Thanks to the judges who chose the Grand Prize Winner (above) in this year’s contest, among an impossibly great selection. (Not to mention an extra applause to Audubon for adding the Citizen Science centric Plants for Birds category.
Birds make fascinating subjects, as the winners and honorable mentions of this year’s contest, our 10th, make clear. They’re at once beautiful and resilient, complex and comical. It’s no wonder why we love them so.
The images that won the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards, presented in association with Nature’s Best Photography, are as impressive as ever, but attentive readers might notice a few more images than usual. That’s because we’ve added two awards. The Plants for Birds category is inspired by Audubon’s Plants for Birds program, supported by Coleman and Susan Burke, which provides resources for choosing and finding plants native to zip codes in the United States. This category poses a new challenge to photographers: Don’t just capture an incredible moment—make sure it also features a bird and plant native to the location in which the photo was taken in order to highlight the critical role native habitat plays in supporting bird life. And in the spirit of Kevin Fisher, Audubon’s longtime creative director who recently retired, the Fisher Prize recognizes a creative approach to photographing birds that blends originality with technical expertise. The winning image, which Kevin himself selected from among the finalists, pushes the bounds of traditional bird photography.
We want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all 2,253 entrants, hailing from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and 10 Canadian provinces and territories. Your dedication to appreciating, celebrating, and sharing the wonder of birds and the landscapes they inhabit inspires us now and throughout the year.
The 2019 APA Judges
Steve Freligh, publisher, Nature’s Best Photography
Melissa Groo, wildlife photographer and winner of the 2015 contest’s Grand Prize
Kenn Kaufman, bird expert and Audubon magazine field editor
Sabine Meyer, photography director, National Audubon Society
Allen Murabayashi, chairman and co-founder, PhotoShelter
John Rowden, director of community conservation, National Audubon Society
Judging criteria: technical quality, originality, artistic merit
Species: Red-winged Blackbird
Location: Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, Virginia
Camera: Nikon D500 with Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens; 1/800 second at f/6.3; ISO 2500
Story Behind the Shot: I visit this park near my home to photograph blackbirds on cold mornings, often aiming to capture the “smoke rings” that form from their breath as they sing out. On this occasion, I arrived early on a frigid day and heard the cry of the blackbirds all around the boardwalk. This particular bird was very vociferous, singing long and hard. I looked to set it against the dark background of the forest, shooting to the east as the sun rose over the trees, backlighting the vapor.
Bird Lore: Red-winged Blackbirds are some of the most abundant and conspicuous birds in North America. Beginning in early spring, males perch above marshes, pond edges, damp fields, and roadside ditches, flaring their red shoulder patches and belting out arresting songs to announce their claims to breeding territories.
Plants for Birds Winner: Michael Schulte
Professional Honorable Mention: Kevin Ebi
Don’t miss the entire selection of finalists here. (We strongly advise reading the fascinating stories behind each shot!)