The theme for the March round of our monthly photography competition was "Life on Water", a fairly simple notion but as usual open to a wide range of artistic interpretation. When I set the theme, I made a bet with myself that at least ten percent of the entries would be photos of ducks, and I was not disappointed. Out of nearly 200 entries, no less than 30 were of ducks or swans, as well as six photos of Flamingos, another dozen shots of assorted seabirds, and even one photo including a toy rubber duck. Now I've got nothing against ducks (well, not much anyway) and to be fair some of them were very good photos, but I think if I run this theme again, I'll make it "Any kind of Life on Water except ducks".
Ducks aside, it proved to be a popular theme, and we received a larger than average number of entries. As always there were numerous sub-themes that appeared; including the aforementioned aquatic avians. One of the best bird photos we received was this excellent action shot from Simon Rodijk of Alicante, Spain. Taken on a Canon EOS 40D with a EF100-400mm IS USM lens at f/5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/800th of a second, Simon has captured an exciting split-second shot of what I think is a juvenile herring gull hunting, although perhaps someone with more knowledge of ornithology will correct me.
Swans are always a photogenic subject, although they can be a tricky subject, because their brilliant white plumage is often in stark contrast to their darker surroundings, creating a difficult exposure problem. Here's how to do it right, as shown by regular competition entrant and past prize winner Richard Koizumi of St. Albans, UK. Shot on a Nikon D300 at the maximum zoom setting of an 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, with an aperture of f/5.7 and a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second, this shot is the exact opposite of Simon's photo, a very tranquil composition with nice vertical balance.
Just to get most of the birdlife photos out of the way, here's a last one from Gavin Chan of London. Again swans are the main subject, but here they're almost lost among the rich saturated colours of this backstreet canal in Prague. Gavin used his Nikon D40x with a 55mm lens, an exposure of 1/100th at f/5.6 and 200 ISO. I suspect that the saturation may have been boosted a little, but the effect is very striking and it's a nicely composed photo.