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The Nature Conservancy Announces Kansas Winners of 2023 Photo Contest

Winning photos featured iconic wildlife, prescribed fire in the Flint Hills and the Kansas River, one of only three public access rivers in the state.

Two birds facing each other with wings raised while jumping from snow covered ground.
Dancing Prairie Chickens Dancing Prairie Chickens // Two male greater prairie chickens dancing in Smith County Kansas in late March after a dusting of snow. © Dale Stephens/TNC Photo Contest 2023

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The Nature Conservancy (TNC) today announced the winners of its 2023 local photo contest. This year, Kansas was one of just three states to offer a statewide photo contest alongside TNC’s global photo contest. The winners of the global contest were announced on November 1, 2023.

“We received more than a thousand images from Kansas, featuring stunning prairie vistas, closeups of wildlife and plants, graceful rivers and lakes and people both working in and enjoying nature,” said Ben Postlethwait, state director of TNC in Kansas. “I’m grateful to the 500 photographers who shared what they value most about nature in the Sunflower State. These images will help us tell the stories of safeguarding the natural resources that are integral parts of Kansas’s heritage, economy and culture.”

This year’s local winners are:

  • First Place Dales Stephens, “Dancing Prairie Chickens”
  • Second Place Bruce Hogle, “Planned Burn at Chase State Fishing Lake”
  • Third Place Lisa Grossman, “Fall Camping on the Kaw”
Two birds with wings in the air jumping up from snow covered ground.
Dancing Prairie Chickens Dancing Prairie Chickens // Two male greater prairie chickens dancing in Smith County Kansas in late March after a dusting of snow. © Dale Stephens/TNC Photo Contest 2023

The judges agreed that when it comes to prairie-chicken photos, Stephens’ shot was special. It has compelling action, elegance, grace and great lighting, but it’s the vibrant blue sky that really sets it apart. Honorable mentions were given to James Claassen, Phil Frigon, Matthew Gerlach and Jim Griggs. The winning images and all the judge’s picks can be viewed on TNC’s Kansas website.

In their own words, the photographers caption the winning images:

“Two male greater prairie chickens dancing in Smith County Kansas in late March after a dusting of snow,” wrote Dale Stephens, winner of First Place.

“This is the late evening in April at the Lake with the planned pasture burn creeping along the ridge of the hill at the end of the lake,” relays Bruce Hogle, winner of Second Place. “The evening was cool and got downright chilly by 1:30 a.m. when we finally quit photographing. Driving back from a ranch outside Elmdale, I spotted the red glow, which looked like there might be a chance it would be reflecting in the lake, and it was!”

Flames from a prescribed fire are reflected in a lake.
Planned burn at Chase State Fishing Lake This is the late evening on 17April2014 at the Lake with the planned pasture burn creeping along the ridge of the hill at the end of the lake. The evening was cool and got downright chilly by 1:30 AM when we finally quit photographing. Driving back from a ranch outside Elmdale, I spotted the red glow which looked like there might be a chance it would be reflecting in the lake, and it was! © Bruce Hogle/TNC Photo Contest 2023

“This is a drone shot of a Friends of the Kaw kayak camp trip on a huge sandbar we call the Oasis downstream from DeSoto, Kansas. The September morning fog over the river was incredible,” said Lisa Grossman, winner of Third Place.

Aerial view of tents on a sandy river shore.
Fall camping on the Kaw Fall camping on the Kaw // This is a drone shot of a Friends of the Kaw kayak/camp trip on a huge sandbar we call the Oasis, downstream from DeSoto, Kansas. The September morning fog over the river was incredible. © Lisa Grossman/TNC Photo Contest 2023

Kansas submissions were assessed by a panel of judges including National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson, outdoor writer and hunter Douglas Spale and TNC trustee and professional photographer Meleda Lowry. They awarded three prizes: first place was a private lesser prairie-chicken viewing at TNC’s Smoky Valley Ranch; second place was one-time night access to Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park for night-sky viewing or photography; and third place was a private tour of any TNC preserve in the state.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.