Winners of the 2019 Bird Photographer of the Year Competition

Having completed its fourth year, Bird Photographer of the Year (BPOTY) is pleased to announce the 2019 winners of this prestigious competition.


The winning entry is a flamboyant image of a Dalmatian Pelican taken at a frozen Lake Kerkini in Greece entitled ‘Dancing on Ice’ and was taken by Caron Steele from the United Kingdom. Caron wins the top prize £5,000 and the title ‘Bird Photographer of the Year 2019’. Caron’s image was also the winning image in the Best Portrait category of the competition.

Bird Photographer of the Year Director and Competition Organiser Rob Read comments “Bird Photographer of the Year 2019 exceeded all our expectations and attracted an incredible standard of photography with entries from 63 countries around the globe. With over 13,500 images to review, it was going to take a truly impressive image to win. ‘Dancing on Ice’ is an image that had me leaping from my chair with joy the moment I saw it appear on my computer screen. All too frequently the judges see images where the photographers have fabulous photographic opportunities that they fail to make the most of. Lake Kerkini rarely freezes over and Caron certainly made the most of this virtually unique opportunity. Everything about this image is right, it is truly delightful in its near-perfection.”

Above: Caron Steele, Bird Photographer of the Year Winner 2019

Bird Photographer of the Year 2019 winner Caron Steele comments “I cannot tell you how delighted I am to be announced as the winner of this fabulous competition. It is wonderful to receive such recognition for something I absolutely love doing. I only took up photography seriously in 2014 when I got my first DSLR and since then I have been on a sharp learning curve. I did a zoology degree at the University of Oxford, but then went on to pursue other things. Now I love being able to get back to nature and see things through the perspective of my camera. I am so passionate about conservation and am keen to find an angle where I can help make a significant difference; winning this award has spurred me on to renew my efforts. In today’s hectic life I think it is vital we strive to save the beautiful natural world around us, as ultimately I believe it will save us. Photography and being at one with nature brings a sense of calm, joy and appreciation that can strip away the stresses of life. I recommend this therapy to everyone. Save your planet and save your soul: pick up a camera and get out there today and be as free as a bird!”

Above: Chris Packham. Photo ©Paul Carter

Heading an experienced panel of judges, naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, comments on the competition “Winning this competition is getting harder. And that’s the way it should be because photography is evolving more rapidly than ever: it is visibly edging closer to being able to facilitate perfection. Like life itself it has hardware - the cameras - and software - the information they collect - and we’ve gone from the Neolithic to the Nexus 6 in about 40 years.”

Chris continues, “The standard of photography has risen markedly yet again. We’ve had more entries from more photographers from more countries than before and critically we are very excited that we have a female winner. Yes! Yes! Yes! BPOTY is not only keeping up with the technology, it’s keeping up with the times too.”

Receiving an Olympus OM-D E M1 MKII camera body and M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F/4 IS PRO lens with a combined value of £3,500 is the winner of the Best Portfolio award Thomas Hinsche from Germany. This prize rewards consistency of skill and photographic talent over a series of 6 images as scored by the judges.

Above: Thomas Hinsche, 2019 BPOTY Best Portfolio Winner and a selection of his winning portfolio. ©Thomas Hinsche


Other competition category Gold Award winners announced are:

Birds in the Environment – Mohammad Khorshed, Kuwait
Attention to Detail – Pål Hermansen - Norway
Bird Behaviour – Ivan Sjögren, Sweden
Birds in Flight – Nikunj Patel, United States of America
Garden and Urban Birds – Chad Larsen, Canada
Creative Imagery – Marc Weber, France


New for the 2019 Competition, Inspirational Encounters is an Award is won by Martin Grace from the United Kingdom for his photograph of Emperor Penguins in Antarctica. Established in association with wildlife travel company, Wildlife Worldwide and their sister company, The Travelling Naturalist, the Award celebrates all that is positive about the impact of the avian world on people and the potential that it has to inspire all of us by combining imagery and prose: entrants were invited to submit an image that represents an inspirational encounter with birds accompanied by approximately 150 words of text. The task was that imagery and text combined should tell a story and convey to the viewer and reader the significance of this moment to the photographer. The Award also aims to help conservation via a £1,500 donation from Wildlife Worldwide going to the annual Birdfair cause.

Martin Grace, Inspirational Encounters Award Winner 2019. Image and text ©Martin Grace

“Emperor. Penguin. Individually words of little distinction, but together an icon of near-mythical proportion. Flightless. The only bird that completely forgoes land. The march. The crazily dedicated parenting. Arguably the most difficult bird in the world to see. But forget for now the travel nightmare, the two days turbulent torture of the ‘never-again’ Drake Passage, the teetering on the edge of ‘will-we, won’t-we?’ Decades of aspiration are finally approaching a culmination. An unexpected route appears through storm-packed sea ice and Antarctica’s fickle summer opens a calm window of blue. This miraculous conspiracy permits no more than half an hour at the colony, including walking time from landing. Borrowed boots pinch, clothing is stiflingly excessive, and frustration also boils as the camera tangles inside the rucksack. But actually having made it is too overwhelming, too emotional. I shoot a few images then put the camera away, and for fifteen minutes it is just me, the Emperors and heaven.”


The winner of the Young Bird Photographer of the Year 2019 competition is also announced. The first prize has been claimed by Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz from Hungary with his innovative use of a drone to capture this colourful image of Mallards entitled ‘The Cradle of Life’. Tamás wins a pair of Swarovski Optik binoculars.

Above: Young Bird Photographer of the Year Winner 'The Cradle of Life' ©Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz

Rob Read comments further “Year Four of this competition proved to be a real milestone, with more than double the number of entrants, images and countries represented compared to our first year. The Competition has real global reach as demonstrated by the number of different nations represented by the winners.”

And Bird Photographer of the Year is set to become even bigger; the BPOTY team have been working tirelessly on the preparations for the forthcoming 2020 Competition which is open for entries until 30 November 2019. Rob goes on to say “We now have a new website which will become a useful resource for photographers, birders, naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts, centred on the competition itself. The core principles of promoting bird photography and the photographers themselves, while helping conservation through raising money and awareness, remain the bedrock of BPOTY. The new website will help us achieve these aims, using some of the world’s best bird imagery to inspire people to care.”

Money raised through previous years’ donations have been used by the British Trust for Ornithology to support their Bird Camp programme run in association with the Cameron Bespolka Trust, aimed at encouraging the next generation of conservationists. For 2019, in addition to raising money for Birdfair through the Inspirational Encounters Award, Bird Photographer of the Year has chosen to support Hookpod, an innovative solution that has the potential to eliminate the unnecessary deaths of albatrosses and other seabirds killed as a result of longline fishing. Founding Director of Bird Photographer of the Year Paul Sterry comments “BPOTY is delighted to have raised funds to help support such worthwhile causes. For 2020 and future years, we will be establishing a BPOTY Conservation Fund, through which we will assist other conservation projects such as Hookpod, where modest donations can have a real and lasting impact on our bird populations.”

This year’s award ceremony will take place at The British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water on Saturday 17th August, where Head Judge, Chris Packham, will hand out the well-deserved prizes in the main events marquee at 4.00pm.

The 2020 competition is open for entries from 18th August 2019, closing on 30 November 2019. With prizes worth well over £20,000, there are plenty of chances to win, including binoculars from Swarovski Optik, a camera system from Olympus, gimbal tripod heads from Gitzo – not forgetting the top prize of £5,000!. Visit the Competition website for more details and to enter

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