Santa Clara resident Shravan Sundaram’s photograph of a young bobcat descending a tree in Livermore’s Sycamore Grove Park earned the 2017 grand prize in the California Wildlife Photo of the Year contest. The intense gaze of the cat as it stared into the camera’s lens elevated it in the yearlong contest presented by California Watchable Wildlife and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s magazine, Outdoor California and sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and Alpine Optics.
Sundaram’s photograph captured the young bobcat as it played with siblings along a ravine next to a hiking path. The photographer said once the animals noticed him on the trail, they grew cautious – except for the largest. He continued to scamper up the backside of a tree.
Sundaram remained poised, with his camera aimed at the spot where he anticipated the cat would emerge. “When he headed down along my side of the tree, I just took a whole series of shots,” Sundaram said.
CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham selected the grand prize winner from the contest finalists. “This photo of the young bobcat is cool,” Bonham said. “There is a certain look in its eye that I can’t quite identify—discovery, apprehension, excitement. Whatever it may be, this animal is focused on its future, just like the department.”
This week, the top eight images from the contest will hang as part of a display at the Capitol outside the Governor’s Office. The photographs include all of the year’s top finishers and special honorable mentions selected by representatives from Sierra Nevada Conservancy and California Watchable Wildlife. In addition to Sundaram’s bobcat photograph, the photos on display include:
- Snow geese migrating (Dale Val)
- Feeding time for Anna’s hummingbirds (Beth Savidge)
- Blue grosbek in flight (Gary Kunkel)
- California sea lion dives through kelp forest (Ken Howard)
- Long-horned bee on a sunflower (Beth Savidge)
- Eared grebe at June Lake in Sierra Nevada (Hayley Crews)
- Spiny brittle stars along ocean floor at Channel Islands National Park (Ken Howard)
On Thursday, Sundaram will join Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), on the floor of the Legislature, where he will receive a certificate honoring his photograph.
Sundaram is studying wildlife biology at the University of California, Davis. After graduation, he hopes to follow a career path that provide the opportunity for field work and research relating to birds — particularly birds of prey. Even though he is a 10-year veteran wildlife and nature photographer, Sundaram still considers himself “aspiring.” His camera’s lens serves as his tool in trade and the digital screen his canvas. “My main subjects are birds, although I do photograph mammals, invertebrates, insects, reptiles and landscapes as well.”
In 2011, Outdoor California and California Watchable Wildlife launched the annual contest to acknowledge photographs that illustrate the state’s diverse wildlife and the viewing experiences found throughout its natural and wild lands. California Watchable Wildlife celebrates the state’s wildlife and diverse habitats by promoting the value of wildlife viewing to individuals, families, communities and industries while fostering awareness of and support for conservation and protection efforts. After a successful first year, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy joined as a contest sponsor to encourage more representation from a region rich with a diversity of wildlife. The other contest sponsor, Alpine Optics, presents the winner with a high-powered spotting scope.
Troy Swauger, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8932
Barbara Steinberg, Outreach Coordinator, California Watchable Wildlife, (916) 335-1522