Photography Contest: Finalists, Sea


We received approximately 40 photographs from 20 photographers. Most of the pictures were excellent. We divided the entries into 3 categories, Land, Sea, and Sky, though we had to fudge a little bit to populate all 3 categories.

Choosing finalists was difficult. We considered what we thought were the scientific and pictorial qualities of the photographs, and also attempted to represent as many photographers and present as much variety as possible. The text was written by the photographers and lightly edited for style.

Here are the finalists in the Sea category. Please look through them before voting for your favorite. You will have to be logged in to vote on the poll. We know it is possible to game these polls. Please be responsible and vote only once. If we think that the results are invalid, the contest will be canceled. The photos and poll are below the fold.

The winner in each category will receive a copy of The Way of the Panda, by Henry Nicholls; we thank the publisher, Pegasus Books, for their generosity in providing the books.

Note: Matt Young directed the selection of the finalists and wrote most of this text.

  • Ammonite fossils, by Amanda Brooks — Benbrook Lake, southwest Tarrant County, just outside Fort Worth, Texas. This area is known for the Barnett Shale formation which is formed by sedimentary rock from about 350 Ma.
  • Phalacrocorax brasilianus, Immature Neotropic Cormorant, by Pete Moulton — Phoenix, Arizona, late May, 2011. Over the last 15 years or so, this species has expanded explosively into Arizona, arguably our major ornithological story of the last five or six decades. The reasons for this expansion aren't well understood yet, but may be related to the effects of the northwestern Mexican drought on available habitats there, and the creation of new habitats in the Phoenix area. Inexplicably, they've largely bypassed Tucson so far.
  • Tursiops truncatus, Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, by David Muntz jr — off the coast of Wildwood, N. J., aboard sightseer tour boat.
  • Nerodia sipedon, northern water snake attempting to swallow Ameiurus sp., bullhead catfish, by Nicholas Plummer — Eno River, central North Carolina.
  • Roboastra gracilis, sea slug , by Joel Rein.
  • Dolomedes scriptus , fishing spider, by Michael Siccha — Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Which photo best captures both artistic and scientific beauty?

View results


Land was good. But all of these are spectacular. Well done to the photographers.

even though I don’t like spiders, I voted for the spider

All of these were great.

That sea slug shows fashionistas how it’s done with those stripes and complementary-colored gills.

The spider throws up a sense of the unexpected, but also rides atop the very image of serenity with that perfectly smooth water, set off nicely with the surface tension dimples that create tiny sparks of reflected light.

The water snake is eating a giant fish. GIANT! Talk about ambition.

The cormorant has striking aquamarine eyes betraying its otherwise cryptic coloration, like polished cabochons peering out from a piece of driftwood.

Who doesn’t love bottlenose dolphins? Is this one jumping to get a better look at the tour boat, to spot sea birds in order to track down schools of fish near the surface, to prove its mettle to others in the pod, or just because it’s fun? Who knows what these intelligent creatures think?

In the end, I chose the ammonite fossil. It’s presence in a dried-out scrubland setting is pregnant with meaning on the subject of time, the short existence of individuals, and the persistence of life in the face of radical change.


I really felt that the ammonite fossil had a nice juxtaposition with the aged and time-worn appearance that the fossil gives against the fresh blue sky with clouds. The passing of time is often demonstrated in film with clouds going across the sky, and surely your mind completes that senario once again in this photograph. It gives a sense of continuation.

Great job to all the photographers!! There were some amazing shots from all entries.

I really liked the ammonite picture for sheer compositional excellence. Also, I am a palaeontologist, so that tugged at me also.

I went with the bird probably for anthropomorphic reasons. They’re all nice though!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on August 29, 2011 12:00 PM.

Photography contest. Winner, Land category was the previous entry in this blog.

BILL #3: “Synapses and the Self” by V.S. Ramachandran: Updated for 2011 is the next entry in this blog.

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