Art of Birding Challenges: Best of August

Many of the August challenges from the 2020 Art of Birding Wildlife & Nature Photography Challenge encouraged participants to think about composition. And many of the participants featured this month also used skills learned in previous weeks’ challenges. We’re two-thirds through this year’s challenges, so it is a good sign that people are now building on what’s gone before. Our Canadian participants did exceptionally well this month.

The first challenge of August 2020 was to compose in a square, which is an aspect ratio not commonly used in photography (at least not until Instagram).

By Judy Jackson

Judy Jackson’s (Canada) low-key gladiolus image has an almost abstract quality, with the vertical stems and the glowing, purple flowers.

By Carmen Therriault

Carmen Therriault (Canada) cleverly balanced her square image of an off-centred rising moon with a silhouetted tree, giving subtle form in the negative space.

By Dave Hattori

Dave Hattori (USA) used the symmetry of butterfly wings in this striking square-format photo.

In the shadow challenge, participants were asked to make shadows the feature.

By Jean Fleming

Jean Fleming (New Zealand) captured the deep evening shadows formed by ripples in the sand at Waikanae Estuary. We love how the shells punctuate the pattern.

By Gail Kirkelund

Gail Kirkelund (Canada) also captured ripples created by evening shadows, but on a larger scale. Her subject was rolling farmland, with hay bales dotting the scene.

By Carmen Therriault

We had hoped to do some group outings on World Photography Day, but it coincided with Level 2 Covid restrictions here in New Zealand. Our Canadian participants were more resourceful, with a group of friends spending their evenings on socially-distanced night photography. You will have seen some of their gorgeous images in previous blogs. Carmen Therriault (Canada) says “I have spent many late evenings in the past few months with friends under the night sky. Not only has this been easy to do without travelling and while maintaining social distancing, it has been great for the soul! Under the night sky with camera in hand, the stresses melt away and everything else is forgotten temporarily. I created this image at the very start of World Photography Day August 19th 2020.”

By Mary Johns

Whereas, here in New Zealand, Mary Johns took this seemingly topsy-turvy but actually right-side-up image of swirling foggy skies on the extinct volcano, Takarunga, in Auckland.

By John Wekking

Next, we went retro, with the popular Black & White challenge. There were so many wonderful entries! New Zealander, John Wekking, took this iconic kiwi scene of silhouetted merino sheep.

By Melyssa F.T.

We were also blown away by Melyssa F.T.’s black and white series of birds and animals. Her giraffe portrait looks closer to a delicate, detailed ink sketch than a photograph.

Ann Kilpatrick (New Zealand) took on the extra challenge of toning a black-and-white image, with the results being this beautiful lily. It should be noted that you don’t need fancy gear to pull off stunning images. Ann said she shot and edited this on her iphone.

By Karen Miller

Karen Miller (New Zealand) also went all-out with advanced black and white processing of this milk thistle, and kindly filled us in on her approach. “This was a photo I took last year of a Raraki (milk thistle) seed head. It was in the shade against my garden fence. I was able to make it more dramatic by reducing the red and green luminance after converting it to black and white. I also reduced the highlights and increased the white to show the texture of the seed head more clearly.

Rounding out a busy month of photography was the Panorama challenge.

By Dave Hattori

We just adored this joyous sunflower scene by Dave Hattori (USA) taken at his local art museum's sunflower garden. Dave explains that he shot 7 photos in a vertical orientation and used Lightroom to stitch them together.

By Melanie Day

Melanie Day’s (New Zealand) first attempt at a panorama was a huge success. Her subject was the sunset at Ambury Park Farm. Melanie explains that panoramas are “a new technical (and photography) challenge for me, and this is my very first attempt. The photos were taken of tonight's sky. I downloaded #Hugin Panorama app and used this to create a 5 shot panorama. I checked the colour balances in #GIMP first and also processed it there afterwards, adding the watermark in #Darktable. The file was huge - 56MB, reduced to 35 in the final save. Over 36 million pixels with a print size of 1164 × 224 millimetres. Phew!” We do hope she prints it out so she can see it in all its glory.

Thank you to all the participants who post their images online each week. It’s lovely to see how each of you interpret the challenges and to see your progress from week to week. It’s never too late to join this weekly challenge. Find out more at and just jump on in with the current week. Be sure to sign up for the weekly newsletter, sent out every Sunday night so you never miss a challenge.

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