Guillemots nesting, Alkefjellet, Svalbard
Alkefjellet is a line of cliffs in the middle of Svalbard. You get there by ship and, as I understand it, it's pretty easy for the captain to take the vessel in nice and tight so you get a good view of the nesting Guillemots. I'm told there are over 200,000 of them in the cliffs, but I didn't count them personally.
Mind you, when you look closely at the print, there are three or four blurred birds flying across the frame. They are probably blurred for two reasons: they are a lot closer than the cliffs, so a lack of depth-of-field; and the shutter speed of 1/250 second isn't fast enough to freeze the action.
Some readers might suggest I wait a little while until the coast is clear. Good thought, but reference my earlier observation of 200,000 birds. There simply isn't a time when there aren't LOTS of birds in the air! And second, the ship is moving slowly along the cliffs, so if I waited too long, this angle would be gone.
Our ship went up and then back again, so I had two opportunities to shoot this particular slab of rock. It reminds me of a castle or battlement tower and in post-production, I helped this similarity along by darkening the surrounding cliffs.
I think most people look at the photo and say, okay, but it's when they get up close and see how many bird bums are pointing at them that the content of the image really hits home. In this way, the judging procedure at the AIPP's awards works really well because when a print is judged, it is turned around on a presentation board surrounded by grey cloth and evenly lit from above and below. Having seen the photo from a distance, the five judges get up from their chairs and walk up to inspect the print closely - and this is when the impact of the print and and all the birds takes hold.
The other option is to make a much bigger print! Note to self!