Indian American software engineer-turned-hobbyist photographer’s winning image features battle between bald eagles
Indian American software engineer-turned-hobbyist photographer Karthik Subramaniam has been named the grand-prize winner of National Geographic’s Pictures of the Year photo contest.
Selected from nearly 5000 entries, Subramaniam’s winning image, “Dance of the Eagles” depicts a bald eagle battling its fellows for a prime spot on a tree in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in Alaska, the magazine announced in a Feb 17 press release.
Read: Two Indian American journalists win Pulitzers (June 14, 2021)
Subramaniam told National Geographic how he camped out near the shore of this preserve for a week to capture the perfect shot.
“Wherever there’s salmon, there’s going to be chaos,” he said. On the last day of Subramaniam’s week-long trip, he watched as bald eagles “swooped in and out of the fishing ground.”
Subramaniam chose a spot near a log where a few birds lingered — and trained his lens on a nearby branch. He was in the right place when he caught an incoming eagle sweep in to bump his bird buddy out of a prime spot on a branch.
He captured the maneuver and named it “Dance of the Eagles,” after George R.R. Martin’s novel “A Dance with Dragons.”
“Every year in November, hundreds of bald eagles gather at Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve near Haines, Alaska, to feast on salmon. I visited there last two Novembers to photograph them,” Subramaniam said.
“Studying their behavior patterns helped me anticipate some of their actions. For example, when an eagle drags salmon to a dry spot, other eagles in the area would inevitably fly there to claim their share, and that leads to chaotic action.”
“They also seemed to have some favorite spots to hang out, and usually, commotion ensues when an eagle wants an already occupied spot. This photo was taken during one such commotion.”
Subramaniam first began experimenting with wildlife photography while sequestered in his San Francisco home during the coronavirus pandemic. During that time he explored local nature reserves and walked city parks to search for birds and other wildlife.
In recognition of his work, Subramaniam will have his photo featured in the May issue of National Geographic magazine, alongside Nat Geo’s leading photographers, and receive a six-month digital subscription to the magazine.
Nine additional photos were selected as honorable mention winners: Alex Berger, An Li, Bruce Taubert, Eric Esterle, Rhez Solano, Riten Dharia, Tayfun Coskun, Tihomir Trichkov and W. Kent Williamson.
The honorable mention winners will be showcased on National Geographic’s Your Shot Instagram page to more than 6.5 million followers, in addition to receiving a six-month digital subscription to the magazine.
Subramaniam’s “Dance of the Eagles” photo was named grand-prize winner after a rigorous vetting process by a team of seasoned Nat Geo photo editors, it said.
Tied to the brand’s annual Pictures of the Year list featuring National Geographic’s top images of the year — 118 out of more than 2 million total — the photo contest invited aspiring photographers from across the country to submit their own favorite image captured in 2022, broken into four categories: Nature, People, Places and Animals.
For a list of all ten winners and their winning images, please visit natgeo.com/PhotoContestWinner.