Stephenville resident Blu Dornan won the 2017 Digital Photography Shoot-Out Competition on Saturday for his depiction of birds in flight over grain silos.   

Dornan’s picture was chosen among 19 entries to the competition. He received a $250 grand prize thanks to Bostick’s Auto and Truck Sales.   

The 19 photographers gathered downtown at the Brownwood Art Association building at noon on Saturday to register, go over the rules and learn the prompt for the Shoot-Out. Event creator Roger Levesque gathered the group and revealed the subject for this year’s contest: a man-made light fixture.   

“It can be a stoplight, a red light, a brake light — I don’t care what the light is, it has to be within the image somewhere,” Levesque explained. “It does not have to be the subject of the image. You can have a subject of a street scene with a lamppost in it. As long as there’s some man-made light fixture in the image somewhere.”   

The photographers had three hours to find, capture and edit a picture with this fixture somewhere in the Brownwood city limits. They quickly dispersed to find a subject.   

Entrant Karla Reece first tried an antique shop for her photograph, but had trouble capturing what she wanted. She moved on to St. John’s Episcopal Church and took pictures of lanterns, altars and stained glass. “I think I’m going to use one of those pictures,” she said, scrolling through the images on her laptop. “That’s the fun part — trying to decide which one after you take them all.”   

Brownwood Art Association president and contest entrant Jim Blake knew exactly where he was going when he heard the prompt: Home Depot. “They’ve got light fixtures,” Blake said. “Lots and lots of light fixtures.”   

Blake eventually settled on ceiling light made up of small, clear glass globes like a cluster of grapes. Blake put the image in black and white and flipped it upside down with his photo editing program, creating a shiny inverted pyramid.   

Howard Payne student Christy Ash combined elements of Reece’s and Blake’s idea. She photographed a chandelier in a church. The off-center photo became an elaborate mix of golds and browns, with just a single burnt-out bulb at the edge of the picture.   

“I absolutely love chandeliers,” Ash said, “so I found as many as possible.” She described her image as “unique.”   

Just a few minutes after 3 p.m., Levesque introduced the Shoot-Out judge Jack Maxwell. Maxwell, an Abilene Christian University professor, had just given a presentation for Stars of Texas entrants at the Adams Street Community Center. In front of all 19 Shoot-Out participants, Maxwell scrolled through the pictures on a large TV and critiqued them individually, narrowing them down.   

“When we have a big group, I just like to look for the ones that stand out,” Maxwell said. “I’m kind of drawn to things that are simpler. The ones that have lots of things going on get kind of lost and cluttered.”   

He was eventually able to narrow the pictures to a final five, including Ash’s and Dornan’s. “I love the color,” he said of Ash’s chandelier. “The fact that you have all those ranges of golds and browns and all that. It’s really harmonious and really beautiful.”   

Maxwell said he enjoyed the framing of Dornan’s picture, which includes lots of blank space and a strong diagonal line as birds fly in the same direction across the canvas. “This one struck me pretty strong the first time I saw it,” Maxwell said.   

In the end, Maxwell went with Dornan’s photograph. He said he could picture hanging it on his own wall.    

Dornan described the picture as a “happy accident.”    

“I was kind of rummaging around the silos, and I actually went down this corridor and there were a bunch of pigeons in there, and I spooked them. They all flew up in the sky, so when I came out I just started shooting them in the air.”   

Dornan, a graphic designer, said he’s been doing photography as a hobby for about 15 years. “It’s kind of what I do for fun.”   

He and several other photographers went to the Depot Civic & Cultural Center after the judging was done to check on their submissions to the Stars of Texas Juried Art Exhibit.