Longtime shutterbug Lance Coenen of Grants Pass is never far from snapping all sorts of images.
An X-ray technician by trade, he's shooting the insides of people's bodies by day, and on weekends he shoots everything from landscapes and his wife's horse shows to the soccer games of coworkers.
"I shoot very little wildlife," he says. "And of that, I really don't shoot that many bird pictures."
He could have fooled the judges in the 11th annual Oregon Outdoors Wild Bird Photo Contest.
His image of a hummingbird siphoning nectar from a zinnia in his wife's backyard garden wins the 56-year-old Oklahoma native the grand prize, a set of waterproof binoculars from Total Camera and Video in Medford worth $299.
Coenen would have taken third place also, for a photo of a wood duck he shot at a private pond in Grants Pass, but contest rules prohibit anyone from winning more than one prize. It was the third consecutive year that the overall winner had to settle for one prize after finishing with two shots in the money.
Not bad for a guy unschooled in the world of competitive wildlife photography.
"This is the first contest I've ever entered," Coenen says. "Someone at work brought in the newspaper story about the contest and said I should enter. So I did."
Linda Henry of Ashland, who won the grand prize in 2005, took first place this year with a photo of a snowy egret shot in Tampa, Fla. She wins a spotting scope, valued at $249, from Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in Medford.
"The clarity and composition are exquisite," Oregon Outdoors bird columnist and Southern Oregon University biologist Stewart Janes says of Henry's egret photo. "There is even yellow in the leaves that matches the yellow in the legs."
An image of a double-crested cormorant in breeding plumage earned second place for Vince Patton of Portland, who wins a set of binoculars from the Black Bird Shopping Center. Patton shot the bird on East Sand Island at the mouth of the Columbia River.
"What a wild picture," Janes says of Patton's cormorant. "Such a drab bird most of the year with spectacular makeup for courtship. I've never seen a bird in its courting finery this close up."
Third place went to Steve Henry, Linda Henry's husband, marking the first time a husband-and-wife team reached the top four in the same year.
Steve Henry's shot of a pair of reddish egrets in mid-air wins him a bird feeder, birdseeds and a bird garden book from Black Bird.
Steve Henry, a semi-retired urologist working as a fill-in at a VA Hospital in Fargo, N.D., describes himself as "a rocks 'n' roots landscape and nature photographer for 30-plus years."
"When I'm not working, I'm following Linda around chasing critters," he says. "The first thing I said to Linda when I chimped the egret sequence on my camera was, 'Nailed it, Bird Contest!' Really. We were both in waders up to our waists in Tampa Bay near an island wildlife preserve."
Linda Henry, a retired nurse and marriage and family therapist specializing in the care of abused kids, has been a wildlife and nature photographer for about 10 years.
"She especially likes photographing bears and birds," her husband says. "If you guys ever have a bear contest, she's definitely got some winners."
In all, 211 images were entered by a record 108 photographers in the month-long contest.
Coenen's interest in photography dates back to the early 1980s, when he worked in a camera shop while studying at Oklahoma State. He worked in the darkroom producing images for customers before starting to shoot and process his own film.
"That's actually what got me into X-ray," he says.
Eventually, film as part of his day-job was enough. With no darkroom at home and access to the camera shop gone, Coenen started to slip out of photography all together.
Then the discipline went digital in the early 1990s, "and I jumped all over it," Coenen says.
Now he shoots a Canon 1D Mark II, which captures eight images per second.
"That's how I was able to get that shot of the hummingbird," he says.
Coenen shot his winning hummer while sitting outside in his yard. Hummingbirds often venture into his wife's garden, and he just sits back and sneaks in shots from afar with a 300 millimeter lens.
Linda Henry used a Canon EOS 7D camera with a 500 mm lens.
Steve Henry used a Canon 1DS Mark II, with a 400 mm lens.
Patton used a Nikon D300 camera with a Nikkor 70-200 mm lens.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.