• Bar-shouldered Dove

    Bar-shouldered Dove.   Photographer: Adam Higgins

  • Rainbow Bee-eater

    Rainbow Bee-eater.   Photographer: Harry Charalambous

  • Red-capped Plover

    Red-capped Plover.   Photographer: Mark Lethlean

  • Red-capped Plover

    Red-capped Plover.   Photographer: Dick Jenkin

  • Hooded Plover

    Hooded Plover.   Photographer: Andrew Browne

The most photographed species was the Crested Pigeon.  Most images displayed an appreciation of the subtle tones of the underparts in particular.  Curved crests, fluffed feathers and interesting Crested Pigeon behaviours were successfully captured in many entries.  Technically, many of the images showed good approaches to using light.

The entries showed a good range of behaviours – perching, drinking, sunning, wing-stretch, flight, feeding, bathing, preening and allopreening.  Many of these effectively captured the jizz of the species concerned.

I used the following criteria to help guide my judgement.  None of the criteria are hard and fast.  Bird photography ‘rules’ are meant to be broken.

  1. Crisp delineation of detail, particularly in beak, eye, claws, legs and feathers.  I looked for good eye highlight and/or good clear sclera colour.  The better highlights show the eye as rounded.  One issue here is whether the photographer successfully handles the technical challenge of depth of field, with the better images generally ensuring that the whole bird is crisp.

  2. Whether colours and tones appeared to be true to nature, taking into account clinal and sub-specific variations.

  3. Whether all or most of the bird was captured.  This is not a universal rule but a preference.  Several head-and-shoulders-only shots were very good, for example.  Eye-level shots are preferred to shots of birds high up in a tree.

  4. Plumage detail, wing shape, tail.  The poor old tail often misses out!  Good photographers use their viewfinders to check all of the bird, rather than just focussing on the head.

  5. Shape.  Does the bird look to have depth in its shape?  Do areas of plumage appear flat because of over- or under- exposure?  Has the photographer worked with available light to enhance the depth of the bird?

  6. Management of highlights and shadows.  This is a significant challenge for bird photographers in Australia’s clear, harsh sunlight.

  7. The bird is blended appropriately with its habitat.  Where birds commonly occur in built environments this may include park benches or barbed wire, for example.

  8. Whether the photographer’s commentary adds value to the viewer’s experience of the picture, to technical learning, or to our understanding of the bird.

  9. Degree of technical difficulty and any other challenges in photographing a particular species.

  10. Composition – contrasts, blendings, colour distribution and intensity, positive and negative spaces, detail versus broad brush, bokeh, eye-travel across the image, use of foreground, middle ground and background, and the way in which the bird occupies the image are all considered.

  11. Simplicity as opposed to clutter.

  12. Whether the jizz of the species has been captured.

  13. Drama, freshness, pizzazz and creativity.  Is there something special about the image that creates a WOW factor?

Taking the above into consideration, and grappling with choosing between two excellent images that are somewhat in the nature of comparing an apple with an orange, I award equal first to two entry level images:

Equal Winner: Crested Pigeon - Mary Wheeler (Image #16856). This photo pretty well ticks all of the above boxes. The photographer has managed the technical challenges in an excellent fashion. The result is a subtle, coherent composition which blends colour, shapes, light, and atmospheric mood with a strong insight into the species. The viewer can feel the cold with the birds and appreciate their response.

Crested Pigeon (Mary Wheeler)

Equal Winner Spinifex Pigeon - Jack Mitchell (Image #16887).  This misses out on some of the above criteria but it excels in the WOW factor. There is a freshness and immediacy to the image that simply demands the engagement of the viewer.

Spinifex Pigeon (Jack Mitchell)

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

Highly Commended: White-headed Pigeon - Pennie Marks (Image #16906).  This is a beautiful head shot which demonstrates a strong design approach using the sharp contrast between the white of the bird, the black of the background and the colour highlights.  The balance between the positive and negative spaces is very well-handled.

White-headed Pigeon (Pennie Marks)

Highly Commended: Crested Pigeon - Pennie Marks (Image #16952).  This image demonstrates how subtle use of variations of light can be used to provide a powerful focus just where the photographer wants it to be.  The result is a beautiful appreciation of a common species.

Crested Pigeon (Pennie Marks)

Commended: Common Bronzewing - Deb Oliver (Image #16893).  This image does a very good job of showing many of the rich range of colours, tones and saturation found in Australia’s pigeons and doves.  Particularly striking is the way in which the image picks up the variations in ‘bronzing’ which occurs in response to variations in the angle of the sun’s rays.

Common Bronzewing (Deb Oliver)

Commended: Common Bronzewing - Carole O'Neill (Image #17086).  This image provides wonderful details of plumage – including the fringes at the end of many of the feathers.  It also exhibits the nuances of tones around the head, neck and breast.  Finally, the rich emerald green bronzing caught in this image is particularly pleasing.

Common Bronzewing (Carole O'Neill)

 

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