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Al Tucker captured this image, called "Dolly Sods Backroad Beauty." It was one of three of Tucker's photos selected as winners in the 2020 Cortland Foundation Photography Competition. / Photo courtesy Al Tucker

Light, color and grand landscapes: Local photographer’s images chosen in 2020 Cortland Acres Photography Competition

THOMAS, WEST VIRGINIA – The Cortland Foundation unveiled the winners of its 2020 Photography Competition and one of the winning photographers was one of our own – Al Tucker.

Three of Tucker’s photographs were tapped as winners in the 2020 Photography Competition, “Dolly Sods Backroad Beauty,” “Mill Creek Falls” and “Dolly Sods Autumn Tapestry.” In fact, Tucker said two of the three photos made the cut for Cortland Acres’ prestigious gallery exhibit.

Another image, dubbed “Mill Creek Falls” Tucker captured that was tapped as a winner in the 2020 Cortland Acres Photography Competition. / Photo courtesy Al Tucker

In a press release from the Cortland Foundation, Tucker said he has been a casual photographer for 40 years and a serious photographer for 10 years.

“I love grand landscapes, and I enjoy looking for and capturing the beauty of God’s creations,” Tucker said. “West Virginia is blessed with majestic vistas of sweeping mountains and broad valleys that have a unique beauty in every season.”

Tucker said he loves searching out those grand landscape shots that best define the beauty of West Virginia, adding that four things are required for unique grand landscape photography.

“First, you must understand the concept of composition,” he said. “Knowing the rules of the composition should be second nature to you. Second, grand landscapes usually require a wide-angle lens. Third, it is all about light. Great composition with poor light is not worth shooting. Finally, take great landscapes, take fewer pictures by studying the scene and look for that unique composition with the right light.”

Tucker said that folks need to find something compelling that others may not have seen and capture that unique and stunning photo. He said photography also requires patience.

“You might not get the shot you want, but you know at another time or season, there might be a unique shot waiting for you,” Tucker said.

To emphasize the necessity of patience, Tucker tells the story of traveling several hours, year after year, to capture a stunning maple tree. Tucker said he was thwarted by fading fall colors, dull light or winds that had already robbed the tree of its leaves.

“One year, everything was perfect – color, lighting and no wind,” he said. “I knew the shots I wanted so with my trusty tripod and camera in hand, I finally captured the photo I wanted for so many years.”

During an interview with My Buckhannon, Tucker said the contest gets a lot of entries from top photographers in the state and said this is his second year submitting photos to the contest.

“They get the top photographers in there, and it is nice when you get something in there that is considered worthy with those folks,” Tucker said, adding he learned about the contest online a few years ago. “It didn’t really pique my interest then, but I had a friend named Sandy Miller and she submitted a few entries that have won in the past.”

This image, named “Dolly Sods Autumn Tapestry,” was the third of three photographs of Tucker’s chosen in the 2020 Cortland Acres Photography Competition.

Tucker said the contest is for a great cause.

“That’s the thing that caused me to submit some entries,” he said. “I was not looking to win any money. If someone can benefit from my photo, I am all for it.”

He said the winning entries are displayed at Cortland Acres for a certain period of time and then they auction the photos. The money raised benefits Cortland Acres through the Cortland Foundation.

“I also had a winning photograph in the last year’s contest,” Tucker said. “Last year, I submitted three photos, which is the limit and I had one winner. The photographs must be of the Potomac Highlands. I submitted three this year and two of them were selected as winners.”

Tucker said he selected his photos for submission this year because they were unique.

“There are a lot of photos submitted to the contest that are of Canaan Valley and the Dolly Sods region,” he said. “I try to select something different and unique, and these are completely different, and it is more like a mosaic because of its colors.”

When asked how many photographs Tucker takes per year, he laughed and answered, “too many.”

“I love shooting in all seasons and I love the landscapes,” he said. “I love other kinds of photography, too, including wildflowers, wildlife and whatever happens to catch my eye.”

Tucker said he is a man of faith and said that plays into his photography as well.

“I just love God’s creation and I like to go out and capture the uniqueness of it and do what I call revealing God’s glory,” Tucker said. “I not only get the pleasure of getting out there and seeing it but capturing it to share. If it brings somebody some joy, that is a bonus.”

Director of PR and Marketing for the Cortland Foundation, Cary Sponaugle said every autumn, local and semi-local photographers wait to hear if one of their entries to the Cortland Foundation photography contest has been selected to adorn the walls of Cortland Acres in Thomas.

She said this is the fifth year for the competition, adding that in 2020, a total of 64 photographers participated and submitted a total of 217 images for consideration.

Sponaugle said the annual contest seeks images highlighting the beauty of and activities found in northern West Virginia and Western Maryland that represent the people, places and pursuits in the region.

She said Randall Sanger, West Virginia-based landscape and nature photographer, judged and curated the contest entries.

“He selected 34 images to adorn the Blackwater Rehab Center, it’s Pendleton Lounge Gallery and the Cortland Acres facility,” Sponaugle said.

Winning photographers for the 2020 Photography Exhibition include David Proctor of Beverly, June Proctor of Beverly, Sandra Miller of Buckhannon, Alan Tucker of Buckhannon, John Wilson of Charleston, Thomas Dean of Cross Lanes, Dylan Jones of Davis, David Johnston of Dryfork, Kilsong Cox of Elkins, Wendy Parks of Fairmont, Jesse Thornton of Huntington, Bobbie Swan of Meadowbrook, Travis Shultz of Morgantown, Van Slider of Paden City, Anne Johnson of Summersville, Kevin King of Tornado, Jason Funk of Cumberland, Maryland, Bob Stough of Derry, Pennsylvania and George Fletcher of Round Hill, Virginia.

Sponaugle said the 2020 photos will be available for purchase in the fall of 2021 after being on display for a year.

She said one of the projects they are working on is called ‘Happy Trails’ and said some of the funds raised through the sale of the photographs will go to fund this initiative.

“It is going to be a walking trail that will be fully-accessible for people in wheelchairs so they can get out and about,” Sponaugle said.

You may view all the 2020 winning entries here or learn more about Cortland Acres and its mission here.

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