By Harley Nefe
For the past 20 years, Ray’s Weather Center has sponsored a photo contest and calendar featuring photos from their forecast region, and this year they are striving to create their best calendar yet.
The photo contest has already started, as it opened on February 15, which is much earlier than usual.
“We’re just trying to grow,” said Ray Russell of Ray’s Weather Center. “We have a great product, and we’re just trying to give ourselves the opportunity to expand the market for it.”
Russell talked about one of the biggest limitations they’ve faced when it comes to retail outlets and the reasoning behind the previous schedule.
“Retailers have already made up their minds for most products for next winter, so even releasing a calendar before June 1st is late in the game for most of these people, but it will help us get it to more outlets and just expanding the capacity for us to release this thing,” Russell said. “It’s a first-class product. It deserves a bigger market, so we’re going to do that now and start the process. and try to get this stuff out by June.
In addition to starting the process earlier, Ray’s Weather also adds more months to the product and turns it into a 16-month calendar.
“So if somebody wants to buy it, they can hang it up by September 1, 2022 and use it as a calendar until December 2023,” Russell explained.
The production of the calendar is once again in partnership with the Blue Ridge Conservancy.
“They got a dollar for every calendar we sold, and we plan to do that again,” Russell said. “We just plan to sell a lot more calendars.”
Last year, Ray’s Weather Center donated $2,500 to the Blue Ridge Conservancy.
“It’s fun,” Russell said. “We started it, and hopefully we’ll have as much success as we did last year. We’ve sold them the last two years in a row, so we’re going to be more ambitious this time around, and hopefully we’ll have the same sales result.
As for the photo contest currently taking place, the Blue Ridge 2023 Calendar will feature photographs from the various seasons taking place all over the Southern Appalachian Mountains (from southwest Virginia to southwest North Carolina) and buttresses.
“We think there’s real value in being a participatory calendar,” Russell said. “We’re able to capture events as they happen and a wider variety of things.”
Last year there were approximately 650 photo submissions.
“They were all so good,” Russell described. “We would have literally, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this, we could have made five calendars from these photos as well as the one we published.”
The deadline for this year’s photo contest is March 1, so it’s time to “hit ’em with your best shot” as Ray’s Weather Center announces.
“Every year we have professional photographers submitting,” Russell said. “But we also have semi-professionals and amateurs coming in, and then we have people who aren’t photographers, but they had their cellphones in the right place at the right time who took the picture, and it came in the calendar. ”
He added that they enjoy receiving photos from a variety of people.
“Every year there are teenagers earning to retirees earning,” Russell said. “We had a great reception last year for all photographers, and people talked about their photos.”
Russell went on to describe that there had been tears shed at previous receptions.
“Some of the photos were so meaningful to all of these people,” Russell said. “When you really dive into this thing, they really become an extension of who they are. For example, one of our photographers had lost a son and had gone out to take pictures, and he had had a really bad day, and he was driving home, and suddenly in his rearview mirror he saw the sun shine through the trees. I call them glory shots when the sun’s rays pass through something like that, and he saw it in the rearview mirror. He stopped his truck, he got out and took the photo that just came out of nowhere for him, and it ended up in the calendar, and the photo of fame made him feel like his son was with him that day, and that’s just a story.”
According to Ray’s Weather Center, here’s how the contest and production works:
- The competition is open for submissions until March 1, 2022. A photographer can submit up to three photos per season.
- Between March 2 and 5, the judges will gather for the difficult process of selecting the 20 finalists each season. Criteria include: the highest quality photography, including as many photographers as possible, including flora, fauna, activities, geographical diversity, diversity of subjects and uniqueness of scenes.
- From March 6 through March 16, each season’s finalists will be available for the public to tell Ray’s Weather Center which are the favorites. People can vote every day if they wish.
- From March 17, the judges have their most difficult task: to select the winners. This year there will be 16 “winners of the month” and one grand prize winner for the cover photo. Over the next two weeks, 30-40 “Best of the Rest” winners will also be selected for inclusion in the schedule in cameo roles.
- From late March to mid-April, Ray’s Weather Center will research other calendar content, and their designer will pull it all together. Then, in mid-April, they ship the huge file to the printer. Their goal is to have calendars printed in their office by June 1.
- As in previous years, Ray’s Weather Center will hold a pre-publication sale. This period of reduced prices will take place at the end of May or the beginning of June of this year. They plan to hold the line on calendar prices this year (no price increase).
There will be different levels of prizes awarded to the winners of the photo competition. According to Ray’s Weather Center, the grand prize winner (selected for calendar coverage) will receive a $200 RaysMarketplace.Com gift certificate and $200 cash prize; the 16 “monthly winners” will receive a $100 RaysMarketplace.Com gift certificate, and the “top winners of the rest” will receive two free calendars.
For more information and to enter the competition, go to https://booneweather.com/Photo+Contest
Below are the selected winners of the 2022 Blue Ridge Calendar Photo Contest. Photos courtesy of Ray’s Weather Center.