Thanks to the judges who chose the Grand Prize Winner (above) in this year’s contest, among an impossibly great selection:
The more than 5,500 photos entered in this year’s contest, our eighth, show birdlife at its most vivid, vulnerable, formidable, and elegant. Photographers from 49 states and eight Canadian provinces submitted images in three categories: professional, amateur, and youth. While it wasn’t easy whittling those down, the following seven images proved exceptional. The category winners, in addition to garnering cash and trip prizes, are being displayed within the 2017 Nature’s Best Photography Exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Kenn Kaufman: Bird-guide author, Audubon field editor
Melissa Groo: Professional photographer and 2015 Grand Prize winner
Steve Freligh: Co-publisher of Nature’s Best Photography
Kevin Fisher: Audubon creative director
Sabine Meyer: Audubon photography director
Judging criteria: Technical quality, originality, artistic merit
Grand Prize Winner Deborah Albert
Species: Gentoo Penguin
Location: Brown Bluff, Antarctica
Camera: Nikon D90 with a Nikon 70-300mm lens; 1/800 second at f/5.6; ISO 200
Story Behind the Shot: I had just bought my first DSLR about two weeks earlier for my trip to Antarctica. We were walking along the beach and, as the group moved on, I noticed this penguin in a nest made of rocks. I watched for a long while and, finally, one chick appeared. I took many shots, but this one, with the parent leaning down, touched me the most—the warmest love in the coldest place. Beginner’s luck, I guess.
Bird Lore: Although many people regard penguins as the archetypal Antarctic birds, only a few of the 18 species actually breed in the polar region. One, the Gentoo, has expanded its range in recent years as ice cover has declined, providing access to new breeding sites. Such gains are likely to be offset by reductions in food supply in the warming seas.
Professional Winner Steve Mattheis
See the whole selection of finalists here.