After eight months of competition, a Homer Glen man's photo of a snowcapped cardinal at Isle a la Cache preserve swooped in at the last moment to win the 2017 Preserve the Moment photo contest.
John D'Agostino's frosty photo was the last finalist chosen by Forest Preserve judges from 725 entries submitted from May 1 through December 31. His picture won the month of December. The contest's overall winners were chosen from among eight finalists by members of the public, who voted on the Forest Preserve's Facebook page from January 4-10.
The cardinal picture garnered more than 250 votes. D'Agostino said he found the northern cardinal foraging for food at the Romeoville preserve on Christmas Eve while he was searching for birds to photograph along the Des Plaines River, which flows through Isle a la Cache. After being informed of his win, D'Agostino said he was happy to see so many other photographers submitting their work, which will encourage others to explore the preserves.
"Photography can be a lot of work, but seeing others appreciate the time and effort I have put into it is very gratifying," he said in an email. "I spend a lot of time in the preserves, running trails or walking my dog, and photography is just another way I can enjoy them."
Coming in second was August's finalist, Kathy Bobal of Braidwood, for her photo of a monarch caterpillar munching on a milkweed leaf at Rock Run Rookery Preserve. After winning in August, Bobal said she visits the forest preserves at least five times a week and carries her camera wherever she goes. She said the monarch caterpillar was the first one she had ever seen in the wild.
In third place was July's finalist, Michael Fagan of Frankfort, for his photo of a stunning sunset at McKinley Woods.
"Photography is a good spur for my favorite thing, which is to be outside," Fagan said. "The photo contest is a very good reason to explore the many sites maintained by (the Forest Preserve District). Exploring old spots more expansively and new areas is enjoyable."
The 2017 contest drew entries from preserves in every corner of the county and featured all kinds of subject matter, from funky fungus plants to chubby cheeked chipmunks. All of the submissions can be viewed on the Forest Preserve's Flickr page.
The three top vote-getters won prizes: a messenger-style bag for first place, a digital photo frame for second and a Michaels gift card for third.
Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to our digital newsletter, The Citizen. Signing up is easy, free of charge and provides subscribers with weekly updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family.