2011 National Wildlife Photo Contest Winners

The winning images from "National Wildlife" magazine's 41st annual photography competition

11-15-2011 // NWF Staff

FOR 41 YEARS, National Wildlife has celebrated the wonders of our natural world through our annual photographic competition. Chosen from nearly 27,000 entries, some of this year’s winning photos allow us to be voyeurs of moments of discovery, when the speed of the camera exceeded the eye of the beholder to reveal behaviors, abilities and acrobatics of animals we otherwise would not see. Others display nature’s beauty at its best or convey magical morsels of much greater stories that tell what the photographers did to get these amazing images—a taste of which we share with you here. This year’s categories were Connecting People and Nature, Backyard Habitats, Landscapes and Plant Life, Birds, Mammals and Other Wildlife as well as a new category, Baby Animals. Photographers entered the Professional, Amateur or Youth level.

View a slide show of all the winning images.


2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Laura Romin and Larry Dalton

Salt Lake City, Utah
First Place, Baby Animals, Amateur

Wildlife biologists Romin and her husband Dalton followed a pride of 17 lions, including a mother and three cubs, while on a two-week photo safari in Tanzania’s Ndutu Conservation Area. On day 10, the mother showed up severely scratched, with only this one cub clinging to her. But  on the last day, the mother, all three cubs and pride were reunited.


2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Hennie Van Heerden

Tonden, Gelderland, The Netherlands
First Place, Birds, Professional

In the Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa, van Heerden’s truck rocked as she drove over a creek turned rushing river from a recent deluge in the mountains. She then spied this green-backed heron, carefully picking its way over the creek’s pastel rocks, which seemed to color the water flowing over them.


2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Jenaya Launstein

Pincher Creek, Alberta, Canada
First Place, Youth

Photographer-in-training 13-year-old Launstein was looking for wildlife to photograph in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, when her father spotted two bull elks still bedded down at first light. Grabbing her camera, Launstein trudged through the 3-foot-high snow to get a better angle for photographing them just as the elks started battling. Her fingers were too cold to switch the camera on her tripod from vertical to horizontal, so Launstein “just framed them as best I could and shot!”


2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Durand Johnson

Layton, Utah
First Place, Landscapes and Plant Life, Amateur

This striking panorama of the Milky Way over Monument Valley is made of seven vertical images stitched together end-to-end. To capture them, Johnson waited for the perfect moment: when a setting first-quarter moon provided enough light to brighten the land but not so much that the stars vanished.



2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Derek Drudge

Orlando, Florida
First Place, Backyard Habitats, Amateur

Drudge has shot more than 70,000 wildlife photos, but one of the first he ever took—this image of a Carolina wren feeding its chicks in a metal fish ornament—remains “one of my all-time favorites,” he says. Each year wrens build a nest in the same spot in this Ocala, Florida, backyard.


2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
David Cardinal

Portola Valley, California
First Place, Mammals, Professional

After losing her other cubs, this mother Alaskan coastal brown bear became a playmate to her surviving youngster. “Mom was amazingly tolerant of her cub pawing at her face and pretending to tackle her,” Cardinal says. He shot the photo in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, where the bears have been protected for so long, they’ve become tolerant of people.



2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Judy Malloch

Boynton Beach, Florida
Grand Prize, Amateur

Just before sunset, Malloch was walking on a boardwalk at Green Cay, Florida, when the wind suddenly died down and the water became as smooth as glass. “As a photographer, you wait for moments like these and pray that wildlife will come in,” she says. Fortunately, this tricolored heron cooperated, allowing Malloch to capture its reflection perfectly.

A common Florida species, it nonetheless is one of her favorites: "When the birds search for food, they look like they’re performing ballet." Learn more about Judy Malloch and her work >>



2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Nick Dunlop

Sebastopol, California
First Place, Birds, Amateur

Raptor aficionado Dunlop parked himself on a picnic table in the hot Texas summer sun to watch black hawks flying along the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park as they carried food to their chicks. “Every time that this hawk went by, a mockingbird would go after it,” says Dunlop, but only once did the bird briefly “surf” on the hawk’s back.


2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Justin Black

McKinney, Texas
First Place, Connecting People and Nature, Amateur

Black and his Switzerland college classmates came upon this rainbow in front of the Skógafoss Waterfall in Iceland. When it inspired one of his classmates to turn a cartwheel, Black took the shot: “I thought it added a lot of energy to the photo.”



Photo Contest 2011 Northern flying squirrel
Alex Badyaev

Tucson, Arizona
First Place, Mammals, Amateur

Well past midnight in Montana’s snow-blanketed Bob Marshall Wilderness area, evolutionary biologist Badyaev used a remote-controlled digital camera on a tripod and strobe lights strung between trees up to 40 feet

above ground to reveal the aero-dynamic capabilities of northern flying squirrels. Among other amazing stunts, they can take off from the ground while carrying objects nearly their own weight, use their flight membrane stretched between their wrists and ankles as parachutes and turn 180 degrees in mid-flight to evade attacking owls.



2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Milko Marchetti

Ferrara, Italy
Second Place, Birds, Professional

Marchetti says the secret to capturing wildlife on film is to “first be a naturalist and then a photographer.” In Italy’s Po Delta Regional Park, he sat for two hot, mosquito-filled days in a 3-foot-square camouflaged box he built to photograph the egrets and other birds in the coastal marshes. He took more than 1,500 photos at 6 frames per second before finally capturing this image of a heron silhouetted as the sun poured through its wings.



2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Joe Petersburger

Pécs, Baranya, Hungary
Grand Prize, Professional

At a sand mine embankment on the edge of the village of Sarand, Hungary, Petersburger sat in a hot, 2-foot-deep pit under a camouflaged tarp. While visited by a toad and mice, he watched dozens of bee-eaters snagging insects mid-flight. Artfully using a flash, he kept the background dark while illuminating this bird’s iridescent feathers and the butterfly’s striking patterns. To “show the movement of the bird’s wings,” he set a shutter speed slightly longer than the flash. Learn more about Joe Petersburger and his work >>



2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Radim Schreiber

Fairfield, Iowa
First Place, Backyard Habitats, Professional

Growing up in the Czech Republic, Schreiber had seen fireflies only a couple of times. “When I came to the United States, I was shocked and thrilled at the abundance of them,” he says. Schreiber made this image using no flash or external lighting “to preserve the glow of the firefly in its most natural way.”



2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
John Theberge

Lewiston, Maine
First Place, Other Wildlife,  Amateur

Using a macro lens, Theberge was shooting this lone Deptford pink blossom against an out-of-focus background of yellow black-eyed Susans near his home in Maine. “While I was taking pictures of the blossom, a hoverfly came along and landed on one of its petals,” he says. “It certainly improved the photo.”


2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Rolf Nussbaumer

New Braunfels, Texas
First Place, Other Wildlife, Professional

After a 2010 dry spell in Texas, the rains finally arrived in April, triggering a burst of blooming wildflowers. Toads and frogs also were abundant, says Nussbaumer, who took this image of a cane toad on a ranch southeast of Laredo. “I knew I wanted to take advantage of this field of yellow flowers,” he says. The toad was “a great jumper, and I was able to capture his beautiful jumping style.” (NOTE: Although the cane toad is a nonnative, invasive species in some parts of the country, it occurs naturally in southern Texas, where this photo was taken.)



2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winners
Nancy Elwood

Winter Springs, Florida
First Place, Baby Animals, Professional

Lying at “bird level” to take the photo, Elwood says “the last hour before sunset is the best” to distinguish the cream color of a black skimmer chick being fed on the white beach sand of Indian Shores, Florida.



2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner
Antonio Busiello

Los Angeles, California
First Place, Landscapes and Plant Life, Professional

Busiello wanted to capture “the beauty of the Channel Islands both above and below the water.” Snorkeling off the shores of California, he used a camera with a fish-eye lens and a flash half submerged in an underwater housing to photograph Anacapa Island's Arch Rock, its reflection in the water and the kelp forest below.

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