In a snap, amateur photographer has winning image

An amateur photographer has landed the top prize in a contest to capture the best images in the Columbus area.

Rhonda Bolner of Columbus, who leads tours with the Columbus Area Visitors Center, was among seven professional or amateur photographers in two age divisions to win first prize in nine categories in The Republic’s “Oh Snap!” Take Your Best Shot photography contest.

Winning photographs, as well as others submitted among 850 entries, will be on display during a public reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Hotel Indigo, 400 Brown St. Timed to coincide with the sixth annual ArtFest next weekend in downtown Columbus, the photographs will be available for the public to peruse at the hotel and inside The Commons, 300 Washington St., between Thursday and Saturday.

Bolner’s photograph of people milling behind a hot-air balloon during last year’s Aviation Day at Columbus Municipal Airport earned first place in the contest’s People category among adult division entries. But it was her photo of the historic Bartholomew County Courthouse, seen in the reflection of the Columbus City Hall facade, that won the contest’s Best of Show award as well as being the top photo in the adult division’s Local Landmark category.

“I just point and shoot,” said Bolner, an amateur photographer for 35 years. “I frame up what looks good and take pictures. I don’t know anything about focal length and all that stuff.”

Bolner was a library assistant in Marion until she and her husband Bob moved to Columbus 15 years ago, when she took early retirement.

Besides giving tours of Columbus sites to the public, Bolner has taken many photographs of Columbus scenes over the past 10 years that she has given to the visitors center for its use. Among them, 28 of her photos on the fronts of postcards are for sale at the local tourism office.

Bolner said she has never been paid for taking a photograph, but that will change Thursday when she collects $200 from The Republic’s contest, which was open to all photographers except those who have a business relationship with the newspaper. It was judged by three professional photographers.

Bolher’s contest pictures were taken with a Pentax istD 35 mm single-lens reflex digital camera. This spring, she invested in a Nikon D5300.

The tour guide said she was humbled to win the Best of Show award, suspecting that many of the photographers who entered know a lot more than she does about taking pictures.

“The good thing about digital photography is that you can shoot hundreds of pictures, look at them on the camera and delete all the bad stuff,” she said.

Using the same Pentax lenses that she had on her earlier film camera, Bolner said, she appreciates the economic advantages of today’s digital photography vs. the older film technology, which required amateurs such as her to keep buying film and paying to have full rolls printed at the photo-processing shop.

Bolner’s photos are among 87 submitted for the contest that are included in a full-color, 8½-by-11-inch coffeetable-style book, which will be for sale at the reception and later at The Republic’s public-service counter at 333 Second St. The book has 104 pages and can be purchased for $14.95.

Contest participants were able to enter without paying entry fees, thanks to participating sponsors. The contest was sponsored by Boyer Machine and Tool, Hilliard Lyons and Renner Motors, and presented by Columbus Museum of Art & Design with The Republic.

About the contest

The Republic’s “Oh Snap” Take Your Best Shot contest was open to local professional and amateur photographers. Rules required that the photos were taken within the past few years and be from Bartholomew and surrounding counties.


Local Landmark: Rhonda Bolner, reflection of Bartholomew County Courthouse in City Hall facade.

Landscape: Brandon Green, soybean harvest in northwestern Bartholomew County.

Nature: Ralph Cooley, sandhill cranes taking flight in Jennings County.

People: Rhonda Bolner, people milling behind a hot-air balloon at the 2014 Aviation Day.

Sports & Leisure: Karley Lawson, children enjoying the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair.


Landscape: Mallory Mays, fall sunset.

Local Landmark: Hannah Frey, Large Arch at the Bartholomew County Public Library.

Nature: Casey Weisner, drop of water clinging to a leaf.

People, Sports & Leisure: Hannah Frey, child enjoying Freedom Park.


Selected from among all first-place winners: Rhonda Bolner


$50 for each first-place photo; $100 for Best of Show winner; three places plus honorable mentions given in nine categories.


Andrew Laker, chief photographer for The Republic; April Knox and Adam Reynolds, local professional photographers.

If you go

Public reception to recognize winners in The Republic’s “Oh Snap!” Take Your Best Shot photography contest.

5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Hotel Indigo, 400 Brown St. Photo contest winning entries on display.

Copies of 104-page, 8½-by-11-inch photo contest keepsake book available for sale, $14.95.

Gallery presentation of top contest photos at Hotel Indigo and The Commons, 300 Washington St., Thursday through Saturday.