Making it tangible

By Judi Lapsley Miller, creator of the Art of Birding Wildlife & Nature Photography Challenge

We’re now at the pointy end of the Art of Birding 2022 challenge where only the tough and tenacious are still standing. It’s a hard ask to commit to a weekly challenge for an entire year, and my hat goes off to everyone. It’s fabulous to see people still joining as there’s no time limit or requirements for these challenges – people are free to do them however they wish, whenever they wish. If you’ve fallen behind, no worries, just jump back on in and don’t fuss about catching up unless you want to.

In October, the focus was on creating something tangible with the gorgeous photos created so far – specifically a calendar – or something else tangible if a calendar didn’t appeal. The weekly sparks included themes that might help flesh out any gaps.

Week 40 Picture Postcard

Jill Scott - Lake Matheson

A postcard is small so the subject must be clearly defined and well-exposed with no distractions. It typically should be iconic rather than unusual – a memento of a moment shared by many. Moderator Marion Skelton (New Zealand) selected Jill Scott’s (New Zealand) gorgeous early morning photo of Lake Matheson. I love how the blue-toned shadows are well-exposed and contrast with the golden forest bathed in early-morning sunlight. Marion says “I loved Jill’s photo of Lake Matheson. The leading line guides you to the mountains past the trees and bush that are beautifully mirror-imaged in the water, showing the beauty of the subject.” Jill said she took this photo with her mobile phone – isn’t it incredible the technology we hold in our pocket that can achieve such fabulous results!

Week 41 Natural Forces

Emma Guglietta’s - sand sculpture

Moderator Paula Vigus (New Zealand) selected Emma Guglietta’s (New Zealand) sand sculpture made by natural forces, wind and water: “nice shadows and contrast bring out the ripple and shapes.” Emma was inspired by Ansel Adams to give a black and white treatment to these sand dunes with their wind-rippled contours. Like Jill, she also took this on her phone. I wonder what Ansel would have made of that capability? As someone with an innate curiosity, always experimenting, and always striving to get the most out of the technology of the day, I’d like to believe he would have relished the potential.

Week 42 Long exposure

Paula Vigus- tree

Moderator Dave Hattori (USA) selected Paula Vigus’s (New Zealand) gorgeous photo of a tree in a lake. Dave writes, “the week 42 AOB spark was Long Exposure, slowing down your shutter speed to get a milky smooth water effect. Paula Vigus's photo of a tree (not "that" tree she said) in the lake uses a long exposure of 15 seconds which she achieved by using a ND64 or 6 Stop Neutral Density filter and a small aperture of f/16 on a cloudy day. The effect is to beautifully smooth out the water and the reflection of the tree. The slow shutter speed also gives a luminous glow to the water and smooths out the clouds. The overall tones of the sky and water provide a perfect background for the tree to pop out of the image. Although I'm from the States, I am familiar with "that" tree and I would say that Paula has found and beautifully photographed another tree that is certainly its equal. Well done!” I’m delighted to hear that Paula is planning on turning this image into a fine-art print.

Week 43 Drama

Barbara Newton - cheetah

Moderator Karen Miller (New Zealand) loves a bit of drama so she was keen to make the selections for Week 43. She chose Barbara Newton’s (New Zealand) cheetah battle. Barbara describes the encounter as follows “A bit of drama at feeding time at a Cheetah Sanctuary I visited recently in Namibia. Although we did meet some ‘Pets’ these particular wild cats had been trapped and were being kept until a suitable release area had been identified. We were there for their evening feed. One cat has the hunk of meat which had been thrown in the general direction, and the other had a firm grip on its neck. A dust cloud surrounded the pair as they grappled for ascendency and the food. I further enhanced the drama by adding a dark vignette to surround them. My capture point from above was from the back of a truck. Focal length: 46mm, AP priority 5.6, @ 1/125s- so action not freezed but conveying action/movement. Karen commented “Wild cats acting like wild cats.    The motion blur and dusty shadows enhanced the drama of this shot. I was left wanting to see what happened next.”

Week 44 – Shooting Through

Shooting through

I love the “shooting through” technique to create ethereal images. The idea is to use a long lens and wide aperture and ensure there are leaves or similar right against the lens hood. By focusing through to the subject (which might need to be done manually), the foreground is reduced to a glorious coloured haze. Moderator Carmen Therrauilt (Canada) selected Sandy McCleary’s (New Zealand) lovely floral shot. With the simple colour palette, all attention is thrown onto the yellow flower.

Monthly challenge for October – a calendar

Gayle’s twelve bird images for her calendar

For October, people were challenged to create a calendar with a theme and a consistent look and feel. So many of our challenges this year have focused on creating bodies of work that stand together, and this was a great opportunity to bring some of those ideas to fruition. There were many amazing entries, but a stand-out for me was Gayle Beveridge-Martin’s (Australia) bird calendar featuring perched birds with abstract backgrounds.

Gayle always approaches each challenge with much thought and deliberation. She says ‘Five of the twelve photos were taken in my yard or my neighbours. One was taken in Australia Garden at the Cranbourne Botanical Gardens and the remaining six were taken in the Wonthaggi Wetlands Conservation Park. The backgrounds have been made abstract using a number of methods or a combination of these in GIMP:

  1. Using the clone, heal and smudge tools on the original image to render the background abstract
  2. Adding an overlay (to the background only) to enhance colour or texture or both.
  3. Replacing the background.

The birds are, from left to right: Top row: Eastern yellow robin, Grey fantail, New Holland honeyeater

Second row: Spotted turtle dove, White-browed scrub wren, Little wattlebird

Third row: Red-browed finch, Welcome swallow, Eastern spinebill

Bottom row: Yellow-faced honeyeater, Grey shrike thrush, Superb fairy wren

Well done Gayle, and well done to everyone who put together something tangible to be proud of and to share with friends and family.

For more photo-fun, join us in the Art of Birding challenge – jump on – we have a lovely friendly community on Facebook.

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