Having to pick the top 5 from 600 must have been a challenge and a lot of fun at the same time.

The Montana Wilderness Association has announced the winners of the 12th annual Picture Wild Montana Photo Contest. The theme of this year’s contest was “The Joy of the Wild.” The association encouraged participants to submit photos highlighting the connection Montanans feel to our public lands, waters, and wildlife while also showcasing the joy of exploring Montana’s wilderness areas, state parks, national forests, wilderness study areas, and other public lands.  It sounds like that gave participants plenty of room to work with.

Since the contest began in 2009, thousands of amateur and professional photographers from across the state have participated in the Picture Wild Montana Photo Contest. This year, more than 160 photographers submitted 600 photos in total.

Prizes for this year’s first-place winner and runner-up include gear from Montana-based  sponsors Mystery Ranch and Obōz Footwear. The third-place winner will receive swag from the Montana Wilderness Association, including apparel, a “Keep It Wild” water bottle, stickers, and more.

The photos were were judged by Luke Duran, art director at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ “Montana Outdoors” magazine.

Check out the names of the top five winners and their photos.

First Place: “Quiet Contemplation at Holland Lake” by Kevin League of Helena

Second Place: “Winter Play Under Lolo Pass” by Seth Orme of Missoula

Third Place: “Tight Lines Under Dawn Mist Falls” by Bryan Dufresne of Hamilton

Honorable Mention: “Small Elk Herd Framed by Snowy Trees” by Carol Fowler of Seeley Lake

Honorable Mention: “Enjoying the Fall on Blodgett Canyon Trail” by Betsy Rogan of Stevensville

Mr. Duran's evaluation of the winning entry was that it best represented the theme of the contest and was "a technically masterful photo, with gorgeous composition, a compelling visual story, and lots of elements to gaze upon. The image answers the call of the theme with a sort of quiet, contemplative joy – almost like a meditation in a natural, serene space."

I have to admit I am partial to the third-place entry by Bryan Dufresne, but congrats to all the top finishers for work that definitely shows Montana joy.


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