The grand prize winner has been announced in the California Wildlife Photograph of the Year competition. Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Director Chuck Bonham chose Kelseyville photographer Lyle Madeson’s dynamic image of two raptors fighting for a hitch as the best photograph submitted in the yearlong contest. Madeson’s photo, along with 11 other monthly winners, will be displayed for the next week outside the Governor’s Office at the Capitol.

“What I especially like about this photograph is how it represents action, which is a real attribute of wildlife,” Bonham said as he announced the winner at a press conference on the Capitol steps. “The shot reflects the nature of wildlife, in that with all of the tribulations facing wildlife in our great state, our fish and animal resources are often caught in the middle of a rock and a hard place—or in this case, a raptor’s talon or another raptor’s talon.”

Co-sponsored by California Watchable Wildlife and DFG’s Outdoor California magazine, the Wildlife Photograph of the Year contest attracted more than 200 photographers who submitted nearly 800 images. The top three monthly winning entries appeared on the pages of the magazine and on the California Watchable Wildlife website (www.cawatchablewildlife.org). The first-place winners were then submitted to the Director, who chose the grand prize winner.

Madeson recalled how he captured the ultimate struggle between bird and fish and bird last spring during a nature photography trip to Clear Lake State Park. He watched the osprey pluck a Central Valley native hitch from the mouth of Kelsey Creek and fly off to a nearby post. Apparently threatened by other raptors in the area, the osprey launched off with its catch firmly in its talons.

“It was coming straight at me and I had it in my viewfinder when it all happened,” Madeson said. “I was shooting at 10-frames-per-second and I wasn’t sure what happened until I looked at the display screen on the back of my camera when I saw the red-tailed hawk. I hadn’t even seen it come in.”

For taking top honors, Madeson received a cash prize, a pair of Nikon binoculars and a California State Parks membership. California Watchable Wildlife, known by the iconic binoculars on brown background, sponsored all of the prizes.

For the monthly contest, a panel of judges critiqued each photograph based on creativity, technical excellence, overall impact and artistic merit. Judges included professional photographer David Rosen, original Watchable Wildlife steering committee member Bob Garrison and Outdoor California editor Troy Swauger. Grand prize selection was based on the same criteria.

photo: Lyle Madeson

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