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Winners of RTK photography contest announced
Grand Prize taken by Dave Leiker of Emporia
Fan Favorite taken by Crystal Socha of Augusta

Winners have been announced for the ninth annual Ranchland Trust of Kansas (RTK) photography contest, which concluded Sept. 30. 

Each summer, RTK invites amateur and professional photographers of all ages to submit photos that showcase the mission of RTK and Kansas’ ranching heritage. The mission of RTK is “To preserve Kansas’ ranching heritage and open spaces for future generations through the conservation of working landscapes.” 

Dave Leiker of Emporia was the grand prize winner in this year’s contest. His photo was taken at the Vestring Ranch south of Cassoday when he was on assignment for Kansas! Magazine.

“After I was let out of a pickup truck at the edge of the pasture, I walked across the grassland, moving quietly into their group as I studied their response. When I was low and quiet curiosity would draw them in toward me. If I stood and moved toward them, they would move away. Soon I felt like I could orchestrate their movements to get variety and action for the camera,” said Leiker.

He was drawn to a bond between two of the horses and watched for expressive moments as he captured his grand prize winning image.

“I found it beautiful how one pair moved together, a couple times displaying the head-press at the heart of this photograph. It was a good moment and I’m glad I could share it this way,” Leiker added.

Crystal Socha of Augusta won the Fan Favorite category by receiving 663 votes on RTK’s Facebook page. Her winning photo, titled “Caught in the Storm” was taken in Morris County. The photograph truly depicts what it is like to be cowboy for a day.

Socha said, “We were moving cattle this spring to summer pasture. We got hit by a massive storm while on a couple thousand acres. It was not only pouring rain, but high winds, lighting and hail.”

A record number of photographs were submitted to the contest this year. The panel of judges narrowed the selection down to a top 25 for the Fan Favorite category voting on Facebook. All other category winners were chosen by the panel of judges, along with RTK and Wolfe’s Camera representatives. The Facebook album was able to reach over 43,000 Facebook users and nearly 6,000 votes were cast for the Fan Favorite category. 

Additional winners in each category were: Landscape – Tony Ifland, Cedar; Livestock – Marisa Betts, Russell; People – Collin Forrest, Conway Springs; KLA Member – Jake Pannbacker, Washington; Youth – Isaac Wilber, Wamego; and Honorable Mentions – Greg Kramos, Manhattan; Mike Scheufler, Augusta; and Scott Bean, Manhattan. All winning entries can be viewed on RTK’s website or Facebook page.

Prizes, sponsored by Wolfe’s Camera of Topeka, are awarded to the top 10 winning photographers. The photographs will be used, with permission of the photographers, to promote Kansas’ ranching heritage and open spaces. 

RTK will have photo stationery cards for sale throughout the year featuring the 10 winning photos. Printed on premium cardstock, the folded cards are blank inside and come in packs of 10 with white envelopes. The card packages can be purchased for $20 directly from RTK’s website or contact Samantha Weishaar