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Huge news indeed. I am proud to announce the BIRDS AS ART 1st International Bird Photography Competition. Peter Kes and I have been working diligently for several months putting this event together and we are both tremendously excited. With eleven intriguing categories, a prize pool valued at more than $20,000, the overall grand prize winner garnering prizes totaling well more than $2,500, and a great team of judges, this new competition will quickly earn a prominent spot on the contest map. Reflecting the reality of nature photography today digital restrictions are the most relaxed of any major contest. You can read and study the rules here.

Visit the main contest page here. You can enter ten images for a single fee of $25. You can, however, enter more than once. And you can earn contest entries with your B&H PHOTO VIDEO purchases. (Read on for the details on earning free entries.) We look forward to seeing your best images soon.


Wow. This is exciting! As most of you know, I have–for the past 28 years–dedicated my life to making beautiful images of birds and teaching others to do the same. This contest is simply an extension of that passion. Thanks to Denise Ippolito for coming up with the idea of a bird photography contest and helping me flesh out the categories. And thanks to Peter Kes for building the web and upload pages; Peter re-designed both the blog and the website about two years ago and helps me almost daily; his skills and work ethic are superb.

I cannot begin to talk about the contest without talking first about the incredible generosity of our many sponsors. I knew from the get-go that as the new kid on the contest block that we would need to assemble a huge prize pool. I asked and they gave. A huge thanks to Yechiel Orgel of principal sponsor B&H PHOTO VIDEO. Thanks to Martin Wood, Alan Parry, and Anna Lopez of Delkin Devices. Thanks to Clay Wimberley and Cynthia Fenton at Wimberley, to Walter (son) and John (father) at 4th Generation Design, to Scott Elowitz of LensCoat, and to Bill Sanders at Gitzo. Special thanks to Helen Longest-Saccone at Nature Photographer Magazine who will be publishing the Category winners in the magazine and all the winning and honored images in the Nature Photographers i-Pad app. Thanks also to Jonathan Keane at Canvas on Demand and to Brian Erwin at Think Tank. (Brian OKed my e-mail request for support in seconds; I hit send and moments later I got his “I’m in” response.) Thanks to Michael Tapes of Raw Workflow, Gary Ungaro of Lens Pen, John Stanford of Vertex Photographic, John Storrie of Vested Interest, Bob Peltz of Essential Photo Gear, and Walt Anderson of Visual Echoes–his Better Beamer was the first BIRDS AS ART mail order item way back when.

Why another contest? Entering contests is fun. Having an image or two honored is always a huge thrill. I enter the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition every year. And the same goes for the Nature’s Best and National Wildlife contests. I have had more than a few honored images in all three contests. But considering the huge popularity of bird photography today there are relatively few avian categories in the major contests. We aim to rectify that situation. And here is the best news of all: with the relative ease of digital photography most anyone is capable of creating a contest winning image. The BBC contest makes no distinction between amateurs and professionals and we are doing the same here. I consistently see folks photographing for only a year or two producing images with contest-winning potential.

All of the major contests have very restrictive digital guidelines; you are pretty much limited to removing dustspots and adjusting brightness, color, and contrast. And some competitions allow only global adjustments, changes that affect the entire image; making selective adjustments is prohibited. Heck, Ansel Adams would have been disqualified from those. Our digital guidelines are the most generous of any major contest. By miles. With all due respect to the purists, our digital guidelines most accurately reflect the prevailing current style of image optimization by allowing for the removal of distracting background elements. You can check out our digital guidelines by scrolling down to #12 here.

In addition there are some rules in the major contests that simply do not make sense to me. For example, a recent BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year winner was nowhere near his camera when the winning image was made. And several other of his camera-trap images were also honored…. All in all I simply thought that I could come up with a great contest with rules that made sense. So I did.

With eleven categories and our huge prize pools that total well more than $20,000 you have more than 20,000 good reasons to enter. The entry fee is $25 for ten images. You may enter once or twice or as many times as you like. You might enter now and then again in a few months and then possibly once right before the deadline: the closing date for entries is March 31, 2012.

If you make a purchase totaling $1,000 or more from contest sponsor B&H using this link you will receive a single free contest entry. Purchases of $3,000 or more will be good for two contest entries, of $5,000 or more for three entries, and of $10,000 of more for five competition entries. To receive your free entry (or entries) send your B&H receipt to us via e-mail to and cut and paste β€œB&H Contest Entry” into the subject line. You will receive instructions (for uploading your images) by e-mail.

My dream is that the BIRDS AS ART International Bird Photography Competition will quickly grow in prestige and soon rank right up there with the top-notch contests that I mentioned above. My hope is that by year two or three that we will have an exhibit of the winning images at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. My interest in nature was sparked there when I was about twelve or thirteen. I traveled alone on the subway taking the then Brighton Beach Express into the city and spending entire weekends roaming the halls.

I do hope that you join in the fun by entering and I look forward to seeing your best images. Good luck! artie


  • Congrats Artie!!!
    Thats great news, hope next year you can get even more sponsor and better prices.
    I’m in…

  • Question about this rule: Compositional elements that were not present at the moment of capture may not be added. I assume this means to prevent things like adding a flower if there wasn’t one originally.

    I have a situation where I shot a short series of frames of two birds perched besides each other. Both birds have great head angles, but not in the same frame! Can I clone the the same bird from a frame in the series into another frame so that both their head angles are perfect in the same frame. In this case I am not adding a bird that was not present already.

    Though this is a close call and is something that I would do (while letting editors know in the caption) such an image is not eligible for the contest. artie

  • Huge Congrats on this sir! Wishing you a ton of success with the contest!

    I cant wait to spread the news.

  • Neil Nourse

    Hey Artie,
    I remember you and Denise telling me about your plans for this. Sounds like much more than I was expecting!!! Thanks for putting I’m sure a tremendous amount of time and effort into this for us. Now it’s time for me to get out and get some shots worthy of this competition.

  • Finally, a nature photography contest designed for the 21st century. Thanks Artie.

    On another note, I am surprised at the number of people still shooting JPEGS!

  • David Bell

    Ah! I love it! Arthur Morris is not arrogant; he is merely serious. Also, what is art without its pretension? Without rules, how could there be a contest? Do you folks want a free-for-all; don’t be crazy! Also, and here’s the damn truth: serious photographers DO shoot in RAW. It’s a little bit crazy to think otherwise. Call it arrogance, call it seriousness, but the wheat must SOMEHOW be separated from the chaff. So to speak. Contests are fun!
    David Bell

  • Derek Courtney

    Quick question: After reading the rules, are crops for vertical presentation disallowed? Rules state image must be 1400 pixels wide and 900 pixels high. If the vertical format is allowed, is the required size still 900 x 1400? Or was the rule intended to read something similar to BPN’s guidelines of a MAXIMUM of 1400 pixels wide and a MAXIMUM of 900 pixels high? I would guess the latter of all these as that would allow the most room for artistic expression (vertical, square, etc.), but this is not how the rule reads. Many thanks for all your efforts.

    Submitted JPEGs should be no wider than 1400px and not higher than 900px. As long as the JPEG fits within these boundaries, you will be fine. Crops are allowed.

  • I agree with Richard Pittam — what, no JPEG entries allowed? But I guess that is to make sure the entrant hasn’t added more birds or wingtips or erased birds and branches or super-enhanced an image……. and there are some serious and well-known nature photographers who shoot JPEGs.

  • I’m so excited with the contest,the rules, the categories,the everything!
    Love canon, love birds and love BAA!!!

  • Charles Scheffold

    I think the rules are very clear and fair, so what is the problem? There are 6+ months left to make images for this contest. If you currently have a camera capable of RAW, that seems like plenty of time to take some great photographs.

    If you are a regular reader of this blog or a participant on BPN, I really don’t see why this comes as much of a surprise. IMHO any serious nature photographer who is not shooting in RAW is doing themselves a great disservice. Those who are arguing that JPEG = RAW are simply misinformed or in denial. Can you make great images in both formats? Of course. But shooting JPEG-only is the equivalent of throwing away the negatives after making prints. Why would any serious photographer do that?

  • Leonard Malkin

    Ira, I agree with you completely. While I have plenty of RAW images I can enter in the contest, I also have many JPEG’s only which, perhaps not technically as good, certainly can compete with the RAW’s with regard to originality, mood, composition and impact. This contest appears to me to emphasize the technical over other aspects of what makes a good photograph. Artie says take it or leave it – you can enter JPEG’s but can’t win a prize and if you don’t like it, don’t enter. He of course is free to set all the rules but I just wish the contest would be more inclusive.

  • Rule 11 states: All images entered in the contest must have been RAW captures. Film and JPEG captures are not eligible for this contest. It’s perfectly clear, but you don’t have to agree with it, but these are the rules. Go enter another competition that accepts JPEG – there are plenty out there.

  • Charles Scheffold

    Are stitched images (created from 2 or more RAW files) allowed?

    Stitched panos are fine. artie

  • Ira Rubin

    Artie, I have enjoyed receiving your newsletter and have benefited from several of your seminars. However, your I find your denigration of non-RAW photographers, such as Stuart, to be elitist and insulting. It makes no sense to write of your open rules and broad categories and then place a restriction which will probably exclude all but a fraction of photographers. You write to Alfredo that you want to see his best “digital images,” but you don’t name the competition “1st International DIGITAL Bird Competition” Are are also excluding scanned slide images, or will you want to review the transparency to see if there is any improper modification of a Velvia or Kodachrome capture? I would love to enter, but with a growing family and a demanding full time job, I don’t have the luxury of spending hours to learn how to manipulate my RAW captures into pristine works of art. If true quality outs itself, won’t the corrected RAW images win out over the jpgs anyway? Finally, are you suggesting that photographers can pay the entry fee to submits jpgs, but will then be excluded if they are skillful enough to have a winning image, but not resourceful enough to have a RAW image?

    Ira, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Please, however, let me know what I said that was denigrating to anyone. All are free to use JPEG capture. JPEG originals however are simply not eligible in this contest for reasons stated clearly several times here. You are putting words in my mouth. Folks are free to do what they want but when I enter a contest I make sure to follow all the rules. I would not enter a JPEG capture in a competition that stipulates that RAW files will need to be submitted for all potential winning and honored images. artie

  • i think you should call it the “Arthur Morris International Bird Photography Competition”. You should come out of the shadow of BAA and let those few who have been living on Mars for the last 30 years and don’t know you or your work, what a superb bird photographer you are and an inspiration to thousands of amateur and professionals alike!

  • Andrea Boyle

    Cool! I don’t think I am up to it yet, but will keep tabs on the results…Maybe I will enter next year. In the meantime, I’ll tell my cousin who has some killer bird photos πŸ™‚ Maybe he will enter the event!

  • Jamie Douglas


  • John J. Mullin


    I wish you great success with your new endeavor! In regard to the pixel requirements, the native aspect ratio for DSLRs is 3:2 so why 1400×900? A 1500×1000 pixel requirement would mean no odd ball sizes(crops) or just a long side requirement. John

    As with verticals greater than 900 pixels high, horizontals greater than 1400 wide will not fit on most computer screens. artie

  • cheapo

    Sounds like fun! I think I may have to buy that waterproof housing after all!

  • Congratulations ! I think the contest is a great initiative. Are there any restrictions on when the photo was taken or if it was submitted in another contest? I believe I did not see those topics in the rules.

    Thanks Alfredo :). No such restrictions. We want to see your best digital images no holds barred. artie

  • […] nature photographer, Art Morris, has decided to run his own competition for bird […]

  • Wayne Lea

    Hey Artie. I really like the contest you have developed, congratulations! I believe category #10 for young people should read born on or AFTER March 31, 1994, since it is for young people. My grandson and I have photographed near you several times at Bosque in November and I think he would like to enter. Thanks. Wayne and Korbin Lea

    Thank you for catching my brain typo πŸ™‚ artie

  • Jeff Dyck

    Artie – A question on the size for submissions: The rules state 1400 pixels “wide” and 900 pixels “high” –> Does this mean a maximum of 1400 pixels on the longest side and a maximum of 900 pixels on the short side -or- does it mean that images shot in the vertical orientation are limited to 900 pixels on the long side for screen viewing? (i.e. vertical submissions will be reviewed by the judges at lower resolution than horizontal submissions.)

    1400 wide for horizontals, 900 tall for verticals. Images taller than 900 pixels cannot be viewed full screen on most computers. Having to view an image while scrolling is not a good plan. 900 tall at 96 dpi allows for tons of image quality. I know, because that is the size of my slide show images πŸ™‚ artie

  • Leonard Malkin

    I guess I’m only “avid”, and not “serious”. I’ll put up a good JPEG against any RAW file.

    Leonard, you are free to believe what you want but you are 100% wrong in thinking that a good JPEG capture can stand up to a good RAW file. JPEGs contain less data than RAWs, they are more contrasty, and they are totally unforgiving. artie

  • David Policansky

    Artie: I am excited about your contest. Do I understand correctly that contestants submit JPEGs and if they are selected as winners, then they have to submit the raw file?

    Yes David, that is 100% correct. RAW files are a necessity for winning images to prevent any image hanky panky. artie

    I guess I’m still puzzled by the raw capture only rule. I can’t think of anything you can do with a JPEG that you can’t do with a raw file, so it seems to me that those contestants who made JPEG captures are handicapping only themselves. David

    It is 100 to 1000 times easier to make changes to JPEGs than it is to make changes to RAW files. And as I said, serious photographers have no business using JPEG capture. artie

  • Stuart Freedman

    I am an avid bird photographer and teacher BUT have been shooting everything in JPG. This RAW rule means that nothing I have shot todate is eligible. I’m very disappointed that I’ll not be able to submit.

    I am glad that you used the word “avid” rather than “serious.” Learn to do it right and go out and make some great images for the contest. artie

  • Keith Reeder

    Leonard, Although it doesn’t affect me (RAW shooter for years) I’m puzzled by that too – especially as I can’t see how Art and the judges would police the “no jpegs” rule, unless they’re going to insist on seeing the RAWs too. I’m confused, Art…

    There is nothing to be puzzled about. As I said below, circumventing our quite relaxed digital guidelines would be easy if we allowed JPEG capture. We require RAW files only for potential winning images. BTW, the BBC requires that RAW files (or original film) be submitted for potential winning images. artie

    In other news, I am so much in agreement with your “no camera traps” rule – I’ve frequently been incensed and appalled by competitions won with images from the equivalent of a road traffic speed trap.

    Well, I do not choose to be appalled and incensed–it’s bad for my health, but I simply decided to build a better mousetrap. artie

  • Leonard Malkin

    Why are you not allowing JPEG’s? This seems quite unreasonable as many fine photos are not taken in RAW and many photographers routinely use JPEG’s. This restriction will rule out many photographers and many fine photographs.

    Leonard, All serious nature photographers work with RAW capture 100% of the time. Circumventing our quite relaxed digital guidelines would be easy if we allowed JPEG capture. The advantages of using RAW instead of JPEG are huge and include larger, better image files, the ability to correct mistakes made at the moment of capture, and less contrasty images. We require RAW files only for potential winning images. artie

  • Charles Scheffold

    I’ve never entered a competition before, so this will be a first for me! Just signed up and can’t wait to get out there and make some images for this competition πŸ™‚

    Charles, It is an honor to have you as the first registrant. We are totally in the dark as to how many folks will join in the fun. 50? 500? 5000? With the relaxed digital guidelines and the great prizes and judges the sky is the limit! You are a great example of how good folks can become quickly with digital. artie


  • Leonard Malkin

    Hooray! At last I can enter my Photoshop enhanced pics.

    Leonard, I feel your frustration! Instead of just complaining about the situation I decided to do it my way and do it better!artie

  • Very exciting news Artie! I’ve no doubt this will quickly become one of the most prestigious competitions.