It was a stinking hot day at Macmasters Beach when Joel Bennetts pulled out his camera and caught a beautiful moment – his brother cradling his five-week-old baby in the family's outside shower.
"I was spending the weekend with family among the waves and bushland, my eldest brother and his partner had had their first child, a baby girl, Lily," Bennetts told Fairfax Media. "I remember it was a 39-degree day, so my brother took his baby Lily for a midday shower … dad's outdoor shower came in very handy for all of us that day.
"I couldn't help but capture this moment in time – it was beautiful to see them there together."
The candid image is Clique's February winner, which had the theme "water".
Bennetts, a trained chef, has been taking images for four years – he started with the camera in his phone and moved to a DSLR not long after.
"I actually started by shooting waves with my phone," he said. "I'd leap above these waves … my love for the ocean has always been there."
Bennetts said he found Clique a good way to stay in touch with fellow enthusiasts and to hone his skills.
"I think Clique is a great way to get into the swing of the photography community, constantly changing and developing new competitions and themed programs," he said.
Speaking of what drove his photography, Bennetts said: "In anything and everything I can find inspiration and drive … it can often be small unseen things, like a pattern on the back of a leaf, or the salty drops falling off seaside moss."
Fairfax Media photojournalist James Brickwood judged the competition. "The [images] that really stood out for me were the ones which showed a human relationship with water," he said. "This month's winning image by Joel Bennetts was a fine example – the ritual of washing. It's composed in a rather informal manner which also attracted me to the shot. It wasn't obvious at first with this little figure emerging from a rich shadow, cast by her father."
Brickwood was impressed with the overall quality of the entries: "There were some solid entries this month and a whole range of interpretations of the theme – water. Some literal and others not so." Brickwood notes, "Mark Best's entry of a man on his mobile phone at the shore of Bondi Beach came a close second. A man sitting, alone amongst the breakers, distant from others, distracted on his expensive smartphone. His board shorts feature a printed beach design, and the pocket hanging out acts as a quiet reminder of the oddity in this scene. It is a sharp example of considered observation."
Bennetts wins a Clique prize pack, including photographic equipment from Nikon, a 12-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan, a custom collage from PosterCandy, a framed 16x20 inch print of his winning image, and a portfolio review by a Fairfax photographer.
To vote on the Nikon People's Choice Award for the February Challenge, visit cliquephotos.com.au. Voting closes on Tuesday, February 28 at 10am AEDT. The winner will be announced on the Clique Photos Facebook page, and will receive a $500 Nikon Store voucher.
Clique Photo Club is run by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age photography departments. It aims to inspire and teach better photography through monthly competitions, as well as workshops and events. To join, go to cliquephotos.com.au.