• Square-tailed Kite

    Square-tailed Kite.   Photographer: Murray Chambers

  • Malleefowl

    Malleefowl.   Photographer: Mal Carnegie

  • Pied Stilt

    Pied Stilt.   Photographer: Paul Jensen

  • Eastern Rosella

    Eastern Rosella.   Photographer: Richard Smart

  • Spotted Whistling-Duck

    Spotted Whistling-Duck.   Photographer: Michael Schmid

Winner: Pink-eared Duck - Cherilyn Corker (Image ID 24009)

The combination of beautiful light, calm water and sharp detail set this image apart and make it a clear winner.  The colours and textures of the duck’s plumage have been beautifully captured and their distorted reflection in the water adds an additional dimension of interest to an already striking picture.  The soft blue/grey of the lake surface forms a satisfying and complimentary background that is free from any distractions.  Water fowl of any description can be a challenge to photograph as closely as this - congratulations, this has been beautifully done.

Pink-eared Duck - Cherilyn Corker

Highly Commended: Australasian Shoveler - Cherilyn Corker (Image ID 24010)

Many of the characteristics of the winning entry are repeated here in this striking image.  The sharpness of the image is the aspect that immediately engages the interest, with the details, colours and textures of the feathers beautifully depicted.  The water surface distortions, particularly of the bird’s head, add significantly to the success of this composition.  The bird’s eye is striking and clear and demands our attention as we look at this picture.

Australasian Shoveler - Cherilyn Corker

Commended: Chestnut Teal - Margaret Clarke (Image ID 23940)

This is a strong and engaging image with much to commend it.  The detail in the bird’s feathers has been beautifully captured, as have the droplets of water that sit on their surface.  The duck’s eye is nice and clear and pretty much in the centre of the image, demanding the viewer’s attention.  The bill has a beautiful sheen to it, though the image would have been stronger I think if the entire bill had been in view.  It is clear that the bird’s activity in preening its feathers has agitated the water, creating swirls and ripples, and of course it is generally a strength in bird photography to have the bird exhibiting natural behavior, rather than simply “sitting”.  On the negative side, the agitation of the water has created a number of blurry highlights towards the top of the picture, and these form something of a distraction - particularly those immediately above the bird’s head.  The blurred foliage in the foreground and (to a lesser extent) at the top on the right, also detract from the focus on the bird to a degree.

 Chestnut Teal - Margaret Clarke

Commended: Pacific Black Duck - Anne Burgess (Image ID 24313)

This is a nicely captured image of a common species which was represented a number of times in this competition.  The image is beautifully sharp, and the striking markings on the head and the detail in feathers have been well captured.  What sets this image apart, however, is the graceful curve of the duck’s neck, accentuated by the muted and uncluttered green of the background.  The lower half of the background places the duck nicely in context.  Some people might say that the white flowers are a distraction, drawing attention away from the bird, but to my mind they are simply an aspect of where the bird lives, and the portrait itself is sufficiently compelling to command our attention.

Pacific Black Duck - Anne Burgess

Commended: Plumed Whistling-Duck - Victor Weaver (Image ID 24221)

I found this image interesting from the moment that I saw it, and I think it is because there is so much going on.  Some ducks are preening, some are sleeping, some are facing left, others facing right.  There is therefore a lot of detail for the viewer to explore.  The repetition of the wing feathers of the ducks on the left of the image is also a pleasing feature.  What the image lacks however, is a strong focal point. The two ducks in the centre, sharply in focus and peering off to the left, provide this to a degree, but the image is so busy, that they kind of get lost in the background.  I wonder whether a tighter crop (particularly the top quarter of the image) would have been beneficial in that it would have focused the image more strongly on the two central characters, and removed the blank, lighter hued patch of water from the top and centre of the picture.  Nevertheless, a great attempt here - filling the frame with birds, especially if you can achieve a repetition of shapes and patterns, can work well.

Plumed Whistling-Duck - Victor Weaver

Commended: Wandering Whistling-Duck - Margaret Clarke (Image ID 23939)

This is a nicely framed and balanced image.  The feather detail and light in the eye of the second of the two ducks is very well captured, and the whole effect is complimented by the green ripples and reflections in the water.  The balance of the composition is achieved by the juxtaposition of the two ducks facing in opposite directions - always a good trick if the birds will co-operate! The image is weakened by the fact that the foremost of the two ducks is not quite in focus, and this is a very common problem when attempting to photograph two birds through a long lens with a shallow depth of field.  Sometimes a pleasing image can still be produced in spite of such a drawback, but it is always better I think if the first of the two birds is as sharp as a pin, and the second is slightly out of focus.  This image has a very pleasant ambience, but if possible, it would have been beneficial (in post processing) to remove some of the reeds floating on the water - particularly the ones that intersect with the head of the second bird.

Wandering Whistling-Duck - Margaret Clarke

Commended: Freckled Duck - Douglas Coughran (Image ID 23852)

This is a difficult species to photograph effectively, partly because of the rarity of sightings in many parts of Australia, partly because of the birds’ habitual “loafing” around in deep shade for much of the time, and partly because in anything other than optimum light, the birds simply appear to be dark or grey in colour.  Given all of the above, this is an impressive capture.  The light highlight in the bird’s eye gives life to the image, the characteristic “ski jump” bill is well lit and has a lovely sheen, and there is very good detail in the feathers - this duck really looks “freckled”.  The ripples caused by the bird’s movement through the water have created a pleasing effect, and while there is no stunning reflection, there are no annoying highlights either.  The shadow across the bird’s neck and part of the face and the lack of contrast between the plumage of the bird and the colour of the water are the only real drawbacks to a well captured image.

Freckled Duck - Douglas Coughran

Reflections on Entries in General

It has been a great pleasure to review these images in the Ducks and Pygmy Geese competition.  While I feel that the Winning Image and the Highly Commended image clearly stood out from the rest, there was a lot to enjoy in these pictures.  Ducks and geese can be difficult to approach, meaning that they are often too distant to achieve a really strong picture that shows the detail of the birds, so well done to those who have achieved this in these images.  Water and light can be a magical combination for photographers and, as seen in some of these pictures, reflections can produce lovely effects.  However, water and light can work against the nature photographer as well, producing unwanted shadows and highlights that weaken rather than strengthen an image.  Congratulations to all who participated.


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