PHLEARN MagazineThe Winners of the 2018 Audubon Photography Awards Show an Exquisite View of Birdlife

The Winners of the 2018 Audubon Photography Awards Show an Exquisite View of Birdlife

This year’s winners of the Audubon Photography Awards have just been announced and the photos are breathtaking. There were over 8,000 entries featuring up-close, amazingly detailed photos of birds from around the world – whether rare and exotic or just a unique look at a familiar flyer.

Five judges banded together this year to choose from the impressive selection of photos that were submitted. To choose the winners, the judges based their decisions on technical quality, originality, and artistic merit.

As always, the selection process was completely blind, meaning the judges were not shown any names or stories associated with the submitted photos. It was because of this anonymous selection process that one photographer’s ability was able to truly shine. Liron Gertsman, a multiple entrant won all three youth photographer categories! Liron’s photos won him a six-day stay at Audubon’s Hog Island Photography Camp, round-trip airfare to Portland, ME, and transportation to the island from the airport.

Steve Mattheis, the grand prize winner, took home the big cash prize of $5,000 with his stunning photo of a great gray owl. The winners for the Professional Prize & Amateur Prize both received $2,500.

Here are the winners of the 2018 Audubon Photography Awards.

GRAND PRIZE WINNER

Steve Mattheis
Teton County, Wyoming
“Great Gray Owl”

“Great Gray Owl” © Steve Mattheis, Grand Prize Winner

© Steve Mattheis – After a six-week drought, I finally spotted a Great Gray flying through the woods on a beautiful fall evening. I ran to catch up, and spent 80 minutes photographing it flying from perch to perch, hunting, and catching several rodents. As I took this image, I knew I was seeing something special: The owl was fighting for balance on a thin branch, giving a very unusual, energetic, asymmetric posture as it stared directly into my lens.

PROFESSIONAL WINNER

Gary R. Zahm
Merced National Wildlife Refuge, California
“Black-necked Stilts”

“Black-necked Stilts” © Gary R. Zahm, PROFESSIONAL WINNER

© Gary R. Zahm – On a 27-degree December morning I spotted a small flock of Blacknecked Stilts huddled together in a seasonal wetland. Bills tucked beneath their wings, the normally hyperactive waders seemed in no hurry to start foraging. Moving slowly, I closed the distance without disturbing their tranquility. The soft light illuminated the wall of weeds and the stilts’ striking plumage. Their reddish legs melded into the reflection. I felt peaceful capturing the image, knowing these birds have a pristine home in our invaluable national wildlife refuge system.

PROFESSIONAL HONORABLE MENTION

Donald Quintana
Merced National Wildlife Refuge, California
“Red-winged Blackbird”

“Red-winged Blackbird” © Donald Quintana, PROFESSIONAL HONORABLE MENTION

© Donald Quintana – A trip to Merced NWR is always a magical event, no matter how many times I visit. On this particular day I was leading three fellow photographers, and we heard the wonderful gurgled-dee-glee of a Red-winged Blackbird just outside our vehicle, which we were using as a blind. As it sang its aria from the twigs of a nearby plant, we clicked away, hoping to capture the bright red epaulets on its wings as it puffed up to serenade any nearby prospective mates.

AMATEUR WINNER

Diana Rebman
Akan-Mashu National Park, Japan
“Long-tailed Tit”

“Long-tailed Tit” © Diana Rebman, AMATEUR WINNER

© Diana Rebman – On a bitingly cold February day we stopped to photograph Whooper Swans, but the conditions were not good: gray skies, whipping winds, and the swans were dirty. As I headed back to the van, I noticed these darling tits taking turns nibbling on the tip of an icicle. I grabbed hand warmers, a tripod, and my longest lens and spent hours photographing this amazing behavior. What an adaptation! You have to be clever to survive such harsh conditions.

AMATEUR HONORABLE MENTION

Scott Suriano
Baltimore, Maryland
“Wood Duck”

“Wood Duck” © Scott Suriano, AMATEUR HONORABLE MENTION

© Scott Suriano – Undeterred by heavy snow on the first day of spring, I navigated slick roads to a nearby pond where Wood Ducks had recently returned. I donned my waders, grabbed my camera, and slipped into the frigid water. Trying to keep a low profile, I went too far, and icy water poured into my waders. Soaked and freezing, I stuck it out long enough to get this shot of a Wood Duck drake, whose expression seems to capture how we both felt about the weather.

YOUTH WINNER

Liron Gertsman
Yasuní National Park, Ecuador
“Cobalt-winged Parakeets”

“Cobalt-winged Parakeets” © Liron Gertsman, YOUTH WINNER

© Liron Gertsman – Three days in a row I waited in a blind near a clay lick that Cobalt-winged Parakeets and other birds of the Amazon frequent. When hundreds of the birds finally descended from the tree canopy to the mineral-rich forest floor on the third morning, I was ready. I used a slow shutter speed to accentuate the blues in their wings. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sight of the birds or the deafening roar of parakeet chatter.

YOUTH HONORABLE MENTION

Liron Gertsman
Delta, British Columbia, Canada
“Bald Eagle”

“Bald Eagle” © Liron Gertsman, YOUTH HONORABLE MENTION

© Liron Gertsman – This is the most cooperative Bald Eagle I’ve ever encountered. Thousands of eagles are drawn to Fraser River Delta each autumn to feed on the salmon runs; when those end, hundreds feed at the nearby landfill and can be seen in the surrounding area throughout the winter. I found this one perched on a tree stump beside a popular walking trail on a windy, rainy day. I took many photos, but I especially liked this one for the way it illustrates the power and awe of this emblematic species.

YOUTH HONORABLE MENTION

Liron Gertsman
Mindo, Ecuador
“Fawn-breasted Brilliant”

“Fawn-breasted Brilliant” © Liron Gertsman, YOUTH HONORABLE MENTION

© Liron Gertsman – While observing this Fawn-breasted Brilliant hummingbird in the cloud forest, I noticed that it kept returning to the same perch, using it as a base for catching flying insects. The sky was bright, so the bird was beautifully silhouetted, and I knew the exact shot I wanted. I did my best to time my shutter finger with the bird taking off and landing, and when I looked at the screen, I was amazed by the transparency of the feathers and the details brought out by the backlight.

Out of the thousands of photos, it is amazing that Liron Gertsman was able to win all of the youth photographer categories. His quality of photo and patience to get the shot was definitely noticed by the judges. The stories, along with his winning photos, are full of vivid descriptions on how he prepared for his shots. It’s most likely extra sweet for him since one of his winning photos took days of waiting until the perfect moment to take it.

If you want to see more photos that were submitted and read the stories behind them, you can check out the top 100 selections from the 2018 Audubon Photography Awards.

All winning photos will get published in an issue of Audubon and in Nature’s Best Photography magazine. The contest winners also get to have their winning photo put on display at the 2018 Nature’s Best Photography exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Jennifer Berube

Jen is Editor of PHLEARN Magazine, where she helps shape inspiring stories and handy tips for aspiring and seasoned photographers. She has worked as a photography writer for many years, contributing to numerous industry-leading publications. Proudly Canadian, wannabe globetrotter, self-taught photographer, Jen is temporarily settled in Spain.

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