Portrait of grackle wins 2020 Wildlife in North Carolina Photo Competition

Staff report

			
				                                Matt Cuda’s photograph of a common grackle, a blackbird native to North Carolina, made him winner of the 2020 Wildlife in North Carolina Photo Competition. As winner of the grand prize, Cuda’s photo is featured on the cover of the January/February 2021 Wildlife in North Carolina issue, and he will receive $200.
                                 Courtesy photo | Matt Cuda

Matt Cuda’s photograph of a common grackle, a blackbird native to North Carolina, made him winner of the 2020 Wildlife in North Carolina Photo Competition. As winner of the grand prize, Cuda’s photo is featured on the cover of the January/February 2021 Wildlife in North Carolina issue, and he will receive $200.

Courtesy photo | Matt Cuda

RALEIGH — A Tobaccoville resident has been named the winner of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s 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, a 48-year-old 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 quipped 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 both film and digital cameras. He knew photographing the blackbird 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, WINC graphic designer Bryant Cole, staff photographer Melissa McGaw and former Commission staffer and current freelance photographer Thomas Harvey.

As winner of the grand prize, Cuda’s photo is featured on the cover of the January/February 2021 WINC 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 on the Commission’s website, ncwildlife.org.