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  • Australian Pelican

    Australian Pelican.   Photographer: Mal Carnegie

  • Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

    Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater.   Photographer: Sandy Castle

  • Common Noddy

    Common Noddy.   Photographer: Richard Smart

  • Black-fronted Dotterel

    Black-fronted Dotterel.   Photographer: Bill Harding

  • Budgerigar

    Budgerigar.   Photographer: Mark Lethlean

“Capturing The Light” – what a truly wonderful theme for a competition, for as photographers we all know that light is everything!  Without it, there is no image.  Consequently, and unsurprisingly, there were many entries at Intermediate Level that were of a very high standard, and it has been a great pleasure to review them.  I particularly enjoyed reading the often insightful comments made by the respective photographers about their images, which frequently demonstrated a strong creative awareness of just how the differing qualities of light can make, or break, an image.  Just how we harness these qualities, photographically, to emphasize mood or enhance visual impact in our images, is a constant, but rewarding challenge.

My congratulations to all the entries which made my final selections, and indeed to all who entered the competition.  It was very difficult to judge, for qualities of light are so very subjective!

Winner: Victoria's Riflebird - Sandy Castle (Image ID 26657)

Sandy’s portrait of the Riflebird is simply stunning.  The quality of light in it reminds me of a Rembrandt painting, with the subject emerging from the darkest of shadowy backgrounds.  The tightly-cropped composition is excellent, with a nice catchlight in the eye, and the bill illuminated just enough so it doesn’t lose definition.  What really gives this image the extra visual impact is of course the elongated sickle-shaped shadow of the bill stretching down across the breast.  That shadow is fantastic!

Victoria's Riflebird

Runner-up: Australasian Grebe - William Betts (Image ID 26907)

Wow.  I loved William’s comment “The light was in the wrong place but the subject was very close and looking adorable.  So I took some images anyway.  Sometimes the rules are wrong.”  How true!  I think this is truly wonderful, so dark and moody, with almost theatrical lighting.  Super high contrast, but very effectively captured.  There are little details in it that really grab me, like the little bejewelled water droplets on the Grebe’s spiky chest feathers, all enhanced by the angle of light.  The two chicks almost casually observing the photographer from the safety of their parent’s back, and that stunning pale yellow eye is another killer element.  There are some tiny highlighted specks on the water surface in front of the Grebe that I find a little distracting, but they could be easily removed in post-processing.

Australasian Grebe

Highly Commended: White-faced Heron - Doug Castle (Image ID 26658)

The bands of reflected light wrapping around the elegant form of the Heron are quite amazing.  Doug’s image is sharp, well-exposed, the subject matter is suitably intense, but those bands … with the various thicknesses of them being determined by the size of the ripples below.  It’s a remarkably beautiful effect, perfectly captured.  Well done Doug.  The two small white globules (specular highlights?) just to the right of the Heron should be removed, as they are a small distraction to the overall image.

White-faced Heron

Highly Commended: Brolga - John Bosworth (Image ID 26600)

One of my favourite images in this competition, and like William Bett’s Grebe (above), it demonstrates how you should always look for photographic opportunities no matter what the light is “doing”.  The dull flat light has created a very sombre emotional tone to this beautifully-composed image, and yet the three Brolgas overlapping each other certainly radiate a sense of intense energy about them.  Their red heads really give a point of focus, against the overall neutrality of the colour pallete.  I know this image may not appeal to a lot of photographers, but I think it’s a cracker.


Commended: Brolga & others - Bill Harding (Image ID 26751)

There were several excellent images submitted that successfully utilized the silhouette effect to create a lovely moody image, but I particularly liked Bill Harding’s image because it contained a number of interesting elements such as differing sense of scale, and is so full of life with all the species captured.  You can almost hear the early morning Kakadu cacophony!  The iconic brolga silhouette flying into the frame is the clincher for me, the thing that sets it apart from the other entries of similar technique.  A wonderfully graphic image.

Brolga and others

Commended: Scarlet Robin - Simon Pelling (Image ID 26767)

Simon’s comments said it all really: “To me, this is a simple, uncluttered picture which is ultimately created by the lighting and the blend of soft, warm tones.”  Yep, you got it, Simon.  The crispness of the Robin and its perch, and the subject’s isolation from any background detail, is beautiful.  I feel like I can almost reach out and touch this gorgeous little bird.  Compositionally, the image could have been cropped a bit on LHS and bottom of frame, to create a slightly better balance, or alternatively it could easily have been turned into a vertical portrait.

Scarlet Robin

Commended: Pacific Black Duck - Adam Higgins (Image ID 26801)

This is another excellent example where the quality of light has really enhanced the overall impact of the image.  Technically, the very low camera angle, good eye contact with the subject, and successfully capturing the duck’s movement despite the relatively low light, are all important elements in this portrait.  I probably would have enhanced the effect of the sunrise reflection by adding a little more saturation in post, to create a slightly richer glow to it.  I enjoyed reviewing all 4 images which Adam submitted; they were a very fine set, but this was the pick of them for me.

Pacific Black Duck


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