Photo contest illustrates beauty, vulnerability of Laguna coast
LAGUNA BEACH — Whether it was from the beach, along rock outcroppings, underwater, or on top of a wave, photographers captured the beauty and vibrancy of this seaside town’s coastline.
This year, 60 professional and amateur photographers entered the 8th Annual Bluebelt Photo contest. Put on by the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition, the contest raises awareness of the 7.2 miles of Laguna coastline that are Orange County’s only Marine Protected Area, and a “no fish” zone.
“It’s not just a contest of pretty pictures,” said Jinger Wallace, who helped organize the competition. “It’s about awareness and education. We have to protect areas to restore the marine habitat and marine life along our coast.”
Photographers submitted images of marine life, coves, people in waves and examples of the ocean’s power. Judges Tom Lamb, Pat Sparkuhl and Mitch Ridder looked for excellence in the medium and how entries portrayed a unique perspective of the Bluebelt that told a compelling story.
First place in the amateur category went to Gregg Howe, of Laguna Beach, for his underwater shot of a striped shore crab that he found in tidepools near Main Beach.
Brian Crawford, who grew up in Laguna Beach and now lives in Okinawa, Japan, took first place in the professional category for a photo of a wave crashing at Victoria Beach.
“Down at Victoria Beach one day last summer I snapped this photo of my wife in the pool,” Crawford said. “Needless to say, she wasn’t too happy that this huge wave knocked her around a bit but it’s all for the art of it.”
“He has an ability to visualize and capture a moment where his subject and ability aligns,” said his father, Brent Crawford, of Laguna Beach. “He’s always been into art.”
In all, 11 photographers received awards, including three honorable mentions in the amateur category and two in the professional category. In addition to Howe and Crawford, the other winning photographers are Brandon Roth, Josh Tanaka, Stephen Wetz, Brian Huffer, Bryan Greenberg, Cliff Wassmann, Michael Couffer, Gary Mills and Hugh Foster.
“As Laguna Beach becomes an ever-increasing popular destination, the concern for the fragility of the ocean environments around us is more significant than ever before,” said Sparkuhl, in a statement. “This year’s contest illustrates that both amateur and professional photographers alike can successfully inspire us through their sensitive examinations of the beauty and vulnerability of this precious resource.”
Decades of over-fishing diminished much of California’s marine life and prompted a massive effort in the late 1990s to establish a statewide network of Marine Protected Areas.
Laguna’s rocky coastline and secluded coves convinced scientists and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife to create the Laguna Beach Marine Protected Area – the largest in Southern California and the only citywide reserve in the state.
Photos of the area show how Laguna’s MPA can help to restore and protect regional fisheries, while offering a sanctuary and nursery for present and future sea life, said Wallace.
First-place photos are on display through April 15 at The Ranch, 31106 Coast Highway, in Laguna Beach.