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Winning images from 2020 Bird Photographer of the Year competition

An impressionistic image of European Shags by Majed AlZa’abi from Kuwait took top prize in the 2020 Bird Photographer of the Year contest, which is run by the UK-based conservation charity Birds on the Brink. Majed wins the top prize of £5,000 (about $6,500) and the title “Bird Photographer of the Year 2020.” Majed’s image was also the winning image in the Best Portrait category of the competition, and for that he wins a pair of Swarovski Optik binoculars.

The judging team, which included BirdWatching Contributing Editor Brian Small and Editor Matt Mendenhall, said this about the shag photo: 

“To win this competition, it takes a very special photograph. Technical perfection is simply not enough; it is the imaginative eye and a mind that seeks out the unusual and the artistic in the everyday that will do well. The vast majority of the 15,000 images entered annually are of an amazing standard, sufficient eye-candy to feed even the most visually gluttonous. But create a photograph that makes us sick with envy or cry out with uncontained excitement, then you are in with a chance. When that collective shout from the judges is ‘I wish I had taken that myself’, then you are onto a winner. Well done Majed for sharing this stunning image with us – it is a well-deserved winner.”

The slideshow below features the Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners of each category, as well as the contest’s Inspirational Encounters Award, which conveys a photographer’s significant moment with a bird. The images here represent some of the very best bird photographs we have ever seen. Enjoy! 

Birds in Flight Gold Award

Birds in Flight Gold Award

HOOPOE FLIGHT AT LOW SPEED by Gadi Shmila, Israel.

Common Hoopoe, Israel.

Photographer's Story: I had this image in my head long before it was created. Once I found the exact location for the image, I began several attempts until I found the balance between blur and freeze. To get the right ‘smudge’ you need very weak lighting, combined with a low shutter speed (1/8 second). By contrast, ‘freezing’ action requires a very high shutter speed or alternatively the use of flash. In this photo, I froze the action with the help of four flashes that were triggered at the end of the exposure. In my many different attempts, I felt the blur was not sufficiently bold, so to emphasize it I placed a black background behind the subject.

Nikon D5 with AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens. Focal length 300mm; 1/8 second; f/11; ISO 160. Tripod; remote release; four flashes.

More photo contest winners

2019 Bird Photographer of the Year winners  

2020 BirdWatching Photography Awards winners

Audubon’s 2020 photo contest winners

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