‘Ding’ Darling kicks off amateur photo contest
The submission process is officially open for the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s annual contest for amateur photographers who enjoy capturing shots of nature and wildlife.
Sponsored by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, the 27th annual “Ding” Darling Days Amateur Nature Photography Contest kicked off on July 15. Held in conjunction with the annual “Ding” Darling Day, which is set for Oct. 20, it is open to non-professional photographers.
DDWS Development Officer Sierra Hoisington explained that Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, the pioneer conservationist who the refuge is named after, used his artwork to promote environmentalism.
“What we always turn to is our namesake,” she said.
An artist, Darling found his way into the conservation world – and made a difference.
“It’s bringing everything back to art and the importance of art and conservation,” Hoisington said.
The contest has a $25 entry fee that covers two submissions, including a DDWS membership.
“Anyone is welcome to enter,” she said. “We don’t have any age restrictions.”
As its name implies, the competition is not open to professionals.
“We want to see from the average person,” Hoisington said. “We want to see the refuge the way they see it.”
Last year, 121 entries in total were received from 20 states and three different countries.
“We get them from all over – this is an international contest,” she said. “It’s not just Sanibel people. It’s people from all over the country and all over the world.”
The first place winner in 2018, Frank Brinker, was from Oberageri, Switzerland.
“So that was really cool to have him win,” Hoisington said.
One rule is the photographs have to have been taken at the refuge in the last two years.
“You can enter more than one photo,” she said, adding that only one will be eligible, though.
Photographs that have won awards in previous DDWS contests cannot be submitted. Each photograph must be a JPEG file of at least 3000-by-2400 or four megabytes; panoramic shots are not permitted.
“And we don’t want any of the photographers to identify themselves,” Hoisington said.
Submissions should not include an individual’s name or identifying information.
“There can have minor manipulations,” she said, citing cropping or slight alterations that create a more natural-looking photo. “Anything that looks super out of the ordinary will probably be disqualified.”
The judges will consist of a refuge staffer, community member and professional photographer.
“We feel like all three of those are very different in their own respects and bring something new to the judging table,” Hoisington said. “And we have three different judges every single year.”
She explained that the judges will consider a handful of criteria, including originality or creativity, interest and technical excellence, which covers sharpness, lighting, composition and exposure.
“There’s three general criteria that we touch on,” Hoisington said.
This year, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the refuge, the cash award prizes for the top three winners have been increased by $75 – to $300 for first, $225 for second, and $175 for third.
“Honorable mentions, they all get $25,” she said.
“The number of honorable mentions always varies,” Hoisington added.
Last year, there were 11 honorable mentions recognized.
“I do really feel like with the prize increases, we’re going to have lot more entries,” she said.
All of the winning photographs are put on display in the refuge’s Visitor & Education Center.
“We typically get around 300,000 (visitors) every year,” Hoisington said.
The winners will also be shared online and in the DDWS newsletter.
She noted that the Clyde Butcher exhibit will be on display at the same time as the winners.
“So it’s kind of cool,” Hoisington said. “Those people will be displayed in the same area.”
The deadline for submission is Sept. 15.
Entries must be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For an entry form and complete rules, visit dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/photo-contests.
The DDWS will announce the winners at the “Ding” Darling Day in October.
Hoisington encouraged the public to participate.
“It’s a great contest. It’s a great way to be in contention with a lot of great photographers from around the world,” she said. “And it might give you other ideas of different shots for next year.”
For more information, contact 239-472-1100 ext. 256 or email@example.com.
The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel.