Life through the lens

Wild Bird Photo Contest winner always seeks her 'Zen moment' when out taking photographs; 2010 contest begins today
Deb Harder is last yearís winner of the Wild Bird Photo Contest. Mail Tribune / Julia MooreJulia Moore

Deb Harder's newly adopted shutterbug lifestyle keeps her on the move, pulling out all the stops to capture nature's essence in photographs.

Be it stepping out of a bush plane to photograph bears in Alaska or scrambling over eight miles of boulders and streams for a landscape shot last week in Utah's Zion National Park, Harder works to harness the peace of nature — one jpeg moment at a time.


To enter, fill out a registration form and upload your photos on our Web site at

Once the entries are in, Mail Tribune readers can vote for their favorite photos online. Readers will have a 25-percent say in who wins. Our panel of five expert judges will account for the other 75 percent of the score.

Grand prize is a pair of Meade Travel View 10 x 42 waterproof binoculars, valued at $299, from Total Camera and Video, 1310 A Center Drive, Medford, 541-772-6808,

First place receives an Eagle Denali 15-45X 60MM Spotting Scope with photo adaptor and tabletop tripod valued at $219.99 from Wildbirds Unlimited, 712 Crater Lake Ave., Medford, 541-770-1104,

Second place is a pair of Bushnell Powerview binoculars valued at $50 from BlackBird Shopping Center, 1810 W. Main St., Medford, 541-772-8036,

Third place is a Birdscape bird feeder, a 20-pound bag of Ace birdfeed and a Bird Garden booklet, total value $37, from BlackBird.

Entries must be received by 5 p.m., Friday, Dec. 10.

When voting ends we'll kick off a week of online voting, which closes Friday, Dec. 17 at 5 p.m.

The winning photos will be published Friday, Dec. 24 in Oregon Outdoors.


1) Only photographs of wild birds are eligible.

2) Birds must be photographed in the wild (no zoo photos or pictures of tethered birds, caged birds or dead birds mounted by taxidermy).

3) The contest is open to everyone except employees of Southern Oregon Media Group, Wild Birds Unlimited, Total Camera and Video and BlackBird Shopping Center.

4) You can enter up to 3 photos; however, each photographer is eligible to win only one award.

5) The entrant of the photo must be the photographer who shot the photo.

6) Only digital (jpeg) photos are eligible, submitted in RGB mode. If you shoot film, the photo must be scanned and submitted in digital format.

7) Entries must be accompanied by an entry form that includes the photographer's name, phone, address and e-mail address.

8) Please include the species name of the bird(s), the location where the photo was taken, the type of camera and lens used, the film speed (if not digital) and, if possible, the shutter speed and lens opening.

9) Digital photos may be enhanced using tools such as exposure control, cropping and sharpening. Other major or obvious enhancements may render the photo ineligible. This will be a decision of the judges and all decisions are final.

Even though the greatest care will be taken with all photos, the Mail Tribune, Wild Birds Unlimited, Total Camera and Video and BlackBird Shopping Center are not responsible for lost or damaged entries.


The judges will use the following criteria for grading all photos entered:

1) Composition

2) Technical quality (sharpness, depth of field, exposure, etc.)

3) How well the photo captures the essence of the bird

If you have questions, e-mail Mail Tribune Features Editor David Smigelski at or call 541-776-8784.

"It puts me in kind of a Zen moment," says Harder, 49, of Medford. "All my images are tranquil, serene. And when I'm out there, that's how I feel. It takes me away from all the chaos.

"And I'm a perfectionist," she says. "So this can be very consuming."

And now it's time for another round of public consumption of photographs by Harder and others as part of the Mail Tribune's annual Wild Bird Photo Contest.

Beginning today, the Mail Tribune is taking submissions to the annual contest that is popular among bird lovers and nature photographers such as Harder, last year's winner.

Last year's contest drew 466 submissions, and readers cast nearly 2,000 votes in online balloting.

Harder won the grand prize with her shot of a crane skittering across the water at the Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

If the rules had allowed it, she would have taken first place as well for a shot of a golden sparrow. Her two photographs were running neck and neck in online voting until the final day, when the crane nipped the sparrow.

Instead, first place went to Tara Behnke of Medford for a photo of a rufous hummingbird.

Second place went to Jenny Grimm of Rogue River for a photo of thousands of snow geese at Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge.

Long-time sponsors Wild Birds Unlimited and Total Camera and Video are joined this year by BlackBird Shopping Center.

Harder is relatively new to life through the lens.

A black-and-white photographer in college, she put film aside. Four Christmases ago, her husband bought her a Nikon digital camera, and she's been filling memory cards ever since.

Harder and her husband sold their Medford veterinary clinic two years ago. Since then Harder has been chasing sunrises and critters regularly — most recently to Zion for a photography workshop. She plans to attend another next year in Ireland.

"It's been quite an exciting journey," Harder says.

Harder's images can be viewed and purchased through her website,

There, visitors will find mostly landscape shots, which are her first love, as well as a mix of wildlife photography, such as last year's winning bird shot and even a few campy shots of the family dogs.

"They're dressed in Christmas outfits," she laughs. "OK. That's tacky. But what are you gonna do?"

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at

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