While making one of her frequent visits to Whetstone Park with her sheltie, Edmund, at her side, Clintonville resident Jayna Wallace spotted some barred owls in a tree, seeming to peer back at her in that slightly startled way of such birds.
"I tried taking pictures with my phone, and of course they turned out horribly," Wallace recalled.
Determined to capture the image, Wallace said she rented a long lens from Clintonville's Midwest Photo Exchange, then returned to the park to capture more photos, eventually buying a zoom lens of her own.
Wallace's determination has paid off: One of her pictures of two young barred owls is the winner of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources 10th annual Wildlife Legacy Stamp photography contest.
Beginning Friday, March 1, the stamps may be purchased at tinyurl.com/owlstamp for $15, with the proceeds helping to support habitat restoration, wildlife-research projects and conservation easements, among other department goals.
For the past decade, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman Tim Daniel, a committee formed during the annual Wildlife Diversity Partners event selects a photo of different species for the Legacy Stamp from between 30 and 60 entries. This year, he said, Wallace's image of the two owls won handily.
"I think it was mostly the impact of the eye contact that the owls had," Daniel said. "That really sets it apart. It was just a good shot of a nice connection with that species. Part of the process is to understand what would make a good stamp. This image is quite small, and when the judges look at the image, they factor that in.
"Selection aside, it's a great back story, and that story gets told on social media and in our magazine," he said. "This was a great back story with someone who stepped up and did something to help out wildlife."
The "back story," Wallace said, is that the two owlets in the Legacy Stamp photo are siblings to a third that had to be taken to the Ohio Wildlife Center to rehabilitate a broken wing sustained shortly after the bird left the nest.
"Both the Glen Helen Raptor Center in Yellow Springs ... and the Ohio Wildlife Center in Columbus have been integral in providing rehabilitation and renesting services to the owls in recent years," Wallace said.
Wallace is a New Philadelphia native who studied design at the Columbus College of Art and Design for a year but found the tuition too high and switched to Ohio State University.
She now works remotely from her home -- and often from Whetstone Park -- collaborating with engineers on building websites.
"I always liked taking pictures,' Wallace said. "I just wasn't particularly good at it."
Then, however, she became entranced by the wildlife she observed on her strolls with Edmund, taking more and more pictures and posting them to Instagram as the hobby grew on her.
"Jayna walks through the park very frequently," said Karen Martens, president of the Park of Roses Foundation. "I don't know her real well, but she takes wonderful pictures. She just really has an eye for it."
"I wasn't expecting this one to win," Wallace said of her Wildlife Legacy Stamp photo. "I was really excited. It gives you some validation as a photographer."
Wallace said she hopes the stamp will make more people aware of Whetstone Park and the adjacent Park of Roses -- a sentiment with which Martens wholeheartedly agrees.
"The park is not only a park of roses, it's also an arboretum," Martens said. "The south side of the park is one of the ravines that's part of Clintonville, and that's where the owls live. They've nested there for several years. We're not only a park of roses, but we've also got this wonderful habitat right in the middle of the city where owls live. I think that's remarkable."
"There's a lot of wildlife all over town," Wallace said.