Photo Contest Winners
The winners of the magazine's 37th annual photography competition
THE SUBMISSIONS to the 37th annual photo contest were remarkable, not only for sheer volume—nearly 16,000 images—but for geographic breadth. Our winning photographers hail from Texas, California, New York and Tennessee, among other states, but also from India, Poland and the United Kingdom. Winners in eight categories—Mammals, Birds, Other Wildlife, Underwater Life, New Life, Connecting People and Nature, Habitat and Power of Nature—were selected on the basis of originality and execution. In each category, a first-place prize was awarded for both the amateur and professional divisions, and one first-place prize was given in the youth division. A selection of winning images appears below.
Kwatera's digital image of a tiny hoverfly perched on a blade of grass appears on this issue's front cover. The computer programmer from Krakow, Poland, took the picture on a rainy day in a meadow not far from the center of the city. “I was about to head home when I saw the fly land next to some drops of water containing reflections of the grass,” he says.
Stephen E. Kirkpatrick
First Place, Other Wildlife, Professional
Kirkpatrick keeps an eye out for the “little jewels of nature.” He was thrilled to come across a setting in a field behind his house that allowed him to include several gem-like elements—spider web, dragonfly (a twelve-spotted skimmer) and flowers—in one scene. He made the digital image using a 60mm lens.
First Place, Habitat, Amateur
This flower from a sausage tree (Kigelia Africana)—here as exquisite as stained glass—was “actually relatively ugly,” says Mhatre, who photographed the sturdy bloom in Bangalore. Hoping to make its “plastic and velvet” texture more interesting, the student lit the flower from behind, rendering it as appealing to us as it must appear to the bats that pollinate it. Mhatre made the handheld digital image with a 28–105mm lens.
Setauket, New York
First Place, Connecting People and Nature, Amateur
For this digital image, Goldstein took full advantage of the golden summer light at Reflection Lake in Alaska’s Denali National Park. “I included the photographer for a sense of proportion,” she says—vital when photographing such grand scenery, including the highest peak in North America. Goldstein used a 17–85mm lens to capture the scene.
First Place, Birds, Professional
On a recent trip to Costa Rica, “my number one goal was to shoot macaws in flight because they’re so stunning,” says Zuckerman. During his stay, Zuckerman saw dozens of macaws, bickering away. “But there were always branches in the way,” says the photographer. After a week of trying, he photographed this majestic bird—using a 70–200mm zoom lens with a 1.4x teleconverter—while on a hot, humid walk high above the canopy. “I got some serious blisters,” he says, “but it was worth it.”
Honorable Mention, Mammals, Amateur
Hinch, who manages hotels in Yellowstone National Park, photographed a red fox inside the park as it dove beneath the snow for prey—and came up empty.
Honorable Mention, Birds, Professional
On the second day of a trip to Pakistan last year, Dua spotted these juvenile scavenger vultures (Neophron percnopterus) resting in a window of the Lahore Fort. As in India, the birds are increasingly rare in Pakistan. Says Dua: “Though I travel a lot, I haven’t seen a vulture in India in the last 16 or 17 years.” He photographed the pair with a 70–300mm zoom lens.
Robert M. Palmer
First Place, Birds, Amateur
Palmer was driving not far from his home when he happened upon this little American kestrel hovering unusually close to the road. He stuck his camera out of the car, set it for a very slow shutter speed—and lucked out. “If kestrels stay really still, their wings are a blur but the head is sharp,” says Palmer, who retired this year to focus full-time on photography. He used a 500mm lens with a 2x extender to make this digital image.
Boynton Beach, Florida
Honorable Mention, Birds, Amateur
Fosselman photographed this bright-eyed pileated woodpecker in her own backyard. “I took about 30 pictures,” she says, “and in 10 of them he’s got this expression—sort of like ‘What are you looking at?’” The postmaster’s secretary used a 600mm lens.
First Place, Other Wildlife, Amateur
This looks like pure motion captured in a photograph, but it’s actually a tailed jay butterfly perched on a Mexican sunflower. “Instead of freezing the butterfly’s wings, I decided to blur it with a slow shutter speed,” says Shankar, who spotted the insect in a local park. The engineer made the digital image using a 300mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter.
Alex M. Tattersall
Charminster, United Kingdom
First Place, Underwater Life, Amateur
Tattersall spotted this “terribly cute” juvenile cuttlefish—only about 2 cm long—near the Philippines’ Malapascua Island. “I spent a good 20 minutes observing its behavior and making it feel happy with my presence,” says the teacher, who eventually captured this digital image of the tiny cephalopod as it stared directly into his macro lens.
Yorktown Heights, New York
First Place, Power of Nature, Amateur
On a rainy tour of Utah’s Zion National Park, Freedman was rewarded with this photograph that includes “just about everything Mother Nature could throw at us:” a stormy sky, a rainbow and a slice of brilliant blue, all set against the glowing red earth. Freedman made this striking digital photograph with a 17–35mm zoom lens.
Stephen W. Oachs
San Jose, California
First Place, Mammals, Amateur
Oachs photographed these play-fighting grizzlies near Yellowstone National Park at a nonprofit preserve for bears and wolves that have become dangerously acclimated to humans. “I got an exhilarating, up-close look at their incredible strength and impressive grace in action,” says the web analyst, who made the digital image with a 100–400mm zoom lens.
First Place, New Life, Professional
This normally very shy newborn crowned lemur, peering out from its mother’s belly, “could no longer resist its curiosity,” says Oxford. “It stared straight at me as I managed to grab a few shots before its mother carried it away.” He captured the cuddly image with an 80–200mm zoom lens while on a trip to Madagascar.
Honorable Mention, Birds, Amateur
While visiting a small patch of wetlands in rural Burleson County, Texas, Bartosik stumbled upon this dramatic showdown between a red-shouldered hawk and a large yellow-bellied water snake. The chemist watched the scene unfold from the moment the raptor spotted its prey until it flew away eight minutes later, carrying the snake in its beak. “This photo was taken in the middle of the action when the snake was trying to show an aggressive posture—its mouth was wide open and it was ready to strike,” says Bartosik, who used a 500 mm lens with a 1.4x extender to capture the digital image. “But the hawk was ready and made a smooth move to avoid it.”
First Place, Mammals, Professional
Sanker followed a bull moose and his harem for three weeks in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park before he captured this digital image of one of the cows jumping a fence.