James Neiss, of the Niagara Falls, N.Y., Gazette, earned the grand prize in the Southern Newspaper
Publishers Association's 2012 photo contest for his February 2012 image of rescuers pulling a man from the icy waters of Hyde Park Lake.
Neiss' image captures the tension shown in rescuers' expressions, the judges said. They also noted the compelling detail of a wet golden retriever holding one of the man's gloves in its mouth while watching the rescue.
"The dramatic scene unfolding in its simplicity is poignant and draws the reader's attention to details that make this a great news photograph," the judges said.
The photo also earned a first-place award in the breaking news category.
In addition, Neiss received the Bernard J. Kolenberg Award for best in show from the New York State Associated Press Association. The photo won first place for spot news in the group's annual awards contest.
The man in Neiss' photo had been walking his three retrievers when he ventured onto the lake to help a dog that had fallen through thin ice. The man later died at a local hospital.
The Niagara Gazette is owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., of Montgomery, Ala.