Each week we are delighted and amazed at the sheer quality of the photos that are posted by contributors to the BirdGuides website. Photo of the Week is becoming an increasingly difficult decision and often the cause of internal squabbling! We feel we should celebrate the efforts of our many excellent photographers and are therefore delighted to announce the inaugural BirdGuides Photo of the Year competition. A panel of distinguished judges (see below) will be poring over the pictures that have won Photo of the Week during 2006 and coming up with a winner. To see the photos in contention so far, go to http://www.birdguides.com/photooftheweek.
The panel's decision will be announced early in the New Year, with a follow-up feature detailing the short-list and eventual winner.
The good people at Zeiss have kindly donated a pair of their acclaimed new Victory FL 8 x 42s as first prize. Having recently field-tested a wide range of high-end binoculars, we can testify that these are both lightweight and optically superb. If you want to stand a chance of winning these stunning binoculars, you have just two weeks remaining to post your best pictures here:
Julian Hughes is Head of Species Conservation at the RSPB. Hailing from Wales, but living in the flatlands of East Anglia for the last 18 years, Julian has been a keen birder since the age of 16. Although a decent rarity will still occasionally deprive him of sleep, leading to excessive caffeine consumption, much of his birding is now done in Cambridgeshire, particularly his local patch at Paxton Pits. Based in Sandy, he looks after the RSPB's species recovery work for birds such as Stone Curlew, Black Grouse and Hen Harrier, reintroduction programmes for Red Kite, White-tailed Eagle and Crane, and campaigns to ban the import of wild birds into Europe.
Julian commented "I'm a very amateur photographer, but a look at the BirdGuides photos each week shows what can be achieved by birders in the field. I'm looking forward to seeing the final selection, but I know that choosing just one is going to be a tough, tough call."
Born in 1966, Mark Hamblin was brought up in Warwickshire where he first developed his passion for nature and photography. Despite an early ambition to become a television cameraman, he headed north to study Microbiology at Sheffield University. Seven years later he emerged from the ivory towers with a BSc and PhD but his true ambitions lay elsewhere.
After running a catering business for two years he finally took the plunge to follow his heart and has been working as a freelance wildlife photographer since 1995. After eighteen years living on the edge of the Peak District National Park, Mark and his partner Gale moved to the Scottish Highlands in the autumn of 2002 from where he helps to run Wildshots Photographic Adventures.
As well as supplying a number of international photographic libraries with stock images, Mark runs his own library of film and digital images, specialising in British wildlife. He also writes and illustrates features for a number of photographic and countryside magazines and has published two books, Wild Peak (published by Halsgrove), which celebrates the wildlife and landscapes of the Peak District, and Wild Land - Images of nature from the Cairngorms (Mercat Press).
Mark's photographs appear regularly in competitions, including the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and he has won prizes in the International Wildbird Photographer 2003 and 2004 awards.
Through the use of stimulating and thought-provoking images of nature, he upholds the belief that wildlife photographers have a crucial role to play in both portraying the beauty of the natural world and, equally importantly, in raising awareness on issues that affect us all. Mark and colleague Peter Cairns are currently working on Tooth and Claw, a photographic/journalistic project that examines our relationship with, and attitudes towards, Britain's predators, with a book due for publication in Autumn 2007.
An experienced and expert birder, Dave was one of the founders of BirdGuides back in 1994. He wrote the Finding Birds in.... series of books, which have helped hundreds of birders to see more species around Europe, and he wrote the highly acclaimed commentaries for the Video Guide to British Birds and the CD-ROM Guide to All the Birds of Europe (both now updated to DVD and DVD-ROM formats). His latest writing project has been to provide the commentaries in iDentify British Birds, aimed at helping birdwatchers to learn to distinguish birds by songs and calls.
Dave has undertaken many filming trips for BirdGuides in both Europe, America and Asia and much of Dave's footage can be found throughout the BirdGuides product range.