Arts Visual Arts

Conserving Carolina Photo Contest Celebrates Nature and Inspires Advocacy

Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Photo by Cathleen Bester

By Emma Castleberry

Every year, Conserving Carolina hosts its Habitat at Home Photo Contest, encouraging residents of several counties in the Carolinas to submit images of plants, wildlife or habitat projects in their community. The five finalists for this year were chosen by a panel of three judges with expertise in photography and gardening: Sharon Mammoser, Leah Swann and Corrie Wood.

“It is so important to share photos of nature to show others that there is so much more to life than what is inside each one’s box,” says Denise Booher, whose photo of a Brown Thrasher was one of the finalists in the contest. “We tend to get so wrapped up in our daily lives that we forget to stop and look around. So when people look at my photos, they feel like they can reach out and feel the softness of the feathers and hopefully that inspires them to put the devices down and get out and enjoy nature.”

Female Banded Pennant Dragonfly. Photo by Randolph Richardson

Finalist Randolph Richardson snapped his final-five photo of a banded pennant dragonfly while on an outing with the Blue Ridge Naturalist Network (story, p. 46). “Nature photography is important because we know that the beauty of nature can inspire folks to do more to protect our natural assets,” says Richardson. “I know that not everyone has the time or the physical ability to get out into nature, and with our photos we can bring the natural world to them.”

Like so many great photographs, Christopher Jayne’s image of a wasp on a passion flower was a result of being in the right place at the right time. “I was out trying to get a good photograph of the passion flower when the wasp landed in just the right place,” he says. “I love photographing nature because I see details, connections and aspects of my subjects that I don’t see until I am taking the picture, and often not until I am editing the photograph.”

Brown Thrasher. Photo by Denise Booher

This year’s winner, chosen by public voting, was Cathleen Bester for her photo of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in mid-flight. “This species is always busy and quite acrobatic in flight, and I was fortunate enough to capture a moment in time of this activity,” says Bester, who photographed the bird in her backyard in Greenville, SC. “I have been striving to create a wildlife-friendly backyard and as a result I have seen a good number of bird species, amphibians, pollinators and more. I believe strongly in conserving North and South Carolina’s natural heritage including individual efforts with creating backyard habitats.”

Holly Dunn’s Blue Jay photograph was taken at her home in Mills River on a rainy day in the spring. “The sun was just starting to shine through the clouds, which allowed the blue hues and other details of this beautiful bird to show up vividly against the evergreen tree,” she says.

Dunn explains that the contest, and nature photography in general, are about more than just capturing beautiful photos. “Nature photography serves as a powerful tool for education, conservation and inspiration,” she says. “Nature and wildlife photographers inspire others to explore and appreciate the natural world. Their images have the potential to spark curiosity, encourage outdoor activities and motivate individuals to become advocates for nature conservation.”

The Habitat at Home photo contest will be held again next spring, starting in April. For more information, visit

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