at Laurel Hill State Park.
Rusty Glessner of State College took second place in the altered images category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest with this photo taken at Fort Ligonier.
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Rusty Glessner of State College took second place in the altered images category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest with this photo taken at Fort Ligonier.
Brandi Larney of Greensburg took third place in the altered images category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest.
Submitted
Brandi Larney of Greensburg took third place in the altered images category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest.
Melissa Robinsky of Latrobe took third place in the places category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest with this photo taken at Idlewild & SoakZone.
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Melissa Robinsky of Latrobe took third place in the places category of the The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau's 11th Annual Laurel Highlands Photo Contest with this photo taken at Idlewild & SoakZone.

Melissa Robinsky was wrapping up a visit to Idlewild Park and Soak Zone in Ligonier Township last summer when she and a friend took a ride on the Ferris wheel.

They were stopped at the top when she took her iPhone out of her pocket and snapped a photo of the car in front of her surrounded by green trees, blue skies and white clouds.

“It was really beautiful out that day,” she said.

Judges of the 11th annual Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau photo contest thought so, too, awarding Robinsky of Latrobe third place in the “places” category.

The contest had a record 1,100 entries, up from 890 last year, in its fourth year of accepting digital submissions, said Julie Donovan, vice president of public relations with the bureau.

“The contest has gathered a lot of attention each year. It just grows,” Donovan said. “It is tough. It is really competitive when you're only choosing 12 out of 1,100.”

Winners of the “people” category are:

First place: Brenda T. Schwartz, Hidden Valley, photo of Hidden Valley Resort

• Second place: Rusty Glessner, State College, photo of Fort Ligonier

Third place: Chris Preperato, Falls Church, Va., photo of Packsaddle Covered Bridge in Fairhope.

Winners of the “plants and animals” category are:

First place: Linda Seanor, Berlin, photo of birds along Route 160 in Berlin

• Second place: Judy Gough, Pittsburgh, photo of sunflowers along Route 711 in Donegal

• Third place: Kurt Miller, Trafford, photo of Living Treasures Wild Animal Park.

Winners of the “places” category are:

• First place: Denise J. Mayes, Pittsburgh, photo of Ohiopyle State Park

• Second place: Rusty Glessner, State College, photo of Packsaddle Covered Bridge in Fairhope

• Third place: Melissa Robinsky, Latrobe, photo of Idlewild Park and Soak Zone.

Winners of the “altered images” category are:

• First place: Stokes Clarke, Hidden Valley, photo of Laurel Hill State Park

• Second place: Rusty Glessner, State College, photo of Chickentown Steam Festival

• Third place: Brandi Larney, Greensburg, photo of American Adventure Sports in Greensburg.

This was the first year the “altered images” category was offered in the contest, Donovan said.

“The photo (submissions) themselves gave us the idea,” she said, adding that the number of entries using filters and photo editing software to enhance images had increased.

Larney enhanced the colors of the cycling shop storefront, which she said stood out because of a bicycle used as a marquee.

“I wanted to capture that part of the building,” she said. “It adds a little bit of a different view or alternative view than people are used to seeing.”

She said she was humbled and honored to be chosen as a winner, especially after seeing the other photographs.

“There are just so many amazing, talented people in this area,” Larney said. “I'm a big photo geek, so I love seeing how people see the world.”

Photo submissions were judged by visitors bureau staff, Anna Weltz at Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Nikki Kruse of Ohiopyle Adventure Photography and Autumn Stankay of Skysight Photography.

“It definitely was a nice eye-opening reminder that I don't have to go far to shoot great pictures,” Stankay said.

In judging the new “altered images” category, the photographer said she looked for submissions that used editing as the “icing on the cake, not the whole cake,” she said. “What I was looking for was someone who knew how to alter the image appropriately to enhance the image.”

Stankay said she enjoyed seeing all the seasonal photos, knowing that means photographers can make great images year-round.

Seeing both visitors and residents contribute to the contest means the visitors bureau is spreading the word of the opportunities in the Laurel Highlands, Donovan said.

“Each year the quality is just so phenomenal,” she said.

The photos are on display at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort's Sundial Lodge through the end of February and will be used in the visitor's bureau's 2015 destination guide.

The guide is sent to entice people from Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, Cleveland, Columbus and northern Virginia to the area.

Schwartz's photo of a snowboarder at Hidden Valley is on billboards along the Pennsylvania Turnpike eastbound in Monroeville and Donegal and westbound between Bedford and Somerset, Donovan said.

Preparato's photo of a kayaker near Packsaddle Covered Bridge will be featured on the front of the guide, she said.

“(The photos) are a great way to build our photo library and showcase what the Laurel Highlands has to offer,” Donovan said.

The winners in each of the four categories received invitations to a reception in September and cash prizes: $500 for first place. $200 for second place and $100 for third place.

The contest will open soon for this year with submissions taken on the visitors bureau website at laurelhighlands.org through September, Donovan said.

Photos must be taken in Westmoreland, Fayette and Somerset counties featuring places accessible to the public.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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