The Coastal Star

Along the Coast: South Palm woman wins best in show in Mounts photo contest

TOP: Caterpillar on lily by Jo Ann Ricchiuti.
ABOVE LEFT: Curious raccoon by Ricchiuti.
ABOVE RIGHT: Barnacle-covered flip flop by Connie Wagner.
LEFT: Ricchiuti at Wakodahatchee Wetlands. Photos provided

By Mary Thurwachter

Nature photography requires patience, says Jo Ann Ricchiuti. And patience paid off for the South Palm Beach shutterbug this year. She not only won the best in show in the Mounts Botanical Garden’s 11th annual photography contest, but took first place in the animal life category and second in landscape.
“It was a good year for me,” she said. “I entered three pictures and won with all three.”
Her best in show image captures a caterpillar climbing onto the petal of a lovely blooming flower at the Mounts.
“The caterpillar was in the butterfly garden,” Ricchiuti said. “It wasn’t quite ready to turn into a butterfly and was just kind of snooping around.”
Patience was equally important when she used her trusty Canon 7D Mark II to photograph a raccoon for a win in the animal life category. The raccoon wasn’t her original target, however.
“I was down on the ground trying to get an iguana when all of a sudden a raccoon was coming right at me,” she recalled. The raccoon commanded her attention — and got it.
For winning the best in show, Ricchiuti received a Family and Friends membership and $100 Mounts gift certificate. Other prize winners received Mounts gift certificates, and the environmental winner won a monetary award.
Ricchiuti was happy to learn that the winner in the environmental category was Connie Wagner, a woman who lives in the same South Palm Beach condominiums she does.
“We’re friends,” she said. “We often go out and shoot together.”
Ricchiuti’s husband, Tony, also has taken up photography.
“We were high school sweethearts,” she said. She’s been taking pictures for 40 years, but her husband has been doing it for only two. “We took a trip to Africa last year and we had dueling cameras,” she said.
The Ricchiutis are members — and big fans — of the Mounts. They have a home in Maryland but have been wintering in Florida for decades.
The photography show was held in conjunction with Mounts’ current exhibit “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.” The show spotlights 10 large sea life sculptures made of marine debris to illustrate the tragedy of plastic pollution in the oceans and waterways and to encourage conservation.
Except for the environmental category, all photographs were taken within the boundaries of Mounts Botanical Garden. The guest judge was nature photographer Alan Chin-Lee.
Mounts Botanical Garden, at 531 N. Military Trail in West Palm Beach, is Palm Beach County’s oldest and largest botanical garden, offering displays of tropical and subtropical plants, classes, workshops and other events. The garden is home to more than 2,000 species of plants, including Florida native plants, exotic and tropical fruit trees, herbs, palms, bromeliads and more.
The garden is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Washed Ashore exhibit is on display through early June. Admission to the garden is free for members and children 4 and younger; $15 for nonmembers; $5 for children (5-12); and group tours are $18 per person (5 and older). 
For more information, call 233-1757 or visit

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