Dec. 30, 2007 was a typical gray day in early winter, and Tom Haxby didn’t know what he’d find when he arrived at the Lake Michigan shore.

“I didn’t expect much,” admits Haxby, a forester and landscape photographer from Kingsley.

What he found was a dramatic scene: thick beams of light pouring down from a dark sky over the water and the distant shore of Point Betsie. His photograph of that day, called “Heaven’s Eyes,” is as the winning entry in the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau’s annual Winter Photo Contest. Selected from a field of over a dozen finalists, it will be featured on the Bureau’s web site and is on display with other contest finalists in the gallery of the Traverse City Visitor Center.

The Convention & Visitors Bureau launched the contest in 2006 to focus attention on the region’s winter beauty and the opportunities it provides for outdoor recreation and relaxation in every season of the year. Second Place honors went to Steven Blair Kopacki for “New Century” a photo of a snowy cupola at the Grand Traverse Commons, while Jerome Sawyer took third place for his picture of mallards swimming in the Elk River.

Other entries in this year’s competition featured evocative landscapes and still-life studies, and Visitor Center manager Kathee McCafferty said she was pleased by the diversity of the images.

“The variety of subject matter is really important, because many of our visitors wouldn’t think about visiting some of these places in winter until they see how beautiful they can be,” says McCafferty. “I think they’ll really enjoy this year’s entries.”

The Traverse City Visitor Center is open during winter from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and is closed on Sundays. Winners of the 2008 Winter Photo Contest will be on display until Feb. 28.

Photo(s) by Tom Haxby