• Caspian Tern

    Caspian Tern.   Photographer: Mark Lethlean

  • Crested Tern

    Crested Tern.   Photographer: Andrew Browne

  • Satin Bowerbird

    Satin Bowerbird.   Photographer: Glenn Pure

  • Crimson Rosella

    Crimson Rosella.   Photographer: Stephen Garth

  • Little Corella

    Little Corella.   Photographer: Harry Charalambous

Despite the relatively small number of entries in this Entry Level Photographers competition, there were still some very strong images, and indeed all who entered should be proud of their work. Photography is a life-long learning process, and as long as you maintain the passion for your subject matter, the accumulated experience will inevitably result in ever-improving images.

One technical aspect that all photographers need to be aware of, particularly when photographing moving subjects, is the shutter speed of their exposure. I noted that a number of images in this competition were slightly soft sharpness-wise, and by checking the metadata we can see that shutter speeds were often just a little too slow, say 1/100 -1/125 second. Despite many cameras and lenses now having very effective image stabilization, the benefits of this are primarily for static subjects.

As we all can attest to, birds are perpetually on the move, even if it is only with their subtle, alert head movements or tail flicks. As a basic rule for ensuring sharpness of image, your shutter speed as a fraction of a second should at least match the focal length of your lens. For example, if using a focal length of 500mm (full frame DSLR equivalent) your shutter speed should be at least 1/500th sec, if not faster.  With experience, you will take note of the exposure settings displayed in the viewfinder as you are preparing to take, or actually taking, the shots. In the heat of the moment, it is all too easy to forget about the technical aspects of your image creation! If your shutter speed is a little too slow then either open up your lens aperture if you have that latitude (eg. from f8 to f5.6), or raise the camera’s ISO setting (the light sensitivity of the sensor)which again will facilitate the use of a faster shutter speed.  Yes, raising the ISO from say 400 to 800 or 1600 will inevitably result in digitally-noisier images, but that is the trade-off to ensure that your subject is sharper than it might otherwise be. The quality of the sensors in many DSLRs (and Micro 4/3 cameras) these days is such that using ISOs of 3200 and beyond is entirely adequate for the job in hand, and in fact it is often essential.

The bottom line is: don’t be frightened to use high ISOs in order to keep your shutter speeds up!

Here are my five favourites from this competition, in no particular order, as they are all very good.

Superb Fairy-wren by James Robins.  A glorious shot, considering how tiny this wren is it’s quite amazing just how sharp the head feathers are when enlarged on a computer monitor.  A very shallow depth-of-field adds to the portrait quality, the completely blurred background creating excellent isolation of the subject matter. Additionally, the darker green tones of the background really accentuate the brilliance of the bright blue head feathers.

Superb Fairy-wren (James Robins)

Swift Parrot by Wilson Lennard.  Frankly, this is a shot any of us would be happy with! Excellent sharpness where it counts, lovely light without it being over-powering, and a characteristic feeding pose so typical of the species. Well done, Wilson, a wonderful capture of a very beautiful bird.

Swift Parrot (Wilson Lennard)

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo by Ross Chapman.  A great flight shot, full of energy with the blurred wings, but impressively holding sharp focus on the head. The illuminated head, emerging from the shadowy underwings, draws your attention in perfectly. Successfully capturing birds in flight is always challenging, and Ross has done brilliantly here.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Ross Chapman)

Rainbow Lorikeet by Richard Smart.  Lovely head-study portrait, capturing the lorikeet’s alert yet curious expression, a nice pinlight in the eye, and a very shallow plane of focus with both foreground and background blurred away. Richard has taken this shot at just the right moment, the ‘decisive moment’. A good example of how a tight crop on the head of the bird really draws attention to its personality.

Rainbow Lorikeet (Richard Smart)

Brown Thornbill by Diane Peters.  Of the several bird bath shots, this was my favourite image. Such a typical scene from a birdlover’s backyard! The scruffy thornbill has real character, its ruby-red eye drawing you in. The mottled patterns and tones of the terracotta bowl really enhance the background. One small crop of the slightly distracting top-right corner would have helped overall. And all achieved with an inexpensive Canon superzoom camera!

Brown Thornbill (Diane Peters)

Well done to all who participated!


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