Art of Birding Challenges: Best of July

Both Judi Lapsley Miller from the 2020 Art of Birding Wildlife & Nature Photography Challenge and ourselves at Excio encourage people to use #PhotographyForGood which is why many of the AoB challenges that Judi sets are about gaining the skills and confidence to use photography for advocacy.

On that note, July in the AoB challenges started with the worldwide #PlasticFreeJuly campaign. We were after compelling images that could be used to bring home the message that we are at a crisis point with plastic pollution with the ultimate aim to inspire people to remove plastic from their lives.

By Tina Macrae

Small changes will make a difference” Says Tina Macrae (New Zealand), who chose to focus on positive messaging, with a photo of wooden pegs on a clothesline. Leading lines and repeated shapes draw the eye into the subject, and the black and white processing gives this photo a timeless look. The negative space also provides room for additional text to be added if the picture were to be used in a campaign.

By Kendra Berry Wittenberg

Kendra Berry Wittenberg (USA) juxtaposed a gorgeous wetland scene at the Laguna de Santa Rosa in Northern California with analogously-coloured plastic pollution. Our eyes are drawn to the attractive, bright mix of blue, yellow, and green, but it takes a moment more for our brains to catch-up with what we’re really seeing. That conflict holds our attention for perhaps long enough to make a point. Kendra says, “After seeing so many posts of poor wildlife entangled in our garbage I’ve made it a point to carry an extra bag when I hike to pick up trash. So far I’ve saved wildlife from several tangles of fishing wire, those plastic rings that come on six packs of cans and a few broken and jagged plastic containers. Not much but it’s a start.”

Next in July was the “Light and Airy” challenge with the aim to master taking a high-key photo, where the image is predominantly light with the histogram biased to the right. Three photos jumped off our computer monitors with their beauty, and although it wasn’t planned, all three share a common colour space of pink and taupe hues.

By Marian Numan

It’s hard to beat a dahlia if you’re a flower photographer, and this photo by Marian Numan (New Zealand) shows why. Marian considers it “Nature's most beautiful dahlia 'Cafe au Lait', so pretty, each one unique and loved by the bees and butterflies in my garden. A soft blush colour with hues of cream and pink that is also favourite in wedding flowers.

By Leanne Silver

Breathtakingly beautiful, Leanne Silver (New Zealand) captured the hoar frost near Twizel recently. The reflection doubles the impact! Leanne promises she is printing this up as a large panorama.

By Tina Macrae

Rounding out the light and airy photos, Tina Macrae (New Zealand) posted this delicate photo of anemone flowers frozen in a block of ice. Magic!

Back to advocacy, in week 29 we focused on the theme of Hands. Challengees were asked to use hands to tell a nature story.

By Tessa Barringer

Artist Tessa Barringer (New Zealand) says “a friend who knows my penchant for collecting & drawing bird skeletons gave me this little nest containing the complete skeleton of a tiny fledgling waxeye as a gift a few months back. Cradled in his hands, it seems such a poignant symbol for our relationship with the natural world in the 21st century.

By Alison Valentine

With a photo on a similar theme, Alison Valentine (New Zealand) said “This wee silvereye (also commonly called waxeye) found itself on the ground at my daughter's, where she rescued it before it was spotted by the cats!”

By Gail Kirkelund

We rounded out the month with some Big Sky drama. There were so many beautiful photos to choose from, but we couldn’t take our eyes off the following night skies. Gail Kirkelund (Canada) captured this stunning landscape that includes not just the aurora but also Comet Neowise. Clever play of torchlight on the barn and toning down of the bright foreground created a unique scene, with gorgeous colour toning.

By Kendra Berry Wittenberg

A bit further south at Lake Sonoma in Northern California, Kendra Berry Whittenberg (USA) also had her eye on Comet Neowise.

By Carmen Therriault

And Carmen Therriault (Canada) took this enchanting stargazing self-portrait.

In August, our focus is on composition and more technical skills. We also hope to get out and about for World Photography Day. Feel free to join us, just jump right on in, it's never too late to join this weekly challenge.

Find out more at and just jump on in with the current week.

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