Marion County Lake resident and photographer Ronald Beeton is a traditionalist — his award-winning photos were shot with film. He has been pursuing the perfect picture for 40 years.
He is willing to wake up during a pitch-black winter morning, drive on snow-covered streets to his favorite spot of barbed wired fence line, and wade through several inches of fresh snow. The inconvenience is worth it for the chance to capture the bright white pillow-like Flint Hills while the sun is rising.
It is this kind of determination that produced an award-winning photograph. Beeton won a Judge’s Award at a Sesquicentennial, statewide competition he entered in April at SouthWind Art Gallery in Topeka. He was one of 80 artists who submitted photos to the contest.
Beeton attempts to anticipate favorable light and weather conditions as much as possible. Some of his favorite opportunities for pictures of the Flint Hills are when the pastureland is on fire in the spring and fall or when a storm is about to hit.
Sometimes Beeton is lucky and he has the skill to make the best of a fleeting opportunity. One particular photograph stands out in his collection of landscapes. He captured the green mossy texture of the Flint Hills while seizing muted red flowers in the foreground. Using a filter to battle overexposure, he captured the sky as the sun was rising. A plume of clouds stretches from the left side of picture splitting the photograph in two.
“I’ll never get another shot like that,” Beeton said. “Everything just goes together. You go out and try to duplicate, or get the same thing, and you really can’t.”
Although he sometimes shoots with a digital camera he still likes to use film for his panoramic shots. He said computers have changed photography; photographers can splice photos together to achieve a perfect balance.
“A lot of (photographers) were computer operators and then they got into photography,” Beeton said.
Beeton is somewhat resistant to this development. He is retired, but his former profession was pattern making. He constructed three-dimensional plaster models for tools, a job he said would now be accomplished by a computer.
“It’s a dying trade,” he said.
Kristen Hoerth, Editor and Chief of Southwest Art Magazine, selected Beeton’s photo as a part of a group of honorable mentions to be displayed at SouthWind Gallery. It has been displayed since June 25 and will remain in Topeka through Oct. 15. The photo is also featured in a book of art from the event that is already published. Beeton will attend the book signing at SouthWind Sept. 2.
Beeton has received numerous awards for his photographs. Last year, he received awards at the Vision of the Flint Hills event in Cottonwood Falls and at another competition in Topeka. His work has been featured in the Southwest Gallery and Buttonwood Art Space in Kansas City and Gallery 101 in Marion.
Beeton studied photography in Everett, Wash., in the early 1970s. He originally photographed urban landscapes. When he moved to Kansas, he was drawn to the Flint Hills.
“The hills are very subtle, very soothing,” Beeton said. “It’s the freedom; it’s comfortable out there.”