Amusing Monday: Rare moments frozen in winning wildlife photos

Celebrating the power and beauty of nature, the National Wildlife Federation attracted more than 23,000 photographic entries to its annual photo contest.

Baby Animals category, second place, by Loi Nguyen
Photo courtesy of National Wildlife Federation

Winners in the prestigious contest came from seven states — Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon and West Virginia. They represented six nations — Canada, England, Hungary, Kenya and Kuwait as well as the U.S.

“Whether lifelong professionals or avid amateurs, all winners display a love of wildlife and an appreciation of how photography can help bring nature to life in a way that inspires others to take action and protect it, both at home and abroad,” states a news release announcing the winners last Thursday.

Mammals category, first place, by Eric Guth
Photo courtesy of National Wildlife Federation

The images feature both the quiet beauty of the natural world along with life-and-death struggles between predator and prey that can interrupt nature’s silence in a heartbeat. The grand prize winner, David Turko of Florida, combined experience, patience and luck to grab an extremely rare image of a stealthy bobcat escaping from a pond with a flapping bird in its jaws (bottom photo on this page).

In addition to a grand prize, first- and second-place awards are given in seven categories: Mammals, Baby Animals, Birds, Other Wildlife, Backyard Habitats, People in Nature, and Landscapes and Plants.

Other Wildlife, first place, by Deborah Albert
Photo courtesy of National Wildlife Federation

Organizers say they hope that the photos bring nature to life for viewers, who may be inspired to protect nature — from their own property to organized preservation efforts throughout the world. Entry fees and donated images help the National Wildlife Federation with its ongoing conservation work.

The full slate of winning photos can be seen on the website of “National Wildlife” magazine. Here are descriptions for the photos shown on this page:

POLAR BEARS: Loi Nguyen of Thousand Oaks, Calif., was awarded second place in the Baby Animals category. Two years of planning were awarded when Nguyen was granted a permit to photograph polar bears in Canada’s Wapusk National Park. After long days of waiting, Nguyen’s group spotted a mother polar bear and her two cubs sleeping together in a ball. When they awoke, the cubs nursed, nuzzled and played. “There is such tenderness between mother and cubs,” said Nguyen. “It melts me.”

People in Nature, second place, Kyler Badten
Photo courtesy of National Wildlife Federation

SEALS UNDER ICE: Eric Guth of Portland, Ore., took first place in the Mammals category when he dipped his camera into the sea off the coast of Brown Bluff in Antarctica. His goal was to capture an over-under shot of a massive iceberg when a group of crabeater seals swam into the frame. “I feel calm and at peace when I look at this,” Guth said. “The seals give it life.”

CROCODILE: Deborah Albert of Charleston, W.V., was recognized with a first place award in the Other Wildlife category for her powerful photo taken on a sandbank along Tanzania’s Rufiji River. Working from a small boat, Albert spotted the massive Nile crocodile as it plunged down the bank and vanished in the river. Her reactions were quick enough to capture the brief but magical moment. “It was a bit intimidating,” she admits, but one cannot deny the prehistoric majesty of the beast. “Talk about wildlife perfection,” she added.

Grand Prize winner by David Turko
Photo courtesy of National Wildlife Federation

WHALE SHARK: Kyler Badten of Coatesville, Ind., was the second-place winner in the People in Nature category. Hovering in water 30 feet deep off the coast of Isla Mujeres in Mexico, Badten watched as a whale shark passed overhead. The animal swam just below fellow diver Akira Biondo, who seems to be reaching out and touching the animal. “I call this ‘Coexist,’” says Badten, who hopes his photos call attention to the worldwide plight of sharks and “inspire others to help protect them.”

BOBCAT: While photographing migratory birds in Mexico’s Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, photographer David Turko of Melbourne, Fla., followed his hunch and turned down a backroad where he encountered a pond and spotted a bobcat catching a coot. Because of the bird’s flapping wings, the cat never saw Turko get out of his car and begin shooting. When the bobcat spotted him, it “increased its pace to a full sprint, then just made this leap,” Turko recalls. “It was surreal. I still get goose bumps thinking of it. This was the shot of a lifetime.”

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