I want you all to know I tried this, and it was darn hard!  If you live in a city, and wanted to have more than a rare or fleeting glimpse of a “blue” subject in the wild, you were probably restricted to a limited choice of Rainbow Lorikeets, Purple Swamphens, a duck or two or maybe a less likely opportunity with a Crimson Rosella.  Or maybe a Corella if you were lucky.  This meant that one generally had to go further afield in the wild to find an appropriate colour subject, and this I feel is why the number of entrants for this competition was nearly half of previous challenges.  Although, it did occur to me much later that a long overdue trip to the zoo could have achieved a worthwhile result, too.

To have such a specific challenge obviously narrows down the available field of subjects dramatically in the suburban environment.  This then means that we had to spend more time finding birds with blue attributes, and this therefore left potentially less time available to concentrate on creating an interesting, artful or stylish image.  That said, the photographers whose images have been recognized showed us their skill and dogged determination to create something more than just a blue bird picture.

Notwithstanding that this competition topic was very challenging, it was by the same token very exciting.  Birding is always a contest, some may even say conquest when it all goes well.  It gave us the opportunity to dig deeper and to work harder at being better photography exponents.  Because bird photography is not just about the technicalities of the camera and lens. It’s so much more.  We have to find the bird, which can require some understanding of the subject’s habitat/environment, and maybe even require some bush-craft skills in order to get close enough to get that elusive, creative or artistic shot.

I felt that whilst we did have fewer entries, the actual standard was higher in the entrants that did obviously work very, very hard to rise to the challenge to capture great images of this exclusive group of birds.  The bulk of submitted images were sharp, and well lit and it was wonderful to see a wide use of great backgrounds to enhance their images.  This is what we hope to see in the Advanced category as photographers develop a more holistic approach to their image creation.

Winner: Turquoise Parrot, by Wilson Lennard (Image ID 30172)

A visually descriptive image that combines many of the elements of design splendidly.  What makes this a striking image is that the primary elements of design (lines, shape, form, texture and colour) all balance really well.  Lines are the strongest element in composition, eg. no line no shape, no shape no form, no form no texture, no texture no pattern.
In this image the right to left lines are overwhelmingly the strongest element in the image.  The vertical grass stems, the bark texture running vertically and the tall vertically oriented bird.  The alternately leaning lines of the grasses, the bird and the log all move the eye up and down through the image.  Other elements provide synergies in the image, too.  The shape (contour) of the bird, grass and log are all vertical and long, and the form (structure) of the bird, log and grasses are all round.  These similarities give this image a consistency that the eye cannot deny.  As well, though, there are subtle differences.  The harsh texture of the log bark contrasts to the soft texture of the bird’s feathers.  Colour plays a strong role in the image, too.  The colours of the bird correspond exactly to the background grasses which aid in pulling the foreground and background together, but with just enough contrast in the log sandwiched in the middle, to keep the image from collapsing into a bland game of tones.  A lovely image that tells me much about this bird’s environment.

Turquoise Parrot

Commended: Sacred Kingfisher, by William Betts (Image ID 30121)

The first thing that struck me in this image is the beautiful lighting.  It’s soft, delicate and the complete bird (facing) is really well exposed. It is a delight to view an image that has been subtly lit so that the whites aren’t overexposed.  In this image we can see the delicate dark spots around the neck clearly.  This light has been very well controlled so as to allow the shadows to fall in the folds of the wing feathers.  Combining with the dark background an almost three dimensional feeling is portrayed in this lifelike rendition.  A very well crafted image.

Sacred Kingfisher

Commended: Crimson Rosella (ssp P.e.flaveolus), by Wilson Lennard (Image ID 30173)

Looking more like a painting, this image gives us an excellent visual result.  It shows off both the exquisite back plumage as well as an excellent profile view displaying the front head markings.  Not only did this photographer get a bird with blue feathers, he patiently waited for the precise moment to get this highly descriptive orientation.  I’m sure he saw that the perch he selected for his desired image had a background of infinite blur, and was going to give his planned image a soft ‘neutral palette’ for his brightly coloured subject to stand out against.  This style of image is seen by the advanced photographer, prepared early, delivering a no-distraction background and an image of beauty.

Crimson Rosella

Commended: Indian Peafowl, by Con Boekel (Image ID 30049)

Ordinarily a two dimensional study doesn’t create as much interest as an action shot, or even an angled perched image with maybe a head turned showing different postures.  However this orientation well suits this subject in giving us a clear view of the fascinating rear plumage and excellent feather detail.  A real close-up of every part of its textured head.  The natural lighting is attractive and the neutral background framing the subject allows 100% focus on the bird with no distraction.

Indian Peafowl

Commended: Sacred Kingfisher, by Brian O’Leary (Image ID 30237)

Obviously this is a very difficult image to capture and as such the photographer is to be congratulated on acquiring it.  As a remote setup shot, even at the fast shutter speed chosen (1/3200) there is a slight amount of motion blur as without panning it’s almost impossible to capture a fast subject crisply in its entirety, albeit here we have a small piece of the wing is in focus as well as the post (focal point).  The image also has a pleasant smooth distraction-free background.

Sacred Kingfisher