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  • Eastern Rosella

    Eastern Rosella.   Photographer: Richard Smart

  • Australian Pied Oystercatcher

    Australian Pied Oystercatcher.   Photographer: Mal Carnegie

  • Australian Pelican

    Australian Pelican.   Photographer: Anna Browne

  • Great Egret

    Great Egret.   Photographer: Judy Leitch

  • Regent Honeyeater

    Regent Honeyeater.   Photographer: Bill Harding

Each time I judge a competition, the task becomes increasingly more difficult with the proliferation of high quality images submitted to competitions.  I congratulate every member who submitted their images to this competition.

The theme of preening birds is clear and precise, which in this sense made the competition easier to judge than some previous competitions. The word ‘preen’ is a verb and its definition is that of a bird tidying and cleaning its feathers with its beak.  Therefore, images in this competition should clearly depict this behaviour.  Observers of preening are also confronted, more often than not, with a bird in a dishevelled condition as the behaviour unfolds.  Similarly, the contortions that a bird must adopt to preen each and every feather contributes to the degree of difficulty in capturing images with a ‘stand-out’ or ‘wow’ factor. In judging this competition, I have adhered to the definition of ‘preening’, ignoring the rarity of the species depicted, and have applied a weighting for creativity in the overall composition.

It was an utter pleasure to see such fine work being produced by many photographers in Birdlife Photography.  I found the standard very high but it did make the job of selecting the winner a difficult one though.  I started with a very long ‘shortlist’ containing nearly a quarter of the images entered and carefully scored them, eventually settling on 8 images.  Well done to all who entered as you have contributed to an excellent gallery of photos.

With the relative ease of access to birds in our populated environs, this category enjoyed a bumper number of entries.  Gardens, walkways, rooftops, parks, feeder trays and even signposts were fair game for our enterprising entrants in this competition category in an attempt to grab a pic to match the topic.  The competitive spirit was fierce and it was a group of well constructed, sharply focused images that made the final group for this category.

Once again, there were many fine entries in this competition which made my final choices difficult.  The “City Slickers” topic was understandably broad, but in all of my selections the natural and man-made elements combine effectively to create a stronger image than just a bird on its own.  In each of my final selections, the man-made element is much more than a simple prop upon which the bird is perched; there is a conscious narrative or statement being made by each of these photographers, which sets them apart.

This was an enormously varied group of photographs exploring the theme of birds in urban environments, and the task of drawing distinctions between images and selecting a winner was a difficult one.  In considering these pictures I was constantly reminded on the importance of the background in a successful bird shot.  Naturally enough, what is in the background is not our primary concern when an image is taken – there is more than enough to think about in terms of focusing on the bird(s) – but in the final analysis, the background can make or break the success or otherwise of the image.

I absolutely love this topic. We spend so much of our time chasing around after birds, trying to find a way to get a clear shot or working on how we can get closer to them. So, it’s wonderful when they eventually settle down to preen and we are delivered an almost calm opportunity to consider our camera settings, our visual point of view, our light and perspective and how we can best take advantage of this lull in the chase to make some well planned, beautiful images.

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