February 12, 2013

From February 13, 2013 through March 13, 2013, Defenders will be accepting submissions for its 4th annual photo contest! The submission form and rules can be found at www.defenders.org/photocontest starting tomorrow, February 13th.

Based on the slew of amazing submissions we received for last year’s contest, we are teeming with anticipation at what we will see this year from photographers as they compete again for the grand prize of a week-long photo tour in June at Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Park with renown wildlife photographer and Defenders’ contributor, Jess Lee.

Given that Defenders of Wildlife’s main focus is on the protection and restoration of imperiled species throughout North America we have refocused the direction of our photo contest this year:  Please note, only North American species and landscapes will be eligible for judging in the 2013 photo contest, with special focus on our 25 key species and focal landscapes.

Check out last year’s winners here, and good luck to all of you who enter!

Now to kick off this year’s photo contest, I was lucky enough to have a sit down with Jess Lee himself and ask a few questions about wildlife photography and the photo tour to give you a tantalizing look at what our grand prize winner will be enjoying this year.

Photographer Jess Lee

Photographer Jess Lee

What types of wildlife can our grand prize winner expect to see on your week-long photo tour of Yellowstone and the Tetons in the spring?
We will be photographing, elk, pronghorn, moose, deer, coyotes for sure. No guarantees, but we will have a good chance of seeing black bears, grizzlies and wolves.

You offer tours year round. What is your favorite thing about each tour based on season? What will you have our grand prize winner and other tour members on the spring tour especially looking for?
Each tour or workshop gives a unique perspective to the location and its inhabitants. The trips are chosen to be during a prime time for that location. Good examples would be our Alaska grizzly workshops. We go to Lake Clark, Alaska just at the end of the breeding season. This is when the flowers are just starting to bloom and the sow brown bears feel comfortable enough to bring their new cubs into places we can photograph them safely. Later in the year, we go to a different location for the bears feeding on spawning salmon. On this trip, we charter a boat so we can go where the salmon run is the best because this is where larger concentrations of bears will most likely be. We stay flexible and are not locked into one location. Same with the wild horse workshop; we time the trip when the foaling season and the breeding season is at a peak. This provides a great deal of action and variety of subjects. It also doesn’t hurt that this is the time with the arid lands of the west are greening up and flowering.

For the Defenders of Wildlife prize winning trip, as you can imagine, spring is a special time in the Yellowstone country. This is a time of birth as elk, bison, deer, moose and pronghorn babies will be out with their mothers in attendance, foraging in the new green, flowering meadows and forests. Grizzly and black bear, wolves and coyotes will be hunting to feed their own growing young. This, along with the scenic wonders of America’s first national park make this one the most productive times for nature photographers. Long, rewarding days exploring Yellowstone and its wonders will be coupled with two days in Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole, photographing the freshness of spring with great blooms and the possibilities of baby moose, bison and other mammals.


Mule deer Yellowstone NP

A mule deer in Yellowstone (c)Gail Cameron

What are the things you try to get your photographers to come away with as you mentor them on these trips?
I always want my students to come away with great images they would not have captured if they were on their own. but in addition, I want them to learn the “why” of what we are doing; not only the mechanics of exposure, depth of field, composition, and special techniques which are taught in the field, but the more important aspects of how to approach each subject without causing stress. I want my students to begin to understand the behavior of each animal we are capturing in our photos and how to recognize what the animal may do next so we can be prepared for those fleeting moments that make truly great images. My goal is to give my students a good understanding of how significant the animals’ relationship and survival is tied to what we as humans do to its habitat.

What is your favorite animal to photograph on your tours?  Which is the hardest to photograph?
Wolves for both!
But that’s just me. During a workshop, it’s all about the clients’ interests. I really enjoy the variety of interest each new group of clients brings. For some, it will be the elk bugling in the misty soft morning light along the Madison River or the prize of locating a good bull moose. For others, it will be capturing the speedy pronghorn chasing off rivals during the mating season or those often short times spent following a river otter along the banks of the Yellowstone.

Can you give our contestants a brief overview of the grand prize tour?
Springtime in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks is a time of reawakening after a long winter. The snow will still be on mountain peaks, flowers will be blooming and the wildlife babies will be there for us to capture with our cameras. All of this will enable us to bring home splendid images and increase your skill as a photographer.


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