PHOTO CONTEST competitors are reminded to pick and chose their best images for submission in the Marshall County Conservation Board competition. All of the county parks areas, native or reconstructed prairie grasslands, wetland sites, forested areas, Iowa River, or trails are year round opportunities for a person and their camera. Learning to look for interesting things to photograph is part of the joy and challenge of photography. Every year's contest has proven that there are always new things to see, or new ways to see the same things that make an impact statement to the viewer of the photo.
Four categories exist for photo entries: Scenic, People and Natural Resources, Native Wildlife and a new category this year is Native Plants. Bring your mounted images to the Conservation Center by February 1. Specific contest entry rules are available at www.marshall.ia.us. Click on departments, then on Conservation Board, and lastly on Annual Photo Contest.
Here are some general tips to make images work for you. Make sure the image is sharp, meaning the subject is focused correctly. After that, make sure the composition is such that the subject is what is front and center, all distraction background elements are eliminated. And of course the image must be properly exposed. In today's world of PHD cameras ... where PHD means 'push here dummy"'.... the electronic and digital systems of the camera automatically adjust for available light. All you have to do is push the button to capture the image. That process may work a lot off the time, but not all the time. When one graduates up to cameras with adjustable f stops, adjustable shutter speeds, and adjustable lighting and sensor resolution speeds, plus various lenses for wide angle, macro, zoom or telephoto, now one has the tools to avail themselves of many more possibilities to capture images that please the eye.
A giant Swallowtail butterfly became the subject of this scribe’s attention last summer at the Reiman Gardens in Ames. Wildlife sculptures made of many thousands of LEGO blocks graced the botanical garden walkways. Today’s photo will not be an entry in the annual Photo Contest sponsored by the Marshall County Conservation Board. However, all Marshall County residents are invited to pick their best images from 2012 that illustrate Scenic, People and Natural Resources, native Plants or Native Wildlife and submit them on or before February 1, 2013. A Chili Supper and Photo Awards presentation will be held Feb. 7 at the Conservation Center.
When this scribe receives reader submitted photos for potential use with my Outdoors Today stories, I have to make a decision quickly if the image tells the story well enough and is of high quality. First, it must be sharp. Fuzzy pictures, blurred, off-center equals a quick rejection. Next comes exposure. The picture must have good light. For digital cameras, immediately review the images taken and delete any and all that do past muster. Good digital cameras also allow one to make manual adjustments to the lens system and add fill flash to brighten the subject for good skin tones and shadow elimination. Lastly comes the topic of composition. Take the time to set up the subject so as to eliminate cluttered backgrounds. Be careful to keep background horizons level. If a trophy animal taken by a hunter is the subject, make sure the setting is a natural one where the animal is posed, and cleaned up. Pictures of deer, for instance, hanging from a machine shed rafter or in the back of a truck box are not usable. Photos of the same deer made in the field next to natural vegetation stands a much better chance of being looked at a second time. People in the photo need to smile or look happy. Pull ball caps back just enough so the eyes are not hidden in shadow. And remove sunglasses.
So there you have it, a few tips that help get a photo published. As for the MCCB photo contest, since nature offers a multitude of subject matter all season long, take your camera with you during every outdoor excursion in winter, spring, summer or fall. That way you will never have to say ..."I wished I had my camera yesterday" when a neat potential image was seen but not recorded. Have fun outdoors. And this scribe for one will look forward to seeing the photo entries next February when the winning images are displayed.
Here is a little fact for you to contemplate. Wildlife cannot be stockpiled. What do I mean by that? For example, one could collect inanimate objects of any or all descriptions, put them on display or just fill boxes. When it comes to wildlife, living critters of every size, feathered or furred, their populations gain in the spring and summer, then tend to dwindle somewhat in the fall. During a long cold winter, even more of them will die. But always there remains a breeding population to tackle another year. Over populations that can sustain a regulated removal of some of their members in part of the art and science of wildlife management.
Harsh weather events, blizzards, prolonged cold, floods are part of the survival mix also. A bad winter takes wildlife populations down in what humans would maybe call a cruel way. But Mother Nature doesn't see it that way. Weather is what it is. Diseases and parasites that affect wildlife are what they are. A lack of food takes out those that are behind the curve in age, skills, or ability to compete. Research shows that a healthy white-tailed deer herd, reasonably sized to make the most of available habitat, can be reduced each year by as much as 40 percent with no ill effects on its future population. Hunters in most states rarely take more than 15 to 20 percent from the herd. Yet, if left alone (no hunting), whitetail deer herds can double in size in only two years. During a third or fourth year, the population numbers would skyrocket even higher. A scenario like that is be avoided because of huge problems society would face from deer populations outside the carrying capacity of the land. Those huge numbers would also be far and away above the level of tolerance people on farms or cities would allow.
It is apparent that hunting of deer and other game birds and mammals is a useful part of today's wise game management practices. By teaming habitat improvement with carefully regulated hunting seasons and bag limits, professional conservationists make sure that hunters take only the surplus of game populations. For Iowa's recently completed first shotgun season for deer, and the beginning of the second season today, a large number of deer will be removed from the landscape. It is good that hunter sportsmen and women have risen to the challenge in the cooperative venture with DNR managers and biologists to keep deer herds more in balance with the land and societies tolerances.
Who are the major payers of the bills for wildlife conservation? Hunters and anglers. They provide the majority of funding through license fees and excised taxes. In 1934, Ding Darling created the artwork for the first Duck Stamp to raise funds to conserve vital wetlands. In 1937, sportsmen successfully lobbied congress to pass the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act which placed an excise tax on the sale of sporting arms and ammunition. So far, that Act has generated more than $2 billion for wildlife habitat conservation. In 1950, Congress passed the Dingell-Johnson Act, an angler tax equivalent for fisheries improvement programs and habitats. Together, the annual sales of hunting and fishing licenses and special tags provide the lion's share of funding for wildlife in North America.
Beginning Dec. 15, hunting and fishing licenses for 2013 may be purchased. License fees remain the same as in 2012. However, several new combo packages are now available for the first time in 2013. The first is called a Bonus Line related to fishing. The present law limits anglers to a maximum of two poles, or two lines in the water. Beginning Jan. 1, if an angler wishes to have three lines, they can purchase the "bonus line" option for $12. The second new category is called Outdoor Combo License ... includes hunting, fishing and the habitat fee in one packet for $47. Another option is called the Angler's Special ... a three year fishing license for $53. Lastly is the Hunter's Special ... a three year hunting license with habitat fees for $86. This type of license purchased for 2013 would expire on Jan. 10, 2016. All of these license options were developed based on results of license buyer surveys that helped the DNR identify customer needs. Hopefully one of these will work for you or someone you know.
Rick Trine, DNR Wildlife Biologist Supervisor for central Iowa, will be retiring on Dec. 28. After 37 years of service, he has decided to hang it up. He plans to hang up the state waders, not his personal hunting waders, in order to spend more time enjoying the recreational opportunities he worked so hard to create during his working career. On Dec. 27, at State Center's Community Room in City Hall, Rick and his wife who is also retiring, will host an open house from 2 to 6 p.m. Together they have nearly 75 years of service. Time flies when you are having fun. I now expect that time will go even faster without the minutia of daily office chores to attend to. Thank you Rick for your long-term dedication to conservation and wildlife habitat improvement work. May large flocks of mallards always be descending into your decoy spread. And may your shotgun never miss.
Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.