Wiki Loves Earth took place for the first time in Australia in 2016. I set out to make WLE work this year, after a false start in 2015. One of the first issues I identified in 2015 was having too large a group of people step forward to help make it work and that appeared to have been a hindrance. This year I decided as President of WM-AU that I would run the whole process as much as possible by myself leaving some of the organisation and participation by the wayside. The upload dates were the same as most other participants - being 1st May until 31st May 2016.
The first step in the process was to indicate we were an interested party in this year's event, and start the creation of WLE-au pages on Commons. Copy and paste was my friend, and I was following the way 2015 pages were designed when I ran into some minor issue due to the complexity of templates and the upload tool, and sought help from WM-AU member Sam Wilson with the creation of these. In creating the pages we had to find Protected areas in Australia. Fortunately en.wikipedia had this already organised within its category structures. My thanks to those contributors over the years who had made that happen, especially as one the hindrances for Wiki Loves Monuments has been the lack of heritage register information and the amount of work necessary to get that running.
Next step was to approach the committee with the concept and ensure we had some incentive for those who enter to contribute their best work. The committee concluded that 10 prizes/gift vouchers of $100 each would be offered along with the overall winner getting a print of their image. When I put this to the committee I thought 500 images would be a good target for identifying success, with a stretch target being that of 1000 images submitted.
Come the 1st of May the first images start to trickle in. We got something really special as the first image uploaded to any WLE national competition was from Australia. It wasn't of just any random place. It was of Uluru. Seeing this I really felt that something special had happened and was about to happen - it just seemed so right. It was nervous start watching the image come in, comparing the numbers to other countries checking out that the images were within scope and unfortunately deleting a few copyright violations. I was also posting to Wikimedia Australia's Facebook page promoting and keeping people informed. I shared the program far and wide through every network I could find.
- Over 100 images uploaded on day 1
- From Uluru to fish at Stradbroke Island they were already a diverse set
- Late on day 4 we passed 400 submissions
- We had snow on Perisher, not something people normally associate with Australia
- Day 5 - 500 image submission success target reached
- Day 8 - the number of uploads starts to drop off
- Day 10 and the stretch target looks a little further away
- Still surprises being submitted, like the Barnett Range in the Kimberley region which didn't even have an article
- Uploads slow down a bit more though 1000 is still looking possible
- Day 20 and the stretch target is passed with 1100 images now uploaded
It's around here that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) takes an interest. First up is a request to talk to someone in Melbourne, and committee member Steve Crossin takes this. It's then followed up a few days later by a live on-air TV interview. As we near the end, the ABC interviews take effect with more images flowing in. First we pass WikiTakes Waroona's 1900 image mark which was our previous largest event contribution. Then quickly the uploads roll past 2000 - twice our stretch target. This is looking great. The WLE in Australia finishes with a flurry of uploads on the penultimate day and 3000 is passed. Yet the contributors aren't finished yet. There's more magic to come when late on the 31st we pass 4000 by the end we have 4126 images submitted in time for the judges to do their thing.
Finding judges was one challenge for WLE that was easy. Firstly as President and organiser I took the first seat at the table. Within the Perth area, Wikimedia Australia has access to many amazing people through the projects that have taken place and the partnerships we have made. As I approached people to judge WLE before the upload period commenced, talking to them my vision was of hopefully 500 images and maybe a 1000 at a stretch. What I was describing was based on an expectation that 60% of images would be eliminated as not meeting the criteria. First up, I looked not for a photographer but for someone who has the task of reconstructing information on hundreds of thousands of images of Indigenous Western Australians through the the State Library of Western Australia's Storylines project. Step forward Damien Webb SLWA Community Liaison Officer (Indigenous Engagement). Next up I sought out Freopedia co-founder, former President of The Fremantle Society, professional photographer and former news photographer in Europe and Australia - Roel Loopers. The fourth person was Bob Litchfield, Master Photographer, a professional photographer for over 30 years and also lecturer in photography at The University of Western Australia and brand ambassador for Pentax Australia. At the end of May I went back to each of these people personally and gave them the opportunity to withdraw because of the number of entries was nothing near what I had originally envisaged and the task ahead was more than I would expect volunteers to take on.
Judging started off with the WLE jury tool. I did a first past of the 4126 images eliminating those that didn't meet the basic criteria. That took me the best part of week to do. Setting up for the next round of judging I found an error in the tool meaning that the first past images couldn't be carried forward. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to resolve the issue I had to abandon the tool and find an alternative solution. This process caused a lot of delays. In the end I had to use just category tagging on Commons, so again I waded through the 4126 images, except this time I also gave a heavy assessment of the images visually and their chances of progressing into the final round. It's here I counter my first thought about the images. I see so many good images but a lot are very similar to each other. After viewing a few I notice that the image subject loses impact because they aren't as unique as they could have been. Anyway I continue along. Ultimately I have a selection of 318 images for the final day of judging.
On the morning of 11 July the four judges meet at the State Library of Western Australia ready to search for the top 10 images. We begin by a process of elimination looking more closely at the individual images. What we note is that so many images had great potential but that they never achieved this potential because of poor or lack of cropping to focus on the point of interest. Others were very flat with little contrast and a lack of highlights. We were delighted with the diversity of images from Lord Howe Island to Tasmania to the Kimberley, from the peak of Mount Kosciuszko in winter to the depths of the Great Barrier Reef. That diversity is reflected in the final ten images which will be submitted for judging in the international section. All up the photographs are a truly amazing collection of images that showcase the diversity of this great land.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the success of Wiki Loves Earth in Australia. Without your input this wouldn't have happened. Thanks also to the work of Robert Myers who has been quietly working on Commons improving the image descriptions and fixing other little bits like geocoding. It's this gnome work that adds to the value of the collection.
In no particular order