Local photographer wins regional travel magazine contest

Published 12:10 am Sunday, August 6, 2017

By Christian Coffman

NATCHEZ — For Bill Beane, Natchez is a photographer’s paradise.

Filled with many beautiful scenes, the city is ready-made for the Natchez photographer’s camera.

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Recently, Beane’s photograph of fireworks streaming in front of the Mississippi River bridges took first place in the AAA’s Southern Traveler magazine’s annual photography contest. The photo is featured in the July-August 2017 issue of the publication.

The image was taken a few years ago during the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.

Beane said he was shocked to hear the news of his award-winning shot. When he learned of the contest, he sent the image thinking it might win some award.

“I know it’s a good picture, but I (entered the contest) on a whim,” Beane said. “So, I was very surprised and happy … that I won.”

Beane said he has been capturing moments in and around Natchez since he attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

“I was in junior college in ’67 at Co-Lin,” Beane said. “I took pictures for the yearbook. I just enjoyed it.”

“It was just interesting to be creative with photography, and it helped me in relating to some people.”

After college, Beane worked for an electronics company until 1981 when he decided to take up photography professionally.

Beane quit his job and moved to California to attend the Brooks Institute of Photography.

“That was a pretty big deal, to quit your job and do something like that,” Beane said. “That was a major turning point (for me).”

AAA Southern Traveler Managing Editor Deborah Reinhardt said Beane’s photo had all the elements for which judges were looking.

“He scored high on the technical aspect of capturing the fireworks at the right time,” Reinhardt said.

Reinhardt was one of the judges. She organizes the contest every year and reviews all the initial entries.

This year more than 80 photographs were submitted to the contest.

“What the judges were looking for was a photo that would showcase the best of the region, and certainly he was photographing an iconic bridge,” Reinhardt said.

Beane said he thought it would be a good idea to shoot pictures on the Natchez Bluff during the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race a few years ago.

The photographer said he tried different locations but settled on Clifton Avenue.

“Everybody else seemed to be down by the gazebo, and it was good to have space,” Beane said.

Beane said he would probably take photos during the next balloon race in October.

“I like to get out there and photograph the fireworks and balloons,” Beane said. “I may do (photography) for a living, but I also have a side that I do it because I like to do it.”

Beane said it is fine for him that many locals since he took the photo have discovered Clifton Avenue.

Beane said he is proud of his photo even though there were 30 to 40 others he took before capturing the winning moment.

“It’s got really good color, good composition … I like the reflection of the water … All the elements of a good picture came together that day,” Beane said.