Taking photographs is an opportunity to capture life’s most magical moments, and Wildlife in Focus, a non-profit organization, supports its mission to preserve and protect the native wildlife and their habitats in South Texas with a bi-annual photography contest.
What began as a regular photo contest 21 years ago has evolved into an event that not only uses photography to educate the community about wildlife and their habitats, but also allows the organization to work with private landowners to provide the canvas for these incredible images taken by photographers from all over the United States and other parts of the world.
The bi-annual event features a highly anticipated photo contest on odd years, and the creation of a glossy, full-color, action-filled photo book on even years. Marissa Ford, Executive Director of Wildlife in Focus, describes the photography process as “unique and not for the average person” due to the intense conditions required to capture the essence of wildlife — such as “crawling in the mud, laying in ant nests and dealing with chiggers as they crawl all over the place to get the perfect shot.”
The books, which can be ordered online, provide information about the location, landowner and species for each image, and offer aspiring photographers an inside look at camera angles with proof of the magic they create. However, they also serve a greater purpose beyond the eye-catching photo spreads: The spectacle on each page allows people to reconnect with the land and wildlife of the region, and to bring knowledge of South Texas wildlife and habitats into the classroom.
Five years after Wildlife in Focus was born, it was joined by Kritters 4 Kids, an educational program now in over 300 schools in the Coastal Bend area. The curriculum, which is aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, teaches the natural sciences and explains the significant ecological systems that are unique to Texas. The hope is that by showing students what is happening in their backyard, they will gain a greater appreciation of what is at stake from a conservation standpoint.
Each photo contest also forms the basis for a traveling exhibit — featured in local museums such as the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History and the Coastal Bend Community College in Beeville — whose unique photography garners lots of attention and sends books flying off the shelves wherever it lands.
The Coastal Bend has a lot to offer when it comes to the ecosystem, and joining the mission to bring awareness to our native wildlife is crucial work. Even those of us who aren’t expert photographers can get involved in this important event by signing up to be volunteer educators, helping with fundraisers or simply donating to the organization.