This was a tough competition, there were many really fantastic photographs and it was very hard to choose.
First, some Honorable Mentions:
“Valleys Animals,” by Mab Jones, for its excellent portrayal of another kind of animal.
“Hungry Swans,” by Alison McDonald, for being a composition that communicates the insolent and fearless character of hungry swans.
“Small Bug,” Peter Lewis, for whimsy, pathos and texture.
Also wonderful shots were:
“Coppery Headed Emerald” by Neil Hughes - this was beautifully crisp, perfectly captured, lovely color and good light, a really excellent shot of a beautiful subject.
“Fox,” by Jay Taylor, had wonderful color and composition, the subject and his/her exquisite face were wonderfully framed.
“Grey Squirrel” by Karen FIsher, this was a nice close up and great composition, nice color and good contrast in limited color palette.
“Wings” Mab Jones, had great contrast and color, shot at perfect moment to catch subject in unusual pose and motion, normally would say prefer subject in right or left third of photo but the contrast of the light and color in the background, separated at either side of bird made this composition perfect.
We had a very, very hard time choosing the number one shot. There were four absolutely stand out photos, all of equal beauty and quality, each deserving the number one spot and it really came down to an almost impossible and arbitrary choice to pick any above the others. The following three photos were really fantastic and all four described below were amazing:
“Short Eared Owl” by Neil Hughes was perfectly composed and framed, with beautiful contrast, excellent framing on subject’s face and eyes, motion captured just perfectly, an absolutely amazing shot.
“Grey Wolf” by Neil Hughes. A gorgeous picture that really created a character and a personality of its subject and empathy in the viewer. The focus and composition are perfect with the eye framed in the center, pulling the viewer’s attention straight into the subject and its story. Light in the green in the upper center background provided color contrast and framed the subject below.
“Red Tail Hawk” by Brett Hull was the closest competition to the photo we finally chose as this competition's winner. It has gorgeous light, motion and immaculate focus, it's so perfect it almost doesn’t seem real.
For the winner for this competition, we chose:
“A Curious Little Lamb” by Karen Fisher
This photo edged just a hair above the other three in its composition. The lamb’s body sits in right third but its head breaks the rule of thirds and imposes itself into the center, like the nosy little critter it belongs to, imparting character, emotional depth and personality to the subject of the shot. The touch of green in the upper left corner compliments the lit pinkish red in the lambs ear. The most amazing thing is the light: a circle in the background center of the shot, framing the head and wonderfully lighting the ear and the lamb's right side, as though back and hair lights had been set in a studio. The temperature and depth of field are excellent, popping out the subject and centering the viewer's attention.