blp shabash 430x45

  • Little Egret (Image ID 38972)

    Little Egret.   Photographer: Harry Charalambous

  • Lesser Sand Plover,Great Knot,Red Knot (Image ID 29675)

    Lesser Sand Plover,Great Knot,Red Knot.   Photographer: Mark Horvath

  • Variegated Fairy-wren (Image ID 27842)

    Variegated Fairy-wren.   Photographer: Bill Harding

  • Sooty Oystercatcher (Image ID 28649)

    Sooty Oystercatcher.   Photographer: Emmy Silvius

  • Spotted Whistling-Duck (Image ID 26442)

    Spotted Whistling-Duck.   Photographer: Michael Schmid

I absolutely love this topic. We spend so much of our time chasing around after birds, trying to find a way to get a clear shot or working on how we can get closer to them. So, it’s wonderful when they eventually settle down to preen and we are delivered an almost calm opportunity to consider our camera settings, our visual point of view, our light and perspective and how we can best take advantage of this lull in the chase to make some well planned, beautiful images.

Each time I judge a competition, the task becomes increasingly more difficult with the proliferation of high quality images submitted to competitions.  I congratulate every member who submitted their images to this competition.

The theme of preening birds is clear and precise, which in this sense made the competition easier to judge than some previous competitions. The word ‘preen’ is a verb and its definition is that of a bird tidying and cleaning its feathers with its beak.  Therefore, images in this competition should clearly depict this behaviour.  Observers of preening are also confronted, more often than not, with a bird in a dishevelled condition as the behaviour unfolds.  Similarly, the contortions that a bird must adopt to preen each and every feather contributes to the degree of difficulty in capturing images with a ‘stand-out’ or ‘wow’ factor. In judging this competition, I have adhered to the definition of ‘preening’, ignoring the rarity of the species depicted, and have applied a weighting for creativity in the overall composition.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on these wonderfully varied and imaginative pictures of preening birds. Birds that are preening are sources of possibility for the photographer, and their contortions present opportunities for seeing them in unusual and engaging poses. Feathers are often exposed in interesting and unorthodox ways that can range from the stunning to the comic in their impact on the viewer. The images presented for this competition demonstrate this in a variety of ways.

As defined in the pre-amble for this competition, "the object is to achieve a well-exposed capture of the subject without blowing out the white areas of the bird’s plumage, whilst ensuring that there is detail in the black plumage and /or bare parts, and without excessive noise in the blacks".

This is not an easy achievement given the dynamic range of even the latest camera sensors will not attain the perfect exposure for the blackest blacks and the whitest whites in the one exposure. For this reason alone, this competition is possibly one of the most difficult assignments a photographer can undertake.

Thank you for inviting me to be your Mystery Reviewer.  Whilst I have been seriously involved in photography for many years, having received numerous awards at local, national and international levels and judged many photographic competitions, I am not a “birder” or a specialist bird photographer or judge.  So as with everyone who has entered, this competition is also a challenge for me.

It was most enjoyable to see so many entries in the Advanced Level category.  Whilst most photographs centred on the usual “easy to find” subjects, Teals, Blacks and Wood Ducks, it was gratifying to see the unique treatment delivered to these subjects.  Thanks also to those who went further afield to locate the Blue-Billed and Musk Ducks.  The judging of an advanced skill set becomes a matter of finesse, as there is a great deal to enjoy in this level of competency across all the images presented to be judged.  Subtleties of light, colour, texture, movement and point of view, are often the deciding factor in an images selection.

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