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Ding photo contest draws wealth of talent

October 1, 2014
By CRAIG GARRETT ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Point and shoot has a different connotation in Sanibel.

Some 118 amateurs have turned in their work for the annual J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge photography contest. The matted photos will be judged in the coming weeks, a winner chosen at the 25th annual "Ding" Darling Days that start Oct. 19.

The work reviewed this year is stunning, said Sarah Lathrop, associate director with the Ding Darling Wildlife Society, the education branch of the Refuge and the group organizing the contest. Judging begins Oct. 1.

Article Photos

Sarah Lathrop with the 2013 photo grouping at the Ding Refuge.


"I don't know how some of these (photographers) couldn't earn a living," Lathrop said.

Entrant work is mostly of birds, but alligators and other creatures speckle the submissions, Lathrop said. And it's not just portraits, but action shots that wow the judges in past contests, she said. Flying, feeding, landing, glaring, each are captured by the photographers.

Every photo submitted was shot in the Refuge, Lathrop said. Contestants in past events have represented the world: Italy, Colorado, Delaware. Michael Dougherty of Clarkston, Michigan, was last year's winner. His colorful photo was of a perched bird.

Photos are also screened for previous submissions and professionalism; amateurs only, Lathrop said. And the Refuge as a backdrop is critical.

"Ultimately we want (photographers) to get out and take a look at the beauty of nature," she said. "To stop, look and listen."

The trio judging the work will gauge photo sharpness, lighting, context, viewer interest, originality and creativity. Cash prizes are awarded but, more importantly, their work is imprinted on holiday and souvenir cards sold at the Refuge gift shop. Along with Duck Stamp winners, they are enshrined at the Ding.

A second contest for high-school aged shooters only starts Nov. 1. In its second season, the Theodore Cross contest is expected to draw more than 400 submissions, Lathrop said. Winners will be named in the spring of 2015.



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