• Sooty Oystercatcher

    Sooty Oystercatcher.   Photographer: Dick Jenkin

  • Red-capped Plover

    Red-capped Plover.   Photographer: Dick Jenkin

  • Black-fronted Dotterel

    Black-fronted Dotterel.   Photographer: Barbara Oehring

  • Tawny Grassbird

    Tawny Grassbird.   Photographer: Harry Charalambous

  • Buff-banded Rail

    Buff-banded Rail.   Photographer: Mark Lethlean

The minimum requirement for an acceptable image at this Level is that the bird must be in focus and reasonably well exposed. I am pleased to see that most of the images passed this hurdle although some images were a bit ‘soft’. The problematic performance of the Sigma 150–500 mm zoom at 500 mm was to blame in some cases and I saw little evidence that photographers understood the need for output sharpening. When an image is downsized for the BLP gallery, a mild blur is introduced which needs to be removed using output sharpening as explained by Glenn Pure in the April 2016 Newsletter.

From an aesthetic point of view, nearly half the images showed the bird in the centre of the frame which is not a pleasing composition. It is usually better to offset the bird from the centre to give it some ‘space’ to look into, walk into or fly into. Another serious problem arises from making the bird too big in the frame; three images were compromised in this way. Despite these shortcomings, I found plenty of reasons to be optimistic as in most cases the photographer only needed to take a few small steps to achieve a noticeable improvement. My top selections for the Entry Level competition are as follows:

Winner: Double-banded Plover - Daniel Lees (Image #20636).

The Double-banded Plover is a striking image with the bird highlighted in a shaft of beautiful soft light. The image has a lot of potential and could be improved with a few simple adjustments. For example, one could crop out the vertical twigs of vegetation on the left and add a similar amount to the right if available. The dark out of focus sea-weed piles in the background are distracting and could be lightened to make them less obvious. One might also consider taking a bit off the top and bottom. Little changes like these can make a big difference to a viewer’s first impression and invite a closer look. A little output sharpening of the bird using the Remove Gaussian Blur option in Photoshop would also be beneficial. Despite these minor issues, I am pleased to select this image as the winner of the Entry Level competition.

Double-banded Plover (Daniel Lees)

Highly Commended: Forest Kingfisher - Anne Burgess (Image #20896).

The Forest Kingfisher is highly commended. The bird is nicely framed and technically competent with the image quality about as good as one can expect from a JPEG only super-zoom at full stretch. The presentation could be improved with a little output sharpening of the bird.

Forest Kingfisher (Anne Burges)

Commended: Plumed Whistling Duck - Anne Burgess (Image #20843).

The group of three Plumed Whistling Ducks is technically and aesthetically pleasing but as the photographer notes, these birds are alert and to my mind this introduces undesirable tension into the photographic narrative. A lower shooting angle, if possible, would have been helpful and as with the previous images, a little output sharpening would be beneficial.

Plumed Whistling Duck (Anne Burgess)

Commended: Bar-tailed Godwit - Jeni Mackenzie (Image #20542).

The thumbnail of the flying Bar-tailed Godwit promised much but I was disappointed on opening the image to find it was ‘flat’ and washed out. It is otherwise a splendid capture with the rolling surf in the background and the bird nicely positioned in the frame. It looks like the contrast was somehow ‘flattened’ and the photographer should seek expert advice on the cause of this and on ways to recover the image. It would be helpful to know the camera settings used to capture this image.

Bar-tailed Godwit (Jeni Mackenzie)

Commended: Black-tailed Native-hen - Daniel Lees (Image #20641)

The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Black-tailed Native Hen shows that the Sigma 150–500 mm can produce a reasonable image in good light if the aperture is closed down far enough (f/13!). The Sandpiper image is too compromised by the distraction caused by the rock in the foreground, central position of the bird and the high point of view but the Native Hen has reasonable image quality for the gear used and the walking bird is nicely positioned in the frame..

Black-tailed Native-hen (Daniel Lees)


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