Pics of the Parks Contest: Nature & Wildlife Photography Tips


The second annual PICS OF THE PARKS photo contest is underway and runs through September 7. It’s free to enter and is sponsored by Oakland County Parks, the Oakland Parks Foundation and the Oakland Press. All images must be captured within the 13 Oakland County Parks and must be a minimum of 2MB to ensure proper printing and quality. Complete rules and regulations for the contest can be found at


Communications and Social Media intern Makenzie Wireman emphasized, “This contest is a fun way for residents to capture what it is they love about the Oakland County Parks.” Submitted photos must fall into the following PARKS categories: Parks, Action, Recreation, Kids and Selfies.


“Pics of the Parks is a summer long celebration of the faces and places that make up Oakland County Parks,” Executive Officer Dan Stencil said. “Photos will be judged on how well that concept is portrayed. Come out, have a good time and share your experience through photos.” A “Best in Show” will be awarded, along with 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners from each PARKS category. The “Best in Show” winning photo will appear on the cover of the 2015 Oakland County Parks Annual Report. In addition, the top 50 entries, 10 from each category, will be displayed at the Somerset Collection in Troy this fall.


With nearly 6,700 acres of diverse parklands, almost 70 miles of trails, beautiful boardwalks, lakes, swamps, woodlands, meadows and glacial moraines, the opportunity for photographic captures of scenic vistas and the wildlife within are endless. As someone that haunts the parks, I’ll share some tips and tidbits for those that are looking to take photos in the ‘parks’ category.

Early morning and late afternoon usually bring the best light result, but always hike with your camera at the ready. Even in the heat of the day under the noontime sun, a doe and her fawn may cross a trail or perhaps even wade into shallow water. Keeping the sun on your back is one of the easiest ways to assure good contrast between the subject and the scenery. Hitting the trail immediately after a rainstorm is a great way to capture dramatic images as leaves glisten with moisture. Instead of standing to take a photo, try lying down; new angles often bring a touch of drama even to scenic photos. Always pay attention to lone trees in meadows, sometimes a surprise is found perched on the branch. Creativity in camera angles is the way to get a winning photo, especially when cropped images are not accepted.


Hikers need to walk slowly, listen closely and stop often. This is the best way to spot creatures around us. You may spot a chipmunk perched on a trail-crossing sign or a snake poking its head up among the grasses and leaves. Turtles sunning on logs can be captured by the lens easily from a kayak, canoe or rowboat if a slow approach is made. The results can be eye-catching! When taking photos for the contest, be sure to include enough background scenery to confirm the image is from an Oakland County Park. Buhl Lake at Addison Oaks and Crooked Lake at Independence Oaks are great lakes to paddle and capture photographic images of turtles, northern water snakes, Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons.


An early morning walk at Rose Oaks County Park may bring encounters with Sandhill Cranes or even a red fox near the shorelines of the kettle lakes. The equestrian friendly boardwalk is a great place to wait for the right moment to capture waterfowl or other wildlife images. The boardwalk itself might make the perfect subject. Try the wide open meadows of Orion Oaks for bluebirds, tree swallows and images of butterflies on wildflowers. Orion Oaks and Lyon Oaks dog parks are always full of opportunities for both action shots and scenic wonders. Even urban Red Oaks County Park is rich with opportunity.


For those special shots in a wilder side landscape, try exploring the trails of Highland Oaks County Park. Some of my best scenic images and wildlife encounters happen at Highland Oaks. Stop. Look. Listen. It’s time to start clicking away and enjoy summer in our Oakland County Parks. You can submit your photos to Oakland County Parks and Recreation’s Facebook page via the inbox message feature. Contest updates will also be posted to their Facebook page so keep an eye out for those as well.

Text and photos by Jonathan Schechter, Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Parks.

Visit Oakland County Parks for information on all 13 Oakland County Parks.

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