NPSNZ Stage 2 Bird Photography Workshop – 1 Feb 2020

Presenters: Bevan Tulett and Barry Dench

Organiser: Barry D.

Report by: Richard J.

Venue: Rock and Mineral Clubrooms – Christchurch

This Workshop was a follow-up to the Stage 1 bird photography workshop held by Bevan at Travis Wetland on 28 July 2019 last year.  Stage 1 was field-based and focused on techniques and tips for getting great photos of birds in different environments, weather and lighting conditions, etc.  In contrast, Stage 2 focused on techniques and tips for selecting and post-processing raw bird photos for (i) entering into competitions and/or (ii) putting on the wall at home or showing to others.

A small but keen group of ten members attended the 2-hour Workshop, in addition to Bevan and Barry.  Bevan started off with a summary of some of the key attributes needed in wildlife photos for award-level natural history competitions and publications (e.g., Trenna Packer Salver, Photographic Society of NZ, National Geographic).  These included the importance of photos telling ‘a story’, wildlife not being constrained (e.g., in a cage), wildlife not looking disturbed, and no evidence of ‘hand of man’ (with exception of banding).  We then moved on to looking at a number of images to identify what could be improved via post-processing actions to take the images up to a competition standard or simply improve their impact.  This covered originals and basic post-processing (in many cases done interactively by Barry in Lightroom) by looking at (a) composition, (b) cropping, (c) distractions (foreground and background), (d) dust spots, (e) highlights and shadow detail, (f) lack of detail in blacks, (g) white balance adjustments, (h) images too dark, and (i) horizon needing levelling.

This was an excellent workshop in which we all learned more (or a lot) about post-processing packages (Lightroom, Photoshop, Elements), what is needed and/or desirable to get top bird photos, and tips for achieving such.  We all left stimulated with things to try out on photos in our computers.

A big thanks to Bevan and Barry for their efforts in preparing and taking this workshop and, in particular, for their willingness to share their substantial expertise and experience in the often very-challenging area of wildlife photography. 

Personally, a frustrating side of this Workshop was on reminding myself that I had been unable to attend Stage 1, as taking photos optimally in the first place is still clearly the most critical component of wildlife photography.  Fortunately, over a cup of coffee following Stage 2, Bevan kindly filled me in some of the key gaps I had due to missing Stage 1.