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Winners announced for 2021 Detroit News Celebrate Michigan Photo Contest


Richard Bagdasarian was watching the bald eagles at Kensington Metropark at sunrise, as he frequently does during the summer, when he noticed one of the massive birds having a little trouble with a catch. 

The eagle had grabbed a northern pike from the lake so large, it couldn't get enough lift to get into the air. Instead, as the pair flew past Bagdasarian and off into the rising sun, the fish dragged on the lake surface, creating a rooster tail in its wake. 

The dentist from Wixom had his camera at the ready. 

"I just got lucky I was there when it happened, which is what most of it is about," he said. "Honestly that’s probably the only time I’ve seen something like that. It definitely is a rarity."

That once-in-a-lifetime shot from summer 2019 was the top image out of more than 7,700 submitted as part of the 2021 Detroit News Celebrate Michigan Photo Contest. 

The Detroit News photo staff judges selected one winner in each category: People and Places, Woods and Wildlife and Four-Season Fun. One People's Choice winner in each category was chosen by an online public vote. Each of the six winners will receive $300.

Three Awards of Excellence were also chosen by the Detroit News photo staff from the remaining finalists in all categories, and will receive $100 each.

Shot on a Nikon D500 with a 200-500mm zoom lens, "Heavy Load" was not only the Detroit News photo staff's favorite image overall, it won the Peoples' Choice for the Woods and Wildlife category.

Voters also chose "Walking the Pines" from Darcel Demyanovich of Rockwood as the winner in the Four-Season Fun category.

Demyanovich was captivated with her haunting image of a lone figure walking through a dark wood at Novi's Lakeshore Park in winter 2020. 

And finally, the people chose Ethan Allen's unexpected view of the "Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory" on Belle Isle as the People and Places winner. The St. Clair Shores resident captured a koi's-eye view from the pond during a trip in spring 2021. 

The Detroit News photo staff also chose its three winners:

In the Woods and Wildlife category, "Kung-Fu Fighting," Michael Hellyer's image of sandhill cranes at the Robert H. Long Nature Park in Commerce Township immortalized an eye-catching scene. The Westland resident captured the dispute during a visit in June. 

For Four-Season Fun, Chris Klau's "Fly" reminded us of the joy of childhood. The Suttons Bay resident grabbed his camera at the right moment to capture the "perfect Michigan summer night."

For People and Places, Richard Grubola's "Big Sable and Milky Way" stood out from the competition. The shot took plenty of patience and good timing: The Pleasant Ridge resident said he got permission to stay late at Big Sable Lighthouse in Ludington. 

"(We) got lucky when the sky cleared up at midnight to allow us to shoot the stars," he said. "We lit the lighthouse with LED, lights which showed up well with the 20-second exposure it took."

This year, Awards of Excellent were also presented to one image in each category. Those winners are: 

  • Woods and Wildlife: "Praying Mantis" from Bradley Paul of Clinton Township
  • Four-Season Fun: "I spy something beautiful" from Melissa Fox of Cheboygan
  • People and Places: "Sand Dune Jumping" from Andrew Pietraszkiewicz of Shelby Township

See more on detroitnews.com/celebrate-michigan.