MORE THAN 4,000 images were submitted during the past year to National Wildlife's 35th annual photo contest. Selected by the editors on the basis of originality and execution, the winners appear here.
National Wildlife's 35th annual photo contest winners
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
"I took this picture right before I ducked," says Steininger. On a bird-watching trip in Ontario, Canada, last winter, the network administrator noticed that one of the great gray owls she was photographing was staring back at her. "I didn't think anything of it until it started flying at me," she says. Before getting out of the way, Steininger captured this digital photo with a 500mm telephoto lens.
Victor S. Lamoureux
Vestal, New York
Lamoureux, a high school biology teacher, knows frogs. So when he went frog-watching with his son and niece at a nearby pond and spotted two male green frogs clinging to each other, he knew it was something unusual. "Then my son said, "Dad, Dad, look -there are three frogs" says Lamoureux. As it turned out, there actually were four: three males in a conga line behind one put-upon female. Lamoureux raced back to his house with the kids in tow, and returned to take this digital image with a 180mm macro lens.
Ray G. Foster
Ducks, not hummingbirds, were on Foster's mind when he settled down behind a photo blind near a pond in southern Oregon. "I wasn't having any duck luck so I decided to focus on this hummingbird," says the paper mill worker. He used a 300mm lens to take this unusual photo of a rufous hummingbird collecting fibers from a cattail - presumably to build a nest.
Port Orange, Florida
While photographing water birds in Florida's Fort DeSoto Park, Doxstater spotted a long-billed curlew hundreds of feet away in the middle of a tidal marsh. Doxstater took off his socks and shoes and slowly waded into the marsh, making digital photos along the way using a 500mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter. In the end, he was rewarded with this close-up shot of the curlew in the middle of a crab lunch.
On a trip to Utah's Bear River, Hilton was surprised to see a pair of hungry American white pelicans herding several carp-bigger than the birds bills-into the shallows. Hilton captured the moment with a digital camera and a 200-400mm zoom lens. "What I love about the picture is the expression on the pelicans faces. You know they're having a good time," he says.
On a frigid winter morning at India's Tal Chappar animal sanctuary, Punjabi came upon two male blackbucks battling for dominance against a glowing backdrop of dust and light. The graceful animals, once overhunted, can now be seen in herds throughout India. Punjabi made the photograph with a 500mm telephoto lens.
Dover, New Hampshire
Yeaton was working as a physician on a small cruise ship in Mexico's Sea of Corts when, at breakfast one morning, the passengers noticed that several dolphins were swimming alongside the boat. "Then more and more dolphins came up, until there were hundreds surrounding us," says Yeaton. He took this photo with a digital camera and a 28-300mm zoom lens.
Last spring, Shadle headed to Tampa Bay to photograph a spoonbill rookery there. The salesman jumped out of his boat, lowered his tripod and, using a digital camera and a 600mm lens, photographed this roseate spoonbill just as it came in for a landing.
Christopher C. Barry
Huntington, West Virginia
Perched on a bright yellow lily, a Scudderia katydid nymph caught Barry's eye as he strolled through a Huntington public park. Using a digital camera with a 38-76mm zoom lens, Barry captured a close-up of the insect looking like it climbed the flower just to enjoy the view.
Joshua D. Henson
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
One night during a late-October camping trip in Yellowstone, Henson was driven out of his tent and into his car by the cold. The next morning, the freezing temperatures awoke the seasonal park ranger before dawn-just in time for him to capture this frosty, foggy field at sunrise. He used a 28-80mm lens to make the photo.
Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
Scouting for wildflowers near Crested Butte, Colorado, Schallau hit a gold mine: a field of mules ear against a backdrop of the Anthracite Range and a glorious sunset. To capture the golden moment, the retail account manager used a 12-24mm zoom lens and a tripod to hold his digital camera steady for the quarter-second exposure.
Edsel L. Romero
While visiting Singapore Botanic Gardens in July 2004, Romero spotted two pairs of mating daylight-flying moths on a single blade of grass. To take the digital photo, the computer programmer lay flat on the ground, inches away from the brightly patterned moths, and used a 180mm macro lens.
Robert M. Palmer
A young swift fox makes a dash for its den, a kangaroo rat clenched tightly in its teeth. Earlier this year, Palmer stumbled upon the kits mother and followed her back to her den in eastern Colorado-a rare find, since swift foxes have vanished from 90 percent of their historic range in the United States. Over the next month or so, Palmer, a product manager, returned often to the site, taking hundreds of photos of the young fox family. "Once they got used to having me there, they acted like I was part of the family," he says. Palmer made this digital photo with a 500mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter.
Marlboro, New Jersey
Horowitz photographed this brown bear on Alaska's Kodiak Island. The retiree used a 70-200mm zoom lens.
Nick J. Dunlop
Dunlop photographed this belted kingfisher near his home. The real estate appraiser used a 600mm lens and 1.4x teleconverter.