Winner: Mateusz Piesiak | Poland

My name is Mateusz Piesiak, I am 22 years old and I come from the Polish town of Wrocław. As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by nature. I got my first camera when I was 13, and since then, my passion for photography has been constantly increasing. In general, I photograph all sorts of animals, but birds are especially dear to me. Being in touch with nature allows me to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I love working with special light settings und in difficult weather conditions. Often, I photograph bird species that are common in urban surroundings, but I like to depict them in unconventional ways. When photographing timid birds, I enjoy the feeling of being concealed in my hiding place – I feel like a visitor in the front row of the theatre, allowed to witness the great spectacle staged by nature from a very intimate position. Apart from photography, I enjoy playing the piano. Currently, I study automation and robotics at the Technical University of Wrocław.

Mateusz Piesiak

Project: Shades of blue

Birds have always fascinated me with their grace in flight as they balance slight differences in wind with a tiny beat of their wings.
Shades of blue is a long-term photography project, for which I have focussed on depicting special moments of bird life in light conditions dominated by the colour blue. My favourite time for photography is at dawn, before sunrise, when darkness slowly retreats. I like this stretch of time between night and day, the soft light while nature gradually awakes. And it is all the same to me whether it is a timid egret or a common pigeon that I am photographing. Every bird has its own beauty, which I would like to capture in extraordinary images. I am grateful for every day that I can spend outside and for all the special moments that I am allowed to witness through my lens.

Mateusz Piesiak | Phantoms of the morning

Ghost at dawn
When fish ponds are being drained, thousands of birds gather for easy prey. While I was photographing these great egrets and gulls, a white-tailed eagle appeared all of a sudden. The gulls panicked while the egrets just froze and did not move. Using a long shutter speed, I managed to capture this fleeting moment.

Mateusz Piesiak | White ladies

White Ladies
I love misty days – the light is soft, and everything looks mysterious. I had set up my hiding place on the banks of a lake, but for several hours no bird showed up. Then I noticed a familiar shape emerging from out of the mist, then another and another. For a short moment, the three egrets remained in a perfect composition.

Mateusz Piesiak | Air dancers

Air dancers
The fight between the two European greenfinches lasted only for the fraction of a second. They had been tolerating each other for quite a long time, but when they finally came too close together, they suddenly shot up like bullets. Instinctively, I hit the shutter.

Mateusz Piesiak | Winter owl

Spruce kingdom
In winter, long-eared owls gather in small flocks and are much easier to spot. On a bitterly cold day, I found this specimen here sitting on an old spruce tree, which was covered in hoar frost. I waited for the moment when the last rays of the setting sun reached the bird.

Mateusz Piesiak | Eye of the sauron

The eye of Sauron
I live in the city, so I often photograph urban bird species. Every animal has its own beauty, even a common pigeon. All you have to do is look a little closer.

Mateusz Piesiak | Statue

Winter is a difficult time for egrets, especially when the lakes freeze completely and fish are out of their reach. Some escape south to warmer climes, others stay around hoping for the weather to improve.

Mateusz Piesiak | Power of nature

The power of nature
During a trip around Iceland, I visited this magnificent waterfall with a neighbouring colony of fulmars. I set up my camera and waited for one of the birds to appear in the right spot. Conditions were a bit tricky as my lens kept getting wet from the spray of the cascading water. Finally, a fulmar settled in the right place, and I got the desired image.

Mateusz Piesiak | Silence

One morning in autumn, I photographed water birds at a pond. I had rarely ever experienced such dense fog. In the shallow water, two snipes were foraging for food in complete silence. After a while, one spread its wings and quietly took off.