2024 Beidler's 50th Anniversary Photo Contest

A large cypress trunk covered in soft moss and liverworts is surrounded by fast flowing water, somewhere between three to four feet deep.
Beidler is a visually rich place, and you can help us showcase that. This contest is for anyone and everyone, complete with prizes and overly critical acclaim. Personal creativity, technical know-how, plain ole' luck, and pandering to our judges' certain biases can all can give you an edge. Photo: Richard Covey


Submission and Deadline Rules

- Not entry fee!

- To submit a photo, you must first register here for the contest and then you will be sent an email with instructions on submitting.

- Submission start: January 22nd, 2024

- Submission deadline: April 30th, 2024

- Winners announced: May 18th, 2024

- Unless stated otherwise, your submission photos must have been taken no earlier than 2023 up to the final submission deadline for this contest (see each category for requirements)

- Anyone who submits one of the same photos that they submitted to our 2023 photo contest will be declared a big jerkamaroose

Photo Naming Convention and File Types

We would prefer .JPEGs for a file type but .PNG and .RAW (or .ARW) are fine too. GIFs are right out. We also understand that some tech companies love to make proprietary files types for images taken on their devices and we’ll do the best we can to translate them into an actually useful format, so don’t let that deter you if you can’t reformat your own files. We’re not the type of people who will judge you by the color of the box around your text messages.

Because we’re adults.

Help us out by naming the file you submit ahead of time. We WILL discount one (1) point from your photos’ scores if we have to take the time to rename them (this takes up a lot of time when you have 700 photos!). If you’re on a PC, select the file and press the F2 key to rename it, or right click it and select rename in the menu. On a Mac ctrl+click on a file and select rename in the menu. If you’re using a Linux we still can’t help you, such things are beyond our comprehension. And if you’re on a phone it can be tricky renaming photos but if you can’t figure it out let us know nicely that you tried in the submission email and we will withhold our wrath (penalty).

Please rename the image files submitted using the naming convention below:

(Category number)_(Last name)_(first name)

Example: 1_Covey_Richard

This photo is being submitted for the category “New Life” (see list below), by yours truly.

Here are the nine photo categories and their matching numbers. Further down are the explanations of what each category is.

  • 1 New Life
  • 2 Worst Bird
  • 3 Ladybirds
  • 4 Neighbor Birds
  • 5 Alt Text
  • 6 Analog Memories
  • 7 Flow
  • 8 Secret Birding Spot
  • 9 The Kid's Table

Also please ATTACH the image as a file to the email instead of inserting it into the body of the email. It saves us a ton of time on our side. If an image is too large to send as an attachment via email, you may shrink it down to a size near the maximum attachment limit without being penalized for file size quality (No photo submitted may be smaller than 1200x1200 at 72 DPI resolution, with the exception being the Analog Memories category).

Photo Rules
  1. Only 1 photo per category may be submitted by each participant, but participants can submit photos to as many categories as they like.
  2. Some (but NOT all) categories require the photo submitted to have been taken from Beidler. This includes from our boardwalk, in our parking lot (which can be surprisingly good for birds), canoe trail, or along our grassland-woodland trail (we even have feeder stations there to make it easy for you). If you submit an obviously non-Beidler photo to a Beidler specific category it will be deleted. If you are so familiar with Beidler that you are capable of submitting a photo that is subtly-Beidler-but-not-actually-Beidler then you’ve got us beat please be gentle.
  3. Photos submitted to different categories cannot be duplicates (you cannot submit the same photo to two or more categories).
  4. No violence, obscene gestures, injured or dead animals, or (human) nudity. Well, maybe we’ll consider an image with carrion if vultures are involved, for any of you weirdos out there.
  5. No images of people doing things against our trail best practices (click here to see our best practices)
  6. Photos may be taken with digital cameras, cell phones, film cameras, oranges… whatever provided you can submit a digital version of it.
  7. Photos must be submitted in hi def or close to the size they were taken, cropping an image for composition is okay but photos that have been otherwise shrunken down to potato quality will be discarded. Photos with a minimum below 1200x1200 at 72 DPI will be discarded (again, with the exception being for submissions to the Analog Memory category).
  8. Both color and black and white submissions are fine, but overuse of digital filters (such as color contrast, sepia- look, why? You know sepia originated from the color of dye squeezed out of cuttlefish, right? How romantic and old-timey. Okay, well, maybe a Carolina Wren would look great with sepia but let’s not overdo it). Any images of birds with cat ear and nose filters will not be deleted, they will instead be dropped into the Shame Bin, where they will exist without respite until the hard drive containing them dies.
  9. Photos must not have a watermark (all photos submitted will always be given proper credit on our website or social media).
  10. You cannot use your spouse, children, parents, or favored cult followers to submit more of your own photos, but they are all more than welcome to submit their own photos.
Written Submission Components

Some categories require writing (l'horreur!). Please include the written portions for each submission in the email you send with the photos attached and indicate which photo (by category number) they belong to. Keep in mind submissions have either a minimum or a maximum amount of sentences/characters, but please, do not write us novels. We love novels but they don’t fit well on our website.

Errors in grammar will be fixed for you, but we’ll remember. We’ll always remember.

Categories that require a written component must include a written component with the submission or they will be discarded.


Photos will be randomized for judging, judges will not know who took the photos unless you coordinated off site in order to game the system. If you are caught cheating then the next time you visit Beidler we will release ten (10) extra snakes on the boardwalk.

Each judge will use a ranking system to grant a photo up to 100 points. The photo(s) with the most points either win or go to a tie break. Tie breaks will be determined by weather patterns and horoscopes, no but seriously photos will be reevaluated with an additional 20 point rating by judges in order to break ties.

All categories will use a number of factors for judging, with each factor awarding anywhere from 10 to 70 points each. Since categories have different requirements their winning factors vary in point distribution. These factors and their total points are listed with their categories below.


While most of modern society teeters on the edge desperate for social affirmation on the internet, we’re also offering tangible rewards to the winners of each category.  We humbly hope that you will accept these material and experience-based items even if they do not quite fulfill that empty cliff that is your dopamine levels.

1 New Life 1 Beidler Merch Grab Bag
2 Worst Bird 1 8"x8" watercolor and acrylic painting of your most disliked bird by a local artist
3 Ladybird 1 Beidler Membership for 2024 (free admission all year, can be gifted to someone else)
4 Neighbor Bird 4 invites to witness a wild bird banding session with Audubon staff
5 Alt Text 4 tickets to one of our upcoming Firefly night programs (May/June 2024)
6 Analog Memories 2 Guest Family Passes (can be gifted to someone else) + a pack of 2 Disposable Cameras
7 Flow 2 handmade Cypress Bracelets made from Beidler Forest cypress cones (they float!)
8 Secret Birding Spot 1 Ivory-billed Woodpecker aluminum John James Audubon bird print (19 5/8" x 24")


1. New Life

Where there’s a life there’s a way. Or is it will finds a way? Whatever. Life is everywhere, and eager to grow if given the chance. At Beidler there is life stacked on life, quite literally things growing on other things. There’s both small and massive stories of life breaking new soil, standing on wobbling legs, or testing one’s wings. Photos in this category should highlight a fresh start to life, or something that has only recently come into being. Basically we’re telling you to go get a life.

Submission requirements:

  • Photos in this category MUST have been taken at Beidler Forest no earlier than 2023
  • Animals in photos must NOT be in hands or otherwise compromised positions (one bird in the hand is worth two reports to DNR). Don’t harass baby animals just to submit to us a photo of a baby animal being harassed, rely on our best practices when in our wildlife sanctuary

Winning factors: Composition (20 points), Lighting (20 points), Focus (20 points), Subject Matter (40 points)

Winner’s Award: 1 Beidler Merch Grab Bag (may include a hat, shirt, stickers, magnets, owl pellets, whatever the raccoons knock off the table into the bag)

2. Worst Bird

In this category we are looking for a bird that is just the worst. Everyone talks about their favorite bird, the Blackburnians, the Loons, the Hottentot Buttonquails, but what about their least favorite bird? Opinions are likely to run rife and that means anyone who likes drama is going to eat well. The reason why you think the bird you submit is the worst bird is up to you, we won’t hold you (legally) accountable for your opinion and we won’t encourage pitchforks from the audience even if that would be entertaining for us. You don’t even have to explain why you think this specific bird is the worst, but if you tell us without expletives we’ll probably share it, too.

Submission requirement:

  • 1 photo of the worst bird, can have been taken at any time and place provided you actually took it, does not have to be a native species
  • Has to be an actual bird, so no sports team or social media logos even if they are, in fact, the worst
  • (Optional) Explain in one sentence why this bird is the worst. We cannot predict how much this will matter to our judges but oh boy are we excited to find out

Winning factors: Composition (10 points), Lighting (10 points), Focus (10 points), Our Judges’ Personal Feelings Regarding Your Opinion (70 points)

Winner’s Award: 1 8"x8" watercolor and acrylic painting of your most disliked bird by a local artist. That’s right, the bird that you think is just the WORST will be artistically rendered for your viewing displeasure, idolized as a symbol of ire for all eternity, please don’t burn it

P.S. If you try to game us by submitting a photo of what is actually your favorite bird just to get a painting of it, then we hope that you understand in your heart of hearts that you are not a true hater.

3. Ladybirds

We’re bringing back this category from 2023, as it was one of the most challenging. Many male birds are known for their color and behavior, they have all the rizz (the kids are calling it rizz, right? Right. Right? It’s rizz?) but can you capture a female bird in the same light? It takes two to make a nest, unless you’re a little cuckoo (actually cuckoos are usually pretty big, but we digress).  Must be a female bird of a species that displays sexual dimorphism. Think woodpeckers, warblers, buntings, or if you’re basic, cardinals.

Submission requirement:

  • 1 photo of an identifiably female bird taken at Beidler Forest no earlier than 2023 (male birds are permitted in the photo provided there is at least 1 female)

Winning factors: Composition (25 points), Lighting (25 points), Focus (25 points), Subject Matter (25 points)

Winner’s Award: 1 Beidler Membership for May 2024 to May 2025 (free admission for the duration, a discount in the swamp giftshop, a chance to sign up for events before non-members, and can be gifted to someone else)

4. Neighbor Birds

This category is about birds where you live. It is not limited to birds in your backyard, as not everyone has a backyard, but any wild bird that lives close to you. If you have a feeder or water setup for bird photography, that’s fine. If you have a mockingbird that always attacks you when you go to your car, that’s fine. If you always have to dodge the efforts of doves on powerlines above you during your morning jog, that’s also fine. Show us who your neighbors are!

Submission requirement

  • 1 photo of a wild bird within 1 mile of where you live (use the honor system, please) no earlier than 2023
  • Bird must not be a pet or livestock
  • Bird must not be a yard decoration (we’re on to you, you know who you are)

Winning factors: Composition (25 points), Lighting (25 points), Focus (25 points), Subject Matter (25 points)

Winner’s Award: 4 invites to witness a wild bird banding session with Audubon staff. Bird banding is done to help with bird research and will give you the chance to see some of our wild songbirds up very close and personal. This session will likely be somewhere at Beidler and require some coordination between staff and guests. The best banding time following this contest will be in May, but that's not a dealbreaker.

5. Alt Text

We’re also bringing this category back from 2023. With this one the greatest factor towards winning is the participant’s ability to describe their photo with written word. Today’s technology allows us to reveal the contents of an image for those who may have trouble seeing it, and it requires some brevity, nuance, and a little bit of humor always helps (but don’t feel forced on that last one). The quality of the photo will still play a role, but most of the points in this category will be awarded towards creative and detailed writing. You may use no more than four sentences to a maximum of 250 characters (we WILL discount ones that run longer!), and this is important because of the amount of limited space given to alt text on websites. To learn more about alt text, visit this website.

Submission requirement:

  • 1 photo taken at Beidler Forest no earlier than 2023
  • 1 statement (maximum 4 sentences and 250 characters) describing what’s in your photo, and yes, spaces and punctuation DO count towards that character limit

Winning factors: Composition (10 points), Lighting (10 points), Focus (10 points), Subject Matter (10 points), Written Statement (60 points)

Winner’s Award: 4 tickets to one of our upcoming Firefly night programs (May/June 2024). Last year was our first year for firefly programs and tickets sold out in 20 minutes. We’re offering more dates this time around, but if you want to beat the crowd on this one you’re going to have to earn it!

6. Analog Memories

When was the first time you came to Beidler? Did you take a photo? We’d like to see it if you still have it! If you didn’t know, this year is Beidler’s 50 year anniversary. People have been exploring the swamp for decades, sometimes with decades in between their visits. While we have a wealth of photos from across that time, what we don’t have is your memories (and we don't mean that in a sinister-data-collection kind of way). For this category, dig through your closets and send us one of your first photos of Beidler, or your most fond Beidler photo from the last 50 years. Also send us a short paragraph (maximum 4 sentences, go easy on the run-ons roadrunner), telling us your memories about this photo.

If you have a developed photo that has faded due to time, our wizened Photoshop wizards can do a great deal to restore it back to its original color (or rather a digital copy of it), so don’t let that deter you (you will not be discounted for time-faded photography!).

Slides are also acceptable for submission, we have the capacity to digitize slides at the center, and we will ensure that your slide returns to you. Email us on whether you’d like to mail it to us or come drop it off in person.

Submission requirement:

  • 1 photo taken at Beidler Forest from before 2023. Digital photos are still allowed, and we understand that early digital cameras had lower resolutions, so don’t worry about that
  • Include the date in the message alongside your submission (or as approximate of a date as possible) so we know when we’re dealing with
  • One short paragraph (4 sentences) of your memories associated with the photo, this probably won’t affect judging but our judges are known to wear sunglasses indoors and uphold the Rule of Cool
  • You are by no means required to send the original photo, either scan it or if you haven’t touched a scanner in the last decade/ever take a very carefully oriented digital photo of the printed photo with your phone (the future is now)
  • We also have the capacity to scan a printed photo at the center
  • If you want to be a traditionalist you can fax the photo to our dedicated pager (JUST KIDDING)

Winning factors: Subject Matter (50 points), Age of Photo (50 points) - The older the photo, the more points it will get, basically, 1 year = 1 point! If you have a photo from Beidler that is older than that, we will add even more points (to a soft cap of 10,000)

Winner’s Award: 2 Guest Family Passes (can be gifted to someone else) + a pack of 2 Disposable Cameras (yes they still exist, apparently)

7. Flow

More than just water flows through the swamp. The official term for our swamp is a “braided stream system,” and the habitats themselves twist and curve, combine and separate. Everything that falls in the water and doesn’t sink is destined to end out in the Edisto, but it can take decades to get there. Steam can be seen drifting from sublimating frost on cold, sunny mornings, and spores from mushrooms can be seen carried away by a gentle breeze. There’s a lot more than water flowing in the swamp, and this category can be anything from Beidler that evokes the idea of flowing. This is also the most phototistically (it’s a word now) technically inclined category for this year, so keep that in mind.

Submission requirement:

  • 1 photo taken at Beidler Forest no earlier than 2023

Winning factors: Composition (30 points), Lighting (30 points), Focus (30 points), Subject Matter (10 points)

Winner’s Award: 2 handmade Cypress Bracelets made from Beidler Forest cypress cones. Inside our Bald Cypress cones are a number of spherical woody pieces that are not seeds. We don’t know exactly what they are yet but it turns out that they make some pretty cool natural beads! Carry a piece of the swamp in style with you wherever you go.

8. Secret Birding Spot

South Carolina has a lot of gems hidden amongst the live oak and betwixt the uhh… Rivers. That’s good. Anyways, hidden, pristine Carolina Bays, secluded tidal marshes, shaded groves deep in the middle of nowhere, there are lots of secret places to bird in this state. However, the purpose of this category is NOT to reveal the actual location of those places, we will NOT ask for the location at any point in time, this is merely to allow others to get a taste of the mystery, a spritzing, if you will. It also doesn’t necessarily have to be secret, it can just be your favorite birding spot in South Carolina. Your name will not even be attached to the image unless you specifically request it as this is an anonymous category. We will only take your information so that we can send you the prize if you win.

Submission requirement:

  • 1 photo of your secret and/or favorite birding spot in South Carolina
  • If you had to trespass to get to this location, don’t send us the photo. If DNR/Police/The United States Space Force calls us, we will comply
  • If you are okay with attaching your name to the photo, let us know, otherwise it will remain anonymous when we announce the winners. Or maybe we’ll give the anonymous participants cool code names. That’d be sweet

Winning factors: Composition (25 points), Lighting (25 points), Focus (25 points), Subject Matter (25 points)

Winner’s Award: 1 Ivory-billed Woodpecker aluminum John James Audubon bird print (19 5/8" x 24")

We know nothing.

9. The Kid's Table

This category is for the bird-loving kids. Or any nature-loving kid, really, we just wanted to make a brilliant play on a phrase. Is your child already addicted to digital devices and social media? Why not encourage a deeper relationship with that addiction by introducing them to the wild world of nature photography? Or perhaps you are a photography buff who never succeeded at making it big and are looking for opportunities to live vicariously through your children? Well here is the perfect opportunity! This category is for children 12 years or younger, and it can be any photo taken at Beidler provided it is either a natural landscape, flora, or fauna. Here’s looking at what you were looking at with your smart phone, kid.

Submission requirement:

  • 1 photo taken at Beidler Forest no earlier than 2023
  • The individual who took the photo must be no older than 4,380 days (or 6,517,440 minutes)
  • Parents and guardians are still required to have some responsibility (sorry) by helping your kids submit to this contest by filling out the online submission form (see link at the top of this ruleset)
  • Parents please include the age of the child in the email when submitting photos (the winner will only be listed as "First name, age" (ex. Tragedeigh, 11) during the winner's announcement)
  • Just so you know kids can (with the help of their parents/guardians) STILL submit photos to the other categories, this is the only category that has an age restriction
  • Adults caught cheating in this category will be subjected to all 70+ episodes of Skibidi Toilet

Winning factors: Imagination (33 points), Quality (33 points), Awesomeness (33 points), Freebie (1 point)

Winner’s Award: 1 Beidler Child Merch Grab Bag (may include stuffed animals, nature exploration items, stickers, knick-knacks, small shiny things, books focused on the metaphysical analysis of cultural discourse, etc)


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