Moffat County artist reaps awards for agricultural photography
February 5, 2019
CRAIG — For the third time, a Moffat County photographer’s work has received honors from the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
A photograph of wheat titled "Blowing in the Wind," taken by Karen Mack, was awarded first place from more than 150 photos entered in the crops category of the 2018 "Colorado … it's AgriCulture" photography contest.
The award included a certificate, Colorado agriculture prize package, and display of her work in the Beede-Hamil Agricultural Hall at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling.
"Thank you for entering the contest and sharing the spirit of Colorado agriculture through your photography," contest coordinator Wendy Lee White wrote in an award letter.
Photographs of sage-grouse and sandhill cranes garnered Karen honorable mentions in 2016 and 2017 in the wildlife and agriculture category, which was discontinued in 2018.
"I've always been interested in agriculture, because my father was a farmer,” Karen said. “When they chose the wheat field for the first prize I thought it was funny, because its just wheat, and I'm a farmer's daughter from Kansas.”
Karen said she didn't find the wheat remarkable, other than the fact that "there are no weeds in that picture, which is amazing, since most crops have weeds."
She's been snapping pictures for 15 years, since deciding to take the advice of her older sister, Rosemary O'Bryan.
A woman Karen calls her "sinster" — photographer Maryanne Correia — and Karen’s husband, Gerry Mack, support her passion for photography.
"She likes trying new things to improve her photography," Maryanne said.
To learn her craft, Karen has read "a lot of books" and accepted instructions from other photographers, "some local and some not," she said.
She prefers to use digital cameras to take several shots of the same subject, then uses "this cute little button called delete" on those that don't meet her standards.
"All the images you see, they might be cropped a little bit, but there's no photoshopping. If you have a bad shot and you want a better shot, go try again," Karen said. "I just posted some photos of an otter. It was a dark and gloomy day, so that's how my photos look."
Karen considers herself a wildlife photographer, though these days, "I am sliding more towards landscapes," she added.
Northwest Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah serve as her canvasses as she and Maryanne chase the light in the search for wildlife and landscapes.
"We go on our road trips at least once a week. It's what we call our 'dirt road therapy,'” Maryanne said.
To get a "good sharp picture," she finds her Canon camera and 200-500mm lens needs bright light.
This time of year, especially where the sun is shining, Karen and Maryanne can often be found photographing bald eagles.
"I love bald eagles, and this is the season for the bald eagles to be reaffirming their bonds. Next month, they'll be cleaning the nests. Between Routt, Moffat, (and) Rio Blanco counties, and one in Wyoming, I watch about eight bald eagle nests."
One of Karen's bald eagle images graces the cover of a friend's book.
In addition to entering competitions, she's sold her work at craft shows and in local shops through the years.
She likes to share a saying: "I'm an artist, and when you buy from me, you are buying hundreds of hours of failures and experiments. You are buying a piece of my heart and soul, a moment of my life," signed Peter Dragon.
Karen's work is available for sale at Downtown Bookstore and Pack Center Shipping, both in the 500 block of Yampa Avenue.
Her work will also be on display during the 24th Annual Art Walk on Saturday, Feb. 9. Winning photographs from the "Colorado… it's AgriCulture" photography contest are available at coloradoagriculture.com.
She does her own matting and doesn't include a frame to help keep her costs down.
"I would like to see my photography grow," she said. "Enjoy it, and buy it."
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.