By Judi Lapsley Miller, creator of the Art of Birding Wildlife & Nature Photography Challenge
November’s AoB challenge was all about photographing the same critter from different perspectives. I had in mind using photography for wildlife advocacy, which is what motivated the AoB challenges when I started over five years ago. Typically, when advocating visually (or with an accompanying written story), you want to give the audience a sense of what the critter looks like, where it lives, some of its interesting behaviours, and close-ups of its defining anatomy.
Photographically, it’s not easy, because it relies on you having a variety of techniques and skills to call on (and potentially within your gear kit), including landscape, portrait, and macro. Perhaps also action shots and even photographing people if there’s a human angle to the story. If you’re interested in this approach, you might like to check out an example in my photo essay blog about kākā banding.
However, we kept it a bit simpler than a full-blown photo essay and asked only that participants take three different photos of the same critter this month. The sparks this month guided participants to consider some of these perspectives.
Week 45: Feathers or Fur
Feathers and fur have the most exquisite details. Participants were asked to take a photo showing their detail and, for bonus points, use post-processing techniques to pull this detail out further.
Moderator Dave Hattori (USA) selected Astrid Authier-Hall’s (NZ) close-up photo of a duck snuggling. Dave says it “really shows the detail in the feathers. Her photo also highlights the different kinds of feathers that can be found on one bird and the myriad colour variations that are sometimes missed when viewed from a distance. Astrid went for the extra credit by using post-processing techniques to further bring out the detail and texture of the feathers. She used the Texture and Clarity sliders in Lightroom to achieve this and also added a vignette to further darken the background and make the duck stand out even more. A great example of Week 45’s challenge; well done!”
Week 46: A Worm’s Eye View
A different perspective can make all the difference. And often, that means getting down low to be in the same plane as the critter. It helps the audience enter the critter’s world. Marion Skelton(NZ) chose Jo Charman’s (NZ) frog photo. Marion says, “The challenge for this week was to encourage you to explore the world from a different perspective and change your normal point of view and get down in the dirt with the worms. By using this perspective, this photo by Jo captures this challenge perfectly. With good use of depth of field, the frog stands out in the image and draws your attention by looking straight at the camera.”
Week 47: Interesting Anatomy
Karen Miller (NZ) loved Jan Robinson’s(Australia) gorgeous damselfly. Karen says, “The blue and black of the insect really stood out against the yellow background. The macro details showed off all the tiny details.... I wasn’t sure what was more interesting, the big googly eyes or the hairy texture of the legs. What I actually found intriguing was how the wings were attached to the body. Mother Nature is pretty clever with her engineering.”
Week 48: Body language
Understanding a critter through its body language means you are better able to anticipate behaviour and get a magic shot. Paula Vigus (NZ) selected Sandra van der Lubbe’s cute photo of pukeko chicks begging to their parent. Paula says, “Sandra’s shot is very well done, a very endearing moment between parent and chicks. It is a really gorgeous shot showing the demanding nature of young across all species. Could be two toddlers at home, LOL. We want food!!!”
Monthly challenge: three photos one critter
Gayle Marien (Australia) went above and beyond with the monthly challenge, returning to her favourite Wonthaggi Wetlands to photograph this sweet wee grey fantail. She focused on exploring different behaviours like nesting, singing, and bathing, all while giving us a sense of the wetlands. The icing on the cake was her lovely presentation that would make a great poster.
What’s next for the Art of Birding?
We’re now into the last month of the 2022Art of Birding challenges, and it’s been an amazing year filled with gorgeous photography and such a thrill to see the developing skills of the people participating.
But after five years of challenges, thousands of participants from all around the world, profiles in national media, and even a group exhibition, the Art of Birding challenge as we know and love it is coming to an end. Or is it a new beginning? How would that look? That’s up to us! Help me take us forward...
Even if you’ve not done the challenges before, stopped a while back, or are thinking of jumping in for 2023, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’ll be back in2023 to let you know what’s in store, to bring you the best of December, and perhaps do a 2022 round-up. If you want to stay in the loop, do sign up at www.artbyjlm.com/aob
Have a wonderful holiday season and I’ll see you on the flip side!
Judi Lapsley Miller