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'Best of Nature' at the San Diego Natural History Museum

More than 500 amateurs and professionals enter the museum's nature photography contest.

July 05, 2009|Liesl Bradner

Nature can be a temperamental subject to capture in still photography. But every now and then, amid changing weather and lighting conditions, it seems to pause and pose for a shot of simple yet breathtaking beauty -- whether it's an elk silhouetted in the morning mist or pencil-thin lightning strikes set against a sky fading from midnight blue to vibrant orange hues.

The Ordover Gallery at the San Diego Natural History Museum is celebrating nature photography with a showcase of 72 images as part of its first "Best of Nature" photography show and juried competition.

The exhibition, which opened last weekend, represents the culmination of a contest that drew 2,200 entries from more than 530 amateur and professional photographers from across the country. Most submissions hailed from the Western states. The traditional and digital photos on view are a mix of wildlife and landscape scenes, as well as more abstract, Impressionistic images.

One entrant, San Diego-based photographer Lew Abulafia, grew up in the concrete jungle of Brooklyn.

"The only tree I ever saw was in the botanical gardens," the former oral surgeon said of his youth.

Though Abulafia has been shooting landscapes for 30 years now, he says his photograph of the sun rising over the north rim of the Grand Canyon, titled "Morning's Majesty" and now on display in San Diego, was one of the most glorious moments of his career.

"It was the last week the park was open in October 2007, and I couldn't sleep," Abulafia said. "It was a windy, cool morning, and the weather didn't look promising, so I started to pack things up. Suddenly the light burst through the clouds, allowing a spectacular luminosity on the rocks below. Light like that is God's way of bestowing his majesty upon you."

Another photo, of a brilliant red cardinal flitting against a snowy backdrop, was the result of Indiana photographer Wendy Kaveney's boredom on a Super Bowl Sunday. She was headed to take pictures at a local park in minus-20-degree weather when a cardinal caught her eye.

"It's always thrilling to be at the right place at the right time," said Kaveney, a former nurse. "There is something very magical and peaceful in that moment away from urban life."

The top winners of the competition will be announced during a Saturday reception from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The exhibition runs through Sept. 13. For more information, go to


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