By Judi Lapsley Miller, challenge creator, with input from the AoB Facebook moderators.


Art of Birding – Our favourites from the January 2022 challenge + sparks

In February in the 2022 Art of Birding Wildlife & Nature Photography Challenge, we buckled down and got busy preparing for “a photo essay about something happening locally”. The weekly sparks encouraged participants to seek out interesting subjects nearby.

Spark Week 6 – From my doorway

Our first spark was literally to take a photo within a few steps from our doorway, with an extra challenge to add textures through double exposures or compositing.

Moderator Paula Vigus (New Zealand) selected this gorgeous forest scene by Karen Watts (USA). “After much, and I mean much, deliberation, I have chosen Karen’s photo for a few reasons. First of all, she has completed the brief, which I must admit I didn’t. Using the Topaz filters, she has brought this scene from her doorway to life. From the dark green centre tree, where my eye is drawn, you can explore both horizontally and vertically with the golden highlights of the leaves and grasses to the deep velvety colour and feel of the tree trunks. The softness created by the filters gives this a dreamy look, and it was one I kept coming back to. There were some truly incredible photos posted for this spark and I am very envious of many of your doorways!”

Spark Week 7 – Urban Jungle

Assuming most participants live in or have access to an urban setting, the next spark was to tell a story about a local critter. The extra credit challenge was to add to the body of knowledge in the Creative Commons by submitting the photos to iNaturalist or WikimediaCommons for use by researchers, educators, or anyone else who might be interested in the critter.

AoB admin supporter Linton Miller was taken by MelanieDay’s seaweed entries, especially this photo of a mix of seaweeds with all their shapes and textures. But what really grabbed his attention was what Melanie was up to on iNaturalist. Melanie, who has participated in the challenges for a number of years, said “I joined i-Naturalist (NZ branch) in November 2020 after Judi challenged us to post one of our photos on there. Over the past year I have uploaded a lot more photos and have been a regular contributor to the photo documentation of New Zealand flora and fauna. I forever have a backlog of photos waiting to be posted. I also get immense pleasure from identifying other people’s photos, with over 11,000 to date. Sometimes it’s like a game of guess who. These are some of the photos I uploaded in January. Seaweeds help create the jungle of the sea, and these had washed up on Long Bay beach on Auckland’s north shore. A few are yet to be identified fully because a) not many people post photos of seaweed, and b)there aren’t that many seaweed experts out there. Photographed using a Panasonic Lumix, a great little point and shoot.”

This is a fabulous example of Excio’s mission to encourage #PhotographyForGood!

Spark Week 8 – My Season

This spark asked people to photograph something that epitomized the season they were currently in – late summer or late winter depending on your hemisphere! Exposure bracketing and HDR was encouraged.

Sandra van der Lubbe (New Zealand) captured the last few days of summer in this vibrant photo. Moderator Marion Skelton (New Zealand) said “I loved the way the different colours of the flower highlighted the grasshopper and made him the focus of the photo.”

Spark Week 9 – Scavenger Hunt

This fun challenge asked participants to be extra observant, find some related objects, and arrange them artistically for a still-life photo. And to perhaps try focus-stacking.

Moderator Karen “Kizmit” Miller chose Jennie Stock’s (Australia) exquisite still life titled “Fallen.” Karen comments, “the birds nest is a work of art, made by nature. The polished stone is a neat addition  and  compliments the green feather. It looks like a celebration  of Easter.”

February Challenge – Photo Essay

A lot of thought and discussion went into what constitutes a photo essay. How many photos should there be (is it possible to have an essay with just one photo?) Is it necessary to have words? How should the photos relate to one another? There were many amazing entries and of a huge variety.

Noelle Bennett (New Zealand) chose quotidian rocks for her photo essay. Any rock on its own would make us wonder what the point was. But when collected together in a photo essay, suddenly we’re comparing textures, colours, seeing patterns –the sum is greater than the parts. Noelle has thoughtfully arranged the five photos to lead us through them. I can just imagine these photos printed extra large on metal and hanging in a contemporary home.

For the second month in a row, Gayle Beveridge-Marien (Australia) knocked her challenge out of the park(or in this case into the park?) with her photo essay about the Wonghaggi Wetlands.

Gayle says “I spend a lot of time in the Wonthaggi Wetlands Conservation Park and have chosen photos to show the variety of flora and fauna and to map out a typical day. I don’t seethe animals and reptiles every time I go there, but I do see them from time to time, depending on the time of day I visit. Kangaroos are frequent visitors. I spot echidnas now and then. I have seen snakes on three occasions over four years, the one in the photo which is a Lowlands Copperhead, a Red-bellied Blacksnake and a White-lipped snake. I have also spotted swamp wallabies, swamp rats and rabbits. My list of bird species sighted there now exceeds thirty in number.”

After posting her essay to the group, Gayle followed up to say “I have only been in this group for two months but already I have learned much and the sparks and challenges have spurred me on to try new things. Now, because of my membership in AOB I've been able to spread the word and introduce more people from our local community to our wonderful nature reserve. I posted my February photo essay about our local conservation park on a community Facebook page. It was seen by the Deputy Mayor who is now sharing it on. She encouraged me to submit it to our local online newspaper to spread the word about the reserve. They have accepted it and it is being published in April. Only two days ago I met a father who was taking his two young daughters on a bird and insect spotting walk there and a group of four seniors came for a look and loved it so much they were taking selfies by the lake.”

I do encourage participants to post their efforts more widely, and not just in the group, so there photos and stories have a wider influence. It’s fantastic to see this people using their photos for wildlife advocacy and making a difference. This is why I started the challenge!

I do hope these photos inspire you too. If you’d like to join the challenge, it’s not too late. Jump on in with the current month where we’re working out how to be more intentional in our photography.

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