Photography Contest XI: Finalists

Here are the finalists of the 2019 photography contest. We received 15 photographs from 5 photographers. All of the pictures were excellent, as you will no doubt see during the coming months. With assistance from our wife, we chose 1 photograph by each photographer and display them below the proverbial fold. We chose the photographs more on the basis of their pictorial quality than on their scientific interest. The text, if any, was written by the photographers and lightly edited for consistency.

The finalists are presented in alphabetical order of last name. Please look through their photographs before voting for your favorite. Polling will close Friday Monday, July 8, at approximately 9 a.m. MDT, and we will display the winner at noon that day.

Unidentified dragonfly molting, by Al Denelsbeck.

Dragonfly molting
Dragonfly molting. The photographer writes, "Caught a dragonfly immediately after molting into final instar, still perched on its recently-vacated exoskeleton – there's something disconcerting with seeing how much an arthropod enlarges beyond its former body. I'm leaning towards this being a blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis, because that's the most common around here, but without coloration I couldn't confirm. The lack of coloration – in fact the near-total lack of pigmentation to the new exoskeleton – was the bit that drew my attention the most, because the wing muscles are plainly visible within."

Hughes Mountain columns, by James Kocher.

Hughes Mountain columns
Hughes Mountain Natural Area, Irondale, Missouri.

Mr. Kocher writes: “This mountain is composed of columnar-jointed rhyolitic ash-flow tuff-ignimbrite. The single column in the foreground is broken, and shows a plane of deposition with several crushed/flattened pumice fragments. These fragments are the lighter-colored blotches in the darker ash matrix. Age = ~1.4 Ga; Neoproterozoic. U.S. quarter for scale.”

Mantid fly, by Mark Sturtevant.

Mantid fly
Dicromantispa sayi – mantidfly. The photographer writes, "Mantidflies belong to the insect order Neuroptera and are related to more familiar insects like lacewings and antlions. Adult mantidlfies clearly show convergent evolution with praying mantids, which are members of a completely different insect order. Both kinds of insects are visual predators that use their raptorial forelimbs to grab up insect prey. Mantid fly biology is otherwise very different from praying mantids. These insects have a larval stage, and during this stage they are parasitoids on other insects or spiders. ‘Parasitoid’ is the technically accurate term since they kill their hosts rather than merely encumber them. The larva of this species of mantidfly enters the egg sac of a spider (usually one belonging to a jumping spider) and eats the eggs, all while the female spider is guarding them!"

Unknown food spoilage mold, by Marilyn Susek.

Unknown food spoilage mold. The photographer notes that "it has found a home on some forgotten leftover elderberry syrup of mine." We (PT, that is) managed on short notice to find an expert, who writes, "Molds are notoriously difficult genus to identify on natural substrates" and adds that it is "possibly Aspergillus or Penicillium sp.," but there is no way to be sure without microscopy or DNA.

Great egret, by John Trawick.

Ardea alba – great egret. The photographer writes, "A common and beautiful wading bird. This photograph was taken with a Nikon D7100 at Lake Murray Reservoir in San Diego, California. The reservoir is also part of Mission Trails Regional Park. In the winter, these are common, and I happened on this one on a weekend morning when I often walk around the lake. Egrets are predators and hunt in shallow water."