In the midst of an evening dust bath, a Greater Roadrunner stands proudly, backlit by the sun. Brilliant, golden light exposes white-tipped tail feathers that contrast with downy feathers fanning out from its sides. Dust froma recent roll in the dirt lingers in the air. Carolina Fraser/Audubon Photography Awards/2021
Bird photographers are a special breed. To really capture an excellent avian photograph, a person needs the right gear, sharp technical skills, and endless patience. Luck helps, too. Those elements clearly came together for the 2021 Audubon Photography Awards winners.
This year’s grand prize winner
Photographer Carolina Fraser snapped this year’s grand prize winner with the above shot. It depicts a greater roadrunner set against a stunning backdrop of backlit dust. The scene unfolded at Los Novios Ranch in Cotulla, Texas. It’s a unique angle from which to shoot the subject. It captures the bird’s expressive face in sharp focus without interference from the magnificent feathers on the bird’s back. It also involves a background that adds copious drama without fighting with the subject for the viewer’s attention. That’s a tricky thing to capture.
This year’s competition included a few new twists on the typical categories. One award singles out the best photograph of female birds, which are often underrepresented in wildlife photography due to their lack of colorful plumage. The competition also included a video category for people shooting motion of these majestic creatures.
Check out the rest of the Audubon Photography Awards winners
Keep scrolling to see the 2021 Audubon Photography Awards winners and runners-up. Then visit the Audubon site to get the full stories on each photo and to see the video winners. Once you’re feeling inspired, go out and shoot some epic bird photos of your own.
Stan Horaczek is the senior gear editor of PopPhoto. He oversees a team of gear-obsessed writers and editors dedicated to finding and featuring the best and most useful photography equipment, from cameras and lenses to bags and accessories.