Judge: (Digitals) - Shona Kebble (Prints) - Toya Heatley
Rules for this trophy competition can be found by clicking "more details"

2 trophies are awarded:  one for the best print (Brian Thwaites Trophy) and the other for the best digital image (MCC trophy for Natural History Digital Images).  Print entries must be of NZ Natural History subjects only.  Digital entries may be natural history subjects from anywhere in the world.  Images that have been previously entered in Open Competitions may be re-entered into the Natural History Trophy Competition.  Ungraded Competition.  Up to two digital entries and two prints may be submitted.  The following rules apply to both prints and digitals:

  • Subjects shall illustrate untamed animals, birds, and uncultivated plants in their natural habitat, astronomy, geology and phenomena not produced by man.  Marine and botanical subjects (including fungi and algae) and naturalised subjects are allowed providing taken under natural and not domestic conditions, NZ examples are deer, black swan, monarch butterfly, briar (not cultivated) roses.  Landscapes, photographs of zoo or game farm animals or of any extant zoological or botanical species taken under controlled conditions are not eligible. 
  • No techniques that add, relocate, replace, or remove pictorial elements except by cropping are permitted.  Techniques that enhance the presentation of the photograph without changing the nature story or the pictorial content, or without altering the content of the original scene, are permitted including HDR, focus stacking and dodging/burning.
  • Techniques that remove elements added by the camera, such as dust spots, digital noise are allowed.  Stitched images are not permitted.  Colour images can be converted to grey-scale monochrome.  Infrared images, either direct-captures or derivations, are not permitted.


Set Subject

Digital critique from Shona (sorted alphabetically) , then Print critique from Toya. (sorted by grade, then alphabetically) 



Bellbird on flax    Accepted    
Your shallow depth of field has blurred out the background nicely but your focus is on the front flower instead of on the bird hence the bird is not sharp. Lovely pose.

Black Billed Gull and Chick    Honours    
The image has been exposed well so that we can see the feathers in the white areas. There is a nice story being told in the image. We can see what the chick and adult look like, where they live and how they live.

Black Shag    Accepted
I like the composition and simplicity of the photo. The shag is looking your way and has plenty of room to move into. The blacks are a bit blocked out so you could have increased your exposure. It looks like it was a sunny day so it is hard to get detail in the shadows and still retain highlight detail.

Bladderwort, Utricularia sp.    Accepted
These flowers are very striking with the purple and yellow colours. Unfortunately the image is not sharp.

Bottle nose Dolphins    Accepted    
An interesting view of the dolphins, just concentrating on their fins. I would like to have seen the water splashes and fins a lot sharper.

Bullers Mollymawk    Honours    
This is a vey nice portrait. The eye is sharp and there is good detail in the white feathers.

Buller's Mollymawk2    Mert    
Another lovely image of the mollymawk. The depth of field is good as is the sharpness. There is room for the bird to fly into. There is a slight loss of detail in the whites.

California Quail    Mert    
Lovely detail in this image. Nice out of focus background. Good colours. I would like to see a little more room in front of the bird as it appears to be a bit squashed for room on the left.

Calliphora vicina    Mert    
This is a reasonable depiction of the fly. The sharpness is very good. The sunny day has made it difficult to get more detail in the blacks and the leaves are very bright.

Crested Grebe    Honours    
Just beautiful. The story of the Grebes is shown well. We can see the chick, adults and where they live, what they feed on. The birds are sharp and there is good textures in the feathers.

Flax Flowers (Harakeke)    Accepted    
The diagonal composition of the flowers is good. It is best to take flowers on an overcast day. That way you get more even light on them which gives you more detail in the deeper parts of the flower. This image is very dark which means the highlights have been controlled but the blacks have been blocked up.
Gannet pair and Juvenile    Honours    
This is a lovely image. I like the emotional factor with the family group. The birds are nice and sharp with each one doing something slightly different. The only other comment is that you could crop off all the black behind the last birds tail as it isnt doing anything for the image and it would place the birds in a better position within the frame.

Glow worm snares  Arachnocampa luminosa    Mert    
It is good that you have chosen an unusual subject. The glowworm is an elusive insect. The sticky webs are interesting but it would have been good to have seen an actual glowworm. It is possible to capture these as I have done so myself.

Golden Orb Web Spider    Mert    
The spider is nice and sharp. The colours are well portrayed. It is a pity that the lower leg has been cut off. The highlights in the background are distracting. It is good that we can see the type of web it makes.

Haastia sinclairii    Mert    
I like the arrangement of these plants but I wonder if three would have worked better than four. You have shown us different stages of growth and what they grow in. 

Hippo    Accepted    
I like the close up composition. Unfortunately the sunny day has blown out the highlight on its hide and blocked up the shadows on its face. Nice sharp eye.

Juvenile Black Fronted Dotterel    Honours    
This is a very nice capture. The bird is in an interesting pose. I don't mind that the foot is blurred as it implys movement. There is a lot of good detail in the feathers and is sharp on the body and face.

Juvenile Spotted Shag    Honours    
The bird is positioned nicely within the frame. We can see all the feather detail as well as the colour and shape of its feet. The whole bird is lovely and sharp. We can also see what environment it lives in.

King Shag family    Mert    
A nice family grouping. It is nice that they are all looking the same way and you have given them some  room to look into but a bit more would be good. I would be tempted to crop off the bird on the right as it is not adding to the story and it simplifies the image.

Little Owl on Woodpile    Honours    
A lovely capture of the Little Owl. You have retained good detail in the feathers. The face is sharp and it is in an interesting pose. We can see the talons on the feet. It could do with a crop off the right as we do not need all that space and would improve the composition.

Macaws at the clay lick    Accepted    
This image has the potential to be a very good image but as it is there are a few faults. The left side could be cropped which would bring the birds into a better position in the frame. You have cut off the tails of the lower birds, and the top bird, and although I really like the movement in the flying bird, its face is not sharp enough.

Marlborough Daisy seed head    Honours    
This is a good example of using a cloudy day to do flower photography. The seed head stands out nicely against the dark leaves and is nice and sharp. It is fine the way you have presented it but personally I would have flipped it, using the stalk to lead the eye into the seed head.

Mycena Species    Mert    
The fungi is nice and sharp and we can see where it grows. The angle the image is taken on is good but a slightly lower angle would have shown us up under the cap so we can identify the gill pattern. The image can do with a crop to make the fungi larger within the frame.

Ocean View    Mert    
The bird is very sharp with excellent feather detail. I like the way you have got eye level with the bird. There is a haughty look on its face. Take more time getting your composition right. The beak of the bird is almost at the left edge. It is best to leave more room in front of the bird than there is behind it and to give the bird room to either move or look into.
old alpha gelada    Honours    
We can see all the fur details in this image. The animal is positioned nicely and the background in unobtrusive. We normally connect with animals through the eyes and this one is looking away. It does suggest though that it is comfortable with you being there. 

Orange Mosscap Fungi (Rickenella fibula)    Mert    
This is a good grouping of these fungi. The exposure is good and there are no blown out highlights in the fungi or the background. We can see where and how they grow. When photographing fungi it is good to show the underside of the cap and the gill formation is important to the story of the species.
ear Tree Blossom    Mert    
The blossoms and stamens are nice and sharp. The whites have been handled nicely. The leaf going out of the frame on the left should be all in the frame. 

Pelican    Accepted    
You have captured an unusual moment. The sunny day has worked against you as the highlights and blacks both do not have any detail in them.  

Poroporo, Solanum aviculare    Honours    
I really like the way you have used the light. The flower is backlit and the seed pods have a nice rim light. The story of the plant it all there with the flower, seeds and leaves. The right hand side could be cropped off just behind the last leaf.

Preening Eastern Great Egret & Chick - Kotuku - Ardea Modesto    Honours    
A really lovely image. The breeding feathers are shown nicely and the bird is doing something. Good detail in the whites and the chick adds extra interest. The vignetting is a little strong though.

Rabbit    Mert    
It is good to see you fill the frame with the rabbit. The light is nice and there is good detail in the fur. It is a pity there is no catchlight in the eye. The white thing by the back food keeps drawing my eye away from the rabbit.

Seed head of Marlborough Daisy    Mert    
The image is nicely cropped. We can see the different stages of the seeds being dispersed. A bit more depth of field would have bought the round part of the seed head more into focus.

Spotted Shag    Mert    
I like the light in this image. It has given the bird a golden glow. The pose is good as is your composition but to me the eye, which is the crucial part, is not sharp.

Stewart Island Robin    Mert    
The bird itself it lovely and sharp. It looks like you had a sunny day as the highlights on the forest floor are very bright and the back of the bird has lost all detail. There is also a blue tone to the image which could have been corrected with the right white balance.
Swamp Musk (Mazus radicans)    Accepted    
These are lovely delicate flowers. It is good to see that you have photographed them on a cloudy day. Using two blooms does not work as well as one or three. Try to isolate one perfect specimen and get in nice and close to emphasis the detailed patterning and include a little bit of greenery in the backgound.
wan Plant - Gomphocarpus Physocarpus    Accepted    
We can see the spiky nature of the seed pod and also the feathery seeds and how they are dispersed. Unfortunately the sunny day has bought up a lot of highlights in the leaves and the intense blue of the sky pulls my eye away from the seed pod.

The handsome quail    Mert    
The bird sure is handsome. I know it is difficult to retain detail in some feathers but the black under its chin is completely blocked up. The rest is lovely. Nice out of focus background.

Tomtit (Petroica macrocephala)    Honours    
This bird is very sharp. The shallow depth of field makes it stand out from the cluttered background. Normally I would say to crop to make the bird bigger in the image but in this case I like it being smaller as it highlights just how small these birds are.

Wasp Nest    Accepted    
This image has lots of interesting parts to it. It shows the whole nest and the activity going on. It also shows us the egg casings. To me it does not appear to be sharp or maybe you needed more depth of field. 

Wasps    Accepted    
The arrangement of this image is great. Where it is lacking is in sharpness. Nothing is really sharp. Maybe you were hand holding the camera. Try using a tripod. The nest is not going anywhere so it gives you time to set up the shot.
Webcaps, Cortinarius sp.    Honours    A very nice group of fungi. Well composed and exposed. The overcast day has given you good detail in the caps. It is preferable to be able to see the gills too if possible.

White Faced Heron    Honours    
A well caught image. The heron is nice and sharp. We can see where it lives and what it eats. Very good feather definition. Being picky it could do with a tad more room on the right so that the splash circle is not cut off. 


C GRADE        
Bee at Work    Honours    
The little bee certainly has some work ahead of him with these pohutukawa flowers. Nicely composed with the diagonal line through the image from the bee to the top left flower.  Good detail and well presented.
Kotuku        Accepted    
Well composed print of the kotuku. I like how you have captured the sun on the water drops. I would recommend trying to lighten the shadows in the rocks to give them more detail.  Nicely presented.

Little shag    Merit    
Lovely portrait of the little shag. In my opinion it is a little crampted in the frame and would be improved with more room in front of the beak. Good feather detail.

Mother feeding her injured offspring    Accepted    
Such a heart breaking image because the little youngster will probably not survive once the parent stops feeding it.  I like that you have captured the closeness of the two weka.  The title in this image should have the name of the bird along with the description for nature and natural history, and the presentation could be better. However this is a print full of story and excellent detail in the birds.

Startled baby seal    Accepted    
Nicely composed baby seal with the enough of the rock in focus to give show the depth of fied betweeb the seal and the background. The left eye on the seal looks flat in my opinion, I am not sure if it damaged or if the photpgrapher has used flash which can often give that effect to the eyes. I feel this image is let down by its presentation.

B GRADE        
Rifleman    Merit    
This is a lovely example of a rifleman, with good detail in the feathers and nice catchlight in the eye. I would have liked to see more of the environment around the bird to give some context to the size of the rilfeman. They are very tiny and this one looks very large.  I like the paper that has been used to print on, it seems to add depth to the image.

South Island Tomtit    Honours    
This print is absolutely delightful. The tomtit is beautifully exposed  and sharp and the background is  soft muted colours. Well presented. a stunner!

Starling Feeding Chick    Unaccepted    
While this is a wild bird, it is nesting in a man made nest box, which disqualifies it as a natural history image.

A GRADE        
Banded Dotterel - Pohowera - Charadrius bicintus    Honours    
Great composition and good detail in the dotterel. Good catchlight in the eye and excellent depth of field show only what needed to be sharp and the rest of the print is lovely and soft.  I would have liked to see this image matted as I feel it would show it off even more.

Bellbird    Unaccepted    
I feel like this print is the result of a very large crop of an image photographed in very dark conditions.  There is a lot of grain in the print and the colours are wrong for a bellbird, there is ared/orange colour cast due to pushing the shadows too far.  The composition is nice, a good attempt. 

Black Swan's    Accepted    
Lovely feather detail in both swans.  I feel that perhaps the front swan's feathers are a little lost with all that is going on in the ground behind it. It also feels like that swan has no rooms to move. I would recommend not cropping so tightly or trying to frame the image so that there is some space in front of the bird within the composition.  

Bonnets, Mycena sp.    Accepted    
A nice little cluster of bonnets, with good texture and detail. I would have liked to see more detail in the background to see what they are growing on.  Nicely composed and well presented.

Buller's Mollymawk    Merit    
Well composed giving the mollymawk lots of room to fly into the image. Nice colour tones, lovely sharp detail with a clear eye. Well presented.

Gannets Mating Ritual    Accepted    
The beauty of a gannet pair greeting each other is captured well in this print. The birds are well exposed with the background being darker removing any distraction from the birds.  In my opinion the crop is a little tight to the left and top of the print and feel that a little more room if possible would make this image stronger. Nicely presented.

Juvenile and adult SI Variable Oystercatcher    Merit    
I am hoping that the adult was just resting its other leg, because one good push from the youngster and I can see it going down.  Lovely detail in both birds. I like that the background is blurred enough so it doesn't overtake the subjects. I would have liked to see the birds facing the camera however I am well aware of how difficult that can be at times. A touching moment between the two birds.

Little Shag    Honours    
Absolutely beautiful. Great exposure, good feather detail, sharp beak and eye. Excellent compostition and very well presented. The quality of the printing is perfect.  

Marlborough Rock Daisy (Pachystegia insignis)    Accepted    
The daisy is nice and sharp, with good light on it showing the details and colour of the flower from the side.  Personally I would have like to see more of the inside of the flower and less of the background.  The daisy feels as if it is too close to the right hand edge of the print and there is a lot of leaf space that doesn't really add much to the story.  If you have the opportunity I would give this one another go to frame the daisy to better display its beauty.

Paradise duck parents and ducklings    Accepted    
Nice composition with the male duck watching guard while the female and ducklings feed in the shallow clear water. Nice detail throughout this image, including the stones under the water. Well presented.

Tui - Prosthemadere novaeseelandiae    Honours    
An excellent example of our native tui in the sun, showing the irridesence of the feathers at their best.  I like the soft bokeh background and how it reflects the colours of the tui as well. Great feather detail and good catchlight.  I would have loved to see this image matted as I think it would show it off even better.

Uncommon Black Fronted Dotterel        Accepted    
A good capture of a bird I have never seen before. I like the bright contrasting colours in the beak and eye of this little dotterel. Nice depth of field showing the bird's environment but blurring it before it becomes a distraction. Well presented.

Wrybill        Merit    
Well presented and great composition. I love the open beak showing the curve of the wrybills beak. Good catchlight in the eye, and lovely soft background.

Comments from the print Judge - Toya Heatley