Ames Free Library

"Where the Community Connects"

A Glimpse of Nature - Contest Winners & More


“How lucky are we to have received so many amazing submissions!” exclaimed Megan Tully, Head of Reference & Adult Services at the Ames Free Library. The staff had just voted for their favorite “Picturing Winter” entries . . . and it wasn’t easy! Twenty-seven photographers submitted 108 photos that reflected many ways of seeing winter, especially our theme of “Ice & Snow.” Thanks to all for participating and sharing your talents and perspectives. What fun!

The contest was competitive but, when all the votes were tallied, the grand prize winner was this astonishing image of an Eastern Screech Owl by Bonnie Tate.


Courtesy: Bonnie Tate

Winter is the best time to spot this bird because, as Bonnie explained, “they like to hang on the edge of their hole when the sun hits it for extra warmth.” The image depicts winter behavior, in the colors of winter, with complementary patterns of bark and feathers. My colleague, Libby, observed, “That is the coziest looking owl I've ever seen, even covered in snow! Congratulations, Bonnie! Your prize awaits you.

Two entries tied for second place.


Courtesy:  Suzy Vaughan


Suzy Vaughan’s lovely woodland image draws you in with its gently-curving path. How many times have I walked a similar path, filled with anticipation and surrounded by a beautiful, snow-laden forest? As a New Englander, this archetypal experience is embedded in my psyche.

Mala Aaronson’s twilight landscape received an equal number of votes. Admired for its rich colors and delicate beauty, her image makes you feel the hushed stillness of that moment.


Courtesy:  Mala Aaronson

Thank you Mala and Suzy for sharing your work. You will soon receive a modest, but sincere, reward.

If readers are wondering about the contest’s mechanics, here’s a summary.   A small panel of judges selected one entry from each participant.  These were entered into the final round.  Then, the entire staff voted without knowing the identities of the photographers.  Their choices were guided by the criteria set out in the initial contest description.  To avoid any appearance of bias, I abstained from voting.

As the moderator of the contest, I get to have fun by sharing a delightful array of images representing the breadth and creativity of our contestants’ submissions.  Let’s take a little tour.

Because I didn’t specify any geographical limitations, some entries were from distant places . . .


 Courtesy:  Brian Johnson

. . . while others were quite local.



Courtesy:  Joe Boerman

All needed to address the theme of “Ice & Snow” but that left plenty of room for variety.  Here are a few variations on “ice.”


Courtesy:  Sylvia Rodrigue





Courtesy:  Gene Jacobs


Courtesy:  Lori Pires


Courtesy:  Louis Vanrenen


Courtesy:  Zoe Rath

Most photos included snow, but the amount ranged from a dusting to nigh overwhelming.



 Courtesy:  Emma Lawson


Courtesy:  Zoe Rath

Once can feel the dizzying heights of this mountaintop as trees seemingly touch the clouds.

Snow not only affects the photographer’s color palette, it also enlivens familiar scenes and elicits a range of emotions. Consider the next several landscapes, all of which might be called “trees with snow.” In the first image, the cabin is encircled by snow:  on the ground, in the air, weighing down the surrounding vegetation. In contrast, the second landscape depicts the sparkling aftermath of a storm – dreamy like an impressionistic painting.


 Courtesy:  Mala Aaronson


Courtesy:  Maureen Olsen


Winter fog lends a subdued, if not eerie, quality to the next landscape.


Courtesy:  Mala Aaronson

Look how effectively the following photograph illustrates the short days of winter through the low angle of a pale sun. All that remains in the field is stubble, and it is casting long shadows.


Courtesy:  Melanie Kirylo

Speaking of shadows, in this dramatic silhouette the human is every bit as angular as the ski tracks. 



Courtesy:  Julie Weil


A variation on the landscape theme is the “skyscape.”  Both day and nighttime winter skies can be dramatic.  Here’s just one of several entries that looked skyward.


 Courtesy:  Brian Johnson

While landscapes have obvious winter appeal, some of our contestants chose portraiture instead.  They focused on children . . .





Courtesy:  Sarah Kern


. . . pets



 Courtesy:  Cory Winslow

. . . or, kids and pets! 


 Courtesy:  Dena Dearborn

Yes, they are adorable.  The images of children also make good use of color, while the closeup effectively communicates the dog’s patience (“Do I have to pose again?”).

Wildlife portraits, especially of birds, were also popular.  Many people enjoy animal watching, but capturing the details and spirit of a moving subject can be mighty difficult.


 Courtesy:  Mala Aaronson


Courtesy:  Bonnie Tate

Other photographers created plant portraits. 



Courtesy:  Lori Pires


Courtesy:  Emma Lawson


Courtesy:  Mala Aaronson

I was pleased to receive multiple photos set in urban areas.  Nature does exist in cities even if we imagine otherwise, and city dwellers definitely experience winter!  Let me share two very nice compositions.  In the Revere statue image, a harmonious color palette, a good angle, and a bunch of snowflakes connect the layers of height and depth.




 Courtesy:  Lou Nash

Similarly, in the timeless scene below, the playing child’s exuberance is matched by the energetic pigeons, and both contrast with the park’s stately trees.




 Courtesy:  Emma Lawson

The attempt to describe these photos leads to the question of technique.  While I am neither a photographer nor an art critic, it is obvious that every photographer makes choices about how to approach a subject.  The remaining images will exemplify some of those choices.

One option is to change the subject’s impact by shooting at night.  Think how different each of these images would be in full daylight.




Courtesy:  Kevin Bowden





Courtesy:  Lou Nash

Another choice is scale.  One photographer chose to look closer while the next emphasized a panoramic view.


 Courtesy:  Gene Jacobs


 Courtesy:  Lori Pires

Some notice and incorporate bold colors to achieve remarkable results.


 Courtesy:  Brian Johnson


Courtesy:  Christopher Davis





Courtesy:  Denise Briody


At other times, the photographer might opt for a limited color range.







Needless to say, the artist’s choices evoke different reactions in us, the viewers. 

Receiving such diverse entries has been the most pleasant surprise of this contest.  

Thanks for sharing.




P.S.  “Picturing Winter” is over but ice & snow are not.  I bet February will bring some new opportunities.  Get out and play!









Courtesy:  Michelle Cates





Blog Category: 


Submitted by Michelle Duprey on

I love the photo commentary accompanying the very many beautiful photos.
Very nice blog. :)

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.