CHARLESTOWN, R.I. — The Friends of the National Wildlife Refuges of Rhode Island last week announced the winners of their 20th annual amateur photo competition and three area photographers took home prizes in three of the four categories, as well as the People’s Choice Award.
Sarah Lawhorne of North Kingstown took home the top prize in the Wildlife Habitat/Landscape category for her photo “Crumbling” as well as the People’s Choice Award for another photo, “Drudenwald,” while Wakefield residents Marjorie Vorhaben and Thomas Richardson also won accolades, with Vorhaben finishing first in the Wildlife category for “Mid Metamorphosis” while Richardson finished second in the Children under Age 14 category for his photo “Frog.”
All of the pictures in the contest were taken in the state’s five National Wildlife Refuges: Ninigret NWR in Charlestown, Trustom Pond NWR in South Kingstown, John H. Chafee NWR at Pettaquamscutt Cove in South Kingstown and Narragansett, Sachuest Point NWR in Middletown and Block Island NWR. Lawhorne’s photos were both shot at Chafee, while Vorhaben and Richardson’s were taken at Trustom Pond.
For organizer Richard Lieke, the annual contest, which is announced in May, almost didn’t happen this year in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There was a question of whether we should even do this this year because of everything going on and I decided that we would do it because one it got people outside, two it’s something you can do individually or as a family and we had good participation,” Lieke said. “We had more entries this year than we had last year (with) 23 different participants.”
At its core, Lieke says the point of the contest is to encourage people to get out and explore the state’s NWRs, something he says there’s been an uptick in over the course of the year.
“While the visitors centers have been closed, the trails have been open so we know that there have been a lot more walkers than normal because it was a place for people to go,” Lieke said.
Even the contest had greater participation than normal this year.
“This year, it was almost an even split between regulars and people who have never done it before,” Lieke said. “We had 11 people this year who hadn’t done it before.”
While the group would normally hold a reception in September and display the winners at the visitors centers at Kettle Pond and Sachuest Point, restrictions on crowd size and visitor center closures have limited the usual celebration and exposure the photos get, and Lieke is hoping to post all of the winners in a gallery to the group’s Facebook page in order for the public to be able to view them.
On the local winners, Lieke said he was impressed with their visions and framing, making for interesting images, such as Lawhorne’s “Drudenwald.”
“‘Drudenwald’ is essentially a picture of a trail through a forest,” Lieke said. “(It’s) tall, slender, you mainly see the trunks of trees and I thought it was quite an interesting picture.”
On “Crumbling,” he appreciated Lawhorne’s capture of an old crumbling stone wall, as nature gradually reclaims relics of old.
In Vorhaben’s “Mid Metamorphosis,” Lieke appreciated the capture of life during its stages of change.
“‘Mid Metamorphosis’ is essentially a lilypad on which tadpoles, some of them midway through the process of becoming frogs, which is why it’s called ‘Mid Metamorphosis’ and that’s also an interesting picture,” Lieke said.
For “Frog,” while it finished second in its category, Lieke was impressed by its natural color balance and unique look.
“It was just a picture of a frog sitting on a lily, half in and half out of the water,” Lieke said. “It has a bluish tone to it, so it must’ve been the reflection off of a bright blue sky, but it is a bit of an unusual looking photograph.”
Winners received cash prizes, which came from the $10 entry fee for each photo with photographers able to submit up to four images each. The Best In Show Prize went to “Dawn at the Point” by Andrew Volding of Middletown, which was shot at Sachuest Point.
For more information on Friends of the National Wildlife Refuges of Rhode Island, visit their website, friendsnwrofri.org, or check out their Facebook page, Friends of the NWR of Rhode Island.