Jim Tabak, president of The Valley Land Fund, recently announced that this year’s youth photo contest, Southern Exposures, has been a huge success.

With over 600 photo images submitted by 95 students from across South Texas, the VLF reports that Southern Exposures is the largest turn-out for the youth photo contest in over 10 years.

Local professional photographers Larry Ditto, Esperanza Chapa and Marilyn La Mantia will preside over selection of prize-winning images.

Ditto is a full-time professional nature photographer living in McAllen, Texas. He is a former winner of the Valley Land Fund Photography Contest whose work has appeared in many publications. Larry has judged several prestigious nature photography contests including the South Texas Shootout and the Coastal Bend Wildlife Photography Contest.

Chapa became a budding naturalist at her father’s ranch in Guanajuato, Mexico at an early age. She received a bachelor or visual arts degree from Universidad Autonomia de Nuevo Leon in the spring of 1993. As a graphic artist she has run the gamut from mass production commercial graphic design to high-end custom book designs. Nature photographer and naturalist best describe Esperanza’s interests. In 2003 she became a founding member of the Texas Nature and Environmental Photographers Organization.

LaMantia is an award winning photographer and artist specializing in illustrations and photography for children’s books and textbooks. She attended Texas Christian University and Pan American University, with an initial background in Fine Art. She later augmented her education with Commercial Art and Science. As a native of the Rio Grande Valley and the daughter of a Veterinarian an early appreciation for the flora and fauna of this special area developed within, and she hopes to influence people to love and preserve it through her art and photography. She is a founding member of the McAllen Parks and Habitat Coalition’s steering committee, working to protect local wildlife habitat.

A total of $4,200 in cash prize money is available in eight subject categories and three age divisions. Subject categories include Birds, Connecting People to Nature, Digital Art, Humor, Landscapes and Plant Life, Mammals, Other Wildlife, and Water Features for Wildlife.

Finalists will be notified on August 9 and entrants will gather for an evening of celebration including award presentations, live music, and winning image displays at Quinta Mazatlan on August 19. Winning images may be viewed on the Valley Land Fund website: ValleyLandFund.com.