It was a photo contest by the people and for the people of Ada County. The goal was to highlight the parks and waterways managed by Ada County, and to encourage people to get out and enjoy that landscape.
"We were blown away" by what people sent in, says Scott Koberg, Director of Ada County Parks and Waterways.
The idea for a photo contest "just sort of hatched," Koberg says. The genesis was their magazine Current, which often features photos of places to play in Ada County.
He says they wanted to show off some of those spots, “I don’t think it’s that interesting to the public who manages what, but we want folks to know what Ada County does from a parks standpoint.”
There was also another reason. "We really wanted to engage the public for the Ada County Sesquicentennial," says Koberg, "because we know people are out there visiting, using, and recreating on our properties."
Anyone could enter and one of those who submitted a photo was Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney. "I've been a budding photographer for 32 years," Raney says laughing. He got his first camera as a high school graduation present.
"I always dabbled with it," says Raney, "and it had spikes and lulls, like any long-term hobby." He says when he was a deputy, he had to take good pictures when he took photos at crime scenes.
His wife helps out. Raney says she helped him find the spot where he took the winning photo. "I wanted to go somewhere where nobody knew anything about," says Raney, "I didn't even know that wetland was there." He clicked the photo at the Fivemile/Victory wetlands.
Raney says it's the hobby he most enjoys, "it's anything you want it to be."
Koberg says there were hundreds of photos submitted. Though at first, it was just a trickle, “we were holding our breath,” waiting for entries at the beginning, but ultimately, “it turned out fantastic, with plenty that came in to judge.” Koberg says “it was a fun exercise to see what people were seeing out there, some of it was jaw dropping; it was awesome.”
Koberg's staff were the judges. Each photo was printed out and put on a wall, “the conference room was covered," he says. Each photo was ranked by the judges. "If we all selected a photo, and it was hands down the favorite, it became pretty clear what stood out.”
Koberg says it was great, “having folks out there, being the eyes for us," he says. "It’s our friends and neighbors and public playing and recreating and taking pictures with their iPhones, and it encourages others to go out and do the same."
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