Audubon Photography Awards Grand Prize Winner 2020

Grand Prize Winner in The National Audubon Society's Competition

 
It's always quite humbling to have your hard work recognized as an artist, and this year The National Audubon Society has done just that! I'm excited to share that they have awarded my image of a double-crested cormorant hunting for sardines underwater as the Grand Prize winner in their 2020 photography competition!!
The awarded image was created this past November while leading a group trip to Bahia de la Paz, Mexico. I've spent a lot of time in the southeastern part of Mexico's Baja Peninsula, and I love the people, landscape and amazing array of marine life.
 
 
I've photographed everything from sea lions and whale sharks to orcas and hammerheads underwater there, but I hadn't had the opportunity to photograph cormorants hunting for sardines until recently. And I must admit, I was mesmerized by the experience. 
Shifting my focus from the main attraction of the playful sea lion rookery, I watched in awe as the cormorants plunged into the sea beak first. The silvery fish they hunted moved through the water column with effortless grace, narrowly escaping the aquatic birds with each sweeping pass.
A great deal of energy must be expended on such a hunt, and despite spending a bit of time admiring these birds morph into marine life, I did not witness a single one succeed. Adding insult to injury, at times curious sea lion pups would zip by the hunting birds, nipping at them from behind.
It was a true honor to witness one of nature's most delicate dances between predator and prey.
Thank you so much for recognizing my work Audubon!
 
Behind the Scenes
To capture the image I used my Nauticam underwater housing with my Canon 7D Mark II and Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens. I chose to leave my strobes behind on the boat and shoot with just natural light. Doing so, made me more maneuverable in the shallows where I encountered big boulders and quite a bit of surge.
Having been to the location numerous times I was already quite familiar with the underwater terrain and the way the light falls on it, but the sardines and cormorants made erratic movements in and out of the shadows which made it difficult to capture with just available light.
In the end it just meant I had to work harder, which of course made the final results and the award even more gratifying!
 
The image is available for purchase on paper or aluminum here.