A health ordeal that drew Nancy Havener to nature photography and Whalon Lake has led to a photo contest win for the Naperville woman.

Her picture of a glowing sunset at the Naperville preserve won December’s portion of the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Preserve the Moment photo contest, which concluded on Dec. 31. Havener’s photo is the last of eight monthly winners chosen from May through December that will vie for votes on the District’s Facebook page, Facebook.com/WillCoForests, for overall contest honors. Online voting will begin at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 11, and conclude at 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17.

Havener, a retired Naperville School District 203 band director and former professional clarinetist, was thrilled when she learned of her win. “Winning the photo contest for the month of December has been a bright spot, for sure, as I deal with some serious and challenging physical issues,” Havener said in an email. “I wanted to catch the sunset, and I had gone out to Whalon Lake on two very cold afternoons a few days apart and was pleased with my results,” she said. “I was experimenting with sunbursts and as the sun started to set, the sky became a beautiful orange color.”

Contest judges agreed and awarded the win to a stunning photo that illuminates the beauty of the preserve. Havener said she first immersed herself in photography during breast cancer treatments in 2014 and began by snapping shots of two swans she watched during her trips to and from treatment.

“The swans had five babies and I vowed I would come back and find that swan family when my treatments were over and I felt better. I did get the swan family all together, and it made for a beautiful photo. I ended up winning a photo contest with that picture and have been passionate about photography ever since. I feel that those swans that I saw were a gift from God for me to help me get through my cancer treatments.”

In addition to Havener’s win, honorable mentions were awarded to:

  • Michael Fagan of Frankfort for leaves frosted with ice crystals at Hickory Creek Preserve.
  • Eileen Capodice of Minooka for a chubby squirrel chomping on a nut at McKinley Woods.
  • Mandy Bellamy of Lowell, Ind., for a photo of colorful fall leaves encrusted in ice at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve.
  • Joseph Traina of Joliet for a belted kingfisher surveying its surroundings at McKinley Woods.

All of the contest’s photo entries can be viewed at Flickr.com/WillCoForests. After online voting for the eight finalists concludes, the top three vote-getters will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 22, on the District’s website, ReconnectWithNature.org. Gift cards will be awarded in the amounts of $500 for first place, $250 for second place and $150 for third place. Contest prizes are made possible through the generous support of The Nature Foundation of Will County.

Online voting for overall winners begins Friday, Jan. 11

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