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‘Ding’ Darling kicks off amateur photo contest

By Staff | Jul 18, 2018

BEN VANOS “Green Heron Raising its Crest,” taken by Ben Vanos, won first place in last year's “Ding” Darling Days Amateur Nature Photography Contest.

The submission process is officially open for the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s annual contest for amateur photographers who enjoy nature shots.

Sponsored by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, the annual “Ding” Darling Days Amateur Nature Photography Contest kicked off on July 15. Held in conjunction with the annual “Ding” Darling Days, which will take place Oct. 12-14, it is open to non-professional photographers.

DDWS Development Director Sierra Hoisington explained that Jay Norwood Darling, the pioneer conservationist who the refuge was named after, used his artwork to promote environmentalism.

“Art was such an important thing is his life,” she said. “He was a political cartoonist and that’s how he got his message across about conservation.”

The contest offers an artsy way to continue to highlight the importance of preserving lands, like the refuge, using modern technology. It also adds another fun element to the “Ding” Darling Days.

PAUL BROOKE “Mangrove Cuckoo With Io Moth,” taken by Paul Brooke, won second place in last year's “Ding” Darling Days Amateur Nature Photography Contest.

“That’s basically a big community festival,” Hoisington said of the October event.

Each day is filled with activities for the public that help showcase the refuge.

“We want to show people what all the refuge has to offer,” she said.

Open to all ages, the contest has a $25 entry fee that covers two submissions.

“This is, generally, for people who enjoy coming to the refuge and they enjoy photography,” Hoisington said, adding that individuals who sell their photography cannot participate.

LINDA KRULESKI “Hawk With Snake 1,” taken by Linda Kruleski, won third place in last year's “Ding” Darling Days Amateur Nature Photography Contest.

Each year, the refuge receives about 100 entries for the contest.

“We get them from all over the world. It’s not just local people,” she said. “These are people that had come here for a vacation and took a picture and sent it to us.”

One rule is the photograph has to have been taken at the refuge in the last two years.

“It can be any wildlife or natural setting,” Hoisington said, naming insects to sunsets. “We want to see what these photographers are seeing here at the refuge because everyone sees the world differently.”

Photographs that have won awards in previous DDWS contest cannot be submitted. Each photograph must be a JPEG file of at least 3000-by-2400 or four megabytes; panoramic shots are not permitted.

Photographs should not include an individual’s name or any identifying information.

“We don’t want anyone’s name on there whatsoever,” she said.

“We also only allow for minor manipulations,” Hoisington added. “We want it to look as natural as possible.”

The judging panel consists of a refuge staffer, community member and photographer.

She explained that the judges will consider a handful of criteria, including originality or creativity, interest and technical excellence, which covers sharpness, lighting, composition and exposure.

“More of the composition and technical aspects,” Hoisington said.

Cash prizes are awarded to the winners, which consist of $250 for first place, $150 for second place, $100 for third place and $25 for honorable mention. Last year, there were 10 honorable mentions.

“They will also be displayed in our Visitor & Education Center for the next year,” she said.

Hoisington noted that the center has upward of 3,000 visitors annually.

“It’s a great opportunity for these amateur photographers’ work to be seen by people from all over the world,” she said.

The deadline to submit entries is Sept. 15.

Entries must be emailed to ddamateurphotocontest@gmail.com.

The entry fee includes a membership to the DDWS.

The DDWS will announce the winners on Oct. 13 at the Conservation Art Day.

For an entry form and complete rules, visit dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/photo-contests.

Hoisington encouraged the public to participate.

“It’s a way for them to show what they see at the refuge,” she said. “The best way to remember a visit here at the refuge is to take a picture – and the cash prize is a nice bonus, as well.”

For more information, contact 239-472-1100 ext. 256 or shois@dingdarlingsociety.org.

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel.