A most interesting and challenging theme, and one that attracted 94 entries to the Intermediate Level competition.  As in previous competitions, entries were at a high standard and the interpretations of the theme by those who participated were creative and stimulating.  This made my task extremely difficult, requiring three rounds of selection from which to choose the six finalists.

As to the theme: what does ‘being blue’ mean to me?  Any bird that clearly has ‘blue’ as part of its physical characteristics meets the criteria of ‘being blue’.  For the most part, images portrayed the true blues, blue-greens and the blue-greys.  Some photos depicted species that could be described more as grey-blue than blue-grey.  The photos which made the finalist lists were those where the predominant hue was blue, with the size of the ‘blue area’ less important.  Whether the bird’s emotional state was ‘happy’ or ‘blue’ was not a consideration for this competition!

In selecting the finalists, I firstly looked for uniqueness in the image, something that made the image stand-out from others in the competition.  At the same time, I was looking for an aesthetic and emotional connection with the image.  At the Intermediate level of competition, there should be a creative component that members are starting to cultivate in preparation for moving to move advanced levels of photography.  The next steps concentrated on the technical attributes of the image.  Sharpness in the key elements of the image is critical for most judges.  There are several members who continue to over-sharpen creating an unrealistic effect in the main subject – unfortunately these images were eliminated irrespective of their other attributes.  If in doubt, my advice is to under-sharpen rather than over-sharpen.  Digital noise was another characteristic that resulted in elimination of an image – few images suffered from digital noise in this competition.  A few images appear to have been cropped with the main subject small in the frame; this can result in the main subject appearing ‘soft’ through lack of detail.  In terms of overall composition, I looked for a refreshing composition that portrayed and enhanced the bird’s attributes of ‘being blue’, whilst pushing beyond the boundary of a ‘classical species portrait’.  Lighting, background bokeh, viewpoint, mood and an array of other criteria were evaluated in selecting the finalists.

Winner:  Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, by John Eley  (Image ID 30281)

A captivating and uniquely crafted image where the viewers eyes are drawn immediately to the blue mask of the parrot.  The bird is located centrally in this image with the blue mask in the upper central portion according to the rule of thirds.  There is no particular rule that I favour, and in this instance the rule of thirds works exceptionally well.  There is a relaxed eye contact between the bird and the viewer, creating a restful atmosphere.  The parrot’s red feathered cere provides a perfect contrast to the blue mask.  The yellow hues in the green background round off the perfect triad for a primary palette of colour.  There are several intersecting branches in this image, both in- and out-of-focus and each in its own right leads the viewer to the centrally located parrot.  The green and yellow body feathers blend with the warm yellow-green background.  Surrounding the head of the bird are leaves displaying a mosaic pattern of degeneration, mimicking a dappled light-effect.  Note the light shining through these windows in the leaves has a slight grey tone that combines with the grey lores of the bird.  An added bonus upon further inspection is the behavioural context – the bird is quietly feeding.  This is a thoroughly delightful image, with so many elements that deserve comment; it is a worthy winner.

Double-eyed Fig-Parrot

Highly Commended:  Splendid Fairy-wren, by Bill Harding  (Image ID 30264)

This image captured my immediate attention.  Photographs of fairy-wrens are extremely common; the difference in this image is that it depicts the species in a very different pose.  The upright tail is absent, and the bird is a little round ball of brilliant iridescent blue feathers.  A 3-D effect is created by the subdued and deep cream tone of the background.  The slightly cocked-head of the bird adds to the intrigue.  The fact that the bird is looking down and not at the viewer is not a concern for me.  The L-shaped orientation of the branch, with one small branch leaning in the same upwards direction, produces the perfect frame for this gorgeous little bird.  Well seen and beautifully presented.

Splendid Fairy-wren

Highly Commended:  Variegated Fairy-wren, by Hayley Alexander  (Image ID 30340)

Another superb image with a behavioural context – a male singing, possibly to denote the boundary of its territory.  The detail in this image is excellent and who could overlook the blues, ranging from the deep dark blue of the beast to the iridescent sky-blues on the bird’s head.  The orientation of the bird is excellent, as is the leading line of the branch complimenting the angle of the bird’s tail.  The soft grey and green bokeh accentuates the form of the bird.  One suggestion for this image is to add a little more negative space on the left-hand edge, allowing the bird to project its voice.

Variegated Fairy-wren

Commended:  Peaceful Dove, by Mary Wheeler  (Image ID 30189)

A well-crafted image with a delicate palette to match.  There is much to commend this image.  The ‘blue’ is subtle but nonetheless blue.  Additionally, there is an understated thin blue line running diagonally across the image and through the eye of the dove.  Reinforcing this ‘blue’ theme is the second bird immediately behind the head of the nearest bird.  The texture in the limb in the foreground compliments the scalloping and tones of the bird’s plumage.  The green and brown tones in the bokeh add to the serenity of this image.  One element that lifts this image is the soft-even lighting on the closest bird.

Peaceful Dove

Commended:  Pied Cormorant, by Cherylin Corker  (Image ID 30096)

A very different image to the previous four images.  The photographer has chosen skin colour as the element to highlight the competition theme and has done so admirably.  Once again, the three primary colours of an artist’s palette, red, blue and yellow, join in juxtaposition to accentuate the image.  The portrait is sharp and the eye contact between the bird and the viewer is the essential engaging element.  The dark blue of the background frames the main subject.

Pied Cormorant

Commended:  Forest Kingfisher, by Sandy Castle  (Image ID 30113)

This image is about ‘being blue’ in a ‘blue environment’.  The overall composition has action and intrigue.  Clearly the birds are agitated by something outside of the image – what could it be?  The blue on blue of the uppermost bird against the sky works well.

Forest Kingfisher

Finally, there are seven images that deserve a Special Mention.

Splendid Fairy-wren

Splendid Fairy-wren, by Cherylin Corker  (Image ID 30091)

This is a beautiful image and you may wonder why it was not one of the awarded images.  The reason is the imposing timber fence capping in the left corner with the distracting rust-line running diagonally across it.  My eyes are continually drawn to this orange line and the newly sawn section of fence, rather than the bird.  If the bird had remained in place a few steps to the right would have captured a very different viewpoint.  This, along with reducing the brightness of the newly sawn fence, would have produced an awarded image.

Satin Bowerbird

Satin Bowerbird, by Adam Higgins  (Image ID 30025)

A good composition of a ‘blue bird’ that requires ideal light and the perfect exposure to capture the colour and detail in the male’s plumage.  Flash was well managed in this image.

For competitions, I recommend that photographers note the use of ‘flash’ in the Equipment Used field.

Little Pied Cormorant

Little Pied Cormorant, by Doug Castle  (Image ID 30031)

This is a creative and well photographed image.  A blue – perhaps bluish – oral mucosa.  Well seen, and clearly Doug has the charm of Doctor Doolittle to capture this captivating image.

Azure Kingfisher

Azure Kingfisher, by Paul Jensen  (Image ID 30191)

Another creative image utilising backlighting to great effect.  I like this image with its subtlety of ‘being blue’.

Variegated Fairy-wren

Variegated Fairy-wren, by Bruce McNaughton  (Image ID 30357)

A good portrait of a male variegated fairy-wren.  My suggestion is to mask the distracting plant stem passing behind the bird’s beak and ‘burn’ the area overlayed by the mask to render the stem as dark as the stem below the bird.

Blue-winged Parrot

Blue-winged Parrot, by Christopher Dubar  (Image ID 30213)

A classical portrait with an engaging eye contact and exquisite detail in the plumage.  The tones in the background meld with the bird, drawing one’s eye to the blue plumage.  The blue wing and frontal band running diagonally from left to right making for a good composition.  I think that revealing the wing tip would make a more complete image.

Sacred Kingfisher

Sacred Kingfisher, by Gary King  (Image ID 30040)

More often than not an image looking up at a bird does not make for an engaging image – but this one succeeds.  The colour and orientation of the palm frond, and the tones throughout the image work to its advantage.  I would like to see this image with a little more mid-tone contrast.

So many wonderful images and regardless of whether your image made the ‘awarded’ list, I congratulate all those who entered this competition.

Best wishes and continue to be creative.