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SPOTLIGHT
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Locals scoff at criticism of Kansas' aesthetics

Published on -9/6/2013, 2:52 PM

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By GRACE HOBSON

The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Bruce Hogle has lived most of his 66 years in Kansas but it wasn't until about 20 years ago he truly discovered his home state's natural beauty.

That was about the time his new photography hobby dovetailed with a Christmas gift from his mother-in-law -- a Marci Penner guide book about Kansas. He and some friends explored the rolling hills south of Manhattan around Alta Vista. As his knowledge and interest in photography deepened, so did his understanding and love of the beauty of Kansas.

"For me, I really enjoy the scenes in Kansas, especially the Flint Hills," said Hogle of Overland Park. "It suits my personality. I feel really at home, at ease, at peace out there."

He has trained his camera on the more widely acknowledged landscapes of our country -- places like Vermont, Montana, New York state, Colorado, New Hampshire. But it's Kansas that quickens the pulse.

For Hogle and so many other amateur and professional shutterbugs out there, Kansas has a scenic beauty that you have to see to believe. They scoff at the Business Insider poll released last week in which respondents said Kansas has the nation's worst scenery.

"I think much of the disregard for Kansas landscapes comes from popular culture and the public's imagination, rather than first-hand experience," said native Kansan Travis Linnemann in an email from his home in Norfolk, Va., where he is a professor. "I do believe that if folks had the chance to look out over the Flint Hills at sunset, as I have, it might trouble many of the broader assumptions held about my home state."

To challenge those assumptions, 913 asked readers to submit their favorite photos of Kansas. The photographs show not only the breathtaking beauty but some diversity, too: rocky badlands in northwest Kansas, shrouded waterfalls in central Kansas, autumnal suburbia in northeast Johnson County. Even the expected scenes were jaw-dropping: vast expanses of pale yellow wheat. Sunflowers. Cattle grazing in rolling fields. Rows of crops under a brooding sky.

"I think the beauty of Kansas is something that manifests itself through its connection to the people who work it," said Charles Darnell of Gardner, who sent us the row crops photo, taken by his wife's cousin, who farms the land. "You can't see something like a tilled field or the sunset making the whole sky burn orange without feeling a connection to the generations of people who turned the land before us. It's a plain beauty that impacts me in my soul."

Even Missourians sent us photos of Kansas' landscapes.

"I've admired the subtle beauty of the Flint Hills ever since I first saw them while driving to see my Missouri Tigers play a basketball game against Kansas State in the early 1980s," Vincent Parsons of Lee's Summit wrote in an email about his photograph of a foggy morning in the Flint Hills. "I enjoyed the views along the highway far more than the basketball game (which Missouri lost). Since then, I take the opportunity for sightseeing whenever I get the opportunity to travel through the region. I still have a lot more to see."

Hogle knows he has a lot more to see of Kansas as well. A professional photographer once suggested that he revisit places he's shot with this Nikon D700 in different seasons and times of day for new points of view. The more he sees, the more he's able to see the next visit, he said. And when he's with friends, he sees a vista through their perspective.

"I hope I never get tired of it. I certainly haven't to this point."

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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