By Emily Robinson
As a lifelong resident of west-central Iowa, Mike Kleinwolterink is no stranger to the outdoors. He grew up helping his father and grandfather on the family farm, and spent his free time hunting small game. He joined the staff at the local Lake Panorama National Golf Course at age 16, which offered him the opportunity to work outside and led to his introduction to waterfowling.
"My boss took me and two coworkers out on a Thanksgiving goose hunt my senior year of high school," Kleinwolterink recalls. "We had a great hunt, and I was immediately hooked. My enjoyment of hunting waterfowl continues to grow each fall and nowadays seems to be on my mind all year long."
Kleinwolterink was also fortunate to discover his passion and talent for photography at a young age. Shooting a basic 35mm camera, he took a few photography classes in high school and at the University of Northern Iowa. But his interest in photography really ramped up when he became an avid waterfowler and wanted to share his experiences in the blind.
"I started taking photos because it allows you to save a moment forever," Kleinwolterink explains. "I purchased my first digital SLR camera and started capturing hunting scenes."
One such captivating scene was this year's overall winning image. Kleinwolterink shot this breathtaking photo during Iowa's Light Goose Conservation Order last spring. He set up the shot with a Nikon D90 and a wide-angle lens placed on a small tripod behind his hunting party's layout blinds. Using a remote control, he was able to trigger the camera from the blind at just the right moment.
"I had scouted that cornfield the afternoon before and seen many small flocks of snows coming in, so I had high hopes for a good shoot," Kleinwolterink says. "That morning, they all got up at once from a nearby roost and came right to the field. We sat up and shot, but even with all those birds in front of our guns, we managed to bag only one. Right before I called the shot, though, I snapped the photo and captured this exciting image of hundreds of snow geese closing in."