Visions of Wilderness

Defenders of Wildlife’s 2011 photo contest winners

by Charles Kogod

© Jim Chagares

© Jim Chagares

Grand Prize Winner

Quadruplets by Jim Chagares

“As a photographer, I learned a long time ago to get in touch with my feminine side,” says photographer Jim Chagares, whose sensitive portrait of an Alaskan brown bear nursing her cubs struck a chord with our readers and won the grand prize in Defenders of Wildlife’s 2011 photography contest.

Perhaps it’s the bewildered look on the mother’s face that gives this image such universal appeal. It received an astonishing 32,197 votes—almost twice as many as last year’s winner—in our online poll. Chagares used a long telephoto lens to take this photograph, keeping a safe distance from the bears but still allowing them to fill the frame. He put the family in razor-sharp focus, while blurring everything else out, so that nothing distracts us from this wondrous moment.

Chagares makes his living photographing people in Indiana, but he appears to have a real talent for photographing bears. Last year, his powerful photograph of three bears devouring a salmon won first prize in the wildlife category.

As this year’s top contest winner, Chagares will be going on an all-expenses-paid photography tour of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, courtesy of professional wildlife photographer and Defenders’ contributor Jess Lee.

With more than 8,400 submissions this year in our second annual contest, we were tremendously impressed by the quality and variety of the work received. Clearly, our readers are a very talented group of nature and wildlife photographers. They also share another bond: A passion for the outdoors. As Siegfried Matull, another prizewinner, says: “The number one thing is being out in nature.”

More Articles from Summer 2011

Wolves always seem to get the short end of the stick in Alaska, where politicians often shoot first without even bothering to ask questions later. But that wasn’t the case this time.
One of the world’s most far-sighted environmental laws took a serious beating in April when Congress and President Obama quietly stripped federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies.
For those who had hoped Barack Obama’s election would result in conservation initiatives that finally restore protections for imperiled wildlife and natural ecosystems, the results have been seriously disappointing.
Clean up from the largest human-caused environmental disaster in U.S. history in the Gulf of Mexico last year isn’t close to over.
Endangered Cook Inlet belugas finally have something to smile about: the long-awaited designation of more than 3,000 square miles of critical habitat that scientists deem essential to their survival.
Yellowstone bison that search for food across park boundaries during harsh winter months are typically hazed back into the park or captured and sent to slaughter.
When the weather warms, Vitro Hilton, like so many of us, can’t wait to get his grill on. A vegetarian, he already has come a long way in reducing his carbon footprint.