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The Great Solent Birdwatch photography winners

There is something truly exhilarating about capturing wildlife with a lens. It’s a fantastic way to connect with nature. To celebrate this, for the past few years we have run a photographic competition in parallel with the Great Solent Birdwatch which takes place at the end of October.

This year the rangers were overwhelmed with the incredibly high standard of submissions. Here’s the winning photographs in the adults’ and junior categories, along with a selection of other highly commended entries:

Mary Michael Patterson's image of Snowhill Creek

WINNER – ADULTS’ CATEGORY

Mary Michael Patterson’s stunning photo of Snowhill Creek in West Wittering scooped top prize in the adults’ category of the Great Solent Birdwatch photo competition.

Our rangers picked Mary’s photo because of the way it captured views of our wonderful coastline and the rich variety of birds that make their home here – especially our favourite brent geese!

We’ll be featuring Mary’s stunning photo on the latest edition of the Bird Aware Solent information leaflet. Look out for it when you next meet one of the rangers.

You’ll find other photos from Mary on Instagram @wildedition.

WINNER – JUNIOR CATEGORY

Dimitri Moore entered this beautiful study of roosting turnstones winning top prize in the Junior category of the competition.

The snoozing turnstones were photographed at Lepe Beach, huddling together against the weather. The rangers loved the way the sunlight picked out the tiniest details of the bird’s plumage at the centre.

We can’t wait to see what amazing photos Dimitri takes in the future!

Dimitri Moore's winning photo
Steve Payce photo

Highly commended – roosting starlings

Ⓒ Steve Payce

Oliver Crabbe photo of oystercatcher

Highly commended – oystercatcher

Ⓒ Oliver Crabbe

Michael Valeriani egret photo

Highly commended – little egret

Michael Valeriani 

Rob Packham godwit

Highly commended – black-tailed godwit in flight

Ⓒ Rob Packham

Ricky Ashanollah photo

Highly commended – little egret

Ⓒ Ricky Ashanollah

Rob Packham redshank

Highly commended – redshank

Ⓒ Rob Packham

Cormorant with catch Warsash copyright David Luetchford

Highly commended – cormorant with catch, Warsash

Ⓒ David Luetchford

If you’re out photographing birds this winter, remember that these stunning creatures are working hard to survive winter and to have enough reserves left over for a long migration.

Waders like sanderling and ringed plover must be allowed to feed and rest undisturbed to gain enough energy. We’re hugely grateful to those photographers who show their subjects how much they appreciate them by keeping their distance and using long lenses rather than proximity to get that perfect shot. If birds look up, walk or fly away, it means you are too close!

Ranger Charlotte’s photography tips

We have Ranger Charlotte to thank for almost all the wildlife and landscape photography on our website and social media – apart from the winners on this page of course. Here are her beginners’ top tips for getting the most from your birdlife photography:

Get to know your subject

  • Learning about the behaviour of the birds can make all the difference to the quality of your photos. You’ll learn their habits and their favourite spots and be able to anticipate what they get up to and where they go.

Timing and light

  • Think about the tides –  birds will behave differently depending on whether the tide is in or out. Low tide is when they will be busy feeding and high tide is for resting/sleeping. Remember these are important times for the birds, and by making sure they not disturbed (by keeping our distance) we can give them the best chance of making it through the winter.
  • You’ll often find the best time for wildlife photography is in the ‘golden hour’ – that’s just after dawn and before sunset.
Camera

Equipment

  • If you want to take close up photos, you will need to invest in a long lens so that you aren’t in danger of disturbing the birds. Not all wildlife photography needs to be close up however – you only need to look at Mary Michael Patterson’s winning image to see the powerful results of a wider view.
  • If you’ve already got a spotting telescope and don’t want to buy an expensive camera or lens, you can try pointing your phone camera into the eyepiece of your scope – you can even even get a special mounting ring to help you do this.

Composing your image

  • If you’re photographing a bird, make sure its eye is sharply in focus. And think about the background too: moving a few metres to the left or right might provide a much more interesting or less distracting background.

Get low down

  • Wildlife photography is best when it’s at the eye level of the subject, so be prepared to crouch or even lie flat on the ground to get the picture you want. This has the added advantage that the background is more likely to be less in focus, making the subject of the photo stand out even more.

Most importantly – recognise the signs

  • If you notice the birds becoming alert (raising and turning their heads, looking at you or calling out) or you see them moving away – then you are too close! If you’re not sure, the simplest way to tell is if you see a change in their behaviour e.g. they stop what they were doing (usually feeding or resting!) then that is disturbance and you need to move away so that they feel safer.
  • By keeping your distance, birds will feel more comfortable and you will see much more natural behaviour which results in better photographs.

Finally – remember that bird photography isn’t just about capturing a great image, it’s as much about the pleasure of being outdoors and amongst nature. We are lucky to have such a variety of birdlife around our coasts, so let’s remember to share the shore so that we can all continue to enjoy our wonderful wildlife.