Western Lincoln County native Mark Houser was just a teen when his parents bought him his first camera. Now, at 40 years of age, Houser is pursing the art form as a serious hobby, winning this yearâ€™s Best of Show award at the Arts Councilâ€™s Amateur Photography Competition.
This year was his first time entering the contest, which awarded him the honor for his waterfall photograph taken at the Roaring Fork Falls in Busick.
Houser was on a hike with several friends when he snapped the winning scene.
â€œThis waterfall was just my favorite of the day,â€ he said. â€œIt just had more character and charm than the others.â€
Waterfalls are just one of the many natural elements that Houser enjoys shooting. His other favorite subjects include lightning and landscapes, particularly in the Linville Gorge area.
â€œGod has made so many wonderful things for us to photograph,â€ he said.
â€œThere is something magical about hiking to places off the beaten path and capturing a moment with a camera that will never be exactly the same way again.â€
Despite his particular fondness for the waterfallâ€™s â€œsilkyâ€ look and how it seems to illuminate the rest of the photographâ€™s scenery, itâ€™s not his favorite picture of all time, he said.
Houser attributes that honor to another simplistic scene, a small Methodist church, that he photographed on North Carolinaâ€™s infamous Outer Banks. He said local volunteers help keep the church, which is located in an abandoned town on Portsmouth Island, in â€œpristine condition.â€
â€œItâ€™s fascinating that such a beautiful wooden frame church has stood the test of time and survived countless storms,â€ Houser noted. â€œI think the story behind the image is what makes it so special to me.â€
In 1986, Houser received his first camera, a Kodak 110, but it wasnâ€™t until just three years ago that he purchased a modern digital single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera and began to appreciate the art even more.
â€œThat sparked my desire to learn how to take good photographs,â€ he said.
Currently, Houser snaps photos for family, friends and even himself, noting how heâ€™s committed to learning and improving his photography skills for the rest of his life.
Houser thanked the Arts Council for hosting the contest and praised the competition for their display of â€œa great deal of talent and skill.â€
â€œIt was a surprise and an honor for me to win,â€ he said.
To view more of Mark Houserâ€™s work, visit www.houserphotography.net.