Blogs & bits

Competitions, mistakes to avoid and my take on things

Here's a few thoughts on mistakes you can avoid and maybe a new way of looking at things.
Competitions, mistakes to avoid and just my take things.

I will probably offend a few people here (what’s new there then?) but trust me it’s for your own good!

I’ve been going through some of the Bird Photographer of the Year entries to do a bit of rating but unfortunately all I’ve found myself doing is a bit of ranting (I have to say, however good some of these images are, I do find myself nodding off; imagine what it must be like for the poor judges). Looking through the photos I do wonder where this wonderful pastime is going as it seems like one of the biggest goals is to take a more proficient photograph of exactly the same thing in exactly the same place. Quite frankly I think perfection is way over rated as the images that move me hit me on an emotional level and not technical. The best images tend to have something special and it’s very rarely perfect. Importantly, it doesn’t have to be.

I realise there is a huge amount of skill involved in taking some of these amazing photos but I just wonder what these great photographers could achieve if they found a different take on things and located a new area, animal or way of capturing something.

Now I’m not saying I’m better than anyone else, far from it but some of these wonderfully gifted photographers whom are far better than me are unlikely to win because as technically amazing as they may be, they have taken a perfect shot of a scene that has won before, sometimes, many times.

I’m not saying don’t do it, I just want you to realise that one of the best things about wildlife photography is enjoying the full process from idea to final image. Unless you find your own locations, wildlife and light you are not finding your own voice. It is so gratifying to capture something that you have planned and it makes up for all the hard work you have put in, in fact the more work you put in, the better the feeling. Trying ideas out that don’t work is often the way to find ideas that do. I realise that it’s sometimes a little scary to try new things and in this world of social media probably even more so, for fear of losing likes, kudos or even ridicule. I think we should remember that wildlife photography is meant to be fun, to be enjoyed and a way to be out in nature. We are not working down a mine, living in a refugee camp or huddling in a shop doorway to keep warm, we are just mucking around with a camera. Personally, I’m a stubborn, single minded, contrary so and so and looking at the biggest wildlife photographic contest winners I would say they were too. Embrace the contrary and surprise yourselves but more importantly get maximum enjoyment from this wonderful pastime.

Observations and what to avoid

Looking at these images I saw a couple of other mistakes that jumped out at me which may help you avoid if you enter competitions. Now before you say anything, I am not exactly steeped in awards either besides my cycling proficiency and 50m swim merit badge however these are common sense mistakes that can be eliminated before you waste hard earned cash. So Einstein, you all shout, what mistakes can I avoid?

1. Don’t leave your watermark on it. Doh! (there are an amazing amount of watermarks left on these images and they will be disqualified pronto).

2. Processing faux pas: Far too much contrast is added. Over doing the Sharpness: it’s either sharp or it’s not No processing at all White balance is way off (and that’s one of my achilles heel too!) Way too much saturation or vibrance

3. Don’t crop to the size of a postage stamp and then enter it as detail. Follow the minimum specifications (which isn’t that large anyway), the final image will not only be printed in the book but also to poster size for the adverts! Your 80% crop is not going to cut it and will be disqualified.

4. Some of the images are so blurred you could use them as obscure glass in a bathroom. There is a difference between intentional blur and just bloody blurred.

5. Choose your categories wisely. If it’s a bird in flight put it in that category and not in detail