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Twice as good

When you stumble upon a bobcat in the wild, its normally matted fur and felonious stare make it appear as if it woke in a Dumpster and would gladly bite off your nose if it bothered to give you a second thought.

“I’ve seen pictures of them like that, and they certainly don’t look very good,” photographer Bart Elder says.

What Elder captured through his camera lens near Summer Lake belies the bobcat's rough-and-tumble reputation.

With its seemingly coiffed fur and perfect black tufts protruding from its ears, this bobcat sat on a rock with such a calm demeanor that Elder was able to creep within 10 yards — close enough to capture its eyes in perfect focus.

“This one, with the color of its fur, just looked amazing,” says Elder, 52, of Grants Pass. “I couldn’t believe it didn’t run away.”

The image made Elder the runaway winner in the Wildlife category of the Oregon Outdoors Photo Contest, a category that the lifelong amateur photographer has won both times in the contest’s two-year existence.

Rebecca Heigel of Grants Pass took first place in the Wildflower category with a close-up of a star tulip.

The Landscapes title went to Brian Herbelin of White City for a well-lit image of Mount McLoughlin’s reflection on Willow Lake.

The People in Nature division went to Cliff Vandagrift of Medford for his shot of four-wheelers throwing sand as they zip up a dune at the Oregon Coast’s Siltcoos National Recreation Area.

The photo that garnered the most online love from readers was an image of a bald eagle perched on a snag in front of a moon at Willow Lake. Greg Badger of Medford garnered 250 of the 706 votes cast in the online reader poll to win the People’s Choice Award.

Badger’s photo was just 10 votes ahead of a crisp, close-up shot of a jumping spider on a leaf that was shot by Ethan Hill of Eagle Point.

In all, 131 shutterbugs entered 278 images in the contest. Photographers were limited to five submissions regardless of their categories.

Elder won the Wildlife category in the inaugural Oregon Outdoors Photo Contest last year for his rare photo of seven bighorn sheep clustered in a V-formation near Summer Lake.

“They just came up over the ridge one at a time and they hung around just staring at me,” Elder says.

That seems to be a recurring theme for Elder in the Summer Lake area, where he grew up and his parents remain, in the town of Paisley.

Elder has been snapping photographs since high school, reveling in film before the bug started to slip away about a decade ago. A TSA screener at the Medford airport, Elder made the transition to digital in 2006 “and I started getting back into it really heavy,” he says.

Elder posts his photos on websites and on Facebook, always looking to sell a print or two but really shooting for his own enjoyment.

Nature shots are "by far" his favorite, he says.

He carries a camera with him everywhere he goes, particularly on his regular treks to the Summer Lake area.

While driving on a backroad toward Paisley on Nov. 26, movement on a hillside caught his eye. He instantly picked out the adult bobcat being followed by a second, smaller bobcat.

He grabbed his Canon 40D, outfitted with a 100-400 mm lens, and started stalking the creature, snapping images in the mid-morning light.

When the bobcat stopped and sat on a rock, it just stared back at Elder.

“At one point I was probably within 10 yards,” he says. 

His only regret is not getting the younger cat in the same frame.

Elder says it's not a coincidence that his winning shots come from the Summer Lake area.

"I grew up there, and there are a lot of animals hanging around there," he says.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Bart Elder of Grants Pass took first place in the wildlife category with his photo of a bobcat taken near Summer Lake.