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Helmut Schmidt, Published October 28 2012

Fargo Davies junior earns major award for his photography

FARGO – Joe Sulik was looking forward to taking some early summer wildlife photos when a freak blizzard hit Yellowstone National Park on Memorial Day this year.

He was bummed.

But that blanket of snow led to a unique moment, and one of the best days ever for the 16-year-old photography phenom.

Sulik’s photo of a massive bull elk, his antlers still covered in velvet, framed in a world of white, earned him the title of Youth Photographer of the Year in the Nature’s Best Photography 2012 Windland Smith Rice International Awards.

With the title comes the honor of having his photo hang in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington starting in June 2013.

“It’s probably the greatest honor I’ve ever achieved. It’s definitely pretty exciting,” Sulik said.

He’s also on a roll in another international photography contest.

His photo of a Bobcat pouncing in the Badlands of South Dakota earned him a “Commended” award in the 15- to 17-year-old age group in the 2012 Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest.

That photo, taken in January 2011, now hangs in the British National History Museum in London, and is part of a book featuring this year’s award winners, which were gleaned from 48,000 entries from 98 countries.

Another of his bobcat photos, “Spirit of the Badlands,” earned honors in the 2011 Veolia contest.

The Fargo Davies High School junior’s life has been hectic in the last year, as he piles up miles and priceless experiences.

He’s traveled to Indonesia on a youth cultural exchange, and after that spent five days with his father taking photos in rain forests.

On a trip to Tanzania, he was part of a safari, seeing black rhinos, elephants, lions, cheetahs, wildebeest and leopards.

“That was definitely a dream come true for me,” Sulik said.

During that trip, Sulik took photos of two stallion zebras fighting. Six of those photos were published with a story in London’s Daily Mail in August.

There were also trips to Saudi Arabia and British Columbia, he said.

“I just got back from London a couple days ago,” where he received the Veolia honor, he said.

Next year, he hopes to go to the Arctic Circle, Australia and New Zealand.

For now, Sulik’s preparing for another big event. He speaks at the TEDx youth event in Fargo on Nov. 18.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583