Come what MAY .

Once again I have been fooled into thinking May would be a slow month for me.
How can one be so wrong, year after year ?
May started and finished with frenzied,  frequent, visits to Staglands Wild Life Park to get to know the place better or future workshops and it gave Kath, my STAR pupil a chance to experiment with all the stuff I had been teaching her.

BONEY NEWS

The big news for this month would have to be an addition to the Boney Whitefoot team.

So I’m introducing and welcoming Louise Wilman to team Boney Whitefoot.
Louise is a valuable  addition to the team and will  a great help to  me when my workshops have more than two people attending .

Louise is a full time mum, married to Dean and they have 3  boys..
the 2 youngest   boys 2 and 4   she refers to as the  (critters) , they accompany mum and dad out in the field  and can spot  a hawk at 300 meters.
Then they make sure you know they have spotted it 😀

Both Dean and Louise are  very keen wildlife and landscape photographers .

Louise  will enhance our workshops with her infectious humour  and boundless enthusiasm.

Louise

 

Meet the  Boney team .
Louise and I trying to capture the Wood ducks, photo, taken by Kath.

the team-

 

 

Staglands Wildlife Park.

Kath the star student 
It has been so rewarding working with Kath over the last few months, seeing Kath progress from where she started, to where she is now.
Kath would put many much more experienced photographers to shame.

Kath has learnt to assess and map the light values on the fly, with her own eyes in difficult conditions and can adjust the cameras settings to get a great exposure, without relying on the camera to make a blotch of it .

Cameras are great at making good AVERAGE over all exposures when the light is even , but the moment the light is hard to map,   all cameras fall over .
They over expose, underexpose and misbehave like naughty children  just when you need them to behave the most.
One must learn to map the  over all light values mentally , identify the most important object in your photograph   and compensate by making manual adjustments to the exposure system on your camera,  tailored  to correctly expose the main subject , or disappointment is going to raise its ugly head.
The photographer must take control and tell the camera what to do.
This is a skill that anyone can learn with practise and you can take advantage of shots like this below.

Kath has spent  months doing exactly that and her results have been amazing.

female wood duck

 

With soft afternoon light streaming in from behind us  but at a low angle, the front part of the image is light but takes up only a small strip  of the over all image .
This image has been cropped but in the original, 2/3rds of the  of the over all light,  is the dark shadows under the bank at the back.
We are also positioned low to the water to get the best possible profile for the duck in mid flap, so that bright light is a thin strip indeed over whelmed by the dark background.

In these conditions , left to its own devices  the camera will try and make up for the much greater amount of dark light behind the bird  and over expose the bird, obliterating it .
Kath shot 2 stops under the cameras  recommendations, which gave her the speed she needed to freeze the action and the bird was exposed correctly.

One can use spot exposure mode so that the camera exposes the subject  in a very small section  in the dead centre of the image, but with birds that are moving , its not really a viable choice of exposure methods, as if you are not bang on the bird, the exposure system will see the dark background and its gona turn to  white light city.

Difficult and challenging  light conditions is something the Staglands wildlife park excels at, if you want to take your camera skills to the next level.

 

This Mute swan is in pretty dark conditions with strong sunlight filtering  down through the trees on to its back from behind.

Again left to choose for its self,  the camera would have converted this bird into a great big white blob of pure fuzzy white light by trying to expose the dark background .

Mute Swan-7839-Edit

 

Another Image of the mute Swan
This time I wanted to capture the steam coming of the bird.

 

Mute Swan-7845-Edit

 

 

On a personal level  I have been  trying hard to get images of my new obsession, Wood ducks, with their wings extended and that has been a real mission.
At this time of the year I get only about 20 minutes of sun in the right place where I can drive the shutter speed up high enough to freeze the action.
The rest of the day is spent stalking the smaller birds in the park and enjoying the wildlife.

I managed to capture this female wood duck at full stretch.

Female Wood Ducks-

 

and this male is almost perfect.

Wood Duck-8544-Edit

 

tētē or Grey Teal are lovely little birds and are a real challenge to capture .

tētē or Grey Teal--5

 

I love Autumn and Staglands  is a great place to visit late in the season.

Staglands pond-1542-Edit

 

Even the drive in there has always got something going for it.
Low mist with the sun filtering through made for a interesting image and then the car added to the mixture as well.

untitled-8950-Edit

 

This turtle at Staglands looks less than than impressed with my efforts lol

Turtles--2

 

Well that is  it for this month, except this Wax or White eye.
Notice how the yellow flowers complement the colour of the bird.

White Eyes-

 

In the next few weeks I hope to continue the new series I started a few weeks ago.
bless ya all heaps and heaps .
So get out there folks and make it happen , I know I will.  ❤

How to improve your bird photography, part 1 composition

All anyone really gets to see on my blog, is my best shots of wildlife and landscapes.
I don’t normally keep, let alone post my mistakes and failures for all to see , that is until now.
Some examples are intentional for this series, others are just plain bad form.
In this series of articles we will look at some of the most common mistakes we make that, all though for many, may not  completely ruin the image, certainly detract from what it could have been had we been more careful and been PATIENT.

Everyone makes mistakes  and in this first series we are going to cover 4 common mistakes  we need to correct if we want to excel at our art.

1. Bad composition.

2. Bad posture of your subject

3. Bad timing

3 Unwanted distractions

Part 1  Composition. 

First up we will look at  composition, from how we position ourselves for the shot to the aspect ratio or how we crop and frame our finished image.

The Photographers posistion

The ideal position in most cases for birds is going to be lining the camera up on your subject at the same height  level as the head of the bird.
This often means getting down low when shooting over water and sandy beaches.

This often means getting a wet bum.

Below Steve on the right and I on the left have chosen this washed up log to use as a rest for 3 reasons.
1. Keeps our bums off the wet sand while giving us a low profile .
2. Puts us low to the ground
3. Gives us a semblance of cover.

untitled-3711-Edit-Edit

 
Steve used this log to break up his profile to kind of conceal himself and scored a back rest at the same time lol.

Tara the White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata)

 
If you cant find cover  do what ever you have too, to get down low.

Not every one can get down onto the ground and get back up and its getting harder for me as each year passes .
May I suggest to purchase a small but stable unfolding stool to sit on.

Me laying down on the job.

Tony-3955

 
This is not the way to do it and wont work on many birds 😀

Lake Rotorua-1422-Edit

 

Cropping and positioning .
The composition of this Male Wood Duck is pleasing, the viewer is looking right at the bird.
I was down low to take the shot initially and then in the processing stage I cropped the bird so that the eye was in the top third of the image.
The early morning light on the bird add impact to the shot as well.

Male Wood Duck

 
pāteke or Brown Teal

pāteke or Brown Teal-9987-Edit

 
If for some reason you cant get down low  it may be possible to raise the bird up to eye level, in this case I asked my new assistant to raise the bird up, it helps if it is fluffy and cuddly  as Louise shows, she’s more than pleased to oblige me lol.

Lousie the duck cuddler

 

Next week we will look at the birds posture.

Finally with winter here, its full speed ahead for my winter workshops on birds and landscapes in the greater Wellington area.

For INFO  check out my workshop pages here

 

 

 

April the month of seasonal transistion.

Well April has bittern-ed the dust and we have past the first quarter of 2017.
The seasons here in New Zealand are moving past late autumn and into the start of winter.
Things are slowing down in the birding world as the migratory birds have headed off up to the northern hemisphere to breed and do some sun bathing, leaving us behind with our local birds.
Being out with the camera during the winter months means  shorter days and getting home at a more decent hour at night  and an hour or more extra sleep in the morning, much more civilised for this budding photographer I’m thinking.

The month of April
April started off with Phil the Bittern still  being the new kid on the block so its was up to Foxton in the Manawatu to visit him.

Phil was waiting for us and he put on a great display.

matuku the Australasian bittern -0779-Edit
A Bitterns territory can cover many tens of miles, so the bird may be in a certain spot one day and miles away the next, never to return to that very spot  , so NEVER EVER look a gift horse in the mouth when I comes to Bitterns.

Take the opportunity when it comes and make the most of it, tomorrow may produce  nothing more than  a Bittern taste in your  mouth.
Ok no more bittern jokes, I promise.

Spot the Bittern, Phil’s temporary home on the Manawatu Estuary. 

Foxton, Manawatu
Phil is out in the open here so with no grass  directly in the way of his head and neck, so one can get away with using the cameras multi point focus system and you will get great results , we will look a bit later on how to acquire focus when birds are in tighter cover in our next article.

matuku the Australasian bittern -0925-Edit

I got three opportunities  with Phil  and then he was gone and has not been seen since.

The Glossies

Next on my highlight  list was when  the word came down the pipe from Imogen, aka,  Wonder Woman , (so named because she has the knack of finding  rare birds).
This time it was not just one bird, but 15 Glossy Ibis.
Glossy Ibis have been on my wanted list for a few years and it didn’t take much encouraging to get Steve motivated and THE plan was conceived and almost executed to perfection, almost but then the plans of mice and men being what it is ………….

A few Glossy Ibis pop over from Australia for our summer each year, but last year some were recorded successfully rearing young in New Zealand for the first time.

Large groups of Glossy Ibis are a very rare sight here in New Zealand so Imogens find was big news. We believe its most likely that the whole flock were blown over here by Cyclone Claire  from Australia.

As I said we almost executed the perfect plan , we figured out where the birds were likely to be given the tide and we made our way towards the spot but this was as close as we got to these nervous birds.

We cant have enough Glossies so we hope they will stay.

This was as close as we got as the whole flock took to the air seconds after this shot was taken.

Glossy Ibis-

We both felt a little deflated watching the Glossies fly upriver until we could no longer see them, knowing full well that  we could not follow them up there, so we decided to have a look around for some other  subjects that we hoped would prove to be  a bit more user friendly.

First up was a squadron of Lesser knots that had decided not to breed this year and stay on in the land of the long white cloud (Aotearoa)  that is the native name for New Zealand.

A squadron of Knots curling in to land in front of us.

Lesser Knots-

A Royal Spoonbill  flaring away from us was next.

Royal Spoon Bill

And then to top the day off, I got a shot a had always wanted  of a Little Tern on the wing.

We went home that day very happy indeed.

Little Tern-

On the way home we dropped in to Waikanae and were treated to a great sunset .

A young Pied Shag passing over head in the late evening. 

Young Pied Shag

A group of Mallards, 2 weeks from now Duck shooting season will be upon them.

Good luck little Duckies .

Mallards-1774

Silhouette Black Swans on the water. 

Black Swan

 

Staglands Wildlife Reserve

Kath “Hey want to go to Staglands Wildlife Reserve , I will shout”

Tony ” Im in, after all  how could I refuse such an offer lol ” and so it was to be, that Kath and I shared yet another exciting photographic adventure.

It had been many years since I had visited  Staglands Wildlife Reserve and I had often wondered about its value for running workshops up there.
So Kath was to be my pretend student for the day .

I discovered that Staglands Wildlife Reserve ticks most of the boxes for a great workshop venue, consistent wildlife, great amenities, easy access and minimum fitness is required.

Another factor is that most of the wildlife is up close so you don’t need a long lens.

Staglands is  ideal for people who are just starting out,  but also it has some very challenging  situations  for more experienced photographers where they can learn heaps and come to grips with some more advanced techniques for difficult lighting situations.

Kath and I planned our attack and mid morning found us at the beginning of our big day out.
First off we encountered pāteke or the Brown Teal and a male Chestnut Breasted Shell Duck

A male pāteke or brown teal

pāteke or brown teal  -3618-Edit

The male pāteke is a bit more fancy then the female model but thems the breaks.

pāteke or brown teal  -3621-Edit

Chestnut-Breasted Shelducks are native to Australia but a rare sight in New Zealand .

This Male  is well fed and has no intention of migrating back home. 

Chestnut-Breasted Shelduck-3540-Edit

I cannot figure out how they came to be called Chestnut-Breasted Shelducks, got any clues 😀

Chestnut-Breasted Shelduck--2

 

Now I have to admit , one of the reasons I love birds is because Im a real colour junkie, I love light and colour and one of the reasons I wanted to go to Staglands was because of two very special (at least to me )  ducks , the Wood Duck and the Mandarin Duck, both unbelievably colourful birds.

Wood Ducks.

Kath and I found the Wood Ducks first, they were  hiding under the over hanging sedges and ferns  of the pond .
The light was not good as the sun was not high enough in the sky and I knew that my exposure system would want to flood the scene with extra brightness to even out the dark shadowy portions of the image.
So I dropped the exposure settings by 2/3rds of a stop  so as not to blow out the highlights and give me just a little bit more shutter speed.
I took a shot and checked  in the preview window just to make sure I wasn’t out of the ball park.
All seemed well exposure wise,  but my shutter speed was still too low for my liking.

The rule of thumb is to try and get  your shutter speed up to  at least twice the speed of the focal length of your lens, I was hitting 150th of a sec at F.8 with the 300 mil lens, so I doubled my speed by opening the aperture up by one full stop, which was F 5.6.
This gave me 300th of a second and I know I can get pretty good sharp static images at that speed , just so long as the subject is not moving around a lot.

You can practice your steadiness till the cows come home,  but if your subject is moving around fast and a lot, your going to need the raw speed to freeze the action.
Thankfully my subject was resting on the edge of the shadows so just to make the most of it , I lay on the boardwalk covered in duck poos  and rested the camera on the wood.
This gave me a very good profile of the bird and kept the camera steady.
I was pleased with the results.


Having the camera set to shoot 2/3rds of a stop under what the camera chose as ideal, I got more speed and did not over expose the bird, as the camera sees the dark background and tires to lighten it up, thus over exposing the bird.
Experimenting and experience teaches us little tricks that save the day.

A Male Wood Duck.

Wood Duck-3427-Edit

A Female Wood Duck

Wood Duck-3363-Edit

The Male again

Wood Duck-3011-Edit

Finally a close up head shot

Wood Duck-

 

I could hear Kath furiously clicking away once, I had given her my settings  and she was away, but being a lady she was unwilling emulate me lying flat on the deck  liying in the duck poos .
How ever Kath had a big smile across her face and when we had finished it was time for lunch.
We decided after lunch to have another go with the Wood Ducks  so back over to the pond we went in search of both the Wood ducks and the Mandarin Ducks which we had been unable to locate on our first attempt .

 

Mandarin Ducks

We finally found the Mandarin Ducks, but this was where it got real tricky, the birds were in an enclosure for the winter and there wasn’t much light at all.

I open the lens to F.4 and upped the ISO to 2,000
This was far from ideal as my depth of focus (the depth of the  area that is in focus) was halved.
Shutting down or sometimes called closing down  the F.stop, is  like squinting your eye,   it lets less light in through the lens to register your image onto the sensor,  but increases the distance from the front of the area of focus to where focus starts to  fade off .
In this case I increased the size of mt aperture from F.8  to F.4.
This increased the speed of amount of light needed for a good exposure by twice, but also lessened the depth of field  by twice as much.

But to take what you get in this business and clikerty click went the shutter

 

Notice that the front of the bird is in focus, but the focus fades quickly as your eye moves towards the back end of the bird.
The area in focus is called the depth of field .
The higher F.stops  you go, the greater that area of focus becomes,  but the less light comes in through the lens to strike the sensor to make a successful on your camera making for a slower shutter speed.
Also the slower the shutter speed, the more likely you are to get motion blur as the subject moves around and you cant hold the camera steady for  the longer period of time the shutter needs to be open, letting the correct amount of light strike the sensor and register your image.
Most lenses  go like this.
F.4…… F.5.6…….F.8……F.11……F16……F22..
Each F.  number called a stop and either halves or doubles  the amount of light that enters through the lens and onto the sensor, the higher F.stop you go halves the light the lower doubles it.

Over all I was pretty pleased with the results considering.

Mandarin Duck.--4
But man it was tough going.

Mandarin Duck.-4693-Edit

 

At this stage we were both fading so we headed back to the car dropping in on the Woodies on the way.

Wood Duck-3004-Edit

 

April is not just all about birds in this country.
The first few weeks of April the deer are in mating mode known as the roar, the highlight of the deer hunters year .

A fine stag roaring his defiance to the world.

Red deer-7236-Edit

 

All in all we had a pretty good April .
I will be starting our winter workshops in another month so if your up to it contact me and we can take you out and start to show you how to master your camera and take wonderful pictures of birds and landscapes.

I hope this article has been helpful and bless you peoples, heaps and heaps. ❤