TRAVERSE CITY-- Angie Lucas was sailing near South Manitou Island early one morning when she looked up and saw the island bathed in a sunrise photographers dream about.
"It was just beautiful. It was a really neat moment," said Lucas, 36, who captured the fleeting image on her Canon digital camera.
The result, a smoky-orange undulating fusion of land, sea and sky, won first place in this year's Art of the Watershed photo contest and is featured in an exhibition of winning photos. The show runs through February at The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay on West Bay Shore Drive in Greilickville.
The second annual contest is a fundraiser for the environmental organization, which protects the Grand Traverse Bay's 1,000-square mile watershed, said Advancement Director Denise Baker. Winning entries are featured in a 2013 calendar and are available as framed prints, along with other work by their creators.
"One of the small, fun ways we use to raise money is to celebrate the natural beauty of the region. It's why a lot of us live here and why we love it," Baker said. "Also there are a lot of very artistic people in the region. It's a way to show off the talent of everyday folks like you and me in the Grand Traverse region and celebrate their beautiful work in the calendar."
About two dozen photos were selected for the exhibition, including second-place winner "Bluff Road Sunrise" by Traverse City resident Erin Monahan, third-place winner "Winter Sentinel" by Joel Wegman of Chicago and Glen Arbor, and honorable mention winner "Snowstorm Loon" by Paul May of Glen Arbor.
Baker said some of the images were shot by amateurs on "tiny, rinky-dink" point-and-shoots, others on state-of-the-art cameras by professional photographers like John Gessner and Mark Lindsay. Their work was so special they were given an impromptu award of their own show in May. But all had one thing in common besides calendar quality.
"We don't care what kind of camera they use, what kind of filter they use or what setting, but we do not want people manipulating the image in photo editing software," Baker said. "That puts everybody on a level playing field. It's also a philosophical thing. It's about capturing a very deep but brief moment in nature. We want to celebrate the beauty of nature, not somebody's prowess in Photoshop."
A preserve steward with the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Lucas has two images in the show, including one taken at the Conservancy's Wilcox-Palmer-Shah Nature Preserve just north of Elk Rapids. The first-time photo contestant said top prize winner "Manitou Sunrise" had been sitting idly in her computer since 2006.
"This will be the first time I'll see it framed — and printed," she said.
Exhibition and sales hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.