In August, participants worked ondeveloping our style by primarily creating still-life images, giving us lots oftime to consider our settings, aesthetics, and approach.

The monthly challenge was to create threeimages - a triptych. The three images had to relate in theme, tone, and stylebut ultimately be different. The weekly sparks gave various approaches to explore.

Week 31: Macro

Fungi photographer Paula Vigus (New Zealand)loves her macro lens! But in this challenge, she branched out to take a fascinating photo of mating snails. Moderator Karen Miller (New Zealand) was with her at the time and has the back plot. Karen says, “Yes, I chose my buddy Paula's photo, but it was shortlisted with three amazing macro photos, which “Judge Judi” had the final say on. I was looking for the sharpness of the tiny details that macro photography is known for, stuff that we don't see every day, with the naked eye. I was lucky enough to be out fungi hunting with Paula when she discovered these snails. It was the bright glint of the bubbles in a dark spot of the forest that attracted her eye. I had a look over her shoulder to see what she had found, then left her to create her magic. At the time, we didn't know what it was about, and I never even saw the two tiny snails when Paula showed me; all I saw was a tiny smudge of bubbles. So this is an image that I had looked forward to seeing completed. What I liked about this image is the detail, sharpness and clever lighting that has given more depth to the photo. Even the texture of the surface they are resting on is quite intriguing.  It certainly isn't something you see every day.  It could easily have been missed because it really was a very tiny scene.

Week 32: Make your own filters

Have you ever got inventive and created artistic filters for your camera? Examples include semi-transparent material, coloured plastic or glass, or even cut-out shapes to get patterned bokeh. Moderator Kaylene Helliwell (New Zealand) selected Gayle Beveridge-Marien’s (Australia)glorious pink blossom. Kaylene commented that she liked how Gayle followed the brief to make her own filter and loved the beautiful pink dreamy look she achieved. Gayle says she wrapped red cellophane around her macro lens and secured it with a hair tie. Once she had focused on the pink blossom, she gently squeezed the cellophane this way and that, looking for the best result. So simple, yet so effective!

Week 32: Light and airy/dark and moody

There were many entries with a light and airy or dark andmoody vibe, so moderator Marion Skelton (New Zealand) selected one of each.

Marion loved Sharon van der Lubbe’s (New Zealand) riroriro (grey warbler) photo for light and airy. “As Sandra said in her post, and I can agree with this, Warblers are difficult to photograph asthey don't stay still for long.  This is a great capture and with the white background shows the beauty of the warbler.”

For dark and moody, Marion selected new participant Emma Guglietta’s (New Zealand) photo of Half Moon Bay. “I felt that Emma's photo of Rakiura/Stewart Island captured the theme and atmosphere of the dark and moody really well. I loved the cloud formations and the light shining on the water.”

Week 27: Top down

From still-life "table lays" to aerial photography with a drone, a top-down perspective gives a different view of the world. Moderator Marion Skelton (New Zealand) selected Jennie Stock’s (Australia) ant photo for the top-down Spark. Marion says, “Jennie's top-down approach to macro photography really works well.  A great image.”

Jennie explains that she’s been using the 'top down' approach to more of her macro photography recently, partly as she’s still struggling with getting up and down easily. It gives a different point of view and sometimes is also the safest option, for example, when trying to capture these fierce-looking ants.

Week 27: Wabi Sabi

Wabi-sabi is the Japanese aesthetic of finding beauty in imperfection and age. Moderator Paula Vigus (New Zealand) selected SharonWebber’s (New Zealand) camelia. Paula says, “I love that the buds and stamen are in focus and the rest is soft, the lighting is moody, which suits the theme, I thought. The colour palette is nice too for the topic.” Sharon commented, “I was surprised how much I enjoyed this photo challenge. I wandered around my backyard looking for inspiration and found my camellia tree! The imperfection of the dead flower with the new buds behind made me happy -new life is coming - spring is here!”

August Challenge - Developing a style - still life triptych

It's either too hot or too cold this time of year, so I went with a still life challenge for August, which could be done indoors if necessary. Still-life takes the opposite approach to much wildlife photography (except perhaps fungi!). You have all the time in the world to setup your shot and consider your settings. You can shoot with long shutter speeds and low ISO and often take just one photo rather than bursts of hundreds.

Participants had to create three images that related in theme, tone, and style. They were encouraged to try creative approaches.

Example setup shot of bowl and flowers, Melanie Day

Melanie Day (New Zealand) knocked it out of the park two months in a row with her Marina de Wit inspired submerged florals.

Melanie used a bowl to float the flowers in with a mat underneath. She says the bowl had about 2cm of water in it because the flowers tended to float above it. The camera was facing downwards on a tripod about 60cm above the height of the bowl, with the legs pushed right under the table to get it vertically above the flowers.

Mel says, “I found using a water bath for the flowers had a few differences from photographing a typical bouquet from above. Firstly, the flowers could be arranged densely to limit the amount of visible background. It naturally created a shallower depth of field, so more details were in focus across the whole arrangement. The flattened structure created different light and shadow effects from a floral bouquet, and the light falling on the water cast unique reflections. However, care had to be taken to not bump the arrangement, or there was quite a wait while the rocking movement subsided!”

Also on a roll was Astrid Authier (New Zealand), who also selected flowers for her triptych. Astrid decided to follow on from one of her photos from the creative filters spark earlier this month. She used a light pad to backlight the flowers and then photographed them through frosted plastic. She pulled the three images together by adding the same border. On their own, each image is lovely, but together they’re absolutely fantastic!

I do hope both Melanie and Astrid decide to print and display their triptychs.

September Challenge                      

Thanks to everyone who took on a challenge in August! This September, we’re taking a photo a day, and it’s a hell of a challenge; we’ll be showing you the results soon! If you’ve just come across the challenge, it’s not too late to jump on in and join us in the Art of Birding challenge. The challenges are suitable for all ages, abilities, and gear. All you need is a camera (mobile phones are fine) and some enthusiasm.

Created by NZ photoartist, Judi Lapsley Miller

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