I'm happy to report that I won a highly-honored award in the Nature's Best 2009 Windland Smith Rice Competition. This was the first contest I've entered so I was really happy to get something. Since I got lucky on the first try, maybe I should retire and go out on top :-) It really is a nice honor to be among the other winners. There were some great images that were selected as winners and many more great images that weren't selected. I think there were 140 winning images out of a total pool of over 20,000 images entered. In my opinion the Nature's Best competition is among the top nature photography contests in the world, along with the Shell/BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year (many of us non-Europeans are not eligible but I always like the winning images), and the Asferico competition. My image was entered in the endangered species category and shows the highly endangered yellow-eyed leaf frog, aka blue-sided tree frog or coffee frog (Agalychnis annae). It was a tough image to take because there was a breeze that kept blowing the frog around. I wanted plenty of depth-of-field for the frog but still wanted to render the background foliage out of focus. Plus stopping down my aperture would reduce my shutter speed, causing problems with sharpness because of the breeze. In the end, I settled on a compromise f-stop of 9, which gave me enough depth-of-field for the frog but kept the background from becoming distracting. This gave me a pretty low shutter speed so I bumped my ISO to 400, which gave me 1/30 of a second, just enough to get a sharp image. I used my Canon 20D with the Canon 100 mm f2.8 macro lens on a Manfrotto tripod with an Acratech ballhead. I employed a cable release and mirror lockup to maximize image sharpness. The trick was waiting until the frog stretched out for the pose and composition I wanted while timing that with a break in the breeze. The image I entered (and which appears below) had no cropping or other post-processing except for raising the vibrance a few points in Lightroom and then of course sharpening for the final output size.; so it's basically straight from the RAW file.
This is the same image that National Geographic chose for the Canon Endangered Wildlife ad that ran in the March 2008 issue so it seems to be a popular image. (I should add, however, that I thought it was among the weakest of my Nature's Best contest entries. I thought I had much stronger images that didn't end up placing, which just goes to show that you never know what the judges are looking for. I'm not complaining about the honor though!)