Amusing Monday: Vancouver, B.C., youth takes three photo awards

Liron Gertsman, 17, of Vancouver, British Columbia, surprised even the judges in Audubon’s annual photo contest. Liron submitted the best photo among youth entries, according to the judges. But beyond that, he was awarded the only two honorable mentions given in his division. The judges themselves were unaware of the trifecta until the winners were tallied.

Grand prize winner: Great gray owl by Steve Mattheis, 2018 Audubon Photography Awards

“Judging is anonymous, so we had no idea that Liron swept the entire youth category, not only the winning image but also two honorable mentions,” Sabine Meyer, one of six judges in the contest, said in an email. “His photos exhibit quite a sophisticated and mature eye, and he is very deliberate in his image making – blurs, extreme close up, monochromatic palette with a backlit bird.

“He is not afraid to push the conventions of classical bird photography aside and invent his own visual vocabulary,” she said. “It’s rare, at any age! I look forward to seeing what he produces in the years to come and hope that other young photographers get inspired and pick up an interest in birds and bird conservation.”

Youth winner: Cobalt-winged parakeets by Liron Gertsman, 2018 Audubon Photography Awards

A sweep in one category has never been seen before in the nine years of the Audubon Photography Awards.

The grand prize winner in the contest is Steve Mattheis of Jackson, Wyo., who submitted a photo of a great gray owl taken in Teton County, Wyo. The professional winner is Gary R. Zahm of Los Banos, Calif., whose photo of a group of black-necked stilts was taken in a wetland in Merced National Wildlife Refuge in California. The amateur winner is Diana Rebmanof Burlingame, Calif., who photographed a long-tailed tit in Akan-Mashu National Park in Japan.

Information about all the winning photos, including the honorable mentions, can be seen on the webpage “The 2018 Audubon Photography Awards.” A display of the Top 100 photos in the contest include seven more noteworthy submissions by Liron Gertsman, a recent graduate of Point Grey Secondary School in Vancouver.

Youth honorable mention: Bald eagle by Liron Gertsman, 2018 Audubon Photography Awards

The top 100 includes many stunning photos, including these from Washington state residents:

  • A western grebe taken at Ocean Shores by professional photographer Tim Boyer of Bellevue,
  • A golden-crowned kinglet taken at Cottage Lake Park near Woodinville by professional photographer Jacob McGinnis, a resident of Woodinville,
  • An American robin taken by amateur Joanie Christian near her home in Colville, Wash.

Liron’s winning photo captures a group of cobalt-winged parakeets in a national park in Ecuador, according to a story written by reporter Dan Fumano of the Vancouver Sun. To get the shot, Liron ventured deep into the Amazon rainforest.

Youth honorable mention: Fawn-breasted brilliant by Liron Gertsman, 2018 Audubon Photography Awards

“The parakeets are super-shy,” Liron was quoted as saying. “One twig snaps and they’re all gone … But after five hours the first day, and five hours the second day, on the third day after about three hours, the magic finally happened.”

Liron’s photos can be viewed on his website Liron Gertsman Photography, including a special presentation of his visit to Ecuador. Liron is scheduled to attend the University of British Columbia, where he will study science.

More than 8,000 photographs were submitted in the ninth annual Audubon Photography Contest. The winning photos and honorable mentions will be featured in “Audubon” magazine and “Nature’s Best Photography” magazine. They will also be part of a nature photography exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Amateur honorable mention: Wood duck by Scott Suriano, 2018 Audubon Photography Awards

This year, the contest celebrates the many birds protected under the 100-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act, called the most important bird conservation law by Audubon officials, who have launched a campaign to maintain the law against attacks from the Trump Administration and some members of Congress.

The Department of Interior announced last year that it would no longer enforce incidental takes of birds, giving more leeway to kill birds as part of power line installations, oil spills and other industrial operations, according to Audubon officials.

Sarah Greenberger, Audubon’s vice president for conservation, said a broad effort to undermine numerous environment protections includes a target placed on the bird-protection law.

“There have been a number of attempts to weaken the law,” she said. “And some industries would rather be free of the requirements … But a vast majority of Americans support the MBTA. There is a hundred-year record that proves it is possible to have robust economic activity and environmental laws.”

Go to Audubon’s website to learn more about the campaign to maintain the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

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