Jerry Pogue knew exactly what he was aiming for when he packed up his camera and headed toward the Dead Indian plateau last April 4.
Pogue, an Ashland house painter who describes himself as a "pure amateur," has a soft spot in his heart for sandhill cranes, and he was pretty sure he'd find some to photograph near Howard Prairie Lake.
He was right, but what he didn't know was that the trip would earn him a grand-prize award and a new Vortex Skyline 20-60x80 (angled) spotting scope, valued at $499, from Wild Birds Unlimited.
Pogue's photo of two sandhill cranes preparing to take flight from the snow wowed the judges in the annual Oregon Outdoors Wild Bird Photo Contest..
"This photo is impressive on several counts," says Stewart Janes, a Southern Oregon University biologist who writes the Mail Tribune's monthly Bird's Eye View column. "Taking photos against a backdrop of snow presents great challenges, but the detail on the cranes is amazing. To catch a pair in the moment before flight conveys the elegance of the cranes."
Pogue says he started shooting photos about fours year ago using a film camera, "but I didn't have any luck, so I bought a digital camera."
His luck has improved significantly since then. A second photo he submitted for this year's contest, of two Western Grebes scurrying across the water at Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge, also earned enough votes from judges to win a prize. Contest rules limit entrants to just one prize per year, however, so he had to be content with his new scope.
Pogue's impressive entries were shot with a Canon 40D camera using a 300 mm lens.
Peter Evans of Medford also credits luck for the shutter-click that made him this year's first-place winner. His photo of a red-tailed hawk in flight earned him an Olympus Stylus 1200 compact digital camera, valued at $349, from Total Camera & Video in Medford.
Evans, a bank teller at Washington Mutual, was scouting for eagles at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge last winter. He says it was only 11 degrees outside, so he was doing his scouting from the inside of his heated car.
"We had pulled over to the side of the road and I had the window rolled down," Evans says. "I just shot him out of the car window."
Lucky or not, the clarity of the photo impressed the judges.
"Photographing a bird in flight is challenging under the best circumstances," says Janes. "My camera always chooses to focus on anything but the bird. If it does focus on the bird, it is never the eye.
"A little luck in addition to a healthy measure of skill is needed to be successful. This photo of an immature red-tailed hawk in flight at close range captures the spirit of the hawk, and with great clarity."
Evans used a Canon 30D camera with a 400 mm lens to capture his winning shot.
Linda Henry of Ashland traveled to Africa in October for the shot that earned her a second-place award and $100 from the Mail Tribune.
Henry, accompanied by a friend and a guide, was watching elephants in Amboseli National Park in Kenya when she spotted a malachite kingfisher eating a frog.
"We were really there to shoot elephants," Henry says, "and there was this kingfisher sitting there having his breakfast."
Henry, who won an award in this contest three years ago for another African bird photo, used a Canon EOS 5D camera with a 500 mm lens.
The 2008 contest drew 124 entries, which were rated by five expert judges and 226 readers who cast online votes. This was the first time in the history of the annual contest that all entries were required to be digitally submitted. Nearly all of the entrants — 110 in all — uploaded their photos to our Web site. The other 14 submitted their photos on CDs.
Five other prize winners, who received $30 photo book certificates from Total Camera & Video, are:
Mail Tribune Features Editor David Smigelski can be reached at 776-8784 or firstname.lastname@example.org