2020 Nature Photography Day Contest Winners Announced

Macro photo of fern leaves in light and shadows
Grand Prize Winner, “Fern Medley” © Ingrid Lockhart.

Earlier this week NANPA announced the winners of its 2020 Nature Photography Day photo contest. Ingrid Lockhart’s “Fern Medley” was awarded grand prize, Patrick Siu’s “Swan Family Dinner Time” received second place honors, and Jennifer Smith’s “Fight Over Fish!” won third place. Photographs by Deborah Duke, Keith J. Freeburn, Jeff Nelson and William Sutton received Honorable Mention awards.

Winners were chosen from 539 images submitted to the contest gallery. Entries included landscape images, wildlife, plants—and lots of macro photography, perhaps a nod to worldwide travel restrictions during COVID-19 that have caused many nature photographers to focus closely on their backyards and nearby communities in recent weeks. 

Hank Erdmann, Bruce Lipsky, and Karen Schuenemann—all accomplished nature photographers, instructors and long-time NANPA members—judged the competition, and found it to be no easy task.

Photo of adult and baby swans.  Second Place Photo “Swan Family Dinner Time” © Patrick Siu.
Second Place Photo, “Swan Family Dinner Time” © Patrick Siu.

“One of the hardest things about judging art or being a juror of artistic endeavor is that inevitably you must leave out some incredibly fine work to select finalists and award winners,” said Erdmann. “Besides relying on your own knowledge and experience, once you whittle down hundreds of images to the final few in order to select the winners, it often comes down to a special connection you make with a given image. For me that was the case, particularly with the first and second place images.”

Erdmann, like his colleagues, was drawn to the graphic element of the prize-winning fern fronds and struck by the contrast between the lit fronds and those behind in the shadows.

“The entries were dominated by macro photography, but on the other end few landscapes were entered. So as a judge I was drawn to unique moments and subjects, beautiful light and interesting juxtaposition of shapes and designs in nature,” explained Lipsky.  

Light and attention to details, patience, and perfectly timed captures were common topics in judges’ discussions about winning images—water dropping from a swan’s beak, the shadow of a honeybee on a flower petal, sunlight partially illuminating a fox’s face, and an unexpected ant under a turtle’s watchful eye, for instance.

But Schuenemann stressed that choosing winners was challenging. “As a judge, I was so impressed by the quality and beauty of the images. The decisions we made were not taken lightly, and any of the images were worthy of acknowledgment and celebration,” she said.

Two brown bears fighting in water, image by Jennifer Fogle Smith
Third Place Photo, “Fight Over Fish!” © Jennifer Fogle Smith.

Winners received various prize packages comprised of products and gift certificates from Tamron, Cognisys, ThinkTank, Fotopro, Hunt’s Photo & Video, McKenna Pro, Wimberley, Sigma, B&H Photo, Cotton Carrier and NANPA. The combined retail value of the seven prizes was more than $3,200.

The contest was hosted on NANPA’s Facebook page June 5-15 to help promote Nature Photography Day, celebrated annually on June 15 to cultivate interest in nature photography and explain how images are used in conservation and protection of plants, wildlife, and landscapes.

Schunemann noted that the contest gallery on the whole achieved its purpose. “As a judge, I was so impressed by the quality and beauty of the images…to see so many people get outside and share their visions and passion for our natural world with NANPA is truly something special,” she said.

The Nature Photography Day competition was open to nature photographers at all levels of experience who were at least 18 years of age, including photographers beyond NANPA’s membership base. It is viewed by many in the industry as a run-up to NANPA’s prestigious annual Showcase competition which highlights the top 250 nature images among thousands of submissions representing the best work produced by NANPA members—including both hobbyists and professional photographers. Submissions for that annual competition are scheduled to begin August 1.