An eastern phoebe, wings outstretched, snatches an insect from the surface of the water. A trail of water follows it.
Surface Snag An Eastern Phoebe snags an insect from the surface of the Torch River in northern Michigan. The birds perch just above the surface, dive and return hopefully with their prey. © Steve Jessmore/TNC Photo Contest 2023

2023 Photo Contest Winners in Michigan

See the beauty of the Great Lakes State through local photography.

Thank you to all of the Michiganders who submitted their photos of nature in the 2023 Photo Contest. We are pleased to announce the following winners in Michigan. 

Grand Prize Winner

Chong Q Wu, “A Foggy Cloud Lake”



Clouds over rolling hills in autumn. Trees covered in bright orange and yellow leaves. The sun is setting and lighting up the sky in reds and yellows.
A Foggy Cloud Lake Cloud Lake of Porcupine Mountain State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has its unique appeals—especially in the fall. The morning clouds over the lake give proof to the namesake of the lake. © Chong Q Wu/TNC Photo Contest 2023

Quote: Jason Whalen

The clouds and the trees poking through the fog make it a really amazing photo. You have to be at the right place at the right time with the right sky. They also did a good job nailing the composition and focus. I could look at this all day.


Flora & Fauna

Leslie Marr, “The Hitchhiker”

An ant rests on the end of a colorful, green hummingbird.
The Hitchhiker This photo shows a male ruby-throated hummingbird taken after it had fed at the feeder outside my front window at my home in Decatur, MI. As it fed, it picked up an ant and carried it away. © Leslie Marr/TNC Photo Contest 2023


Karen Farrell, “Middle Hungarian Falls”


A waterfall in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in autumn. The surrounding trees are covered in colorful leaves.
Middle Hungarian Falls The Middle Hungarian Falls in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula during the autumn. © Karen Farrell/TNC Photo Contest 2023

People & Nature

Steven Jessmore, “No Wake”


Aerial image of a pair of kayaks trailed by a pair of Jet Skis as they make their way north on the Torch River in northern Michigan
No Wake A pair of kayaks is trailed by a pair of Jet Skis as they make their way north on the Torch River in northern Michigan. Torch River is a no wake river, attempting to reduce the impact to the shoreline and environmental areas from boats and other watercraft. © Steven Jessmore/TNC Photo Contest 2023


Brooks Angell, “A Winter’s Hunt on a Frozen Shore”

Aerial image of a shoreline. The trees are green, the beach tan and the water sparking blue. An eagle soars over the water.
A Winter’s Hunt on a Frozen Shore Using a drone at 300ft looking straight down, in the first week of January 2023, an eagle on the hunt for lunch was seen gliding over the shores of a Saugatuck beach. Contrasting the green conifers, tan beach, and sparkling blues and whites of the frozen waters of Lake Michigan, the off-centered national bird is of primary focus. © Brooks Angell/TNC Photo Contest 2023

Honorable Mentions

These images also caught the eye of the judges and were selected for honorable mention.

A loon holding a crayfish as their loonlet looks at them.
Two red fox kits in the grass. One sits while the other stands and wraps its legs around the other in a playful manner.
A mist overstill water. In the center of the water is a small island covered in green trees. The shore is covered in dense, green forest. The mist has a purple hue.
Ducks on the shore of a beach. Their images are reflected in the wet sand. A sailboat moves alongside a pier and lighthouse.
An eastern phoebe, wings outstretched, snatches an insect from the surface of the water. A trail of water follows it.

Categories for Michigan Prizes

  • Flora & Fauna

    A celebration of Michigan's wildlife: mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, aquatic animals, plants and fungi. Excludes domestic and captive species.

  • Landscape

    Showcases a sense of place and shows the beauty of Michigan’s natural areas. May include people or wildlife but primary focus should be on the landscape.

  • Water

    A celebration of the Great Lakes State and the water that surrounds us. May include people or wildlife but must predominantly feature water.

  • People & Nature

    A person or people in an outdoor setting or the impact of people in nature, such as a city park, building or other human-made construction.


Mist covers a forest and homes. A red lighthouse is in the distance, partially covered in mist.
Mist over Mackinac The Round Island Light located in the Round Island Channel, Straits of Mackinac, Michigan. © Rick Russell/TNC Photo Contest 2022

Michigan Prizes

Our panel of Michigan judges will select one (1) grand prize winner and four (4) category winners, one for each category. The grand prize winner will receive a $300 gift card and category winners will each receive a $150 gift card for Carhartt, Merrell, REI or Moosejaw (winner’s choice).

Winning photos will be featured in a press release, highlighted on, and shared on TNC Michigan's social media. They'll also be published in TNC Michigan's annual Conservation Report—which is distributed to more than 15,000 people.

Submissions will also be eligible for global prizes.


Images are judged based on their composition, technical quality, creativity and story.

Looking for a beautiful place to photograph?

From scenic coastlines to sunlit prairies, TNC’s preserves and reserves across Michigan are a haven for nature. They’re also a wonderful location for people to take photos and enjoy the outdoors.

Rocks of various sizes along the shore of a lake. A forest grows on the land surrounding the lake at the Gerstacker Nature Preserve in Michigan.
Carl A. Gerstacker Nature Preserve at Dudley
Nature Preserve
This preserve offers a tapestry of intertwined habitats along 4 miles of northern Lake Huron shoreline, including an inland lake, interdunal wetlands, conifer swamps and more.
Echo Lake surrounded by tall green trees under a blue, cloud-filled sky.
Echo Lake Nature Preserve
Nature Preserve
The biologically rich and varied habitats of the 480-acre preserve include intact, diverse and old forests, dramatic granite bald mountains or bedrock outcroppings, and Echo Lake.
View of the surrounding forest and Lake Superior from the top of Mt. Baldy in Michigan.
Helmut and Candis Stern Preserve
Nature Preserve
Helmut and Candis Stern Preserve at Mt. Baldy is home to the largest and least disturbed of only a handful of balds remaining in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula.
Water between two large rock formations, covered in lichen and other plants, along the shore of Lake Superior in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan.
Mary Macdonald Preserve at Horseshoe Harbor
Nature Preserve
TNC's Mary Macdonald Preserve encompasses 1,200 acres, including five miles of Lake Superior shoreline, in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula.
A group of people walk along a boardwalk in autumn at the Nan Weston Nature Preserve in Michigan.
Nan Weston Nature Preserve at Sharon Hollow
Nature Preserve
Nan Weston Nature Preserve lies in the Upper River Raisin Watershed in southeast Michigan. Visit the preserve to view stunning spring wildflowers and beautiful autumn foliage.
An orange and black fritillary butterfly on yellow wildflowers at Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve.
Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve
Nature Preserve
As you explore more than five miles of trails at Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve, watch for reptiles and amphibians around the coastal plain marshes and small ponds.
Grasses growing out of the water onthe shore of a lake at McMahon Lake Preserve in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
McMahon Lake Preserve
Nature Preserve
The 4,084-acre McMahon Lake Preserve, located in Luce County, lies within the watershed of the Two-Hearted River, a state-designated Natural River.
Aerial view of a forest of yellow-tipped trees among green trees in the Two-Hearted River Forest Reserve.
Two Hearted River Forest Reserve
The reserve is managed for sustainable forestry and enrolled in Michigan's Commercial Forest Act. Lands are open for public access by foot for hiking, hunting and fishing.
The sun sets behind the trees and reflects in a calm body of water at Maxton Plains Preserve in Drummond Island, Michigan.
Maxton Plains Preserve
Nature Preserve
The 1,210-acre Maxton Plains Preserve, located on Drummond Island in Chippewa County, is arguably one of the world’s finest examples of alvar grassland.
Trees along a shoreline are reflected in the water's edge at Bete Grise Preserve in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. .
Bete Grise Wetlands Preserve
Nature Preserve
The 62-acre preserve consists of just over 4,000 feet of shoreline along Lake Superior leading to dune and swale wetlands, and 1,000 feet of frontage on the Mendota Ship Canal.
A forest of trees at Slate River Forest Reserve in autumn. The color of their leaves are just beginning to change.
Slate River Forest Reserve
Comprising 10,550 acres of forestland in Baraga County, Slate River Forest provides a compelling story of what a thriving future could look like for Upper Peninsula forests.
A water-level view across a pond covered in lily pads, with a few trees on the shore and sun shining out from behind clouds at Erie Marsh Preserve in Michigan.
Erie Marsh Preserve
Nature Preserve
Erie Marsh represents 11% of the remaining marshland in southeastern Michigan and is one of the largest marshes on Lake Erie.
Wildflowers, grasses and plants in bloom at Ives Road Fen Preserve in Michigan.
Ives Road Fen Preserve
Nature Preserve
After 20 years of intensive restoration efforts, Ives Road Fen is once again home to a healthy prairie fen and floodplain forest, with a diversity of plant and wildlife species.
The moon shines over Paw Paw Prairie Fen Preserve. The sun is just starting to rise over the horizon.
Paw Paw Prairie Fen Preserve
Nature Preserve
Paw Paw Prairie Fen Preserve is rich in biodiversity, providing habitat for both wetland and prairie plants.
A river runs through Grand River Fen Preserve. The area is full of wildflowers and other plant life.
Grand River Fen Preserve
Nature Preserve
The Grand Riven Fen is a critical habitat for special insects and a globally-rare plant, the bog bluegrass.
A colorful sunset over the shore of Lake Huron at Grass Bay Preserve in Michigan.
Grass Bay Preserve
Nature Preserve
A paradise for a multitude of wildflowers and neotropical migrating birds, Grass Bay Preserve extends along two miles of stunning Lake Huron shoreline.
Waves crash onto the sandy shore of Zetterberg Preserve at Point Betsie.
Zetterberg Preserve at Point Betsie
Nature Preserve
Point Betsie is a dynamic mosaic of shifting sand dunes, interdunal wetlands, boreal forest and sandy Lake Michigan beaches.
Trees along a sandy shoreline at the John Arthur Woollam Preserve in Michigan, with a body of water in the foreground.
John Arthur Woollam Preserve
Nature Preserve
The 185-acre preserve consists of 4,300 feet of stunning rocky shoreline with huge boulders and coastal wetlands, and a coniferous forest grading into northern hardwoods.
Hikers climb up a grassy incline as the sun sets over Lake Michigan.
Portage Point Woods Preserve
Nature Preserve
The preserve typifies back-dune forests created by dune succession, highlighting the process of forest formation inland, away from coastal dunes.
A river runs through a brightly colored forest of trees on a spring day at Wilderness Lakes Reserve.
Wilderness Lakes Reserve
The 11,030-acre reserve lies adjacent to the neighboring Craig Lake State Park, creating a protected area of over 19,000 acres in one of Michigan’s most iconic landscapes.

Nature Preserves and Reserves in Michigan The accessibility of the nature preserves and reserves listed above varies per location. Explore the individual pages to plan your visit.