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2019 Bird Portrait Contest finalists

In the last few months of 2019, BirdWatching received more than 1,000 submissions to our Bird Portrait Contest from hundreds of photographers. The contest drew an exceptional selection of photos, making the judges’ job quite difficult, and now we’re happy to present the 12 finalist images in this slideshow.


King Penguin

King Penguin

Photographer: Carl Henry

Location and date: Gold Harbor, South Georgia Island, November 9, 2016

Description: My wife and I were on a seven-day visit to South Georgia, and the excitement was very high about our first landing. Because of high winds, Gold Harbor was selected for our landing because it offers good protection, but our two-hour visit ended up being a crash course in everything South Georgia: close encounters with thousands of curious King Penguins, fending off fur seal charges with our tripods, staying clear of elephant seal battles, photographing in conditions that destroy cameras (high winds, salt water, blowing sand and snow) and a very wild zodiac ride back to our ship that left us and our gear soaked with freezing sea water in spite of our protection.

This was my first close encounter with King Penguins, and I was captivated by their brightly colored head markings. Wanting to capture it in detail while still showing their communal nature with other penguins in the background, I choose my telephoto even though I was only maybe 12 feet from the subject. If you look closely you can see a few streaks of blowing sand or snow at 1/1000 of a second shutter speed. A testament to the conditions.

Gear and settings: Canon 5D Mk III; Canon EF100-400mm IS II USM; 1/1000 sec at f/11, 400mm, ISO 1600; no flash and hand-held.

UPDATE: View the first-place, second-place, and third-place winners!

View the Bird Portrait Contest honorable mention images

View the winners of our 2019 BirdWatching Photography Awards

Enter the 2020 BirdWatching Photography Awards

Enter Outdoor Photographer’s 2020 The American Landscape Photo Contest

Originally Published

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and You can reach him at

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