• Azure Kingfisher

    Azure Kingfisher.   Photographer: Harry Charalambous

  • Little Black Cormorant

    Little Black Cormorant.   Photographer: Mark Lethlean

  • Australasian Gannet

    Australasian Gannet.   Photographer: Emmy Silvius

  • Australian Shelduck

    Australian Shelduck.   Photographer: Rob Parker

  • Pied Cormorant

    Pied Cormorant.   Photographer: Ian Wilson

Once again, I really enjoyed judging these entries, as there were so many lovely images to choose from. At some point in the future, it’s clear that a competition solely for Pacific Black Ducks will have plenty of entries!

By the nature of this particular competition’s species, there were understandably a great many images “on the water”, and the quality of light and reflections, the depth of colour, and the graphic nature of the reflections, can greatly enhance the impact of the image. There were many fine, sharp captures in this competition, with often the subjective qualities of the water being the main differentiation between them.

As a constructive critique, a number of the entries that were shot in somewhat harsh light suffered a little from blown highlights. This is understandable, given the dynamic range limitations of even the best of sensors, but it’s always something to be aware of when shooting in such challenging conditions. Reviewing on the spot, with either the image histogram, or the warning “highlight blinkers”, is essential.

Congratulations to all the finalists, and indeed to all who entered. The overall quality of the entries made my job very difficult. Well done.

Winner: Chestnut Teal - Erica Siegel (Image ID 23874)

Complex image, fantastic colour palette, and a tangible, nervous energy about the adult birds that is captured perfectly. Compositionally, this is kind of the polar opposite to the simple (yet equally beautiful!) entry ID24211 of Bruce Mcnaughton. Despite it being so “busy”, none of the birds are obscured, and the way the adults’ eye colour is mimicked by the background foliage, well, that’s just remarkable. The graceful overlapping of the two adults is so elegant too. I like these environmental portraits, which provide a window to their world. Erica’s comment “a lovely sight to start the day with” is just so true, but full credit to her photographic nous for capturing that sight so wonderfully.

Chestnut Teal - Erica Siegel

Runner up: Chestnut Teal - Bruce Mcnaughton (Image ID 24211)

Elegance personified! This image is all about the glorious, ethereal water qualities this bird is immersed within. The sweeping subtlety of the tones is very painterly, in a Raymond Harris-Ching kind of way. Yes, it’s a simple image, but it’s a work of art. Possibly there is a little over-sharpening happening on the bird, but wow, the overall aesthetic quality of this image is stunning.

Chestnut Teal - Bruce Mcnaughton

Highly Commended: Adam Higgins (Image ID 24100)

Adam actually had four interesting entries in this competition, however for me this is his strongest. I particularly like the juxtapositioning of the foreground bird sharply in focus, with the background bird merely a lurking presence if you will. Within this particular competition for Intermediates, I think there was only one other entry (Mark Davidson’s lovely Grey Teal, ID 24032) that utilized this compositional relationship. Adam has avoided the vignetting that is apparent in his two Chestnut Teal images (not that many people would necessarily mind it). This image looks like it has just come straight from camera, with no post-processing. The composition is excellent, with just the right amount of space given to both birds.

Hardhead - Adam Higgins

Highly Commended: Pacific Black Duck - Pennie Marks (Image ID 23965)
Fabulous, tight composition, with the deep-red eye just peering from behind the most delicate of feather edgings. Focus is perfect, as is the exposure. This very tight cropping of waterbird portraits has become very popular in recent years, and this is a fine example. Adam Higgins also had a tightly cropped image (ID 24101) of this species, with some lovely light happening particularly in the background, but it unfortunately lacked the essential sharpness that is required for such an intimate portrait.

Pacific Black Duck - Pennie Marks

Highly Commended: Hardhead - Mark Davidson (Image ID 24008)

Certainly my favourite example amongst the flight shots submitted, I particularly like the way the panning has rendered the background so impressionistically. Rather than cropping the “empty” space on the left hand side, Mark has wisely left it for this striking bird to move into, creating a more dynamic composition. If anything, it could have been cropped just slightly more top and bottom, to further accentuate the horizontal thrust of the flight. There’s a fair bit of noise happening in this image, but for me it all adds to the overall soft aesthetics. And yes, the pale blue on the bill and eye is a great compliment to the background colour!

Hardhead - Mark Davidson

Highly Commended: Plumed Whistling-Duck - Bruce Mcnaughton (Image ID 24213)
Fantastic composition, really grabs the viewers attention, the ducks couldn’t have been more cooperative! Mind you, I’m sure they didn’t stay in this formation for long, so well done Bruce for capturing the critical moment so perfectly. All facing into the light, with nice shadows enhancing the curved form of their necks. Non-distracting background, and strong diagonal foreground. A second very strong image by Bruce.

Plumed Whistling-Duck - Bruce Mcnaughton

 

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