• Yellow-billed Spoonbill

    Yellow-billed Spoonbill.   Photographer: Peter Bennet

  • Common Bronzewing

    Common Bronzewing.   Photographer: Mark Lethlean

  • Australian Pelican

    Australian Pelican.   Photographer: Harry Charalambous

  • Common Noddy

    Common Noddy.   Photographer: Richard Smart

  • Eastern Rosella

    Eastern Rosella.   Photographer: Con Boekel

The general standard of the 55 entries is very good.  Selecting a winning entry and highly commended entries was very challenging.

Highlights include many images in which the whole bird is sharply delineated, is shown in its habitat, is shown carrying out interesting behaviours and is true to the species’ jizz.

Arranging the birds attractively in the picture space seems to have been quite a challenge.  Where there were single birds it was as if the central point in the viewfinder decided for the photographer that the bird was going to be placed in the centre of the picture.  This can sometimes be addressed with cropping after the event, or by first focussing, and then moving the focus point around the bird and its surrounds to find a pleasing balance before taking the picture.

Two birds are more than twice as difficult to photograph as a single bird.  In quite a few instances where there were multiple birds, the birds have not co-operated!  They have ignored any and all requirements for artful composition and have arranged themselves in awkward or unwieldy configurations in the picture space.  Twosomes are sometimes too far apart or are each arranged to draw the viewer’s eye out of the frame instead of towards the other bird.  Birds will be birds!

The commentary provided by photographers added significantly to my enjoyment and appreciation of many of the images.  I encourage photographers to write their own comments and to read those of others.

My joint winners are #16996 and #16968.  One approaches the bird image more as if it were a scientific record. The other seeks to develop a beautiful work of art. Both demonstrate strong responses to technical photographic challenges and sensitivity to the birds being photographed.

Equal Winner: White-quilled Rock-Pigeon - Bill Harris (Image #16996).  This image, together with image #16970, is particularly valuable because of the under-representation of this species in the Birdlife Photography database, the high degree of difficulty involved in accessing this species and the generally challenging photographic conditions.

The photographer has done a very good job of addressing the considerable technical difficulties involved in light management.  This includes not only the powerful sunlight in northern Australia but the harsh light reflections from the rocks themselves.  In the absence of flash, it would have been impossible to get balanced light onto both the upperparts and underparts of this bird.  Sensibly, the photographer has chosen to get the balance right for the upperparts.  The plumage on the upperparts of the bird, around the head and neck, are crisp.  The eye and the beak is sharp.  The overall (natural) matt look of the plumage is intricately varied with small but distinct markings.  The strong light, and the bird’s habit of partially squatting on its legs so that the body is close to the ground, make gaining details and colour into the underparts extremely difficult.  In this case the way the bird is holding its tail gives more colour and detail than usual.

White-quilled Rock-Pigeon (Bill Harris)

How quickly light use can go wrong if it is not properly managed can actually be seen in Image #16970, where just a slight tilt of the head has created a significant dark flat spot around the lores.

That pebble in front of the leg is a nuisance!

A detail in the plumage in this image is interesting.  It shows part of a single quill of a single primary.  These are the quills after which the White-quilled and Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeons are named.  The quill in this image is not quite white.  Perhaps the quill is picking up false colour from either the wing or the rock?

The composition is straightforward.  The foreground, middle ground and background provide good pictorial depth.  Essentially, they are there to provide a neutral canvas that does not distract from the main subject of interest: a rare image of a bird which has a very restricted range in very remote Australia.  In this sense, the image is perhaps more about recording a good scientific specimen pic than it is about creating a work of art.

Equal Winner:  Spinifex Pigeon - Andrew Browne (Image #16968).  This is a mature approach to a creating a bird image as a beautiful artwork.  The composition is spare, coherent and well-balanced.  The triangle of the rock places the bird on its peak.  The strong diagonals of the rock’s edges lead the eye straight to the bird.  The asymmetrical nature of the triangle and the off-centre placing of the bird both work well, pictorially.  The red theme repeats itself across the picture – powerfully in the rock, with subtle variations in the bird and gently in the background.  Appropriately, this echoes the Red Centre and the sere habitat of this species.  The negative spaces are well-balanced.  Crucially, given the saturation of the colours and the density of form in the positive spaces, there is a larger area of negative space than there is of positive space.  This image is a classic example of less being more. It lacks clutter. Every detail in the image contributes towards the whole.

Spinifex Pigeon (Andrew Browne)

The bird itself is well-photographed with plenty of detail and a certain dynamic tension in its stance.  The bird demands eye contact.  Perhaps there might have been a smidge more crispness and a minor imperfection is that the white on the bird’s head is a flat space, lacking detail. But these are minor concerns.  The overall impact is that of a statue on a plinth.  Beautiful!

I award several other images a Highly Commended or Commended status:

Highly Commended: Squatter Pigeons - Bill Harris (Image #16985). This image does an excellent job of addressing the challenging task of photographing a pair of birds. The composition works very well. The main reason is that the shapes of the two birds form an inverted ‘V’, the apex of which becomes the central focus of the image. The birds occupy a well-balanced proportion of the picture space and the negative spaces also work well. The dull greens in the bokeh form an attractive but subtle and almost-complementary colour to the brown on the birds. The slight differences in the heights of the heads and the relationship of the heads to each other add pictorial interest. The fore-, middle- and back grounds are spare and simple. They are neutral, pictorially, so that the image is all about the birds. The birds are alert, are aware of each other, and of the viewer. The viewer is also intensely aware of the two birds, creating a nice feeling of triangular tension. The Squatter Pigeon jizz is well-captured. These birds spend a lot of time on the ground. They pair bond. The contrast between male and female plumages is well illustrated. The image is reasonably crisp as to beak, legs and feathers. Put all the elements together and this is a beautiful and satisfying image. The eye highlights are barely visible and this is the only significant issue with the image.

Squatter Pigeon (Bill Harris)

Highly Commended: Crested Pigeon - Judy Leitch (Image #16757). This is a beautiful image. The shape of the crest as it conforms to the wind and the way in which the bird leans into the wind delivers a wonderful dynamic tension. The closed eye is fresh. The way the bird shape and the rock shape are juxtaposed is well-balanced. The plumage is crisp. The colours are true. The image faithfully reflects the Crested Pigeon jizz.  A special feature is the way in which the gold flecks in the rock reflect the bronzing in the wings. The only downside would be the dark, uneven smudge running along the bottom of the image.

Crested Pigeon (Judy Leitch)

Commended: Crested Pigeon - Stephen Garth (Image #17017).  This image has a seemingly simple but remarkably complex composition. It is beautifully balanced in the picture space. It works like a fractal – creating seeming simplicity out of complexity. To understand this it is necessary to follow the outside lines of the main shapes. The outer curve of the neck and breast is neatly mirrored by the curve of the branch below. These two curves are neatly framed by the diagonal parallels between the crest and the branch. The curve of the back runs parallel to the curve of the branch. The clean background eliminates clutter which might distract from the focus of the composition. Importantly, the main lines tend to lead the eye to the head/eye area. The eye, beak, legs, claws and feathers are all sharp, and once again the photo demonstrates the jizz extremely well. Drawbacks are lack of detail in the under-tail coverts, a flat darkish-grey look where we should be getting iridescent bronzing, and dark places under raised feathers. The usually lovely delicate tones on the neck and breast are somewhat drained of their normal colour. These might all have been addressed by getting between the bird and the sun.

Crested Pigeon (Stephen Garth)

Final note. There are many other images that I considered for commended status with some of them just missing out. There are many, many signs of thoughtful responses to the technical challenges combined with signs of sensitive responses to the birds themselves which are then combined to develop creative and beautiful approaches to the bird imagery. Please keep clicking!

 

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