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IDNR photo contest under way

Tips for taking outstanding photos          Send a link to a friend

[JULY 28, 2005]  SPRINGFIELD -- Whether packing for a picnic in an Illinois state park or stepping into the backyard, more and more people are grabbing their cameras before walking out the door. As the popularity of photography as a hobby increases, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is inviting those who take pictures of Illinois nature and wildlife to share their best shots, with a chance at prizes.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if the person viewing it has a camera, everyone can share in the wonder," said Outdoor Illinois director of photography Adele Hodde.

The magazine Outdooor Illinois, published by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, is seeking entries for its sixth annual photo contest. This year's theme is "Prairie State Seasons."

"We really enjoy this contest every year," said Joel Brunsvold, director of the Department of Natural Resources. "When we see the beauty of our state revealed in this collection of photos, we are reminded that it is an honor to be stewards of the natural resources of Illinois."

"Pictures should tell a story, educate and allow for the enjoyment of the natural beauty of nature," said Hodde, who has worked as a photographer through the transition from film to digital images. "Whatever equipment you use, there are some basic guidelines that apply."

She offers these tips for taking good pictures:

  • Choose a focal point, and make all background scenery enhance it.
  • Use a tripod.
  • Follow the rule of thirds when framing the image in your viewfinder. Divide an image into three parts horizontally and vertically.
  • Respect wildlife by viewing it from a safe distance. Do not interrupt its behavior, whether it is feeding or resting. Do not come between a parent and its offspring.
  • Do not damage or remove any plant or habitat.
  • Be patient -- wait for the ideal shot.
  • Use a faster shutter speed when photographing animals in motion, such as birds. Use a slower shutter speed when photographing moving water, to create a softer image.

Photos submitted for the contest must be taken in Illinois and will be judged in five categories:

  • Wildlife, including underwater images of aquatic organisms
  • Backyard, urban wildlife
  • Scenic, floral
  • Recreational activities
    Take the camera with you on your hunting, fishing, biking, boating or hiking expedition.
  • Young shutterbugs
    Qualifying photographs can be any of the above four categories but must be taken by a photographer age 12 or younger.

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Contest winners receive prizes, and the winning photos will be published in the February 2006 issue. The Best of Show winner will receive a one-night weekday lodging package at Rend Lake Resort and Lodge. The Illinois Conservation Foundation will provide a custom-framed, signed and numbered limited-edition print by John S. Eberhardt and two free tickets to the March 4, 2006, Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame banquet, where the recipient will be honored and the winning photograph displayed. First- and second-place winners will receive three-year and two-year subscriptions.

"Even photos that don't win the contest may still be published in the magazine," said Kathy Andrews, editor of Outdoor Illinois. "We may publish some of the other entries at other times in the magazine. We also use photographs in the annual Outdoor Illinois calendar. Credit is always given to the photographers who take the pictures we use."

Beyond that, winning entries will be submitted for consideration as the cover of the annual Illinois state parks guide, a free publication produced by the American Park Network, with a distribution of approximately 400,000 copies.

Photos submitted for the contest are limited to color or black-and-white slides, prints, and digital images. Print images must be unmounted and at least 5 by 7 inches but not more than 8 by 10 inches. Slides should be 35 mm, and medium or large transparencies should be mounted. Digital images should be a minimum of 2 megapixels, or 1,600 by 1,200 dpi, and must be submitted as a print.

All entries must be labeled with the photographer's name, address, daytime phone number, e-mail address if applicable, category, and when and where the photograph was taken. Contest deadline is Aug. 5.

For additional information on the contest, visit

[Illinois Department of Natural Resources news release]

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