RALEIGH — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has named the winner of its 2020 “Wildlife in North Carolina” photo competition.
The winning image is a portrait shot of a common grackle, a blackbird native to North Carolina. The photograph, dramatically set against a black backdrop, was taken by Matt Cuda, 48, of Tobaccoville, a software developer who has been dabbling in amateur photography since 1995.
“I make enough money as a photographer to remain a solid software developer,” he said after learning of his win. “I was excited and humbled to realize that I was the winner in a magazine I read regularly.”
Birds are one of Cuda’s favorite subjects. He’s been snapping images of them since college on film and digital cameras.
He knew photographing the grackle against a dark setting was a risk, but his skillful use of light captured the bird’s stunning features, highlighting its iridescent feathers and bright yellow eyes.
“We had a wonderful selection of photographs submitted to the competition this year,” said Marsha Tillett, art director of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine. “The image of this grackle is no exception. Capturing a photograph of an ordinary bird in such a striking way requires experience and skill.”
More than 1,700 photographs were submitted for the competition. Judges included Tillett; Bryant Cole, the magazine's graphic designer; Melissa McGaw, staff photographer; and Thomas Harvey, former commission staffer and current freelance photographer.
As grand prize winner, Cuda’s photo is featured on the cover of the magazine's January-February issue and he will receive $200. All winning photographs, including Cuda’s, will be on display at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh and at ncwildlife.org.