blp shabash 430x45

  • Intermediate Egret

    Intermediate Egret.   Photographer: Peter Bennet

  • Cape Barren Goose

    Cape Barren Goose.   Photographer: Emmy Silvius

  • Little Tern

    Little Tern.   Photographer: Mal Carnegie

  • Chestnut Teal

    Chestnut Teal.   Photographer: Doug Castle

  • Crimson Rosella

    Crimson Rosella.   Photographer: Bill Harding

This is a challenging assignment. However, it is one from which we all can learn.  Light is so important in photography.  Good quality light can lift and transform an image, for example by bringing out colour and texture or creating mood.  On the other hand, flat and uninteresting light or harsh light which creates ugly shadows or affects colour saturation can spoil what otherwise is a very good image.

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.

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The Our People page, in the About Us section, contains email links to each of the committee members.