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Birds in Flight

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Birds in Flight Photo Contest Winners

Grand Prize Stan Bysshe

Sandhill Sunrise

“Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge Center in New Mexico is a wintering home for Sandhill Cranes. The high desert area is known for its colorful sunrises and sunset. The early morning when this image was taken was no exception. The pond where the cranes were taking off from was frozen and the ice reflected the purple color of the sky. The brown background was the winter grass behind the pond. Given the low light of sunrise I chose to photograph the cranes takeoff using a slow shutter speed while panning with the birds. The trick was to get the head of the bird as sharp as possible. Only a few of the shots worked! But, the soft colors of the background, and the blurred crane wings made the effort worth it.”

Second Prize Ed Hughes

Free Ride

“Kingbird was protecting its nest. I waited for 3 days for this opportunity.”

Third Prize Mike Dowsett

Fresh Breakfast

“The highlight of my summer photography is the eagerly awaited return of many western ospreys, who choose to return to nest and breed in the Scottish Highlands after a long warm winter spent on the African coast. I make the long journey each year filled with anticipation accompanied by my photographer friend, Gary Jones. Photographing the ospreys actively fishing is the most exciting wildlife photography I have experienced, feeling a real rush of adrenalin capturing the birds making the incredibly fast dive into the fish rich waters, then exploding out into frantic flight with a huge trout.

Over many years of technique improvements, I have learned each year and see better images over time. The key areas of technique involve camera focus placement, exposure, and camouflage.

I have strived to perfect my ability to pre-focus on an area of water where I predict ‘the osprey will hit’ to save ½ second or so and help give the camera a little more time to focus on the bird. It is crucial to ‘lock on’ to the bird before pressing the shutter; otherwise, the whole burst of images will be out of focus. The bird’s impact through to departure from the water is all over very quickly (maybe 2 or 3 seconds), so it is very important to be ready and to have practiced other birds like ducks and heron before the main attraction. Especially important is to set the exposure correctly. The osprey has a bright white body and under-wing feathers making it easy to over-expose and lose the feather detail. Osprey will not fish if they see human presence nearby, so we typically get into place before sunrise and wait in the dark

This particular image had an additional challenge on the day. Mist can be a real problem in this area and on this day, it was no exception. The first two ospreys to dive were completely masked by mist, preventing the camera focusing.

Then at around 5:30 a.m., as the mist cleared and early morning sunlight illuminated the valley, we heard the unique osprey call from up above as one circled the area looking for an easy catch. This is when my excitement peaks and the nerves start. I pre-focused where I hoped the fish were shoaling and got ready for the dive by double checking the exposure and ensuring the gimbal / camera swing path was clear to track the bird. Then I waited. There was an enormous splash and blur that broke the silence. I swung the camera into position and prayed that the focus locked-on quickly. I then pressed and held the shutter button down for a full burst of RAW images, while tracking the osprey as it fought to get airborne with a 2-3lb fish and wet feathers. The silence as the bird flew away was then followed by laughter as Gary and I both realized that the warm light was amazing, and we both had several ‘keepers’ on our media cards. We returned to our lodging around 6:30am after the local fishermen scared off the osprey, to enjoy a hot breakfast to finish our incredible morning spent with the most amazing raptor of all.”

1st
prize

$1,000 cash prize

One (1) Gura Gear 45 Kiboko v2.0 22L backpack

One (1) Gura Gear 45 Et Cetera 2L case

One (1) Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Digital Camera

One (1) Sony E 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS Lens (Black)

One (1) Nikon 8×42 Monarch 5 Binoculars (Black)

One (1) Oben CTT-1000 Carbon Fiber Tabletop Tripod

One (1) one-year VIP BirdWatching membership

Placement as BirdWatching Facebook Cover Photo

Publication in a special multi-spread feature in an issue of BirdWatching

Publication in the BirdWatching online Winners’ gallery

2nd
prize

$500 cash prize

One (1) Gura Gear 45 Kiboko v2.0 22L backpack

One (1) Gura Gear 45 Et Cetera 2L case

One (1) Nikon 8×42 Monarch 5 Binoculars (Black)

One (1) Oben CTT-1000 Carbon Fiber Tabletop Tripod

One (1) one-year VIP BirdWatching membership

Publication in a special multi-spread feature in an issue of BirdWatching

Publication in the BirdWatching online Winners’ gallery

1st
prize

$1,000 cash prize

One (1) Gura Gear 45 Kiboko v2.0 22L backpack

One (1) Gura Gear 45 Et Cetera 2L case

One (1) Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Digital Camera

One (1) Sony E 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS Lens (Black)

One (1) Nikon 8×42 Monarch 5 Binoculars (Black)

One (1) Oben CTT-1000 Carbon Fiber Tabletop Tripod

One (1) one-year VIP BirdWatching membership

Placement as BirdWatching Facebook Cover Photo

Publication in a special multi-spread feature in an issue of BirdWatching

Publication in the BirdWatching online Winners’ gallery

3rd
prize

$250 (U$D) cash prize

One (1) Gura Gear 45 Kiboko v2.0 22L backpack

One (1) Gura Gear 45 Et Cetera 2L case

One (1) Nikon 8×42 Monarch 5 Binoculars (Black)

One (1) Oben CTT-1000 Carbon Fiber Tabletop Tripod

One (1) one-year VIP BirdWatching membership

Publication in a special multi-spread feature in an issue of BirdWatching

Publication in the BirdWatching online Winners’ gallery

 

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