Kevin Kuchler's love of sunrises gets him out in the preserves early and often.
One particular trip led to a stunning sunrise shot at Lake Renwick Preserve in Plainfield and the photo netted Kuchler the win in December's portion of the Preserve the Moment Photo Contest.
"That is very exciting! I have been entering the contest for the last few years now, not sure when I started but it feels like it's been a long time," he wrote in an email after being notified of his win. "It has come such a long way and it is awesome to see the submissions rise every year!"
From May through December, the Forest Preserve District received 1,092 photo entries from 467 individuals. Both totals are records for the Preserve the Moment contest.
Kuchler of Channahon said he has been snapping photos in the preserves since around 2010.
"I love taking sunset or sunrise photos, but mostly sunrise because you can catch some pretty awesome birds that early in the morning too," he said.
The day he took the winning shot, he and his wife ventured out early before the sun was up.
"We walked along the trail for a bit while I was looking for places to watch the sunrise and for a spot that I liked for a photo," he said. "Along the trail I found a little path that led down to the water's edge. The water was frozen in that area and made for a beautiful sunrise. I hoped that the morning would hold the clouds so it would be colorful. As the sun started to rise the clouds started to pick up the color in such a fantastic way. It was such a great sunrise."
Kuchler said he visits preserves in the Joliet, Channahon and Plainfield areas and is always on the lookout for something to photograph.
"Photography has been a passion of mine since high school when I purchased my first DSLR camera and I have been taking photos ever since."
He said he loves shooting landscapes and hiking in the preserves.
"Walking in a forest with the birds and the quietness is relaxing," he said. "I also love sharing my photos on social media for others to see how beautiful our state and our county is. I think sometimes people forget that we have some amazing scenery here, sometimes it just takes a little longer to find."
Honorable mentions were awarded to:
- Evi Kempf of Naperville for a photo of a path surrounded by golden vegetation at Lake Renwick
- Eileen Capodice of Minooka for a photo of an eagle soaring high in the sky while clutching a fish at Rock Run Rookery in Joliet.
- Mark Hanna of Romeoville for a bevy of bullfrogs in a pond at Lockport Prairie in Lockport Township.
- Tyler Paul of Wilmington for a squirrel peeking out of a tree trunk at McKinley Woods in Channahon.
All of December's entries can be viewed on the Forest Preserve's Flickr page.
Kuchler is the eighth and final monthly winner in the 2020 photo contest, which concluded on December 31. Online voting to determine the top three photos from the monthly winners will be open from 2 p.m. Wednesday, January 6, to 1:59 p.m. Monday, January 11, on the District’s Facebook page.
The top three photos will advance to a final round and voters will have from 11 a.m. Tuesday, January 12, to 10:59 a.m. Monday, January 18, to pick the winning photo.
Overall winners will receive MasterCard gift cards worth $500 for first place, $250 for second place and $150 for third place. Monthly photo contest winners received $75 gift cards. The photo contest is sponsored by The Nature Foundation of Will County.
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