2010 National Wildlife Photo Contest

The winners of our 40th annual photography competition

11-17-2010 // Hannah Schardt

Four decades ago, the first National Wildlife Photo Contest launched with one theme—the effects of pollution on wildlife—and a very grim grand prize winner: an image of a dead cormorant on a beach. Since then, the annual contest has grown exponentially. This year, nearly 50,000 images were entered in seven categories and in three divisions, Amateur, Professional and Youth. Through all these changes, one thing remains constant: the power of photography to connect people—both photographers and viewers—with wildlife and the outdoors. Since 1971, the contest has celebrated this connection. Winners are selected on the basis of originality, execution and technical excellence. We think you’ll agree that this year’s images are a diverse and impressive bunch. The 2010 grand-prize winners, along with a selection of first- and second-place finishers, appear below.  

lioness and zebra

Nicholas R. Bryan

New Territories, Hong Kong
First Place, Mammals, Amateur


This dramatic scene from Botswana’s Nxai Pan National Park looks like the end for this zebra, which suffered from a limp, according to the photographer. But Bryan says that while the lioness managed to leap onto the back of her prey, she was immediately knocked off by a swift kick from the wounded zebra, which then escaped.



common kingfisher with fish in mouth, grand-prize winner


Min-Hsiung Huang

Tainan, Taiwan
Grand Prize, Amateur


Huang’s arresting image is a tribute to his perseverance: Three years ago, he built a photo blind on the bank of a pond in a local wildlife refuge. He has since spent countless hours photographing the birds—particularly common kingfishers—that feed there. The photographer “tried many ways and thousands of times” before he successfully made this photo using a fast shutter speed and manual focus.



girl looking at tadpoles in pond


Natasha A. Svoboda

Columbus, Ohio
First Place, Connecting People with Nature, Amateur


On a rainy-day walk through Ohio’s Whetstone Park, Svoboda photographed her sister looking at tadpoles swimming in a small pool of water. The image captures the contrast between the lavender umbrella, dress and flowers and the brilliant green foliage with an almost painterly composition.



Mily Way over cliffs of Zion National Park


Durand J. Johnson

Layton, Utah
First Place, Landscapes, Amateur


Exhausted from a previous night spent photographing nearby Bryce Canyon, Johnson and his wife nonetheless stayed up until 3 a.m. to capture this spectacular image of the Milky Way over the cliffs of Zion National Park—a long exposure made even more challenging by high wind.



mountain goats and photographers at Glacier National Park

Tom Leeson

Vancouver, Washington
First Place, Connecting People and Nature, Professional


Ever get the feeling you’re being watched? Leeson, who had been photographing the goat on the far right in Glacier National Park, stepped back to switch lenses, then noticed this funny scene: A photographer focuses on one goat as another keeps an eye on him from above.



rufous hummingbirds at feeder

Gerri Levine

Payson, Arizona
First Place, Backyard Habitats, Amateur


Levine, who maintains multiple hummingbird feeders outside her house, reports that the birds that visit, including the rufous hummingbirds in the foreground, are “gorgeous and sweet but tough—they fight for a spot.” Between July and September, as many as 15 hummers of several different species may gather at a single feeder.


oil blob from gulf oil spill approaching Alabama beach

David Mitchell

Orange Beach, Alabama
First Place, Global Warming, Amateur


Like a scene from a horror film, this image of a menacing oil blob slowly approaching the white sands of an Alabama beach has the power to shock even a viewer who has seen dozens of photos from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Tourists and cheery beach umbrellas only emphasize the beach’s defenselessness. Mitchell made this photo last summer from the roof of a beachfront building, shooting through his sunglasses to diminish the glare.



Yosemite Valley waterfall

Josh Anon

Moraga, California
First Place, Landscapes and Plant Life, Professional


This transient waterfall in Yosemite Valley is water, not flame. But when backlit by the setting sun, it “looks like flowing lava,” says Anon, who adds that he was “incredibly lucky” also to capture a lone cloud floating through the frame.



manatee in Crystal River, grand prize winner

David B. Fleetham

Lahaina, Hawaii
Grand Prize, Professional


This crystal-clear photo of a sunlit manatee was made, aptly, in Florida’s Crystal River. Fleetham made a quick visit last winter to look for the manatees that flock to the region during cold snaps, lured by waters warmed by local hot springs. The photographer used a strobe to illuminate the endangered mammal from beneath; the next photo in the series is nearly identical, says Fleetham, but shows the animal only in silhouette.



bobcat mother with cubs

Joe Sulik

St. Cloud, Minnesota
First Place, Youth


On a visit to South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, 14-year-old Sulik was stunned to spot a bobcat hunting prairie dogs. After hours of waiting, watching and keeping his distance, Sulik tracked the cat back to her den—and her young family. “My favorite part of this image is the interaction between the mother (left) and her cubs,” he says.



oranutan mother and young

Jami A. Tarris

Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Second Place, Mammals, Professional


Only moments earlier, this baby orangutan in Borneo, Indonesia, was racing around the forest, swinging from trees and being “extremely independent,” says Tarris. Here, the youngster takes a short break to snuggle with its mother, gently touching her lip with its finger.



scissor-tailed flycatchers

Dennis Fast

Kleefeld, Manitoba, Canada
First Place, Birds, Professional


On a visit to Laredo, Texas, Fast spotted these scissor-tailed flycatchers engaged in what appears to be a Broadway duet—wings spread, mouths wide-open in song. “Then, as quickly as it started, it was over and I never saw them display again,” he says.



Formosan jewelwing damselfly

Joe Petersburger

Pécs, Hungary
First Place, Other Wildlife, Professional


This gemlike damselfly, known as a Formosan jewelwing, uses its wings to communicate with potential mates as it perches at the water’s surface, says Petersburger. Reflected in water, in a Taiwan rain forest, the insect creates a nearly abstract image.



Baya weaver birds at nest

Krishnan Venkitachalam

Mumbai, India
First Place, Birds, Amateur


Baya weavers are very social birds, often living in colonies. Still, this bird chain puzzled even the photographer, who came upon the scene not far from his home. He could only guess at the animals’ motivation: “Perhaps the two females are competing for the same nest, or perhaps one of the females was trying to lay eggs in another nest and is being dissuaded by the male and female that ‘own’ the nest,” he surmises. Either way, it makes for a dramatic close-up.



spotted salamander

Pierson Hill
Tallahassee, Florida
First Place, Other Wildlife, Amateur


One cold, overcast February day in southeastern Tennessee, Hill discovered several spotted salamanders in and around a small pond. He took advantage of their “cooperative” nature, he says, and was able to make this striking environmental portrait.



Arctic fox mother with young

Jasper Doest

Vlaardingen, The Netherlands
First Place, Global Warming, Professional


Doest spent two summers camped out near an Arctic fox den in Svalbard, Norway, photographing his “favorite animals.” On his second visit, he captured this rare moment: “I will never forget the rush of adrenaline that went through my veins when this mother started nursing her babies right in front of me,” he says.



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