Defenders of Wildlife’s 2013 Photo Contest Winners
by Brian Bovard
Her award-winning shot came while on vacation with her husband to see polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba, where the couple stayed on the tundra with the bears 24 hours a day for five days. On the last day, while moving their camp to the banks of Hudson Bay to watch the bears head onto the sea ice, Hartman noticed this particular polar bear about 40 feet away, looking straight ahead with her two cubs lying behind her.Some of Pam Hartman’s earliest childhood recollections involve running around with a Kodak Brownie camera in her hand. Her lifelong passion for photography paid off when this photo of a mother polar bear and cubs garnered more than 12,000 online votes in Defenders’ annual photo contest. As grand-prize winner, Hartman is headed to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks on a weeklong photo tour with renowned photographer and Defenders contributor Jess Lee.
Spotting a bus-sized tundra buggy pull up and park, the cubs moved closer to their mother’s protective embrace. Then they cautiously stuck their heads up for a peek at these curious newcomers. Hartman snapped this photo just as the mother bear looked back with a nonchalant expression as if to say, “What’s all the fuss?”
When Hartman returned home to Massachusetts and looked at the photo, she knew she had something special. The starkness of the shot, with only scrubby tundra in the background, sets the stage for this perfectly framed picture of the cubs playing peek-a-boo. Hartman says that every time she looks at it, she’s still not sure who was watching whom.
This year’s photo contest saw more than 6,000 amazing submissions, and we were blown away again by the caliber of the photos entered. Each year, narrowing down the entries to the final 10 becomes more challenging. Thanks to everyone who participated.
To see more amazing photos from other top contenders, visit www.defenders.org/photocontest.
Grand Prize winner:
As an amateur photographer focused more on having fun behind his camera, Casey Clark didn’t start taking photography seriously until the 1990s, when it became a way for him and his wife to document their travels. From there, it gradually grew into an obsession. Fortunate to have journeyed to some truly breathtaking places in North America, he now uses his travels to give his children as many positive outdoor experiences as possible. On one trip, he was lucky enough to spend three days at Anan Creek in Alaska, watching bears during the spring salmon run. Clark took this award-winning shot, as one bear—having momentarily had his fill of salmon—sleepily climbed a 50-foot tree for a quick nap among the branches. “These bears are certainly not the same ones you hear about ravaging local campgrounds,” says Clark. “I wanted to show how at ease they are in their own environment.” He certainly succeeded, capturing a shot to which we all can relate. After all, who hasn’t needed an afternoon snooze after a big meal?
1st place • Wildlife:
How does a full-time chemistry professor and a photographer of 35 years look at the Milky Way? One 30-second exposure at a time. That was all the time it took for Joe LeFevre to shoot one of the most visually stunning night-sky photographs we’ve ever seen at Defenders. “As a cancer survivor, I am constantly amazed by the gift of life and the incredible beauty that surrounds us all,” says LeFevre. “I hope I am able to capture a portion of this beauty so that others, too, can be motivated to help save these unique places.” This portion of that beauty was captured with an f/2.8 zoom lens facing the southwest sky over Second Beach in Olympic National Park in Washington, just after the crescent moon had set at midnight.
1st place • Wild lands:
It is a well-known adage that artists tend to suffer for their art. Perhaps none of our contest winners know that better than Philip Kuntz. On his final day of shooting landscapes in Glacier National Park’s Two Medicine area, he remembered to bring along his bear spray but forgot his bug spray. Having already shot most of the park’s obligatory views, he spent his last day breaking through brush looking for a rare view of Mount Sinopah. When he found an opening in the trees that afforded him this phenomenal mountain view, a horde of hungry mosquitoes discovered him. With a storm rolling in, the light from the evening sky blanketed the mountain’s pyramidal form and surrounding landscape in dramatic colors. Rushing to set up his tripod, he says he “danced around like a crazy man trying to escape the mosquitoes.” He snapped his award-winning shot just as the sun bid the park adieu.
2nd place • Wild lands:
The extremely foggy conditions at Boundary Bay in British Columbia made the morning tough for photography, says Daniel Behm, who was attempting to capture the snowy owls there. Not only did the misty morning make finding the owls difficult, but the low light further complicated the process. Spotting his subject, he readied his camera with a low ISO and cable release to hold the shutter open for a still image. But the sudden approach of another photographer put the bird on edge. Realizing the owl was about to take flight, Behm quickly upped the ISO and shot wide open to maximize shutter speed. He snapped this photo just as the owl lifted off. “I felt this image was different from the snowy owl images you usually see,” says Behm. “The fog created a sense of mood and mystique that people seem to really enjoy, including myself!” Our voters certainly agreed.
2nd place • Wildlife:
For Brad Orsted, Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park represents the epitome of wild lands. He spent more than 300 days in the valley last year amid bison, coyotes, bears, wolves and badgers, marveling at the timelessness he experienced within its boundaries. His award-winning photograph came about as he drove from the valley after a long morning with no wolves or other wildlife to photograph. He found himself watching clouds roll over the valley with patches of sunlight occasionally breaking through. When he glanced in his side-view mirror while climbing a hill, he noticed light heading for a stand of cottonwood trees. Pulling to the side of the road, he hastily set up his tripod and snapped several photos in the few seconds the light illuminated the trees. He wasn’t sure if he successfully captured the scene until he got home. “Incredible events unfold every day in nature, but it seems so rare that we have the opportunity to really capture that moment in time,” says Orsted. “The clouds will certainly roll over the Lamar Valley again but it will never be in this exact setting again. For me that is very exciting.” Our voters felt similarly and awarded Orsted third place in our wild lands category.
3rd place • Wild lands:
An avid environmentalist who believes it’s critical to preserve natural habitat for wildlife, Nick Tucey has always had a fondness for alligators because of their threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. While hiking in a nature preserve on Hilton Head Island in North Carolina, he and a friend happened upon a lagoon and noticed a small alligator floating in the sun. Pulling out his camera, he used his Canon 100-400L lens to zoom in close to the floating reptile and began to snap some photos when he noticed he wasn’t the only one interested in this subject. A golden dragonfly began buzzing around the alligator’s head and for one brief moment alighted there, creating a dazzling contrast of colors made even more mesmerizing by the perfect reflection in the mirror-like water.
3rd place • Wildlife: