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West Virginia Botanic Garden’s 2024 Photo Trail illustrates the convergence of art and nature, showcases local photographers

Hobbyist and professional photographers alike can often be found admiring the flora, fauna and scenic views of the West Virginia Botanic Garden’s (WVBG) many trails and gardens. Recognizing this, the WVBG held its first Photo Trail Contest in 2019, offering an opportunity for photographers to submit their shots of the garden.

Five years later, WVBG visitors had plenty of opportunities to fill their cameras with the people, wildlife, plants and landscapes of the garden for the 2024 Photo Trail Contest, currently on display at the garden. 

Photographers submitted photos taken at the WVBG for five categories — Landscapes at the Garden, People at the Garden, Wildlife at the Garden, Plants at the Garden and miscellaneous subjects, such as pets or abstract shots. Entries were judged by local professional photographers, and winners for each category now comprise the 2024 Photo Trail exhibit. The public can visit the trail and vote for their favorite photograph through May 31.

This contest and exhibit are part of the WVBG’s greater mission to showcase the intersection of nature and art while continuously striving to offer new experiences at the garden according to what its visitors enjoy. Other events showcasing the arts include field journaling lessons, drum circles, live musical performances, but examples of WVBG catering to its visitors are just as plentiful — just as the garden honored its many shutterbugs with the photo contest, the creation of its annual Howl-O-Ween Doggie Trick or Treat was the result of visitors frequently bringing their dogs along for adventures in the garden.

“The main goal of the contest is to provide another art and culture exhibit to our visitors,” said WVBG executive director Philip Smith. “We’re always looking for something that gives a fresh edge to someone’s walk here. We noticed a lot of people walking around with cameras, and we wanted to give them an outlet to be seen by all of our visitors.”

Between the WVBG’s event lawn and Hammock Haven sits the 2024 Photo Trail. The winning photographs for the five categories have been printed on weather-resistant fabric, framed and mounted on trees for exhibition. Metal label stands detail the photographer and title for each photograph and include QR codes for visitors to scan and vote for their favorite submission. Public voting will last throughout May, and the Photo Trail will remain on display for a bit of time following the contest’s end.

The winner of the people’s-choice voting will be announced in early June and will receive two tickets to the WVBG Burgers and Brews with Table 9 event in June. 

Contest winners currently on display at the WVBG and up for voting are “Rhododendron Tunnel” by Anonymous for Landscapes at the Garden, “Reflections” by Ashley Anderson for People at the Garden, “Blue Herons” by Carolyn Symes for Wildlife at the Garden, “Sunburst” by Dave Smaldone for Plants at the Garden, and “Fall Reflections on Tibbs Run” by Steve Konya II for Miscellaneous. 

“Nature is art, and art is a big part of what we try to accomplish through our mission,” said Smith. “Come out and walk the [photo] trail. Tell your friends to come out and see it, as well as all the other new things at the garden, including lots of new beautiful plants.”

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