"I see great bird photos every day of my life," said Audubon Design Director and competition judge, Kevin Fisher, "but some of these took my breath away. Every judging session was filled with shouts of 'Wow, did you see this one?' or 'That's just amazing!'"
"Amazing" is the only word for the grand-prize-winning image of American Bald Eagles sparring in flight. The breathtaking moment was digitally frozen in time by Colorado professional photographer, Rob Palmer. "Everything just came together," Palmer told a Boulder reporter. "When I took it, I looked at the back of my camera and went, 'Wow, this is it."
Palmer's prize for besting more than 16,000 other images is a birding safari to Peru.
"Beautiful photography has the power to connect people with nature and inspire conservation commitment," says Audubon Editor in Chief David Seideman; "The quality of the submissions speaks to the photographers' profound passion for birds, whose beauty and majesty is unmatched by any other creatures on earth."
"Science can give us the 'what' and 'how' of bird conservation," writes Kenn Kaufman, Audubon field editor," but such artistry gives us a resounding series of answers to the question 'why.' These pages in Audubon magazine showcase bird photography at its very best, inspiring us to go out and see the birds for ourselves, and to support efforts to ensure that future generations will have the same opportunity, too."
Other top winners include:
A hairdresser from New York, an environmental chemist from Poland, and a teenager who crawled to capture an image of a Sandpiper are also among the winners who represent a burgeoning interest in birds watching.
Diana Whiting, for her portrait of wood ducks. Based in upstate New York, the hair dresser is a true wildlife enthusiast who says birding has taught her the patience to be a photographer, and the ability to anticipate bird behavior is a huge asset.
Mark B. Bartosik, who snapped the photo of the great blue heron scooping up mullet, is an environmental chemist born and raised in Poland. He spends much of his own time studying bird behavior.
Adam Felde, who photographed the brown pelican splash, is a retired Fortune 500 VP who goes out to photograph wildlife a few times every week.
Seventeen year old Landon Starnes won the Youth Category with his image of a Least Sandpiper. Landon participated in Project Feeder Watch when he was 9 and with other siblings transformed their backyard into a haven for visiting birds.
Beyond the five prize winners, Audubon features 14 honorable mention photos in the Editors' Choice section. The Top 100 images can be seen online at www.audubonmagazine.org
Birdwatching, the second fastest growing hobby in the USA (after gardening) has also drawn tens of thousands of volunteers across the country to brave snow, ice and winter's chill to count birds over the holidays. January 5 marks the end of Audubon's 110th annual Christmas Bird Count which helped document the rebound of two endangered species featured in winning photos: the aforementioned Bald Eagle, and the Brown Pelican.