Art of Birding Challenges: Best of November

What’s that setting

We started with “What’s that Setting” where participants were challenged to learn a new function on their camera and then tell us about it.

By Karen Miller

Karen Miller (New Zealand) chose HDR and photo merging for this challenge. “I used a sprig from my favourite Crabapple tree. Each sprig reminds me of a miniature wedding bouquet and I wanted to really try and capture its true beauty.”

Melanie Day (New Zealand) decided to work out how to change her focus point.

She describes her process:

The single AF point is usually in the middle of the camera frame, but sometimes I want to focus elsewhere within the shot. There is more than one way to achieve this, but here I’ve chosen to use live-view because it’s easy.

I set the camera up and opened the LCD screen. I clicked the ‘start/stop’ button. A view of the flowers appeared on-screen. I manually set ISO and f-stop, then adjusted the shutter speed using the exposure indicators to ensure I had the correct metering. Half-depressing the shutter focused the shot, but I wanted to adjust this position. I touched the screen where I wanted to focus. A green square appeared there, and after a 2 second delay, voila! A photo!

Note the focus on the first two photos is on the centre of the bottom flower, while the last photo is focused on the centre top flower.

Set up:

  • A stack of books and boxes to sit the camera on (I have a tripod, but it was too tall for this shoot)

  • Camera 80D with 18-135mm kit lens

  • Orchid plant

  • White A3 sheet of paper as backdrop (reminder to self: must get a proper screen/box)


o F8, 2/5s, 135mm, ISO100

o F11, 3/5s, 67mm, ISO100

o F11, 2/5s, 35mm, ISO100

Teeny Tiny

By Sharlaine Marshall

Interesting techniques continued into the Teeny Tiny challenge. Sharlaine Marshall (New Zealand) used a blue sewing cotton reel to shoot through to give a frame for her teeny-tiny flowers and an ethereal effect. It just goes to show that you don’t need expensive equipment to get unique and artistic effects in your photography.

By Jan Abernethy

Jan Abernethy (New Zealand) also went for an artistic effect with this close-up of tiny moss at sunrise. The colours are gorgeous and the effect is otherworldly!


By Kendra Berry Whittenberg

For the third week in November, we tackled backlit photos, which can be tricky due to getting the right exposure. Kendra Berry Whittenberg (USA) achieved the ultimate in backlit bird photos. With careful placement and a cold morning, she caught the song of a red-winged blackbird singing. Incredible!

By Judy Jackson

Judy Jackson (Canada) also used early-morning light to capture these gorgeous autumnal sunflowers.

Negative space

When it comes to wildlife advocacy, shooting photos with negative space can be advantageous. It allows for messages and branding to be more easily added. Negative space can also give room for the subject to breathe.

By Vandy Pollard

Vandy Pollard (New Zealand) captured this stunning shot of a juvenile shag at Zealandia EcoSanctuary. The dark background allows the shag to be shown in all its glory. Shooting a dark bird against a dark background is not easy, and Vandy has done a superb job managing the exposure.

By Marion Skelton

Marion Skelton (New Zealand) used her most favourite bird, the tūī, to empart a message “If you truly love nature you will find beauty everywhere” – too true!


By Robyn Bennett

We rounded out November by celebrating International Volunteer Day. The task was to highlight the mahi (work) of a local volunteer group. Robyn Bennett (New Zealand) chose the wonderful Orokonui ecosanctuary in Dunedin. She says “A huge shout out to this community for all the work they do to protect the surrounding area around the Orokanui Sanctuary. Folks give their weekend and spare time to monitor and keep the predator traps around the lagoon below the fences and surrounding area. Beautiful natives are planted in abundance around the walkways (quite well known rugby players have also been known to contribute to the plantings). I frequent the area when over on holidays and the birdlife is awesome.

Join us in 2021!

Want to join in on the fun? Head over to to sign up and get ready for our Art of Birding Wildlife & Nature Photography challenges in the New Year!

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