DDWS Announces 2023 Photo Contest Winners

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

Heidi Dirkse’s “Looking for Love” took first place.

On Oct. 5, “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) held an official judging for its 31st annual “Ding” Darling Amateur Nature Photography Contest. It announced the 2023 winners Oct. 21 at the inaugural Art in the Wild festival at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.

Judges selected three winners and 10 honorable mentions out of 91 entries from 14 states and three countries. All photograph entries were shot at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge complex. Judges included a refuge staffer, photographer/artist, and member of the Sanibel community.

“Despite the disruption from Hurricane Ian, the contest generated much excitement and nostalgia among photographers and our judges,” said April Boehnen, DDWS manager of events, marketing, and communication and contest coordinator. “The photographers found our resilient wildlife and enduring beauty once again.”

First place went to Heidi Dirkse from Maine for her portrait of a reddish egret titled “Looking for Love.” Contest judge and Sanibel resident Laurie Harkey commented: “The photographer caught their subject in an instance of full plumage – a striking moment in nature.”

Frank Brinker won second place with “Low-flying Fisherman.”

In second place was Frank Brinker from Oberageri, Switzerland, with a photograph of a black skimmer titled “Low-flying Fisherman.”

“Wildlife photography combines subject and opportunity with patience and skill,” said judge Kyle Sweet, a wildlife photographer himself. “This photo truly exemplifies all of these. Not only is the fisherman in full focus, but the plight of the prey is as well, making this photo truly worthy of the award.”

Kathleen Colligan from Pennsylvania, took third place with “Mangrove Tree Crab.” Judge and “Ding” Darling Refuge Manager Bob Gerwig commented: “The mangrove tree crab is an often-overlooked animal that is an essential component to red mangrove ecosystems. This photograph draws the viewer in with lots of textural elements and observes the rule of thirds.”

Third-place winner was Kathleen Colligan’s “Mangrove Tree Crab.”

The three winners received cash awards from DDWS – $300 for first place, $225 for second, and $175 for third. Each honorable mention winner, listed below, received a $25 award, which reflects a refund of the contest entry fee.

The winning photographs and honorable mention award entries will be on display in the “Ding” Darling Visitor & Education Center throughout the year.

To view all top-ranking entries, visit dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/photo-contests. The page also contains information for entering the photo contest in 2024. The deadline for submissions will be Sep. 15, 2024.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in alphabetical order):
• Nate Arnold, Florida – “The Strut”
• Scott Becque, Delaware – “Ta-Da”
• April Sue Billings, Maryland – “Manatee Up for Air”
• Peg d’Entremont, Maine – “Snuggling with Mom”
• Kent Jager, Florida – “Pretty in Pink”
• John Johnston, North Carolina – “Still on Sanibel”
• Lois E. Kraemer, Florida – “Vibrant Hibiscus”
• Linda Kruleski, Florida – “Look Over Here”
• Charlie Lais, Florida – “Walk On By”
• Conrad Peloquin, California – “Pretty in Pink”

As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, DDWS works to support J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research, and public education through charitable donations and Refuge Nature Shop profits. To support DDWS and the refuge with a tax-deductible gift, visit dingdarlingsociety.org or Ann-Marie Wildman at 239-789-8991 or wildman@dingdarlingsociety.org.

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