This spectacular photo by Susanville’s Randy Robbins of a bald eagle catching a fish at Antelope Lake won the 2019 Sierra Nevada Conservancy California Wildlife Photo of the Year contest.

Oct. 31, deadline for this year’s California Wildlife Photo of the Year nears

California Watchable Wildlife and Outdoor California present a photo contest for images that illustrate the diversity of the California wildlife viewing experience.

The yearlong contest will feature bi-monthly winners beginning with March-April and ending with September-October. A grand prize winner will be announced in January 2024. The final judging period, November-December is reserved for selecting the Photo of the Year.

Here are some recent photos under consideration
Sandhill Cranes by Jean Zuo, Woodbridge Ecological Reserve

Dancing Sandhill Cranes are a Central Valley favorite. The Yellow-bellied Marmot, also known as the “Rock Chuck” is a Sierra Nevada neighbor. The Great Gray Owl, another Sierra Nevada friend, has been on the California endangered species list for more than 30 years. Each species has a special place the natural world. We are happy to share their lives with you.

Yellow-bellied Marmot by Larry Whiting, Alpine County

Great Gray Owl Juvenile by Ryan Wickiser Photography, Eldorado County

Photo guidelines
Images must be taken at either a California Watchable Wildlife viewing site, at a location in the Sierra Nevada or feature any native California wildlife species. Images may show wildlife in its native habitat, animal behavior, seasonal abundance of wildlife or people viewing wildlife.

Entries will be judged on technical excellence, composition, overall impact and storytelling and difficulty in getting the shot. A panel of judges is composed of professional photographers, Outdoor California magazine and Sierra Nevada Conservancy. The judges’ decisions will be final.

Winners will be announced in the Outdoor California magazine, on the California Watchable Wildlife website and across social media platforms including  and Instagram.

All submissions will become a part of Outdoor California’s, Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s and California Watchable Wildlife’s image libraries. Therefore, even non-winning submissions may be featured in later issues of Outdoor California, or in promotional materials of California Watchable Wildlife and Sierra Nevada Conservancy. Photographers will be properly credited but not compensated.

Photograph submission rules
Contest images may be taken at a California Watchable Wildlife viewing site and in the Sierra Nevada or be of a native California species (or all three). Lists of eligible sites and species are found on the California Watchable Wildlife website page at CAWatchableWildlife.org/camap.php

The image name must include the name of photographer, the location and species if applicable, e.g. “James Nelberg_ Graylodge _SnowGeese.jpg.”

Images submitted with numeric file names will be disqualified.

Images may be submitted only once during each annual contest. Winning images from prior photo contests will not be considered.

Images submitted should be the largest size available up to a maximum of 10 inches on the long dimension with a resolution of 300 dpi and no larger than 2,400 x 2,400 pixels. Images should not be ‘upsized.’ They should be saved as a JPEG file with the maximum size of the uploaded file not exceeding 3MB. This will ensure that winning photos are suitable for publication in Outdoor California magazine.

Images selected for use on the California Watchable Wildlife website will be downsized as needed. We reserve the right to limit winning photos to those suitable for print.

Only digital images will be accepted. Images should be encoded using the JPG compression standard.

Photographs taken at any time are eligible, but only the photographer may submit entries. An entry cannot be submitted on behalf of another party.

Any photograph captured using an unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone, is not accepted. Images taken from planes or helicopters are also not accepted. Any photograph captured when the photographer is not physically present using a remote wireless shutter release for cell phones, cameras or stationary camera traps that are triggered automatically when any wildlife moves into a pre-determined position are not accepted.

Limit digital manipulation to a minimum; images should faithfully represent the scene naturally. Images should not include a watermark or border.

Images must be submitted via the electronic submission form at CAWatchableWildlife.org/photos2023. All sections of the submission form should be completed, and we reserve the right to limit entries to those with complete submission data.

Submissions will be accepted through October 31, 2023.

Ethical wildlife photograph guidelines
The sponsors of the California Wildlife Photo of the Year Contest encourage every photographer to practice responsible wildlife photography. A photograph that appears to the judges to reflect one of the following situations is not eligible for submission and, if submitted, will be disqualified at the Judge’s discretion. That includes, but is not limited to, the depiction of:

  • Wildlife that appear to be stressed or harassed by the photographer;
  • Animals in dens or birds at nests taken with a wide-angle or macro lens;
  • Wildlife on artificial perches that has been placed on public/private property, nesting areas or preserves with the intent of allowing better access for photographers;
  • Beach-nesting birds, including but not limited to solitary flightless chicks and adults brooding, feeding, or incubating chicks, where the photographer’s distance appears closer than where the public has been allowed access; and
  • Wildlife drawn to an area by bait. Bait is defined as any type of attractant — such as another animal, either live or dead or other material — designed or used to lure an animal or bird to a specific location to be photographed nocturnal animals photographed with a flash at night.

Contest terms and conditions
The contest is open to participants worldwide and is subject to California law. Employees of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Watchable Wildlife, Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the judges and their immediate families are excluded.

No entry fee is required. Entrants may submit a maximum of two images during each entry period. Duplicate submissions will not be considered.

The deadline for entry is midnight on the last day of each entry period, with the last entries being accepted Oct. 31, 2023.

California Watchable Wildlife and Outdoor California reserve the right to cancel or modify the rules of the contest at any time.