Welcome to the 6th Annual Masters of Design issue. It’s my great pleasure to present some of the finest pool and spa projects our industry has to offer.

This group of winners is extraordinary. Not only is their work stunning, but many of the projects challenge the outer edge of what’s possible in backyard design.

Take a look at the pool on page 84. Just a few years ago, it probably wouldn’t have been built because the knowledge required to create a four-sided, vanishing-edge fiberglass pool didn’t yet exist. Or how about the spa on page 115? Originally, we logged it as an inground installation until one of our sharp-eyed judges noticed the acrylic shell. Technically, it’s a portable spa — an amazing accomplishment considering the unit itself is almost indistinguishable from the beautiful rocks and lush plantings surrounding it.

And, as usual, we have a long-standing readers’ contest associated with this issue. Somewhere in one of the double-page photos, we have hidden a picture of a dog. I’ll be sending $100 to one reader who e-mails me its exact location. The winner’s name will be drawn out of a hat. I can be reached at etaylor@hanleywood.com.

On a sadder note, just before this issue went to press, I learned of the passing of a different kind of master — Joel Caesar. He was one of the brightest lights this industry has ever known, and served as NESPA’s Master of Ceremonies for more than two decades. His kindness, intelligence and dedication will be sorely missed.

My clearest memory of Joel comes from the first time I attended the Atlantic City Show. I was walking through the doors on opening morning and saw him standing near the entrance, smiling as the people streamed in past him. Joel seemed so happy to be there, so fully in the moment, and even though he was famous for loving that show, I didn’t really get it until I saw his face that day. Then someone came up to chat with him, and the moment was gone. But I never forgot the pleasure, the pure life, in his expression.

Pool & Spa News will publish a full tribute to Joel Caeser in our July 31 issue.