Visions of Wilderness
Defenders of Wildlife’s 2011 photo contest winners
by Charles Kogod
© 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.”