Take Your Best Shot
Advice from the judges of the
Audubon Magazine Photography Awards
1. Do a thorough equipment check before heading into the field. Be sure everything is in working order, and that your batteries are freshly charged.
2. Make sure you bring a backup camera if you have one. Dirt can get on a sensor, mechanics can break down. Be as prepared as you can.
3. Bring twice as many memory cards as you think you’ll need. You never know when you’re going to encounter a great situation, and there’s nothing worse than having to delete images on the fly to make more space on your cards.
4. Pack sunscreen, insect repellent, aspirin, a hat, snacks, and some water. Bird photography requires patience, and you’re often in one place for a very long time.
5. Wear unobtrusive clothing that blends with your environment, and comfortable shoes.
6. Get a guide if you can. They often know when and where to find the best situations and can be invaluable to your success. Do your own research beforehand and be as familiar as you can with the species you’re photographing.
7. Shoot at dawn and dusk. Unless it’s a cloudy day, anything shot in between is going to have harsh, contrasty light. Also, there is generally more bird activity in the morning and evening.
8. If you’re going for close-ups, bring the longest lens you can (these can be rented) and use a narrow depth of field to blur out the background. This will help if there are distracting branches or vines, but you should still try to find the cleanest background you can.
9. Use a Wimberley head on your tripod. This specialty head allows the telephoto lens to have a full range of motion instead of moving on a strictly horizontal plane. It is indispensable for bird photography.
10. Be quiet and move slowly. If you don’t, you will scare away the birds and be left shooting empty landscapes.
What We’re Looking For
1. The photo should be either tack sharp or intentionally out of focus (slow the shutter speed to show motion, etc). Nothing in between is going to work.
2. Proper exposure and good lighting are critical. We can’t stress this enough. It doesn’t matter how wonderful the behavior or activity in the photo—if the lighting is poor, we will eliminate the picture.
3. Take time to compose the image. The bird (or birds) doesn’t have to be in the center of the frame. The off-center subject creates more dramatic tension. Also be aware of other elements in the photo, especially the background.
4. Do not use excessive Photoshop. Adjusting the exposure or contrast is fine, but do not, for example, remove branches or cut and paste a bird into a scene. This will cause your entry to be disqualified.
5. DON’T SHOOT AT GAME FARMS. Audubon does not publish photographs taken at game farms, and you should follow the same policy. (Read “Picture Perfect,” Ted Williams’s article on this important issue.)
6. Send us something we haven’t seen before. Look for the unusual, the whimsical, the dramatic. Surprise us! We have seen thousands and thousands of bird photographs. Send us something that will grab our attention. Show us a bird in a way we’ve never looked at it before.
No purchase necessary. Contest begins 05/16/12 and ends 09/05/12. Must be at least 13 years of age and a legal resident of the U.S. or Canada (excluding Quebec) to enter. Entrants under the age of majority must get permission from their parent or legal guardian to enter the Contest and provide payment information. See Official Rules for complete details and how to enter without paying the entry fee. Void where prohibited.