Behind the photos: our World Wildlife Day photography contest finalists

In celebration of World Wildlife Day 2020, we asked amateur wildlife photographers to submit their best photos of birds, fish, mammals, insects, and everything in between from around the Bay watershed.

Our panel of expert judges – local photographers Greg Stone, Elaine LaBelle, Henry Zimberlin, and Dan Logan – then narrowed down the submissions to our top five finalists. These five photographers shared how they captured these stunning images, and how their photography helps them explore their Buzzards Bay.

1st Place: Fox on West Island by Christine Rosperich

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“I love the outdoors and birds, animals and creatures of every type – yes, even snakes and spiders!” says first-place winner Christine Rosperich. A resident of Mattapoisett, Rosperich has been enjoying wildlife photography since her husband gifted her a camera about ten years ago. “I’m always ready to drop everything and head out with my telephoto lens,” she adds.

Her winning fox photo came about last spring, when she heard about a fox family that had taken up residence on West Island. She grabbed her telephoto lens and hurried over. “We kept a very respectful distance, being careful not to disturb the kits while they played,” Rosperich explains. “Mama fox was nearby and was keeping a wary eye out, when I noticed that she was moving down the road toward me.”

She quickly took a couple of shots. The fox was actually quite a distance away, but the telephoto lens did the job, catching the mother fox mid-stroll. “She was so beautiful,” Rosperich says. “I feel very fortunate to have captured her in motion.”

2nd Place: Piping Plover at Cherry & Webb Beach by Kim Brittain

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Kim Brittain takes her camera everywhere she goes. A self-taught photographer, she has been taking photos since she was a kid.

She took her piping plover photo last fall, when she and her husband were walking on Cherry and Webb Beach in Westport. They walked up and down the shoreline, where Brittain snapped photos of the waves, the sand dunes, Gooseberry Island, and the dozens of shorebirds foraging along the water’s edge.

“I must have taken about 10 to 15 shots of the few sandpipers that were still running around in the sand,” Brittain explains. “I was bending down to get a level shot of it. It all happened so fast that I didn’t even notice what I had actually captured until I downloaded the photos.”

She notes that the final image wasn’t altered with any type of filter or editing: “This particular picture was pure luck!”

3rd Place: Hawk in Fairhaven by Craig Bretton

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The piercing gaze of this observant hawk came about thanks to the intersection of Craig Bretton’s two photography hobbies: astrology and wildlife. As his photography page describes it, Bretton aims to show people “the wonders of the universe but also the wonders that are found here on earth.”

“I was setting up my telescope outside during the day to prepare for a night of astronomy when I looked up and saw the hawk,” Bretton explains. “There is family of them that frequents my yard. I figured I’d hook my camera up to the telescope to see if I could get a close up. Sure enough, it worked out quite well.”

4th Place: Bathing Red-Tailed Hawk in New Bedford by Darrell P. Hancock

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“My process for taking wildlife photos is pretty cut and dry,” explains photographer Darrell P. Hancock. “I drive around until I find something interesting, or hit the trails. River Road and The Sawmill are great places, I’ve seen so much wildlife there. We’re fortunate to have these places to enjoy.”

The day he captured his hawk photo, Hancock was sitting in his car on a grassy hill above a cemetery in New Bedford. “I go to cemeteries once in awhile because hawks like to hang out in them,” he explains. When sitting on the headstones hawks blend in easily, but on this day, he spotted a hawk doing something that didn’t blend in at all: taking a bath in a flooded road.

“I just stopped my car and started shooting from the window. I’ve never seen a hawk taking a bath, but this was pretty amazing to watch,” he says. “It did its thing then flew off to a tree and shook the water off.”

5th Place: Jellyfish by Ethan de Aguiar

Ethan de Aguiar was riding around New Bedford on a nice day last year when he stopped on the bridge to Pope’s Island for a water break. “I looked down and happened to see this jellyfish just floating there, moving but also kind of motionless,” he says. He grabbed his camera, set it to burst, and shot “probably 100 photos, until the shape of the jellyfish was just right.”

“I guess the takeaway from this is never stop exploring, even if it’s in your own hometown,” de Aguiar says. “You never know when you’ll stumble upon a moment you couldn’t have planned out any better. I didn’t find this picture, this picture found me.”

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