Photo Contest

Congratulations to our 2021 Grand Prize Winners!

Youth Division Winning photo by Seanna Peetz

Seanna Peetz – Youth Division Grand Prize Winner

“I took this photo on a rainy day. Shortly after the rain had stopped falling, I stepped outside, and something caught my eye. This butterfly, this little, tiny but hugely important butterfly, made me realize that there’s so much more to life and that by actually slowing down and examining the world around you, you can experience a once in a lifetime chance just like how I saw this butterfly.”

Adult Division Winning photo by Beverly Rivera

Beverly Rivera – Adult Division Grand Prize Winner

“I have a special fascination with eagles and look for them every day, everywhere I go! I never get tired of seeing them “in the wild” in Indiana again. I always hope for a perfect picture of an eagle and this so far has been my favorite. It helps me remember the day spent with family exploring and captures the majesty of the bald eagle!”

Scroll down to view 2021 Best of Show.

Our judges selected twenty Best of Show winners.


The twenty photos below were selected for our traveling exhibits that were displayed in Madison, Seymour, Batesville, Versailles, Moores Hill, and and Aurora. These “Best of Show” photographers will receive their mounted photo as a prize. During the exhibits, and via social media we asked the public to vote for a Grand Prize youth entry and a Grand Prize adult entry. The two Grand Prize winning photographers will receive a one-year membership to Oak Heritage Conservancy.


The photo contest is made possible by a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

The contest and exhibit are a partnership with Oak Heritage Conservancy (we create nature preserves in southeast Indiana) and George Rogers Clark Land Trust (a community group that focuses on protecting working farmland in southern Indiana). Many thanks to the Boards of both groups for all of their hard work making this contest and exhibit a reality!

2021 Best in Show Photos

More about Our Theme: Nature Next Door!

We wanted you to find new places to explore to capture just the right photograph. With COVID-19, people are sticking close to home (which is good!). Visiting natural areas (state parks, nature preserves, etc.) and agritourism sites (like pumpkin patches, vineyards, and other outdoor farm destinations) offers one of the safest options for still being adventurous amidst the pandemic. Hence our theme for the 2021/22 contest and exhibit: Explore Next Door. Our contest offered the opportunity to visit a new place and consider how natural beauty contributes to your community. 

Click here for an interactive map of public natural areas you can explore in southeast Indiana.

And:

Click here agritourism sites like pumpkin patches, vineyards, and more.

Four Rules for Youth and Adult Entries:

1. The photo must have been taken by an amateur photographer and in Indiana, ideally at a place you visited for the first time.
2. The goal of this year’s contest was to help Hoosiers think about natural areas close to home to consider how natural beauty contributes to your relationship with nature and your community.
3. Deadline to enter was October 31, 2021.

2020 Grand Prize Winner + Hoosiers Weigh in on Making “Earth Day Every Day”

Over 200 area residents shared their opinions in a recent survey about conservation and nature. They talked about ways they help protect the natural world every day, from the basics, like recycling and using less water, to projects like planting more native trees and shrubs around their home, adding native wildflowers to their flower beds, supporting conservation with their votes, or installing solar panels.

Grand Prize Winning photo by Joshua Chastain. Joshua is a middle school student who wants to be a wildlife biologist when he grows up.

“Everyone can do something to help care for the earth each day.”

“I want a better earth for future generations.”

The survey was part of Oak Heritage Conservancy’s annual Nature and Farm Photo Contest. While voting for a grand prize winner, residents also weighed in with their thoughts about the year’s theme, “Earth Day Every Day.”

“We know this survey isn’t a complete cross section of Indiana, but we were still encouraged by how many Hoosiers told us they value protecting natural areas and open spaces like small family farms,” says Liz Brownlee, Executive Director of Oak Heritage. The nonprofit protects natural areas across southeast Indiana, and opens them to hikers, birdwatchers, and other visitors. Their partners on the project, George Rogers Clark Land Trust, protect working farmland.

Each year, the two groups host a Nature and Farm Photo Contest to get Hoosiers thinking about how natural areas and farms contribute to the beauty and character of Indiana. This year, they added a “Youth” category – and the Grand Prize Winner was actually a youth entry. Joshua Chastain, of Westport, is entering seventh grade this Fall. His photo earned the top spot out of 27 photos featured in the online exhibit (photos below).

Joshua wants to be a wildlife biologist when he grows up. He loves wildlife of all sorts – especially turtles. His winning photo was a close up of a turtle native to Indiana, a red-eared slider. Joshua takes the “Earth Day Every Day” pledge to heart.

“I save turtles and crawdads when I see them on the road by picking them up and moving them the direction they are going. I also catch insects, fish, and other creatures and study them.  Then I release them.”

Joshua’s mom, Jennifer Chastain, said “I am amazed at Joshua’s love of nature and his natural gift with spotting unusual and rare wildlife and plants.  He also has an uncanny knack for handling insects, frogs, toads, and other animals without harming them.   My husband, Derek, teaches Biology and has encouraged him to explore nature.  There are a lot of other adults and teachers in Joshua’s life that encourage him to learn about and love nature also.” 

Joshua wasn’t the only one to take on an “Earth Day Every Day” challenge. After voting for a Grand Prize Winner, area residents also selected a challenge that fit their lives. Most people decided to plant native trees, shrubs or wildflowers – or visit the farmer’s market to buy local food.

“Eating local is a super way to care for the planet,” says Brownlee. “Most food travels over 1,500 miles to get to our plates. That doesn’t make any sense when farmers here in Indiana are growing lots of good food, from vegetables to honey, meat, popcorn, mushrooms and more. And a lot of those small farmers really love the land where they farm. They care for wildlife habitat on their land, including forests and wetlands. We can reduce our ‘food miles’ and the carbon emissions all that hauling creates – and support local farmers who are caring for the land on family farms. Plus, it tastes so much better when it’s fresh!”

If people want to celebrating Earth Day Every Day, Oak Heritage hosts programs around southeast Indiana, including hikes and other events on their preserves. On July 21, they will host a volunteer event building trails at Webster Woods Nature Preserve in Lexington, Indiana. To RSVP, visit www.oakheritageconservancy.org/events.

The photo contest is made possible by the Indiana Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.


2019 Contest Results: Hoosiers Say Nature Matters to Their Communities

“We all need to be outside. Nature is our foundation.”

“Natural areas are a getaway. They give us time to unplug and be free.”

“Having nature and somewhere to explore nature makes the community more beautiful.”

“Nature adds to the whole grand picture of life.”

“Protecting greenspace areas is critical to improving and maintaining high quality of life. It inspires play, exercise and overall well-being.”

Photo by Sheena Grim

These are just a few of the quotes from the 1,292 Hoosiers who voted for a Grand Prize Winner in Oak Heritage Conservancy’s annual Nature and Farm Photo Contest.

This year’s entries showed kids playing in a clear creek on the family farm, a tree swallow feeding its young at a wildlife refuge, old barns with a sunset in the background, the milky way above a covered bridge, and other common – but beautiful – sites from around Indiana.

The Grand Prize winning photo was submitted by Sheena Grim of New Albany. Her photo shows sunrise over a foggy Ohio River, with a metal bridge in the background.

“Nature allows everyone to relax,” says Grim. “Taking pictures of nature allows me to take a break from my busy life.” Her photo received almost 200 votes. Clearly, she caught people’s attention by focusing on this intersection between people and nature.

When people voted for their favorite photo, they were also invited to chime in about how they thought nature contributed to their community.

“We believe whole-heartedly that nature is part of what makes a community special, but we were curious what others thought,” says Liz Brownlee, Executive Director of Oak Heritage. The group has nature preserves scattered around southeast Indiana. Some of the preserves include amenities for the community, like hiking trails and regular nature events.

Natural areas, trails, and other natural amenities can be part of a community’s “sense of place,” says Brownlee.

“Sense of place” is a relatively new idea, but basically, it’s what makes a community stand out. It’s the mix of the land, the history, the people, the art, the farms, the stores, the stories, and the natural world that are unique to that place.”

“People want to spend time in communities that have a sense of place,” she adds, either as visitors or residents. These communities often have a mixture of the arts, public walking trails, parks, independent restaurants, a sense of history, community events, and more.

Photo by Steve Robert Simmons

One question the survey asked was: “Do you think protecting more natural areas can help a community’s ‘sense of place’”? Over 95 percent of people said yes.

“This definitely is not a scientific survey,” says Brownlee. “But we’re encouraged that so many Hoosiers spoke up and said that nature is a key part of what makes their communities strong – and that they want to protect more special places in their communities.”

Oak Heritage protects natural areas, like forests and wetlands, that are free for the public to visit and enjoy. They have nature preserves with hiking trails and host nature events, like butterfly walks and scavenger hunts. Their partner on the photo contest, George Rogers Clark Land Trust, helps farmers protect their land as working farmland.

The photo contest is made possible by the Indiana Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.


Oak Heritage Conservancy protects the special places that make southeast Indiana unique – and we host programs that get people outside in nature.

Click to learn more about the natural areas we’ve protected forever, for you to enjoy or to learn about our upcoming events in nature. Or better yet – get involved with our conservation work. You can help protect the special places in southeast Indiana.

George Rogers Clarks helps farmers protect their land from development and subdivision. Learn more at https://www.grclt.org/.

The photo contest is made possible by the Indiana Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Many thanks to the these groups for making the arts come alive in southeast Indiana.