blp shabash 430x45

  • Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover

    Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover.   Photographer: David Newell

  • Splendid Fairy-wren

    Splendid Fairy-wren.   Photographer: Bill Harding

  • White-winged Triller

    White-winged Triller.   Photographer: Bill Harding

  • Brahminy Kite

    Brahminy Kite.   Photographer: Harry Charalambous

  • Eastern Yellow Robin

    Eastern Yellow Robin.   Photographer: Richard Smart

This competition produced many wonderful entries, and trying to select my six favourites was extremely difficult, and resulted in a high degree of procrastinating on my part.  It was very encouraging to see excellent shooting technique being deployed by so many photographers, getting down and dirty, well, sandy anyway. It is not coincidental that many of the strongest images in this competition were taken at low level.

One advantage of shooting at the beach, even when the light is far from ideal, is that the sand acts as one big reflector and is very effective at filling in shadow detail, so I noticed there were significantly fewer images than in previous competitions that suffered from blocked out shadows and blown highlights.

Without further ado, here are my selections …

Winner: Wandering Tattler, by Paul Jensen (Image ID 29575)

There were numerous, very fine images in this On The Beach competition that featured their subjects photographed at ground level, with a very shallow depth of field, sharply focused, and consequently with excellent subject definition.  For me, Paul’s image is a standout because it seems to be absolutely brimming with the energy of life itself, rather than simply being a technically highly-proficient bird portrait.  The Tattler caught mid-stride, walking towards the photographer, is very engaging.  The backlit lighting has been handled well, and the gentle slope of the rock shelf adds a dynamic element to the composition, as opposed to a flat horizon.  Where the focus needs to be sharp, it’s there in abundance. Where the plane of focus is absent, there is an unusual, almost distorted effect taking place which brings me back to my original, admittedly subjective, observation about the energy in this image.  I could try to analyse whether it is the particular optical qualities of the lens used, in conjunction with lighting angle, that has given such a vast array of specular highlights, but hey, it just works!

Wandering Tattler

Highly commended: Black-naped Tern, by Michael Schmid (Image ID 29703)

This image is elegance personified, with an almost ethereal feel to it.  So what do I like about it?  The very limited colour palette combined with the extremely soft gradations of tone, the perfect, relaxed balance of the tern itself on the perch of bleached coral(?), and the halo around the head of the out-of-focus darker background tones that draws the viewer’s attention straight to that arresting bill and face.  Anything else?  Yep, just admire the ever-so-subtle faint pink hue of the breast feathers, and the milky reflection in the eye.  Love it.  My only suggestions for improving it would be to remove the “bump” in the foreground to the right of the coral, and a little more space to the right of the tail would have been nice, but I’m being very picky now.

Black-naped Tern

Commended: Pied Cormorant, by John Eley (Image ID 29439)

An engaging, relaxed portrait of two cormorants, there’s a lovely, gentle feel to this fine image.  Well exposed, retaining both highlight and shadow detail in what are basically black and white birds, excellent sharpness of focus, and nicely balanced.  The overlapping of the two cormorants makes for a more interesting composition than if they were visually separated, but of course it’s the twisting pose of the cormorant at the back, maintaining great eye contact with the photographer, that really lifts this image.  The foreground cormorant, almost dozing, makes for an interesting foil in disposition!  Well done.

Pied Cormorant

Commended: White-faced Heron, by Bill Harding (Image ID 29705)

This was an image I initially passed over as it didn’t scream “On the Beach”, but I’m glad I reassessed it as it’s an understated beauty.  For one, the reflection is so remarkably clear, you could virtually flip this image and it would still look razor sharp!  The intensity of the heron’s demeanor is apparent, and I love the way the soft grey plumage blends with the mottled tones of the riverbank rocks, whilst the golden hue of its legs is replicated in the early morning sunrise reflection that lifts the entire image.

White-faced Heron

Commended: Osprey, by Angela Jansz (Image ID 29733)

An unusual, eye-catching shot of an Osprey, and Angela was certainly in the right place at the right time, given that it landed so close to where she was sitting.  As a consequence, the in-the-moment spontaneity is a very strong, attractive element of this image.  The concealment of the raptor’s formidable talons is interesting too, what lurks beneath, eh?  Reflected light off the sand and water has nicely filled in the undersides of the Osprey, however in post I might be tempted to either slightly push the contrast, or the black-point slider, just a little, to further enhance those exquisitely-patterned shoulder feathers and give the image even more punch.

Osprey

Commended: Australian Pied Oystercatcher, by Adam S Kraska (Image ID 29297)

An image with real pop!  Visually striking, with rich colours, and about as in-the-moment as you can get for feeding behaviour.  The strong, contrasty light has illuminated the eye and bill to an iridescent level, and likewise illustrated the glossy sheen qualities of the black feathering.  I would make a couple of small changes to the image in post.  First, adjust the curves or levels to bring out just a little more of the shadow detail particularly around the head and neck (whilst still keeping some solid black).  Secondly, I’d remove the somewhat distracting green leaf matter in the RHS foreground, probably with the cloning tool in Photoshop.  But overall, a really impressive image, of a very beautiful bird.

Australian Pied Oystercatcher

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