blp shabash 430x45

  • Black Swan

    Black Swan.   Photographer: Con Boekel

  • Crimson Rosella

    Crimson Rosella.   Photographer: Doug Castle

  • Crimson Rosella

    Crimson Rosella.   Photographer: Bill Harding

  • Shining Bronze-Cuckoo

    Shining Bronze-Cuckoo.   Photographer: Chris Dubar

  • Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

    Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.   Photographer: Sandy Castle

This was an enormously varied group of photographs exploring the theme of birds in urban environments, and the task of drawing distinctions between images and selecting a winner was a difficult one.  In considering these pictures I was constantly reminded on the importance of the background in a successful bird shot.  Naturally enough, what is in the background is not our primary concern when an image is taken – there is more than enough to think about in terms of focusing on the bird(s) – but in the final analysis, the background can make or break the success or otherwise of the image.

Plain backgrounds (out of focus) work best.  Dark backgrounds are generally better than light.  Images with busy backgrounds (dappled foliage, crossed twigs and branches) , backgrounds that are lighter than the subject (the bird), backgrounds with distracting bright spots which catch the eye and the attention, are generally less successful and less satisfying on an artistic level.  Congratulations to all who entered; it has been a privilege to be asked to comment on your work.

Winner: Hooded Parrot, Little Friar Bird - Veronica Peric  (Image ID 27520)

This image has two great strengths that set it apart from others in this category.  Firstly, the birds are doing something.  There is drama, there is movement, there are less than orthodox postures and poses, and all of these elements contribute to the interest and success of the image.  Secondly, there is the wonderfully muted background of the grey palm fronds which compliment beautifully the plumage of the friar birds, and appear as dramatic explosions of grey behind the birds.  These two aspects of the image give it significant strength as a composition, and more than make up for some minor criticisms, the main one being that the image would be even stronger were it to be more tightly cropped – particularly on the sides, and perhaps a little off the bottom.  Congratulations on a really nice capture – who wouldn’t like to have Hooded Parrots in their garden?

Hooded Parrot, Little Friar Bird

Commended: Pied Currawong - Kym Rawson (Image ID 27427)

 Well – I’m intimidated!  This capture of a Pied Currawong is a picture that commands attention simply because of the posture of the bird, and the look in those blazing yellow eyes.  Intelligent, predatory and intimidatory, Pied Currawongs make interesting and engaging subjects for photography, and this is certainly the case here.  Even the blurred water droplets captured in mid air add to the effect, almost having the appearance of metal studs attached to an all black uniform.  The beak and the eyes are pin sharp, most of the bird is in focus and the background nicely blurred.  The image would perhaps be further strengthened by measures taken to darken the background so that our full attention is commanded by bird itself.  Not a bad capture from a motion sensor camera!

Pied Currawong

Commended: Brown Thornbill - McKinley Moens (Image ID 27678)

There is much to commend in this image.  There is interaction between the birds, providing a dynamic to the photograph and adding an additional level of interest.  The birds are nicely in focus and the one in the water has a clear, sharp eye with a pleasing highlight.  There is excellent feather detail in the bird on the right.  The background is nicely blurred, but in this case it is perhaps a little too dark – particularly to the right of the image, and this prevents the birds from standing out sufficiently.  The eye of the bird on the right is also rather dark, while its brown plumage almost fades into the dark background on the far right, while the purple background on the left almost clashes with the colours of the birds and the birdbath.  An excellent attempt and a nice moment, but the background lets it down.

Brown Thornbill 

Commended: Australian Hobby - Cassandra White (Image ID 27265)

This image is full of drama and interest, but fails to tick important boxes for a winning shot.  First of all, what a great capture!  A strong part of the composition can be seen in the rather pathetic dangling legs of the dove and this part of the picture is really well exposed.  When it comes to the Hobby itself however, some work perhaps needed to be done in post production to bring out the detail in the shadows, and tone down the highlights where the light is hitting the bird.  It is also not difficult to remove the pieces of greenery on the right hand side and in the top left hand corner.  These steps would have done much to make the image stronger.  The main problem with the composition of this picture, however, is with the wing feather from the dove which has been captured in mid air, and unfortunately cuts right across the Hobby.  These things are impossible to control of course, but taken a fraction of a second later, with the feather out of the way, this image would have been a contender.

Australian Hobby 

Commended: Little Corella - William Woodhouse (Image ID 27597)

This is a very appealing image of two birds in very different poses – indeed it is the kind of image that cries out for a caption.  The muted green background is nicely out of focus and enables the birds to really stand out.  The birds themselves are sharply in focus, with excellent details in the feathers and a nice highlight in each eye.  While it is really easy to over expose the plumage of largely white birds, this has been avoided here, and the whole thing has appeal and personality.  Well captured.

Little Corella  

Commended: Common Bronzewing - William Woodhouse (Image ID 27595)

While lacking any of the sense of drama attendant upon some of the other images in this competition, this is nevertheless a very appealing, muted study of a beautiful work of nature.  The background is nicely out of focus, and in colours that compliment and add emphasis to the bird’s plumage.  As a result the bird really “pops” out of the background, and all of our attention is where it needs to be.  The bird itself is beautifully exposed in an image which brings out all of the subtle glories of its plumage, while the eye is quietly highlighted.  In an ideal world this Bronzewing would be perched on a branch rather than what appears to be a window sill, the sharp line of which cuts off our view of the bird’s feet and tail.  This is a minor criticism however, and an unavoidable limitation imposed by the context in which the picture was taken.  Congratulations on a very appealing capture.

Common Bronzewing  

Commended: Australian Brush-turkey – Deanne Gaskill (Image ID 27576)

This image is chosen as much for its capture of the moment as for its capture of the bird.  Brush Turkeys are not difficult birds to photograph.  They are large, confident (if not brazen) members of the avian community who are not really known for their photogenic qualities.  To some minds, they have a face that only a mother could love, but given what is known about Brush Turkey parenting practices it is doubtful whether even this is true!  Nevertheless, they serve an important purpose in moving around the leaf litter in native forests, and they have personality!  What is nice about this picture is that the bird has been captured doing what it does best.  The bird itself is in sharp focus, but the shutter speed selected has allowed for an appealing blur to the hind leg, and the litter captured in mid air is what makes the shot.  Added to this is the jaunty angle of the neck wattle, created as the bird puts in the effort and shifts its weight onto its right leg.  For a still picture, that is a lot of movement captured.  Having said this, the light is quite flat and neutral throughout the shot, and it may be that some benefit would have been gained from darkening the edges of the image.

Australian Brush-turkey


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