Sunday, August 25, 2013

Birding Pet Peeve #3 - photo quizzes

I like bird ID photo quizzes.

Wait, let me rephrase that.  I like well-executed bird ID photo quizzes. Many birding publications, blogs, and websites host photo quizzes.  Many of these can be quite challenging and really test your knowledge or skill as a birdwatcher.

So what makes a good quiz?  Clear photos of odd postures or plumages.  Pictures of lesser noticed features of a bird.  Unusual molts.  The really unusual stuff, like birds discolored by pollen or berries.  Gulls always make a good quiz.  So do young birds, eclipse plumages, and non-breeding warblers and shorebirds.

But there is one trait all these quizzes have in common.  That is clear, well lit, properly exposed and focused photographs.  They don’t need to be publication suitable photos but they should be clear.

Many people with cameras and some place to post photos online have decided they to can construct a photo quiz.  The difference is that many of these are poorly done.  They take cutting room floor photos and decide they are quiz worthy.  Why?  Is it part of the “look at me” epidemic that is taking over society?

I’ve seen out of focus photos, over-exposed photos, under-exposed photos, badly backlit photos, and photos of too distant birds.  A low quality image cropped and zoomed so tightly that the bird is rendered in 12 pixels does not make a good quiz.

Is it a foot?  A backlit seabird?  The Titanic, E.T., a DeSoto Firedome, or a crumb from a muffin on the lens?

So by all means keep building quizzes to test the rest of us.  But please pay at least a minimal amount of attention to what you’re doing.  Select photos that give us a fighting chance and let the trash can serve its intended purpose for the rest.  And if you don’t, please stop complaining on your blog or Facebook posting that people don’t appreciate your efforts.