Photography News Issue 24 absolutephoto.com
What are your aims with setting up this new competition? Not only does the competition aim to raise funds for the great research work that the BTO undertakes, but it also seeks to raise their profile. We should be very proud of this organisation, the work that they do and the benefits to conservation that they bring. Bird Photographer of the Year is also about celebrating the modern digital photography era and the artistry and skill employed by many talented photographers. It provides the opportunity to have their work critiqued by experts, recognised and published. The competition is a collaboration between Nature Photographers Ltd (NPL) and the BTO, how did this partnership come about? NPL has been working with the BTO for many years and they have collaborated on a variety of book projects. More recently NPL has taken responsibility for managing their image library. Bird Photographer of the Year was an obvious alliance and we are proud to work with such a respected organisation. What kind of experience as a photographer or birdwatcher do you need to do well in this competition? There is no substitute for understanding and knowing your subject. Photographers who are able to employ this knowledge and have the best understanding of the fieldcraft techniques required, will undoubtedly do well. Those with the ability to control their cameras and can create desired effects will improve their chances. But it will not be to the exclusion of the less experienced. The competition allows single-image entries, so even if you have only one great image it still has a chance to take the title and £5000 prize. What are some of the challenges a photographer might encounter when capturing birds on camera? Do you have any top tips to overcome them? That’s a subject you could write a book about, and some people have! Knowing your subject and having an instinct for fieldcraft are far more important than the latest kit. Get to know your subject and its habits before pointing a lens at it, and be prepared to be patient. What are you looking for in a winning image? What will make it stand out? For most judges, a good photograph is when you wish you had taken it yourself. Good photographs elicit a strong emotional response. It’s all about a combination of lighting, composition and technique, freezing a moment in time, immortalising it in pixels.
You can name the illustrious Chris Packham as head judge, what do you hope he’ll bring to the competition? As BTO President, Chris is the obvious choice to lead the judging panel. Not only has he the credentials in the natural history arena, birds are a passion and he is a well-respected photographer inhis own right. His knowledge, critical eye and strong leadership will prove invaluable during the judging process. How will judging work? Do you have other judges to support Chris? There will be two rounds of online judging via a tried-and-tested scoring system. This will produce a shortlist of images in each category, which will then be discussed by the judging panel and the winners decided upon. The overall winner will be chosen from the eight category winners. The final judging panel includes a mix of experienced birders and photographers. In addition to Chris Packham is Andy Clements (CEO of BTO), Alan Capel (head of content at Alamy), Nigel Redman (former head of Natural History at Bloomsbury Publishing) and myself. There are eight categories, why did you settle on these ones in particular? We felt it was important to recognise and celebrate the diversity of the subject and to generate a book that showcases it; we hope the category choices reflect that. We wanted the competition to be as inclusive as possible.
Whether you photograph blue tits in your garden or chase shearwaters at sea, there is at least one category that will appeal. Is there a category you are most excited about seeing entries in? We’re looking forward to seeing the entries in all categories. I have a particular eye on the Creative Imagery category where all the usual rules about digital manipulation are disregarded and we actively encourage the use of the digital darkroom. Anything goes in this category and it will be interesting to see what people come up with. Are there any birds or behaviours that you’re really keen to see through the comp? There are too many possibilities to list! That’s the great thing about birds, the species and behaviours are so diverse. The competition will no doubt prove testament to that. What are your ambitions for the competition in the future? Bird Photographer of the Year will set a gold standard for photography competitions and promote this fascinating section of the natural world. Open to entries from around the world and to pictures of any species, we hope the competition will quickly become established as a favourite and a much-loved annual event that grows in its reach and recognition.
Get to know your subject and its habits before pointing a lens at it, and be prepared to be patient
Get your entries in
With £15,000 worth of cash and prizes up for grabs, it’s definitely worth entering the Bird Photographer of the Year comp. There are eight categories to submit your images into as well as a portfolio and a young person’s category. Charges range from £10 for a single image to £64 for 48 images, across all categories with a maximum of six in any one category. Get your entry in before 30 September to bag a discount of 30% off the entry fee, otherwise you’ve got until 9 January to enter.
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