By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Arbor Day photo contest winners named
melon bluff 1 Leah
Leah Poole, Hinesville Area Arts Council board chairwoman, views Arbor Day exhibit photographs at Melon Bluff Nature Center on Friday. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
The still beauty of coastal Georgia’s live oak trees was captured in a photographic competition Friday at Melon Bluff Nature and Heritage Center in Sunbury.
Each of the 20 photographs exhibited now through April 24 depicts 15 area artists' unique points of view.
Mother and daughter Laura and Meredith Devendorf hosted the second annual Georgia Arbor Day photography competition. The event was sponsored by Melon Bluff, the Hinesville Area Arts Council, Keep Liberty County Beautiful and professional photographers Diane and Felix Kirkland, who also judged the 20 entries.
“It’s (the exhibit) a great way to get people interested in our trees here,” said Sara Swida, executive director of Keep Liberty Beautiful. “We try to offer several different activities for Arbor Day to reach different populations, different interest areas.”
Georgia Arbor Day is observed the third Friday in February each year. The state observance is overseen by the Georgia Forestry Commission.
Swida said trees have always been an integral part of coastal Georgia’s history and economy. She said Melon Bluff Nature Preserve is an appropriate place to hold an exhibit that celebrates trees.
Swida said the preserve offers trails with views of “incredible oaks” and suggested people see the area’s natural beauty from Melon Bluff’s 40-foot high tree house.
“It’s kind of an observation deck,” she said. “It’s well worth going up there.”
The Devendorf family, who opened their 2,200-acre property to the public as a nature preserve in 1997, has long been involved in environmental, cultural and artistic pursuits.
“We have a long connection with Arbor Day,” Laura Devendorf said.
She said the annual event gives photographers a chance to compete in a juried exhibition locally, and gives youngsters a chance to show their work and meet respected art judges.
The competition was divided into a senior division for adults age 17 and older, and a junior division for children, ages 10-16.
First place in the senior division went to Curt Hames. Eric B. Hartley took second place and Julie Farris Scott won third. Nathan Larimer won fourth place and David Fischer received an honorable mention.
In the junior division, Patrick Maguire came in first, Kayla Parys took second place and McKenzie Maxheimer won third. Paddy Griffin and Garrett McBroom received honorable mentions.
Laura Devendorf said although there were fewer entries in the competition this year than last, the quality of the photographs is “impressive.”
“The level of the talent is strong,” she said. “Some of the pieces in this exhibit are very strong. And some are very personal. It’s a mix. I think people will find something they can respond to.” Devendorf said exhibit organizers are already planning to make next year’s competition bigger, by offering a greater amount of prize money and by more widely publicizing the event.
She said having expert judges, such as Diane and Felix Kirkland, also gives the exhibit a prestigious quality.
“The Kirklands do this as a favor to the people who are showing,” Devendorf said. “We are blessed to have them judge this show.”
Felix Kirkland is known for his urban landscapes and his wife, Diane, received an artist in residence grant from the Department of Natural Resources. She spent two weeks photographing nature on Ossabaw Island, her husband said, and she has taken photographs for the state Department of Economic Development.
Diane Kirkland said some of the exhibit’s pieces were “especially top notch.” She pointed to one of the young artist’s photographs, commenting on its abstractness, saying it was rare to find in a child’s work.
Kirkland motioned to another photo, titled “Marshmallow Tree.” The child photographer, Kayla Parys, told Kirkland she thought the sky in her photo looked like bottled marshmallows.
Kirkland said she and her husband judged the photographs on composition and technique.
The photographers who entered the competition seemed happy to show their work, regardless of whether they placed.
Joyce Jarrell of Yellow Bluff took her photograph, titled “Blackbeard Boneyard,” from a moving boat. Jarrell said she’s been taking photographs since she was 8 years old.
“It’s my passion,” she said. “I always have my camera with me.”
 Jarrell said her claim to fame is having her photographs featured in the December 2008 issue of Coastal Living magazine.
Julie Farris Scott, whose piece “Arbor Reflections” won third place in the senior division, moved to Savannah from Missouri.
“Coastal Georgia is home now,” Scott said. “I love it here.”
Scott, a freelance photographer, recently began promoting her nature photography. She shot her exhibit photographs on the bank of the Ogeechee River, near a friend’s home in Richmond Hill. Scott said she also enjoys photographing wildlife at Fort McCallister and at Skidaway Island State Park.
For more information, call 880-4500 or visit
Sign up for our e-newsletters