It’s all about wildlife. This is what Sam Parks—grand prize winner of Defenders of Wildlife’s 2014 photo contest—says really drove him to become a nature photographer. “I’ve been watching wildlife for as long as I can remember. It all started when I got my first point-and-shoot camera at 17. I only wanted to progress and master the art of photography from that point on,” Parks says. At only 24, Parks truly has “an eye,” and it shows in this image of a lone wolf at Yellowstone National Park. Each winter, Parks heads to Yellowstone for a month-long trip in search of wolves and coyotes. To capture this photo, he spent several mornings waiting—and hoping—in the bitter cold watching the snowfall through his Sigma 300-800mm lens. On the fifth day, he decided to pack up his gear and drive farther into the park. That’s when he spotted a wolf from the Canyon pack. “I noticed that he had a little bit of dried blood around his mouth,” says Parks. “This led me to believe there must have been a carcass nearby and sure enough, there was one on the side of the road.” Parks got into position and waited about six hours before the wolf returned to feed. “I looked through my viewfinder to set up the shot and as soon as I did this, he looked back at me,” he says. “That’s when I snapped the shutter and knew I had a great image.”
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