Meet the Team

The Brush Country Photo Safari has focused on providing a rich, unique, and educational experience for everyone from beginners to more advanced wildlife photographers. Our expert team includes award-winning wildlife photographers, master naturalists, graphic designers, and business specialist.  We are supported by the experience and dedication of the Bee County Chamber of Commerce and local ranch owners. So come and join the workshops, presentations, and safaris. You will experience a rich and welcoming three days in the South Texas Brush Country. Please take a moment to read the biographical information about our team below.

Please check back as we continue to add more biographical information.

Robert Benson – Birder & Wildlife Photographer
As a child, Robert lived a dual life. His obsessions were science and technology (mostly indoor things) and roaming through the fields and woods of south Texas (definitely outdoor things). Learning about native plants and animals and exploring wild places have always moved him forward. He became a physicist, a bioacoustician, a teacher, and a naturalist. More recently, Robert has discovered a love for writing and a passion for Nature Photography. He is a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy, founder of the Center for Bioacoustics, past president of the Texas Ornithological Society, and an award-winning wildlife photographer. Following Robert to the brush for a day of photography is reported to be a delightful experience. Sign up and join him.
Dave Allen, Allen WildlifeDave Allen – Wildlife Photographer
Dave Allen has a passion to help others excel at and enjoy photography through his multi-day wildlife photography workshops and one-on-one tutorials.

Dave began photographing and winning awards over 30 years ago. He has been published in several books and magazines. His photos have been used by US Fish and Wildlife, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Peregrine Fund. Dave won seventh place in the 2015 Audubon backyard bird competition out of more than 140,000 entries. Most recently, he photographed on two different ranches for the 2017 Wildlife in Focus competition, taking a top 10 finish on both ranches. Dave primarily shoots with Canon equipment.

His lifetime as an avid outdoorsman and falconer has helped him develop an understanding of bird and other wildlife behavior. Check out Dave's latest photography work at allenwildlife.com.
Ruth Hoyt and Audubon's OrioleRuth Hoyt – Nature Photographer
Ruth Hoyt is not only a full-time professional nature photographer and guide, but also a Texas Master Naturalist, Certified Interpretive Guide, writer, public speaker and consultant with nearly 30 years’ experience teaching photography. Ruth is best known for her Texas bird photography and professional guiding services on private Texas ranches, but she also pursues landscape, flora, macro, night and more across the United States.

Her work appears in books, magazines, calendars, catalogs and other publications. Ruth's passion is sharing her love of nature and photography with all, especially youths. She has years of experience as photo contest director, photo workshop leader, professional coach for contest photographers and consultant for farm and ranch owners.

Ruth prefers her Canon 1DX Mark II DSLR for most work, but also uses an iPhone and DJI Phantom drone for video and still work for selected subjects.

Please visit her studio in McAllen, Texas to see her canvas and mounted prints for sale. She is online on Instagram at #ruthhoytphoto and her website at ruthhoyt.com. Contact her at (956) 330-2900 or ruthhoyt@gmail.com.
Cissy Beasley - Wildlife Photographer
Spending much of her life hunting and fishing in South Texas, Cissy Beasley feels naturally at home in the in the company of birds and wildlife.

Making herself one with nature over the years serves her well - since picking up a camera in 2011, Cissy has been recognized as one of South Texas’ premier wildlife photographers, with three Top Five grand prize finishes in the prestigious Wildlife in Focus photo contest, as well as numerous top finishes in international competitions conducted by NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) and the Audubon Society of Greater Denver through their Share the View competition.

Her work has also been published in Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, and utilized by the Kentucky Department of Fish & Game. Cissy's photos also appear in the newest edition of the Peterson Guide to Woodpeckers of North America. In addition, she has been a juried participant for four years in the Rockport Center for the Arts Art Festival held every July, as well as in exhibits at the Art Center of Corpus Christi and Beeville Art Museum. Cissy has also been honored with two cover images and multiple interior images for Coastal Bend College’s calendar.

Cissy specializes in bird in flight photography, as well as capturing photos of animal and bird behavior. Her hunting training has taught her how to disappear into nature so that she is a part of its world. She knows how to recognize when photo-worthy behavior is about to occur, and she has the skill as a photographer to capture it. She additionally possesses the acumen required to subtly refine an image into an award-winner while sitting at the computer.

As a lifelong sportswoman and conservationist, Cissy is a member of the Texas Wildlife Association, Coastal Conservation Association, and numerous other organizations that advocate for the protection and conservation of wildlife and marine life.

Cissy uses Nikon gear and is a member of Nikon Professional Services.
Sylvia Garcia-Smith - Wildlife Photographer.
Sylvia was born to be behind the lens of a camera. Her range of experience is hardly equaled by any other prominent wildlife photographer. Sylvia started her career in film photography and processing photos for a local law enforcement agency. She moved on to years of employment for Federal Bureau of Prisons refining her photographic skills while there. She always knew that her true calling was capturing the beauty of the natural world through her lens and inspiring others to a higher appreciation of the charm and beauty of South Texas. Sylvia is also an event photographer rounding out her skills with people, as well as wildlife.

Sylvia’s remarkable wildlife photography has been shown at local galleries and published in calendars. Her work wins recognition and publication with the prestigious Wildlife in Focus biannual photo contest. Her accolades include having multiple images published in the discriminating Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. Sylvia loves passing on her knowledge in the field and in the classroom. Her gentle and encouraging style is applauded by everyone that has had the pleasure of spending time with Sylvia Garcia-Smith. Sylvia uses the Canon camera system.
Chris Deadman-WinstonChris Deadman-Winston – Wildlife Photographer
Growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, Chris Deadman-Winston was always an outdoors person. Her fascination with birding started when Barn Swallows began to build their nest behind her back door. She just couldn’t believe the hard work and dedication that was put in by these amazing birds. She was hooked after buying a field guide and learning about the life of Barn Swallows.

Chris has known the owners of La Ramireña ranch her entire life. When they asked her to be the ranch’s photographer for the 2017 Wildlife In Focus 2017, she was daunted by the skill, dedication and persistence that she knew the five-month-long contest would require. It took Chris and her family a whole year to make the decision to say yes. But she did say yes, and poured her heart and world into the competition. Chris took third place and the people’s choice award with a lovely photo of two owl chicks.

Chris has traveled to Virginia, coastal Mexico, Costa Rica, and most of South Texas with her Canon equipment in search of beautiful and interesting birds to photograph.
Clay Taylor – Naturalist Market Manager for SWAROVSKI OPTIK NORTH AMERICA
Clay started photography in 1971 with a Nikkormat FTn, intending to photograph auto racing at a drag strip near his house in Connecticut. Within two years, he bought a Nikon FTn Photomic and F36 Motor Drive. By the summer of 1973 was traveling the country photographing drag racing, selling prints, and having his work published in Hot Rod Magazine, Car Craft, Popular Hot Rodding, and other related publications.

At the same time, he was turning his big telephoto lenses to nature, and became hooked on bird photography. The 1980s saw Clay working as a birding tour leader, raptor bander, and giving presentations at local Audubon chapters and bird clubs.

In 1999 he joined Swarovski Optik North America as “their birder”, and has since traveled across the country to bird festivals as well as nature photography events. His current photo system is the Swarovski Optik STX 95 SwaroVision spotting scope with various camera bodies.
Karen L. P. Benson - Zoologist, Ornithologist, and Texas Master Naturalist.
Karen is a past editor of the Bulletin of the Texas Ornithological Society and co-editor of the Texas Breeding Bird Atlas. She is author of ‘Brush Country Backyard (Supermoon Press), and co-author of two birdsong audio CDs (Texas A&M Press) and many other nature-related publications.

Karen is a licensed bird bander and has directed several workshops on birding and bird banding. She is a past guide for the Texas Hill Country River Region’s week-long festival NATURE QUEST.
Karen is active in several local and regional organizations, two of which are the Beeville Garden Club and the Pan American Round Table. She writes a nature column for the Bee Picayune Newspaper and is a regular speaker at community events. The natural world and birding are major parts of her life.
Wilfred Korth - Texas Master Naturalist
At some point, most children dream of growing up to be park rangers. Wilfred Korth is one of those special people that made his dream come true. Wilfred retired recently with more than three decades of service as a multifaceted member of the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority. He helped grow an active and vibrant outdoor community around the Coleto Creek Park and Reservoir just a little southwest of Victoria. Wilfred is a Texas Master Naturalist and readily shares his vast knowledge of the plants and animals of south Texas with others interested in the natural world. You will find him kayaking down the San Antonio River, leading a group of kids on a nature walk, or building photo blinds on the Goliad County ranch he shares with his wife and partner Claire Barnhart. And – he is an accomplished photographer. Wilford will be leading kayaking safaris to the rookery on Coleto Creek Lake during the Brush Country Photo Safari.
Stephen Fisher - Landscape Photographer
Stephen Fisher is a freelance nature photographer living in Rockport, TX. Starting out as primarily an avian photographer, Stephen has learned to appreciate the peaceful and relaxing aspects of landscape photography.

Stephen has successfully competed in the 2013, 2015, and 2017 Wildlife In Focus photography contests. He shows his work in art galleries in Rockport and Corpus Christi, TX.

Primarily a Canon equipment shooter, he uses both wide-angle and telephoto lenses for his landscape work. He also flies a drone to create “unique perspectives” in his landscapes.
Kristin AllenKristin Allen – Photo Processing, Graphic Design and Marketing
Kristin handles the marketing and graphic design for the festival, in addition to participating in the overall planning. She designed the logo and print materials and puts her touches on the web site. She has an MBA and 20 years of experience in marketing and graphic design. When not working on the festival, she assists her husband Dave Allen on his multi-day wildlife photography workshops, in particular with the photo processing portions.

 

Ranch and Property Owners

Pauraque Ridge Farm – Robert and Karen Benson

Barnhart Q5 Ranch and Nature Retreat – Claire Barnhart and Wilfred Korth

Lawson Wildlife Preserve – Dr. Nancy Lawson

La Ramireña – Richard and Patricia Phillips

The Poesta Place – Jimmy Jackson

Advisory Committee

Cissy Beasley – Business Professional and Award-winning Nature Photography (Chair)

Tracy Florence – President of the Bee County Chamber of Commerce

Mark Secord – Academic Dean, Coastal Bend College

Jimmy Jackson – Widely recognized Wildlife Expert

John West – Attorney and Wildlife Photographer

Wilfred Korth – Naturalist and Landowner

Claire Barnhart – Naturalist and Landowner

Dr. Nancy Lawson – Naturalist and Landowner