• White-naped Honeyeater

    White-naped Honeyeater.   Photographer: Emmy Silvius

  • Red-capped Robin

    Red-capped Robin.   Photographer: Chris Dubar

  • Spotted Whistling-Duck

    Spotted Whistling-Duck.   Photographer: Michael Schmid

  • Shy Albatross

    Shy Albatross.   Photographer: Richard Smart

  • Rainbow Lorikeet

    Rainbow Lorikeet.   Photographer: Richard Smart

There were a lot of good photographs entered at this Level and it was difficult making a final choice. From a technical point of view, I was looking for images that were in focus, well exposed, reasonably sharp and without too much noise. About half the images passed these basic image quality criteria and were then considered for aesthetic qualities and special points of interest. This resulted in a short list of ten well-crafted images that deserve mention: Pied Currawong (Image #20889), Orange Chat (Image #20886), White-winged Triller (Image #20884), Lewin’s Honeyeater (Image #20847), Swift Parrot (Image #20674), Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Image #20673), Flame Robin (Image #20671), Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo (Image #20490), Dusky Woodswallow (Image #20411) and Crimson Chat (Image #19321). There were a few images that might have made the short list if the photographer had a little more experience with composition like better placement of the bird in the frame and not making the bird too big in the frame. An example of the latter is the Asian Dowitcher (Image #20851) which would benefit from having more space around the bird and not cropping so much would result in less noise. Another example is the Red-necked Stint (Image #20721), technically superb but diminished by the square crop with the bird in the centre. Taking 10–12% off the bottom and adding 10% on the right would noticeably improve this image. Square crops should generally be avoided as they rarely look good. The Dusky Woodswallow (Image #20411) is another technically competent picture which would be improved by a more pleasing crop; portrait instead of landscape.

Winner: Flame Robin - Wilson Lennard (Image #20671).

My top pick for the Intermediate Level is the Flame Robin. The composition and image quality are excellent and there is engaging eye-contact with the bird. I am particularly pleased to see the photographer has handled the lighting and colour adjustments very well. This is a species that many photographers find difficult to faithfully capture as it is easy to blow out the red channel on the breast while at the same time maintaining detail in the whites and blacks. It helps to have the bird in soft light rather than direct sunlight as the resulting extremes in brightness challenge most cameras. Overall a fine image, captured with modest gear, demonstrating competence in the field, good post-processing skills and showing good taste.

Flame Robin (Wilson Lennard)

Highly Commended: Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - Wilson Lennard (Image#20673).

The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper is highly commended. The bird is well-positioned in the frame, nicely isolated from the background, and the out-of-focus vegetation in the foreground works to soften the bottom edge of the picture. The diffuse light has avoided harsh shadows and the halo-like area behind the bird helps focus the viewer’s attention. The image quality is excellent with the whites on the bird’s breast perfectly exposed and adjusted in post-processing to show the feather detail. The only shortcoming I see is in the bird’s eye which is rather dead looking. When faced with this problem it is usually possible to get a little life by selecting the eye and boosting the brightness until there is a hint of a highlight and hopefully the iris will also just start to show.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Wilson Lennard)

Commended: Pied Currawong - Mary Wheeler (Image #20889).

The Pied Currawong is commended; it captures the bird in its environment in a dynamic pose and has very good image quality. It would have been a strong contender for top honours had the bird been looking at the camera.

Pied Currawong (Mary Wheeler)

Commended: White-winged Triller - Gary Meredith (Image #20884).

The White-winged Triller is a pretty picture with good compositional elements and technically competent. The photographer has managed the exposure well and preserved good feather detail in the blacks and whites. Pernickety judges will not like the fact that the tip of the tail is obscured.

White-winged Triller (Gary Meredith)

Commended: Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo - Jill Duncan (Image #20490)

For the final commended image I found myself comparing the dazzling Swift Parrot ID #20674 and the feeding Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo ID #20490 . Both photographers captured their bird in a cluttered natural environment which has its challenges. The Swift Parrot appears to be slightly ‘soft’, perhaps from movement blur, the uncertainty in my mind because the photographer has not recorded the exposure time, or more likely because the AF has locked onto the leaf in front of the bird. I am therefore favouring the Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo which is also not without a few minor issues. The cluttered background can be ameliorated by the simple expedient of cropping about 30% off the top; you can see the effect by scrolling the image up the screen to cut off the top part of the image. The shadows across the bird are unfortunate but overall the image is technically good and the interest added by the food item makes it a commendable capture.

Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo (Jill Duncan)


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