A bald eagle arrives to steal a perch on a tree log that offers a strategic view of the shoreline at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in Alaska. When other eagles drag freshly caught salmon in from the water, these bystanders swoop in to take a share.

Photo by Karthik Subramaniam

After several years off, National Geographic magazine has brought back a public photo contest and invited hobbyist photographers to send in their best images of the natural world.

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Editors at National Geographic judged the contest and landed on nine honorable mentions and one grand-prize winning image. Photographer Karthik Subramaniam's image of a group of bald eagles posting up on a tree branch in hunt of salmon in Alaska took top honors, which means it'll have the rare distinction of being a reader-submitted image published in the magazine (in the May issue).

'Hours of observing their patterns and behavior helped me capture moments like these,' Subramaniam told the magazine about his winning image. A software engineer by day, he said a passion for wildlife photography and some boredom during the Covid-19 pandemic motivated him to pick up the camera and explore nature.

On his winning image, Subramaniam told the magazine that he sees an image of a frozen moment of tension that questions what happens next. To make the image, he took a week-long trip to Alaska from his home in San Fransisco and learned to be patient, observe and wait. He watched the eagles near a fishing ground in Haines, Alaska and noticed a log where a few lingered, and then he also waited with his camera watching the birds and waiting for the moment he took the winning image.

Read more about Subramaniam's winning image, how he made it and see all nine of the other images that the magazine's editors picked as honorable mention for its picture of the year contest, here.