And our photo contest winner is: Only in Wisconsin

CAROL TOEPKE PHOTO

CAROL TOEPKE PHOTO

Beautiful natural settings, culturally unique attractions and comical snapshots all were in the mix of “Only in Wisconsin” photo entries that you shared with me recently. Yes, we have winners, but these were not easy decisions.

Good photography is a mix of skill, awareness, planning and luck. The instructions for this exercise: Submit an image of excellent photographic quality that demonstrates skill in depicting an only-in-Wisconsin destination that is accessible to the public.

So pictures of gorgeous but generic landscapes – be they sunsets, autumn colors or waterfronts – were set aside. So were unique-to-us destinations that were clear but straightforward – shots that had nothing wrong with them, but nothing extraordinary in composition or brilliance of color.

Our winner is Carol Toepke of Fremont, whose nighttime photo of a popular Door County destination was shot at a special time. “We traveled to Cana Island Lighthouse to capture images of the Milky Way and the grounds while the Perseid Meteor Shower was taking place,” she writes. “No meteors were caught on camera but we did see 30 or so in an hour looking in just one direction.”

She described the lighthouse as magical, “lit by only the stars and the light coming from within the lighthouse,” and we agree. Effective nighttime photography requires more than a click of the shutter; clarity in darkness is no easy trick. For more about this photographer and her work, check out collectionsbycarol.com.

“Each of my images is the result of patient hours spent in the field or at events, or sometimes exploration, learning, feeling and seeing ‘new’ things right in my own backyard,” Carol explains, in her online artist’s statement.

For her efforts, she earns a two-night stay in a standard room for up to two people at Graduate Madison, a 72-room hotel at 601 Langdon St. with rooftop views of the campus, State Capitol and Lake Mendota. Some restrictions apply. graduatemadison.com, 608-257-4391

Our judges were award-winning photojournalist Mike DeVries of Madison; Bill Wellman, general manager at Graduate Madison; and his hotel team. Their finalists also will be rewarded.

Janet and Tom Wanamaker of Neenah both submitted lively photos of the Memorial Union Terrace on Madison’s Lake Mendota waterfront. They will receive “Perimeter: A Contemporary Portrait of Lake Michigan” by photographer Kevin Miyazaki, a Wisconsin Historical Society Press book that captures both the moody lake and the range of people who gravitate to it. wisconsinhistory.org/whspress, 608-264-6582

Janet’s photo shows crowds parting for a couple who married on a University of Wisconsin football Saturday. “I love the excitement of a wedding party making their way to the water on any Saturday, but the craziness of a football Saturday made this unique,” the speech-language pathologist writes.

Husband Tom, a high school science teacher, describes his shot as a summer Friday night with “live reggae music, beer, brats, boats and lots of people milling around. It’s a little slice of heaven.”

Judges also gave a thumbs’ up to an iconic barn-field shot of Brillion Nature Center in Calumet County, taken by David Andre of Brillion, who is on the nonprofit destination’s board of directors.

“It’s within the Brillion Wildlife Area,” he writes. “There are year-round adventures including 6.5 miles of trails through a variety of natural communities including a marsh, pond, forest and prairie. One trail is handicapped accessible.” brillionnaturecenter.net, 920-756-3591

David will receive “A Settler’s Year: Pioneer Life Through the Seasons” by Kathleen Ernst and photographer Loyd Heath. The Wisconsin Historical Society Press book features Old World Wisconsin, the state historic site near Eagle. oldworldwisconsin.org, 262-594-6301

“Photography and the Scientific Spirit” opens Oct. 25 at the John Michael Kohler Art Center, 608 New York Ave., Sheboygan. The show, in place until Feb. 14, 2016, examines how scientific principles affect creativity in photos. A the same venue from Oct. 11 to Jan. 17, 2016, presents “Spirit Photographs: Seeing is Believing,” a collection that shows how photography in the late 1800s was used to explore and prove life after death. Admission is free. jmkac.org, 920-458-6144

Willard Clay of Naperville, Ill., leads a workshop to photograph Wisconsin’s Northwoods, Sept. 27 to Oct. 2 at Dillman’s Bay Resort, 3305 Sand Lake Lodge Lane, Lac du Flambeau. “Art of Composing Photo Images” takes the student from the basics of photo composition to shooting assignments and processing images with computer software. The mix of hands-on photography and practical instruction is designed to challenge all skill levels, and the instructor’s portfolio includes nine photo books. Workshop fee is $320-$370, depending on the number of participants; lodging is extra. dillmans.com, 715-588-3143