Matt Cuda Nature Photography - Top Ten Images for 2018

What a year it has been!  This year started off relatively slow for my photography, but ended with one of the best trips I have had for Florida bird photography opportunities.  As is my tradition, this article will take a look at what I think were my best images for the year.  I hope you enjoy it!  I start with #1 being my best image.

#1 - Great Blue Heron at Sunrise, Viera Wetlands, FL
December 8, 2018,  Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C, 232mm, f13, 1/3200, ISO 400

A highlight to this year, was a week of photographing birds along the space coast of Florida.  This photograph was from that trip.  I particularly like how the heron was stretching his neck in this photograph to provide the perfect pose for this sunset silhouette. Beams of light shoot through openings in the clouds to provide a great supporting backdrop.

#2 - Lanner Falcon Landing, PhotoWild 
October 13, 2018,  Canon EOS 1DX Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C, 252mm, f13, 1/1250, ISO 8000

Even when photographing captive birds, it is very difficult to get a good flight shot where everything comes together as it should.  In this shot, the falcon is moving very quickly, and the shot was taken  just as he began to pull back to make a landing.

#3 - Great Blue Heron Nest Building, Viera Wetlands, FL
December 8, 2018,  Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C, 232mm, f13, 1/3200, ISO 400

The second great blue heron to make the list and the second from my trip to Florida.  Here, the heron is taking twigs to his new nest.  Although some might consider this a fairly common shot, I still think it deserves 3rd in my overall list of images for 2018.  Of course, the twigs in the bill and the wing position help to make this shot a good one.

#4 - Blue Jay in Snow, Forsyth County, NC
January 17, 2018,  Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C, 324mm, f6.3, 1/1000

This was a tough one as there are probably two that could have taken #4.  In the end, I ended up choosing this, because it has so many elements going for it.  First, snow is always a crowd "pleaser" and here, we have snow falling and an inch or two built up on the log the blue jay is perched on.  Secondly, the jay is compressed into a defensive position and warning off other birds from his food source.  This shows the harsh realities of winter for songbirds throughout the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states.

#5 - Roseate Spoonbill Reflection, Merritt Island, FL
December 7, 2018,  Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C, 316mm, f5.6, 1/4000, ISO 400

It is hard to not have a nice reflection shot in the top 10.  Again, a Florida bird is part of the top 10 with this roseate spoonbill.  First, I like the reflection in this shot.  The sharpness of the reflection is paramount with shots like this and this is best achieved by shooting the subject on perfectly still water.  Next, this bird is giving us gesture by opening his mouth. FInally, the morning light really ads texture and color to the image.  If it had just been the reflection, it may have not made the list at all.

#6 - Barred Owl in Forest, PhotoWild
April 15th, 2018,  Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C, 200mm, f5.6, 1/125, ISO 2000

First, I love the framing in this shot produced by the light green early spring leaves.  Next, the owl appears as if he is posing for a portrait as she looks off into the distance.  There is just something about early spring that makes everything come alive in an image.  Despite this being a captive owl, I firmly believe it needs to be in the top 10.  Remember, a good image is a good image despite where it was photographed.  Don't let others take that away from you!

#7 - Reddish Egret with Fish, Merritt Island, FL
December 10, 2018,  Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C, 600mm, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 800

Reddish egrets are one of my favorite birds, so maybe I am a little biased here.  Watching them dance about in order to scare their prey into making a horrible choice is very interesting to watch.  This is a fairly common shot for many, but a first for me. I do have other images of birds with fish, but here I like the position of the fish in relation to the bill.

#8 - Scratching Grackle, Forsyth, NC
November 17, 2018,  Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C, 283mm, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 400

Let's face it, grackles are common, aggressive and frankly a general pain in the behind.  I like this shot because it takes such a common subject, puts it in good lighting, a good set and performing an activity that makes the viewer interested in this bird.  That is really an accomplishment for wildlife photographers.  It isn't always what you can do with a fascinating subject, but rather what you can do with a boring one.

#9 - Bellowing Alligator, NC Zoo, Asheboro, NC
July 7, 2018,  Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C, 388mm, f6.3, 1/125, ISO 1250

Alligators bellow during the mating season to attract mates, and to fend off intruders.  While at the zoo, this massive alligator decided he was not happy with my camera rattling off shots.  He turned, quickly letting off several massive grunts of anger.  The vibration of the water can be seen in this shot as it was only 1/125th of a second shutter speed.

#10 - Goose Feather, Forsyth County, NC
July 17, 2018, Canon EOS 7D Mark II,  Canon EF 100mm Macro, f8.3, 1/60 (focus stacked)

There were 4 photos I was considering for the tenth image.  This slot is always the toughest to decide on because of this. In the end, I ended up going with this macro shot of a Canada goose feather.  I like the extreme, greater than life size magnification, and the water droplets.

I hope you enjoyed this years top 10 list.  I encourage you to do the same with your images as it is a great practice to help you decide what you did right and what you need to improve on for 2019.

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  1. They are all excellent. But if I had to vote, I think the Reddish Egret or the "Scracthing Grackle" would be my #1 vote. Great work Matt!