2019 BirdWatching Photography Awards finalists

In addition to the three winning photos from the 2019 BirdWatching Photography Awards, we’re thrilled to present this gallery of 22 finalists: 

Great Egret

Great Egret

Photographer: Robert Davis

Location and date: Smith Oaks Sanctuary, High Island, Texas, March 23, 2019.

Description: The rookery at Smith Oaks Sanctuary features a U-shaped island surrounded by a moat-like pond. A lot of birds make this their home because of its protection from predators and humans. It’s a great place to see many species including the attractive Roseate Spoonbills, but because of the many birds, photography is another story. Waiting until the right image is in your viewfinder requires patience. However, because of the popularity of the place, it takes a long time to get an unobstructed view and then there are strict rules about staying in that position for only 20 minutes.

I took this photograph in the late afternoon and I was excited to be able to isolate a single bird in diffused light. My camera and lens were mounted on a balanced Wimberly tripod with a wired remote control. These birds will sometimes hold their pose for a while, enabling firing the shutter. I took several shots, and this was the best. When I reviewed the image on my computer, I was pleased with the color version, but I wanted to see what I could do to make the image stand out in black and white.

So, in post processing, I enhanced the original image in Photoshop CC, then converted it in ON 1 RAW. Here I opened up the whites and closed down the dark areas to my taste. The contrast was increased. Finally, I added a big soft vignette and increased the contrast for the final image, which has been very successful. This process was not as slick as it sounds. It took a lot of slipping and sliding!

Gear and settings: Canon 5D2 with a 500mm f4 lens and a 1.4x convertor; focal length 700mm, 1/1000, aperture 10, ISO 400.

Thanks to our judges: Matt Mendenhall, editor of BirdWatching; Wes Pitts, editor of Outdoor Photographer; Marie Read, an award-winning nature photographer based near Ithaca, New York; and Brian E. Small, a professional nature photographer based in Los Angeles whose photos illustrate our “ID Tips” column.

View the 2019 BirdWatching Photography Awards winners