Images of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary have won top spots in the 50th-anniversary edition of the “Get into your Sanctuary” photo contest sponsored by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. A festive flamingo tongue snail and colorful roseate spoonbill in flight rose above more than 700 entries to capture first and second places, respectively, in the “Sanctuary Life” category, which spotlights fish, birds, marine mammals and other ocean creatures.

“Given the more than 6,000 species of marine life that are at home in the Florida Keys, it’s no surprise to see these photos in the winners’ circle,” said Sarah Fangman, sanctuary superintendent. “The quality of our wildlife attracts great photographers and we are grateful for the keen eyes of those who captured these images for posterity.”

First-place winner Daryl Duda is no stranger to national recognition of his work. Earlier this year, a different Duda photo was among those selected for a U.S. postal stamp series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the national marine sanctuary system. Duda’s close-up of the flamingo tongue snail was snapped at Elbow Reef Sanctuary Preservation Area, not far from his Key Largo home, and includes a diver in the distant background, encapsulating the beauty and accessibility of marine life in the Florida Keys.

Big Pine Key photographer Jack Louden snapped the runner-up image of a roseate spoonbill as it flew above a calm coastline just south of Bahia Honda. Louden in 2021 retired from Switlik Elementary School where he taught music, and is now turning his photography hobby into a profession.

“I am so lucky to be able to enjoy the best of mother nature in the fabulous Florida Keys,” says Louden, who spends about two hours each morning looking for new subjects. “I take pictures of everything from Key deer, to gators at the Blue Hole, to spoonbills and flamingos. There was a very rare bird that was here a couple years ago — the Cuban pewee.”While the contest does not carry a monetary award, winning photos will be featured in the 2023 Earth Is Blue Magazine and on the Earth Is Blue social media campaign.  A web story on all winners can be found here.