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Bird photography workshop with Jon Westaway and Scott Ritchie

Scott Ritchie | Guest contributor


BirdLife Northern Queensland (BLNQ) recently hosted a Bird Photography Workshop in Cairns with presentations in Cominos House, Thursday evening 27 April 2023; and an outdoor photography session at Little Street Cemetery on Saturday morning 29 April 2023.


On the Thursday evening in Cominos House, 26 eager participants attended the presentations. Jon Westaway provided expert discussion about how to get the best out of our equipment, so we can capture wonderfully detailed portraits of birds; then I (Scott Ritchie) gave an expose on how to capture birds in flight.


At the Cemetery on the Saturday morning, 18 eager photographers attended the outdoors part of the Workshop: Bird Portrait Photography led by Jon; and birds in flight led by Scott.


Workshop participants target the Double-eyed Fig-parrot in the Sandpaper Figtree at Little Street Cemetery. Photo: Mikey Kudo.


Some of our most renowned local birds appeared for the cameras. But probably the highlight of the fairly quiet morning, was the opportunity to capture close and detailed portraits of Double-eyed Fig-parrot at the reliable Sandpaper Fig tree.


Double-eyed Fig-parrot in portrait mode. Photo: Julia Sumerling.

Scott gave a demonstration of how, and how not, to capture birds in flight. Although the usually dependable Rainbow Bee-eaters seemed rather shy of the camera, one provided a beautiful portrait on a low hanging perch. But only Sam Shepard was patient enough to capture the bird as it launched itself off the branch. Well done Sam!


A Rainbow Bee-eater launches from a perch. Photo: Sam Shepard.

Photographers patiently wait for one of the White-breasted Woodswallows to take flight from a powerline. Photo: Mikey Kudo.


Steven Comport must have been happy with his nice shot of a male Leaden Flycatcher....


Male Leaden Flycatcher in good light. Photo: Steven Comport.

Scott also gave a demonstration of the PGD Tracker Dot Sight on his camera, and a few people were able to have a go with it. I managed to use it to capture a few good images of the Australian Swiftlets dodging about overhead.


An Australian (aka White-rumped) Swiftlet casts an eye to the heavens. Shot with the aid of a PGD Tracker Dot Sight. Photo: Scott Ritchie.


The main birds that we had opportunities to shoot in flight, were Bush Stone-curlews (aka Bush Thick-knees) that flew off en masse, singing “Ibi vadit” (Latin: “There we/they go”) as they left; a couple of fly-overs by Sulphur-crested Cockatoos; and a few Masked Lapwings that did not swoop us.


I hope that we can have further educational and training workshops in the future. A big thankyou to Mikey Kudo, BLNQ’s Cairns Area Coordinator, for organising the event, including Cominos House with tea and bickies; and to Jon Westaway for his enthusiastic collaboration on the Workshop.


If you ever see me on the ‘Nade or at the Cemetery, feel free to ask me and I’ll give you a go with the Dot Sight. In the meantime, good birding and great camera shooting.

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