OPEN FOR Submissions


Cash Awards Paid to Winners

10 Categories to Enter

Win in any Medium – Print, Digital, Broadcast, Visuals, Etc.

Enter as Many Times as You like…in any Category

All Submissions (except books) to be Entered Digitally

The Excellence in Craft Awards (EIC) presented by the Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC) is a program designed to recognize excellence in the field of outdoor journalism and media communications by media professionals on topics related to the Outdoors. Given annually by OWAC, these awards represent the best achievements in a variety of categories as established by the OWAC Board of Directors.

In keeping with OWAC’s mission, “to expand public information on outdoor recreation and conservation,” these awards are a recognition of excellence as adjudicated by peers in the field of outdoor media communications.

Student Awards

2024 High School Outdoor Writing & Photography Contest

Open for Submissions

Eligibility — Open free to all high school Juniors and Seniors in  California public and private schools.

Subject —For writers: Minimum 500 words on any outdoor subject in digital format: essay, news article, personal experience, documentary, blog, research study, etc; no minimum word count for poetry.

For photographers: A portfolio of three photos of any combination of outdoor subjects (fauna, flora, scenic, people) in digital format, color or b/w. Digital adjustments and processing are allowed.

Deadline — Submit in digital format by April 1, 2024 by email to address below.

Winners — First- second- and third-place winners will each receive cash awards and certificates plus the prestige of recognition by California’s leading organization of outdoor media professionals.

Entry Format – Submit your name, address, email, telephone, grade level, high school name and location, title of your submission, and a statement that you and, if you’re under 18 years, your parents or guardian agree that your name and entry may be used by OWAC for publicity purposes.

Judging – Contest entries will be judged by professional journalists and photographers from OWAC.

Contest Sponsor — Outdoor Writers Association of California established the Pat Vachini Outdoor Writing Scholarships in memory of the wife of Don Vachini, long-time OWAC member and one of California’s foremost outdoor writers and photographers.

What is OWAC? — Founded in 1986, OWAC is the only organization of outdoor media professionals in the state of California. Members include newspaper and magazine staffers, freelance writers, book authors, bloggers, internet content contributors, photographers, broadcasters, editors, and media professionals covering winter sports, bicycling, fishing, hunting/shooting sports, archery, camping, birding, water sports, wildlife watching, camping, general outdoor recreation and conservation.

OWAC’s Mission — OWAC is a non-profit association of media professionals who communicate the vast array of outdoor recreational opportunities and related issues in California, the surrounding western region, and beyond. OWAC helps outdoor media professionals inform outdoor enthusiasts, expand awareness of conservation issues, and create a new generation of outdoor-media professionals. OWAC bestows awards to Excellence in Craft winners, Californian of the Year honorees, and for high school students to explore Outdoor Writing/Photography and media communications.

Send entries to

2024 Pat Vachini High School Outdoor Writing & Photography Scholarships

[email protected]

Email for further information

The Pat Vachini Outdoor Writing Contest, which is open to California high school students, is named for the late wife of Don Vachini, long-time OWAC member and one of California’s foremost outdoor writers and photographers.

of the year

Whitney Uyeda

Each year since 1993 Outdoor Writers Association of California has presented the prestigious Outdoor Californian of the Year award (OCOY) to one candidate who has shown outstanding outdoor accomplishments. The OCOY honors an individual working to improve awareness and protection of California lands and waters, wildlife and fisheries, fields, and forests, through a dedicated personal effort.

Past honorees making a difference have been advocates, educators, scientists, protectors, innovators of climate-related technology, teachers, biologists, politicians, land agency managers, and everyday citizens who work at restoration of California outdoor resources. Recipients have made great strides by improving awareness of California outdoor recreation through their work effectively communicating their missions, progress, and results to the public.

Watchable Wildlife

The California Watchable Wildlife Project celebrates the state’s wildlife and diverse habitats by acknowledging and elevating the value of wildlife viewing to benefit individuals, families, communities, and industries while fostering awareness and support for conservation and protection of wildlife and habitats.

This program administers an annual wildlife photography contest, which OWAC is proud to help promote.

You are invited to submit your very best photos of California wildlife for this year’s contest

 California Wildlife Photo of the Year

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2023 Excellence in Craft Awards

EIC 2023

2023 Student Awards

Students 2023

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