Get to know the BPOTY judges
The Bird Photographer of the Year team is proud of its judging panel and the skills and insights that they bring to the judging process. We want the team to reflect the diversity that exists in ornithological world. An understanding and appreciation of the work that goes into taking a good photo is important but so too is welfare of the subject, underlying conservation messages and perhaps above all artistry. And we don’t want to neglect the commercial aspects of bird photography either: many photographers aspire to making a living from their art. As a result the make-up of the panel includes an array from established photographers to up-and-coming new talent, leading publishers and magazine editors with an eye for a picture to photographic agents who recognised the ‘wow’ factor when they see it. And let’s not forget our head judge Chris Packham who always keeps the panel on its toes, and unfailingly challenges preconceptions and established views. All in all a heady mix of views and outlooks that ensures balance, artistry and vision all find a voice in process of making the final decisions.
In the first of a series of features, Paul Sterry introduces two of BPOTY’s well-respected judges, both established bird photographers in their own right on either side of the Atlantic.
Based in Norfolk in the UK, David’s passion for birds started at an early age: he was photographing them by the age of 13 although while at school always had ambitions to be a sports photographer. Professional photography became a reality in 1992, and since then he has written or collaborated on more than 40 book titles including the best selling Bird Photography Field Guide and the widely acclaimed Birds and People. David has received a number of photographic awards including the European Nature Photographer of the Year documentary award in 2002 for his work on Emperor Penguins and more recently won a Nature’s Best Award for his work on Mongolian Eagle Hunters.
David grew up in the film age but was quick to make the switch to digital. Now he has made a further system-wide change – to Olympus, who also provide generous sponsorship for BPOTY’s Best Portfolio award. So another range of opportunities beckon for David and here he shares one of his favourite images of the year so far.
David says: ‘Starlings nest in the eaves of our house each year but it is only in the last couple of years I turned my attention to photographing them. Adjacent to their nest site is a large Hawthorn whose crown is level with our bedroom window. Each morning in spring we are woken by the male’s vast repertoire of songs. He is a master at imitation and more than once he has had me diving out of bed to peer out at the sky in expectation of seeing a passage wader going over only to discover he has just delivered his Whimbrel or Greenshank impersonation. This spring I set about photographing him which was not as straightforward as it might seem. First I had to trim the top of the hawthorn for a clear view then DIY was needed on the window to get a clear shot, finally a sunny morning arrived, he performed and I had my picture, one of my favourite images taken so far this year.’
Equipment used: Olympus EM1X body; 300 mm f4 Pro Lens; f/10.0; 1/400 second; ISO 200.
Brian E. Small
Based in the Los Angeles area, Brian has been a full-time professional wildlife photographer for more than 20 years, with a particular passion for photographing birds. Brian grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of California in 1982 with a Bachelor’s degree in Geography-Ecosystems. He worked as Photo Editor of the American Birding Association’s membership magazine Birding for 15 years and his photographs have been used in literally hundreds of books and magazines across the world. Recent titles including the Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America, and collaborative works that he co-authored with fellow BPOTY Judge Paul Sterry, Birds of Eastern North America: A Photographic Guide and Birds of Western North America: A Photographic Guide.
Brian says: ‘The Buff-collared Nightjar is a highly localized species found only in southern Arizona. I was lucky to find this male’s preferred singing perch and so I spent an entire night on a hillside photographing him as he visited this weathered branch. It was an amazing privilege.’
To see more or Brian’s amazing images visit is Judge’s section on the BPOTY website.