RALEIGH — The magazine editorial staff at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission revealed the grand prize winner of the 2021-22 Wildlife in North Carolina Photo Competition last week. The winning image is of two male hooded mergansers vying for the attention of a nearby female. The photograph was taken at Lake Betz in Morrisville by Jian Zheng of Cary.
Zheng is a software engineer who began dabbling in photography by taking pictures of birds in his backyard while working from home. When he became unsatisfied with the confines of his backyard, he ventured to other natural places.
“I explored more birds and wild animals and recorded what I saw with my camera. I often visit nearby parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and use my vacations to explore farther, unknown places,” Zheng said.
Zheng enjoys photographing birds most because they are beautiful, and you can find them anywhere.
Over 1,800 entries were submitted to the Photo Competition. Singling out winners was a challenge; many talented photographers subscribe to the magazine.
“Each year, I have the honor of being part of a panel of judges who get to review hundreds of beautiful images from all over North Carolina,” said Marsha Tillett, art director of Wildlife in North Carolina. “This year’s grand prize winner stood out from the rest with exceptional color and composition. But this winning photograph also had something more to it that really connected with the judges. I think we all agreed that seeing animal behavior captured so eloquently really set this image apart.”
In addition to Tillett, the judging panel consisted of Bryant Cole, graphic designer with the Wildlife Commission, Melissa McGaw, photographer with the Wildlife Commission, Thomas Harvey, a former Wildlife Commission employee and photographer, and Mike Dunn, a photographer and naturalist.
As grand prize winner, Zheng’s photo is featured on the cover of the July/August 2022 WINC issue and he will receive $200. All winning photographs will be displayed on the Wildlife Commission’s website.