With the news that his photo will be published in the May issue of National Geographic, software engineer Karthik Subramaniam is living every amateur photographer’s dream. He earned this honor by winning the National Geographic Picture of the Year photo contest. His photo Dance of the Eagles was selected by a panel of seasoned Nat Geo photo editors from among nearly 5,000 entries.
The photo, which was taken at Alaska’s Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, is an incredible look at the dynamic between these birds of prey perched on a tree as they wait to hunt salmon in the river below. Subramaniam has visited the preserve twice during the annual salmon run, which allowed him to hone in on their behaviors and rituals.
“Studying their behavior patterns helped me anticipate some of their actions,” he confessed. “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’s victory is even more striking because he only began photographing wildlife in 2020. While he’s always been a fan of landscape and travel photography, the pandemic shifted his creativity. Forced to stay in one location, he began venturing out near his home in San Francisco and cultivated a new passion.
The time he spent driving to nature reserves and waiting for the right creative opportunities taught him the patience he needed to take his winning photograph. And his victory is just another example of how the oddity of the last several years also has a silver lining in forcing people to explore new hobbies.
See more images from the contest with some of the images that were selected as honorable mentions. And check out the full gallery of winners on the National Geographic website.
See some of the finalists from the National Geographic Picture of the Year photo contest.