The heat shimmer blue’s

We are now into the beginning of Summer , for those of us who are now busy chasing after those birds that breed and raise families on our beaches and estuaries , our old enemy heat shimmer has raised its ugly head.
Once you hit the focal length of 300 mils and above, heat shimmer plays a major, if not the dominate role in robbing us of our beloved detail we all crave in our images.
Many of us love to get down low and shoot at the bird at about its head height as this often gives the most pleasing pose. Sadly this is where most of the heat is being bounced off the hot surface back into the air, this is where  heat shimmer is most apparent.
Sadly, often we cannot see the mirage effect through the view finder, esp if we are close to our subject and everything looks fine until you get home and load your beloved images into your favourite image processing program and desperation descends on you as you frantically search your images for one single sharp one.

So what does heat shimmer look like ?

Posted here is our  model Mr Steve Wass, demonstrating how heat shimmer robs us of clarity and detail and distorting the entire image.

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Notice the worst of it is close to the ground  and in the far background, so the closer you are to the ground and more distance between you and your subject the more heat shimmer effect will be visible.

So what does it look like.

This image below is an extreme example, nothing is sharp  even though the bird was very close.
I was low to the sand  which was rising slightly between the Dotterel and myself  resulting in nothing being pin sharp.

tūturiwhatu the Banded Dotterel

 

Here is another example
This could have been an awesome photo, it certainly looked that way through the view finder at the time . Sadly nothing is really sharp.

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A long range shot.
The Kingston Flyer out of Queenstown on a hot summer morning.

The Kingston Flyer

 

Other than hot concrete  Grass has to be  the next worse reflector followed by hot sand.
Even on a cool day here, the grass robbed me of sharp detail on this Hawk because the shiny grass makes for a great heat reflector, notice the effects further back in the image, the characteristic blotchy, squiggly, chaotic, mess  instead of a smooth out of focus background.

kāhu the Australasian swamp Harrier

 

Sometimes heat shimmer looks cool but mostly it makes you want to say bad, bad,  bad words.

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So what can we do about it ?

1. Shoot only in early morning is your best chance of avoiding the heat shimmer demon , even late evening  wont be enough to cool sand down.

2. Avoid  shooting from a low position when it warms up.

3  Go swimming and take up sun bathing over summer without a camera.

4. Try opening up your aperture as wide as you can.
Common wisdom says the least depth of field  or depth of focus  the less chance you have of distortion  ruining your image.
I have found this never to work for me but perhaps you will have better luck.

5. windy days have less surface heat but no guarantees, the  same goes for over water.

6 .  Get up early in the morning and shoot  when the light is best anyway  is the best remedy  then go swimming snooze or sunbath.

Bless you guys and gals heaps.

 

 

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Wow October just blew past.

What on earth have I been doing.

Ive been very busy, either out in the field taking photos, or working away at home on my image gallery.
Im behind in my monthly updates  and the image gallery is a massive task as I am uploading hundreds of images for sale so I live in catch up mode.

Breeding is in full swing, with the first batch of chicks, especially our Dotterels and Oyster Catcher chicks racing around the  beaches keeping us busy and covered in sand.
Heat, wind, sand, sand and more blasting sand has been my constant companion for the last 6 weeks.
This is our windy season as the temperatures are rising leading  into summer and the heat shimmer has raised its ugly head (more on heat shimmer later in another post).

October Monthly update

The month started off with a trip to Staglands for a workshop.

Kath and Carolyn looking relaxed.  

Kath

 

Staglands  has a great variety of domestic and semi domestic wildlife .
Finding the birds is not hard, but photographing them is another matter all together, this makes Staglands an ideal venue for photographic  workshops.

A handsome Old English Game Fowl cock bird poses for me.

Old English game fowl-

 

The male Wood Ducks are always a star attraction because of their stunning colours.

Wood Duck

 

Next up we were entertained by the gold medal winning aerobatic red-eared slider turtle team .

Red-Eared Slider Turtle

 

A new batch of piggies also stole alot of attention.

Pigs--4

By the end of the weekend , we were all worn out  and went back home to our computers with memory cards bulging and more than a few days of sorting and processing to look forward too.

Next up  Steve and I got a chance to photograph  some pōpokotea or White Head.

The  pōpokotea or White Head occurs only in the North Island of New Zealand with a very similar bird the mohoua or Yellow head occurring only in the South Island which sadly I don’t have a photo of YET.

Small and zippy these bird can give you a very good work out trying to nail them.

pōpokotea  or Whitehead

 

Smudge

One early evening  Steve heard a ruru call just down the track from where we were scouting for Shining Cuckoos, so when we had more time we revisited the location, this time with the ruru as our main target.

Introducing Smudge, a female ruru or New Zealand Morepork.  so named because she lives in a very dark  gully where the low light means slow shutter speeds and getting sharp clear shots of her are a real challenge.

Female ruru are quite a bit larger than the male and don’t have the strong colour contrasting  in their feathering that the male has. 

ruru the New Zealand morepork.

 

Such a pretty gal she has given us a lot of joy photographing her.
She has been absent of late and we hope its because she is on a nest.
If you are a female ruru, you get to look after the nest and eggs all on your lonesome  as the male will not participate in raising the young until they leave the nest and become perching birds.

ruru the New Zealand morepork.

 

Next up was a trip back to Zealandia as both Kath and I wanted some more Whitehead shots so that is what we set out to do.
It was slim pickins on the Whitehead front, but all the other species  put in an appearance and in abundance.

tīeke the Saddle Back is a loud bird and lets you know you have entered its territory during nesting time.

tīeke the NorthIsland Saddle Back

 

hihi  or the Stitch Bird are amusing little birds, very stroppy and often come in with tails straight up , the feathers on their heads  erect and full of attitude.
If you were to go back 20 years, you would never have seen this bird on the mainland of New Zealand, but thanks to the team at Zealandia and a hand full of other peoples in other locations around the country, the hihi, once again is breeding and starting to thrive in some of our forests.

hihi  or the Stitch Bird

hihi the Stitch Bird

 

Finally we found a whitehead that was kind enough to let us photograph it.
pōpokotea or Whitehead are very seldom noticed by most people although they are far from rare.
They tend to stay in the tops of the trees and move around the forest in groups chartering much like a Chaff Finch at times. Males have a whiter head than the female

A Male pōpokotea or Whitehead

pōpokotea  or Whitehead

Fluttering Pheasants 

Next on the agenda  was  a little  project Steve and I have been working on for a few years now.
Photographing Pheasants is a hard enough challenge in its self, but to photograph a Cock Bird during its call with its wings beating wildly in the air and at an incredible speed is a different challenge all together. I have many photos from over the years but still none that I consider THE definitive photo, the quest continues.

We managed to find a Cock Bird on sentry duty and settled down to keep and eye on him as he patrolled his territory hoping that he would issue his challenge where we could photograph him.
15 minutes later he had positioned himself for his call and clickerty click, click went the 1DX.

Cock Pheasant

Even at 3,200 hundredths of a second the shutter was  not fast enough to freeze his wings perfectly.

Cock Pheasant

 

Next up  was a quest for one of our favourite birds the pīpīwharauroa or Shining Cuckoo.
The day was fading and it was last light, in a last ditch desperate effort we approached a tree we had photographed a Shining Cuckoo in the year before to give it a finale whirl.  No sooner had the call gone out than this bird landed right in front of us centre stage.
Often Bird photography is just like this.
All day nothing happens and one becomes reconciled with the feelings of disappointment only to have victory at the last possible moment and this folks, brings the bird photographer out after that hard to get bird time and time again.

To have this  Bird respond to the caller land right in front of us in wonderful soft light  was the highlight of October for me.
pīpīwharauroa, the Shining Bronze Cuckoo

pīpīwharauroa the Shining Cuckoo

 

I like the way the two branches frame this shot .

pīpīwharauroa the Shining Cuckoo

 

October was such a huge month this year so I have to leave out so many images I would love to post, but I will wind up this month with what became a labour of love involving a number of us.

Dotterel time

While Louise AKA Danger Mouse was out scouting for Birds on the spit at Waikanae she spied a tūturiwhatu or Banded Dotterel nest and shared the news among us local bird peoples and thus began a 4 week vigil, shared among 3 teams to keep an eye on the nest and report the moment any of the eggs hatched.
Why the fuss  about the timing?
Because once the chicks are more than a day old they can run like Olympic sprinters  and don’t stop untill there is a good distance  between them and us.
During those first few hours when the birds are fresh out of the egg, they tend to crouch and freeze when people are near by giving us a chance of getting close.

Mr Dotterel on nesting duty, exciting times are ahead.

tūturiwhatu the Banded Dotterel

 

Mr tūturiwhatu

tūturiwhatu the Banded Dotterel

 

Mrs tūturiwhatu, notice she does not have the black band around the base of her throat like her hubby ?

tūturiwhatu the Banded Dotterel

 

You peoples will have to wait till next months report to see how it all pans out  as we have reached the end of October.

Ooooooh one last thing, did I mention wind and the sand?

This is what one has to put up with, this time of the year, sand gets everywhere and I mean everywhere, considering that one tries to get as close to the subjects height  for  a good profile this means being low down in that mess .

Its a hard life but I would not exchange it for anything lol

sand and wind

 

I will leave the last word  up to Mrs Smudge.

Good night folks and God bless yas heaps and heaps.

ruru the New Zealand Morrepork

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2017 Monthly Report

September 2017 Monthly Report   

Well September was a busy but wet month here in Wellington.

After a hectic August September, 2017 kicked off with a fine weekend set aside just for Steve and I to enjoy. I love running workshops and making new friends, but nothing beats going out with a mate like Steve. He knows exactly what he is doing with his rig and we work together like a team. I can relax and concentrate on the job at hand and immerse myself in my favourite activity. Our style is more like hunting, particularly bush stalking than one might first realise. We sneak through the bushes and swamps seeking our target species.

First up I manged to sneak up on this kōwhai flower.
Yellow is my favourite autumn colour and also my early spring colour too.

kōwhai

Kapiti/Mana District

Our first intended target were Pheasants. So we headed off up the Kapiti/Mana coast north of Wellington looking for some action.

Things were a bit slow at first. We were thinking about heading further north when we spotted a mob of one Cock bird with 5 female pheasants in his entourage. They were out in the paddocks some ten meters from the edge of some pine trees. So we put the stalk on them sneaking through the trees. But right at the last hurdle it became impossible to get closer without making our presence known. We were faced with a last minute scurry. bumble, stumble, up over and through a thick carpet of knee high pine branches stacked up right on the edge of the forest – meters from the birds. We made the best of it but the birds were on to us. However I shot this before the last hen departed from the main runway.

Often the Cock Pheasant gets all the attention. Nevertheless I think a female Pheasant is a very pretty bird in her own right.

Hen Pheasant

Time for a change of venue and do some swamp sneaking to find our star species. So it was further north for the pūweto or Spotless Crake.

Steve and I have spent so much time hunting this bird with good success at times that Steve Richards has been renamed Crake Richards. But alas today was not to be one of them days. However I got a wonderful shot of a kuruwhengi or New Zealand Shoveler Duck. It’s the bird Louise calls the Cock Pheasant of New Zealand Ducks because of its amazing colours.

kuruwhengi the New Zealand shoveler,

A warou or welcome swallow sat nicely on a steel post in lovely light so clikerty click went the shutter.

Welcome swallow

Staglands

The following week Louise and I had a training day out at Staglands Wildlife Reserve. While Nomad Kath and her sister Barbara accompanied us.

Louise was convinced if she just kissed this red-eared slider turtle it would turn into her charming prince.

She was disappointed lol.

Louise--13

Me old mate The Turkinator was lurking in the depths waiting for round 3.

Turkey

After a busy morning discussing how we can improve our workshops at Staglands we retired for lunch in the sun beside the bird feeder. The staff fed the birds while we enjoyed our food along side the feeder.

White Eyes

I still had a fascination for peacock feathers so I tried to think creatively and came up with this.

Peacock Feathers

We visited the the local bandits.
Rocky was in fine form.

Rocky the Sulphur-crested cockatoo

Louise aka captain cuddles can’t resist the rabbits. She pounced on this one!

Louise

A Red Pole put in an appearance and that rounded off a pretty busy day for us.

Red Pole

Zealandia

Next up Carolyn flew up from the South Island having booked the whole last weekend of the month. So it was a very busy end for my September.

The Saturday was spent teaching how to shoot forest birds without the use of flashes. Using a flash takes away the natural look of the bird in its environment. It eliminates contrast, flattening out the image and can deaden the over all dynamic of the image.

Learning to get the best out of your camera in poor light conditions such as in the forest takes a lot of practice and patience. I put Carolyn through her paces and gave her a lot to think about and will be putting those new tricks into practice when she gets home.

Zealandia has the most amazing opportunities to shoot native birds in the wild. Opportunities that you just don’t find in the main forested areas of New Zealand. That’s due to the very heavy trapping of predators and supplementary feeding throughout the year.

Shooting in the Dark

My rig and settings for the day …

  • Canon 1 DX and a 300 prime with a 2x converter attached to it.
  • That gives me a focal length of 600 mills which is a handful to handle in a forest.
  • The converter stole 2 stops of light off me.
  • For each one stop slower means halving the shutter speed.
  • So at f2.8 I might be around 1,000th of a second.
  • 2 stops slower at 5.6 means 250th of a second.
  • Reality was I was around 80th-  40th of a second.
  • I set the camera to 2,500  ISO and f5.6 for most of the day. Most middle of the road modern digital cameras can handle these modest settings.

My main target was the tīeke or North Island Saddleback. Eventually I managed to nail this one.

tīeke or North Island Saddleback

Next up was Mr hihi or Stitch Bird.

hihi or Stich Bird

There is much to consider when one shoots birds in the forest. The background light can play a huge role. You need to be on your feet. Pay attention through the view finder and not let the background light compete with the bird.

I will go into greater detail on how to go about this discipline in a later article.

korimako the Bell Bird also gave us a lot of enjoyment.

korimako the Bell Bird.

kākāriki the Red Crowned Parakeet

kākāriki the Red Crowned Parakeet

Latest News

I’ve a huge overhaul going on with the website. I’m creating a totally new and comprehensive image gallery from the ground up. As a result people will find it easy to browse for the image they need. However this will take some months so I will leave the old image gallery up until I’m ready to launch the new one.

Upcoming Events

Our Pelagic trip out into the Cook Straight was booked out pretty quickly. If any person who booked a seat early with a deposit has to withdraw for any reason I have a short list of reserves.

This is the second trip Boney Whitefoot has organised. I limit the numbers to 13 people including myself. That means that there’s enough room on the boat to position yourself to get those wonderful shots of the Albatross and other open ocean birds.

Our next trip out will be in February. So if you don’t want to miss out I suggest you keep an eye on this blog and get in quick next time.

Time to wrap it up , sorry this report came a bit late but better late then never.
I hope you enjoy my photos and God bless all you peoples heaps.


A great big thank you goes out to Rosie for helping me with some gamma lessons, thanks Sister.  ❤

Peacocks and the rise of the Turkey Terminators.

August 2017 Monthly report.

Winter is now officially over and spring has sprung.

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House keeping announcement.

First up is an apology from me , as it seems we had a bit of a hiccup with the blog, which resulted in 2 false post notifications being sent out to some peoples and the emails playing up.

The month of August

August was yet another busy month full of adventures for me .

We, Steve and I started the month over on the Kapiti coast enjoying a glorious early spring day  chasing Grey Warbler’s  ( riroriro).
Even with it being very early in the season , these birds are already in their full breeding colours and already building their nests because  in late September early October the Shining Cuckoo will arrive in New Zealand.
Shining Cuckoos  target the riroriro, laying their eggs in the riroriro nest, leaving them to be hatched and raised by the  poor riroriro while the cuckoo summers over here without a care in the world.
However the clever little riroriro gets in at least one clutch and sometime 2 and raises their chicks before the bulk of the Shining Cuckoo arrive.

A riroriro with nesting material

The grey warbler or riroriro

The swamp where I love to shoot these birds is filled with raupō and at this time of the year a lot of last years growth is now dead and the stems and leaves turned light golden.
Shooting late afternoon means your going to get a beautiful golden background that really bring the colours of these birds to life.

After some great success and the sun sinking lower and lower in the sky we left the swamp behind, but on the way home  we spied a Cock Pheasant silhouetted in the sunset  so I just had to have a shot of it.

A beautiful silhouette of a Cock bird, even if I say so myself lol

Cock Pheasant

 

Stagland’s Wildlife Park

The following week it was off to check on the action out at Staglands with Nomad Kath.
I had not taken much notice of the Turkeys down on the farm before,  but today I was to learn just how awesome these birds really are as they come into their breeding season.

Being the person that I am, I have always talked to the animals, today would be no different and I could not giving the locals a   gobble, gobble, gobble.
Most times in the past I have received a pretty quick response from the local Toms, but this time what I got, was not what I expected.

 The colour on this birds face changed rather dramatically  from this.

Turkey

 

 In a matter of seconds to this.

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I was very intrigued, so more gobbles were needed which were enthusiastically  responded to.

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Next thing He posed and strutted around for me and for the first time I saw what a truly magnificent  bird the Turkey was.

The turkey strut

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A Ram looked on in mild amusement. 

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We left the strutting Tom to his girl friends and dropped in to see our old mate  Rocky where I continued his training.

Tony the bird whisperer training an attentive  Rocky .

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The Peacocks

Next up came the Peacocks.
Ive been taking photos of birds for years, but never much in the way of Peacocks and Peahens.
This summer the good Lord willing I’m going after them big time and I’ve been watching the tails grow on the males through out this winter.

Im still learning how to capture these birds in a way that gives them the credit due them.

The close up seems pretty peachy.

Peacock

 

But full frame shows off the whole deal.

Peacock

 

Or is the sweet spot somewhere in between ?

Peacock

 

Maybe a real close up might make a good  print on the wall.

untitled-8765-Edit

 

Or even  a  closer one?

Peacock

 

Every now and again in this game you get a shot that is one in a million I guess.
I was shooting a Peacock when a Peahen decided she was going to take the lime light , She waltzed in front of the Peacock  and fanned her tail out perfectly in front of the posing Peacock resulting in truly a remarkable image.
Its perfect.

Peacock

 

I am looking forward  the rest of spring and summer to work on Peacocks.

 

The Red Stint

Next on the agenda came about when word filtered down the pipeline that the Red Stint that visited us a few years ago as a juvenile was once again seen at the Manawatu Estuary and this time he was in his breeding colours.
Immediate invasion plans were formulated and executed promptly in case he decided to move on.

Nomad Kath did not have any images of Red Stints so we made it happen.

These birds are half the size of a house sparrow .

Mr Red Stint wearing  his best outfit.

Red Necked Stint--14

For a tiny bird He takes big steps 

Red Necked Stint

Red Stints love to hang out with Wrybills  and this bird was no different.

Wrybills

The classic close up portrait shot has its place, but also keeping back a bit and taking in the birds surroundings and placement in its environment adds yet another dimension.

The front bird is placed in the centre, right in  front of the bunch, giving symmetry.

wrybilled plover, ngutuparore

Now for the close up.

Mr Wrybill, l trying to get this sand out of his ear lol

wrybilled plover, ngutuparore

 

Mr Shoveler Duck was also out showing off his new attire for the year

Australasian shoveler or kuruwhengi

Once we had the Red Stint in the bag we were off home .
We had a trip back to Staglands  planned in the next few days and so it was to be.

 

The rise of the Turkey Terminator.

I had noticed there was 2  big male Toms at Staglands , each commanding a area of their own , The top bird up on the hill was pretty harmless and busied him self with showing off to his girlfriends, the other on the low lands was a different creature all together.

I had had a bit of a run in with him but he had kept his distance the first time we met although he seemed keen to get to know me on closer terms after I had talked to him a little bit, I was trying to get his face to change colour like his mate up on the hill.

When we met next time how ever he seemed to recognise me immediately  and launched an immediate  full on assault from 20 meters out.

Introducing the Turkey Terminator.

untitled-8805-Edit

 

I was fine if I met him being head on but as soon as I tired to get away and turn my back I was set upon lol.

 

Terminator attack courtesy of a laughing out loud Kath making suggestions from a safe distance as I battled for my life .

 

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Photo By Barbara  Kaths sister

Locked in Mortal combat,the bird was relentless .

Birds are not the only thing on offer for the Photographer as Staglands Wildlife Park.

There is always something to catch your eye if you look.

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Retiring for lunch we set up next to a tree where we knew there would be something to watch while eating .

A tui dropped in to say hi.

tui

 

Followed by Mr or Mrs  White Eye, I don’t know the difference.

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I could fill this post with hundreds of images but we must move on.

Kath is a Falcon lover, she sponsors 2 native falcons at Wingspan, a place where falcons are cared for when injured and where the public can have close encounters with trained birds .
As sometime happens the incredible occurs.
One day in the middle of suburbia Kath looks out her window and there perched in her kohwai tree four meters away sits a male falcon.
I was invited to come up and photograph this bird as it had made Kath’s place part of its daily food collection route, preying on the small birds that feed on Kath’s lawn and in her hedge.
These chances just don’t turn up all that often, we are truly blessed.

So here he is in all his glory , a truly magnificent wild creature, totally unafraid of humans.

kārearea or New Zealand Falcon

It’s such a blessing to encounter these birds .
these falcon are making an impressive come back due to heavy pest control in our valley, may they increase to bless us all.

kārearea or New Zealand Falcon

 

I think this is about enough for this post.
August was full on, so I will leave you with my favourite shot of the month  a riroriro and one that is destined for my wall.

This print will be available for sale later in September.

The golden background and soft light really complements the bird.

riroriro the Grey Warbler.
Bless ya all heaps peoples.

The grey warbler or riroriro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to improve your bird photography Part 3. Timing

The art of timing .

Timing is everything” so they say, this is true of any kind of photography, but is especially true of wildlife and landscape photography.

This photo below looks simple enough, but it took a wee bit of patience to get what I wanted.
I could see the burst of sunlight shooting downwards through a hole in the cloud and I could see a triangle shaped stack of drift wood on the sand  in front of me .
I could track that sun burst and  knew if if the cloud did not close over, it would shower down behind the stack setting it apart from the rest of the image, so I waited for more than a few moments to get the shot.
Putting some thought into the shot and being patient  can really give the photographer a great deal of satisfaction. The result  speaks for itself.

Sun Burst  

waikanae sunset-900

For landscapes the rule is get there early and prepare to stay late.
Sunset and sunrise

 

Bird Action .

I consider bird photography the most challenging of all photographic disciplines, esp small birds that never sit still for long .

Here is a perfect example  of one such species of bird, the Grey Warbler or riroriro.

Small, flighty, jittery, hardly ever still and in one place for more than a split second , very quick  off the mark, these birds demand your total  %100 concentration .

Whoops too slow on the shutter this time, the birds head is facing away from the camera, no score Tony.

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I timed it right and nailed  this one .

The Grey Warbler,  or riroriro.

 

Way too slow.

Well yes  this is  a lovely image of a stalk  but not much else , bad , bad boy, Tony lol

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This Time I was on to it , good boy Tony.

The grey warbler or riroriro

 

So how do you prepare for birds like the Warbler.

1.  pre-focus  your lens to where you expect your bird to most likely sit. This way the lens doesn’t waste time hunting  for the bird.
With little birds you expect them to be close so set your long lens 300mil and longer to focus on the 2-3 meter setting most lenses have.

2. get the light right, you want it coming from behind you over your shoulders, this can really help speed up the focal system to lock onto your target.

3  Don’t muck around with your shot. As soon as you know the focus system is locking on to your bird  fire off a burst of images at high speed.

Watching the light through the view finder.

Lying flat on the ground I was tracking this Wood Duck (below) in the early morning light.
The bird was moving and I was locked on to the bird keeping it in the frame and focused. Click went the shutter
The profile was awesome, the focus was perfect, but I had failed to notice that the birds head had moved in the shadows.
The light was now falling on the body of the bird, but not on its head.
Without light on the birds head this image is destined for the recycle  bin .

Wood Ducks-1520

 

The bird did an about turn and came back and I tried again, this time I got the lighting right but the birds posture was not as dramatic.

Oh well you cant win them all I guess.

Wood Duck

 

Once again I timed this shot wrong , not only did I not see the floating bird, but the focus locked onto it instead of my intended target.

red billed gulls--3

 

I stayed on the bird and tried again.

This is how we roll.

red billed gulls--4

 

 

Tracking and staying on target.

We have all seen the classic English Spitfire vs the German Messerschmitt 109 sequences at the movies.
The hero in the Spitfire hunts for his target , finds it, tracks it, locks onto it , fires away and eventually blows it out of the sky.

Photographing small flying birds is not that much different.
The trick is to get that bird in the centre of the view finder and let rip and keep shooting  while trying to keep that bird dead centre.
Just because the bird moves away from the centre  and goes out of focus, don’t give up, don’t just stop, keep firing and try and re-acquire the bird.

Below is a sequence , I lost the bird , a small Cape Petrel as it flew past very close but I stayed with it  shooting all the way,  until it landed, or in this case crash landed on the surface of the water.

Just wing it but dont give up.

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As the bird swung round the end of the boat I kept shooting,  catching up with it as it crash landed , had I not stayed with it, I would have missed out on this very amusing image.

Cape Petrel--2

 

When things go right because you pre-empt .

Getting to know your target species can give you some real advantages .
These four last images are a good example.
Ducks when washing  will dip their heads and backs completely under the water 2 -3 times before rising up and wildly flapping their wings.
When you see this behaviour you can get ready for the shot.

Here goes the dip.

Wood Ducks-0799-Edit

 

Now we are ready for the flap.

Wood Ducks-0771-Edit

 

Once again I saw the dip and prepared to catch the coming eruption.

Wood Duck

 

My timing was perfect with this female Wood Duck

Wood Duck

I hope this has been helpful  to you peoples out there.
Photography can be a very richly rewarding hobby or obsession, its a journey of discovery and most certainly  one about ourselves .
How we go about that journey and treat other people that are on their journey says a lot about who we are  as people.  ❤

Up coming events :
Cook Straight  Albatross adventure

We still have a few seats to fill for our pelagic trip out of Wellington  on the 12th of November.
$150.00 per person,
Max 12 people on board, per trip.
7am – 2pm  , 7 hours on the water with the birds
1 hour steaming out and back with the birds chasing us all the way back in.
Roast Chicken lunch provided .
Snacks and tea on board on demand.
Deep sea fishing also available  for an extra $30.00.
This is a wonderful opportunity  to sea Albatross and a variety of deep sea birds right up close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July Monthly report 2017

July is mid winter here  in New Zealand , this means our  Rugby Season is in full swing and our national team the All Blacks are  furthering our designs on world domination.

While most of our country is in a fever pitch, warm at home in the comfort of their lounges, screaming at thier television sets , some of us more hardy souls venture out in the weather, tasting what nature has to offer, while trying to squeeze it all through our lenses and record it onto our digital sensors.

This July past, was no exception, the month started of for me with a Father and Daughter team workshop, at Staglands Wildlife Park.
Corinne, (Wren)  and her Dad, Adam, (The Blade), , had booked a sunny but freezing cold day with me .

Adam is a saw doctor, hence his nick name (The Blade) , thats saw, not sore doctor lol .

The Saturday morning  started out warm enough in the Staglands cafeteria.
We were parked up beside a large roaring fire, with cups of coffee resting on a warm wooden table.
All was very cosy as I drew diagrams of cameras and explained their mysterious workings and how we could go about fooling them into behaving for us.
It didn’t seem very long however before I ran out of words, coffee and diagrams and we forced to head outside to face the cold head on and try and put into practice what I had just been teaching  them.
This was not our first time out together as this dynamic  father and daughter duo had booked a workshop about the same time the  year before  and they got right down to business building on what they learnt last time.

Wren keeps her eye on her target, in this case a Kea .

Wren 2-

Mr Mute Swan  is always a popular subject for my clients  and he was next up.

Mute Swan--3

 

Sometimes I do take photos  of non birds, these mushrooms  grabbed my attention.

Mushrooms--2

 

Next on the agenda was Rocky the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.
Ive become quite good at coaxing him out of his warm nest box,  up on the hill  above the track . Most times I can get him to come  down for a few treats, where he can be patted and made a big fuss over.

Wren and Rocky the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

Wren and Rocky 2-

Once Wren and Rocky ran out of conversation we went off in search of something else to challenge us .

Mr Peacock has been slowly growing his tail feathers  for mating season in a few months time.

Peacock-5434-Edit

 

A visit to the Mandarin Ducks  was next on the agenda.

Mandarin Ducks

 

Soon it was lunch time so we filed back into the warmth of the cafe for a bite to eat  and then put in another hour before calling it a day.

This peacock was posed just too nice, to pass up on.

Peacock-5742-Edit

 

Mrs whio looked a bit grumpy as it was getting colder by the minute as the light was fading, so we packed it in and headed home.

whio-

 

Mid winter at Staglands is a real challenge for any  photographer, there is not a great deal of light available for most of the  day, however during the summer  the sun floods in all day long.

As we drove away we were being watched by a Silkie chicken, his hairstyle is very similar to mine lol.

Silkie  chickens --3

 

Thus ended a wonderful day out with Wren and Adam and as they had already booked for yet another adventure in 3 weeks time and  I was looking forward to seeing them again soon.

Pelagic Paradise. 

The highlight of the month was to be our pelagic trip out into the Cook Straight.

The boat launches from Seaview in the Wellington Harbour and is the only boat that I know of  that caters for Bird photographers.
In fact I think its an unbeatable deal for those living in the lower North Island  wanting to photograph Birds that inhabit the Pelagic zone.

What is The Pelagic Zone 

Twelve people turned up besides myself, for our event out on the wild sea.

The trip  lasts  for 6 hours, One hour steaming out and one back with an amazing  4 hours  where we would meet up with birds that never come ashore  save for breeding which is in the sub- antarctic regions of the Southern Seas.

This trip was going to be the highlight of the year for me personally and as it was the first event on this scale I have ever undertaken to organise, I was more than a little nervous.

I had nothing to worry about  as it turned out, as the quality of the people who came on the trip and the professional staff of the the fishing vessel Seafarer II made it  a very enjoyable excitement filled event indeed.

Most if not all of the people on board knew each other through my facebook page . 

The team for the day, two of which came all the way from the south Island .

the pelagic team

 

As day broke, our team embarked onto the boat, we given a quick safety talk and we were off .

Last year I was invited to go on a trip with 19 other birders out onto the Cook Straight.
I had a ball  but with 19 other folks on board, the boat was pretty crowded and most of them were birders but not photographers .
The trip was amazing, but as soon as I got home I decided I would organise  my own event next time  and  design it just for bird photographers and limit the amount of people on board .

The Birds

I have a gazillion images from the team to post, so what I will do, is post a full trip report in a few weeks time  showing off some of the amazing images  these enthusiastic people captured .

For now Im happy just to post a series of images of some of the species list of what we saw on our trip.

First up a Giant Nothern Petrel cruised past the boat.

Giant Petrel

 

Last year I saw lots of Buller’s and White Capped Albatrosses, but only one fairly weather beaten Salvin’s Albatross.

I really wanted some tidy looking Salvin’s this time out and they turned up in numbers, I was thrilled.

The Salvin’s Albatross. 

Salvins Albatross

 

 

Next up to visit us was the huge Southern Royal Albatross.
This is the heaviest bodied Albatross in the world  and only a fraction shorter in wing span from the largest, the true wandering or Snowy Albatross, by a very small margin.

Still being early in the morning, the light still has a soft pinkish glow to it.

Southern Royal Albatross.

Southern Royal Albatross

The close up

Southern Royal Albatross

 

From the biggest to the smallest bird for the day and another species I desperately wanted, the Fairy Prion.

These tiny sea birds are just stunning and so fragile looking,  yet they live  their entire life out on the open angry Southern Ocean.
To say I was over joyed with this shot would be an understatement, it made my trip. They hard hard targets to track up close on the moving boat, a real challenge.

Fairy Prion

Fairy Prion

 

Next up was the Black Browed Albatross

Black Browed Albatross

The close up

Black Browed Albatross

 

Next the Northern Royal Albatross

Northern Royal Albatross

 

The Northern Royal Albatross has heavy dark coloured wings that remain constant through out their life span , where as the Southern has a dark wing that fades from dark to white, from the leading edge of the wing towards the back, that increases as they age, until very little colour remains

Northern Royal Albatross

 

The cape petrels were next on the list  and these two came round like two little jet fighters on a strafing run.

Cape Petrel

 

Cape Petrel

 

Salvin’s, I just couldn’t get me enough of these birds that day.

Salvins Albatross

 

Albatross often have their wing tips  dipping into the water.
Its become a bit of a challenge to me to catch this behaviour.

Salvin’s  dipping his wing.

Salvins Albatross

 

A White Capped Albatross .

White Capped Albatross

 

These little Fairy Prions were a real challenge.

Fairy Prion

 

The trip was so successful we have immediately booked another trip  for the 12th of November and all ready we are half booked out.

 

That’s it for this month, I will leave the last word  to Mr Salvin’s

Later dudes and dudesses   ❤

Salvins Albatross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monthly report for June 2017

Landscape Workshop Waiakane

June kicked off my winter workshops at Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast, with  a lovely couple from the South Island  that were just starting their road trip up the North Island and back.
Glennys  and her Hubby came to me fresh from the Inter-Islander ferry,  full of enthusiasm and excitement  and were looking for a few pointers to help them get the best out of their new investment (their camera).
The sun was out in all its glory and we set to work, I gave them my  preliminary talk about how the camera works, how it sees and interprets and converts all the information outside the camera into a digital image on the inside and then off we went.

Once out in the field the focus changed more towards  the composition and creative side of things.
We were then blessed with a visit from a local of some renown, a very friendly kōtare or Sacred Kingfisher.

This bird is super friendly and even though Glennys did not have a camera setup suitable for birds, she got images that would be the envy of her mates.

kōtare  or Sacred Kingfisher -3194-Edit

 

 

As the sun started setting  the light became soft  and clikerty click went the shutters as our new friend allowed us to take amazing photos of him in the wonderful soft light.

kōtare  or Sacred Kingfisher -3174-Edit

pa  pango or scaup  were also available.

A Male pa pango showing off his colouring. 

scaup or pa-pango--5

 

I have a very nice place to take sunset photos of Kapiti Island which is a little different from where most  people take photos of the sunset .

I like a foreground interest if possible, just so long as it leads us into the image and doesn’t  compete with the main subject .
The river and plant life in this shot adds an extra  interest, while the river it self, leads our eye through to the back of the image and the sunset and clouds, nothing is lost and all is gain.

waikanae sunset-903

 

Thus as the sun set I said farewell to Glennys and her hubby as they headed north  and I went home and prepared  for my next workshop on the following morning.

Sunday dawned a cloudless winter day, a classic to be out on the Kapiti coast in winter.

I met Louise at the car park and we spent an hour together walking around the place , looking at the birds, taking a few photos and discussing how we were going to tackle the day ahead of us .

The tide was huge and fully in,  not ideal for the start of the workshop, but with 4 people heading our way fast,  we were in with a grin as they say.

waikanae

 

These posts are a feature in the area , everyone it seems wants a picture of them.

waikanae --2

 

Once everyone had arrived, Lou gathered them together like her own little flock and I drew diagrams on the ground of a camera and repeated the information I shared with Glennys  the night before.

Once I was confident the group had understood the basics and they had had, all their questions answered we hit the ponds .

Here is a sample of some of the shots our group got.

First up is Jakes, he was pretty happy with his days efforts.

An adult Red Bill Gull

_NEP3551 (1)

 

Next up is Samantha’s effort.

A young and very obliging Pied Cormorant poses for the team.

19578722_10213286469181139_1203898140_o

 

 

Terry one of our members of our little group is more or less confined to a wheel chair .
The good thing about Waimanu Lagoons, is that we can  cater for those with limited mobility .

Terry locked and loaded ready for action.

untitled-3396-Edit

 

 

Terry was very pleased with this shot of this weweia of Dabchick , to tell the truth I would be pleased with it too.

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As we made our way around the ponds  Danger Mouse, ever the enthusiastic assistant,  helped Terry out of her chair and assisted her, up close to a family of Black Swans hidden from view behind some flax bushes.

Terry up close and personal with a family of Black Swan.

19055057_645820645617254_7395753368179328255_o

 

At the end of the ponds we made a u turn and  returned to the car  on the opposite side of the  of the ponds for lunch.

After lunch, a trip out to the river mouth along the spit was called for .

This shell like object  became a object of great interest when held up to the light.

shell-

 

Five hours on the trot seems to be enough learning for even the most keen of Photographers, so we headed back to the car and after a debriefing, I  dismissed the group.
I thought they would all head home but how wrong I was .
The real fun was just about to begin, the shenanigans was just starting lol

Louise aka Danger Mouse  and Terry up to no good in the bushes  

untitled-3538-Edit

 

 

Jake is trying hard to catch them doing something he can post later on face book.

untitled-3541-Edit

 

This black shag cant make head nor tail feathers of anything thats going on .

Black Shag

 

 

The gang  called it quits went home, but Jake stayed on for sunset with Danger Mouse and I .

It looked like an interesting sunset heading our way,  but as the sun descended , the cloud thickened  quite a bit  over Kapiti Island  ,  I looked for the positive and focused in on that.

With the sunlight bursting out from both the top and the bottom of the clouds I saw an opportunity to place some flax stalks within the bottom sun burst to add additional interest .

sunset  waikanae

 

As the sun dipped lower in the sky the top sunburst was gone but a hole in the cloud opened up  providing an opportunity for a strong  light to beam  downwards  and I could see that the cloud moving as the breeze drove it, that the beam of light was going to drift over  a stack of driftwood, shaped in a pyramid like fashion, so I waited and snapped the photo when it happened.

waikanae sunset-900

 

As that say that was about that for the day.

I returned later that week for another crack at the sunset  but alas this time the cloud dissipated.

Please note I have three elements kind of lined up here
the dead branch, then further into the picture a stick and then past that the reflection of the stacked wood.
This line leads us naturally yet quite unconsciously  through the image .
The bright light on the water and the strong colour in the reflection acts like a magnet pulling us into the image as well.
All in all I was very pleased with this image.
It was not the sunset I was hoping for, but Im proud of the image I did get.

Sunsets-

With  another day out planned for the following weekend,  June was a very busy month for me.

A big thanks to those who came on my workshops and to Danger Mouse for helping me and keeping the troops in line and well… for just being  the ever enthusiastic Danger Mouse willing to go that extra mile to get the shot lol

Bless ya heaps  folks ❤
For more info on my workshops please look here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Three for the price of one.

This year has started with a hiss and a roar.
First I had my Christmas trip report to finish, which took a fair bit of  time, this is the first entire Christmas trip report I’ve done to date and what a relief it was to get it done.
Next up  for years I have wanted to start my own Bible study/ Christian group   on Facebook and early this year I decided was the right time, however there was  a heap of study on early Church history and the Roman and Byzantine empires, up to the end of the middle ages, that I needed to complete  before I could start  my new group.

This has taken me  months to complete, but once I felt I had a reasonable grasp on that period of time, I felt free to launch my Christian group  “A letter to the Ephesians”  here on Facebook ,

So to bring us up to speed, I’m going to cover the three summer months Jan, Feb and March of this year in one post and you lucky peoples  get three months for the price of one lol.

The summer months of 2017
The summer of 2017 in the Wellington area did not even start to feel like summer until early autumn.
This was bad news for the sun bakers and swimmers out there, but great news for bird photographer’s.
Let me explain why.
Heat shimmer is a sure fire, demon killer, of good sharp clear images during the summer months.
On hot days, heat rises in the form of shimmering waves, distorting the air above the ground and wrecking the chances of getting sharp in focus images.
Because of heat shimmer during the summer months, the bird photographer is reduced to photographing early morning and sometimes on cooler days, early  evening.

If you look close at this image below, you can see the effects of heat shimmer .
Everything is distorted, nothing is sharp,  it gets even worse at ground level, esp over rocks and sand and  esp if you have a lens 300 mils or longer.
I will cover how to minimise heat shimmer effects in a future article , summer is not kind to the bird photographer.

Heat shimmer.

Sunset Onoke spit-6604
This year however, we had record low temperatures for the Wellington, Wairarapa and Kapiti/Manawatu areas  and that made it  peachy ,all summer, even out on the sandy beaches.

January. 
First out of the blocks for the year was a mid-January, 3 day workshop, with my mate Bruce.
Bruce and Linda have a wonderful beach house close to the Otaki river mouth on the Kapiti coast, where we launched our exploratory expeditions from.
Bruce is fit and we had 3 days to bring him up a few levels in his camera skills, so we went for it.
We had a heap of fun and got some fantastic images.
With both of us having  spent a great deal of our lives in the mountains  hunting , we have both developed  a certain flavour of humour.
Spending time with mates in the mountains and wilderness, does produce an optimistic upbeat sense of humour, this would be because  often one is forced to find the funny in all sorts of difficult and uncomfortable situations when you battle the forces of nature.
Hence  no opportunity went begging for a good laugh .
At the end of our first night on the coast, we were treated to a wonderful Kapiti coast sunset.

Otaki river mouth.

untitled-4640-Pano-Edit

 

Hot tip.
Use natural features such as the creek to introduce added colour and interest.
The Rangiuru Stream running through the centre of the image draws you into the image as well.

untitled-4615-Pano-Edit
Day 2 had us out looking for Moreporks or ruru  down the coast at a spot I knew had two adults and a young bird near by.

Mrs ruru poses for us during the daytime

ruru-1722-Edit

 

 

Up next was a walk around a local pond to photograph the Grebes or Dabchicks as some call them.

This time of the year Dabchicks  are busy feeding on Tadpoles and Frogs.

New Zealand dabchick or weweia.-900000-2
Later that day we went to the Waikanae Beach.
There is a lot more to bird photography, than just clicking the shutter button.
We practised our stalking skills, inching our way closer and closer on our bums across the sand right up to  a group of White Fronted Terns  out in the open.

When you are the right Tern, you get your turn, to make a Tern. 

White Fronted Terns-4895-Edit
Other Terns had already had their turn and had to take turns to feed their Tern.

White Fronted Terns-4853-Edit
Others were still in the courting stage, a male tries to entice a mate with a fishy gift.

Apparently the way to a females heart is through her tummy as well. 

White Fronted Terns-
We got back just in time for another crack at the sunset

Rangiuru Stream, Otaki

 
Day 3 had us heading south again to Waikanae, the wind had really picked up but we were brave and tried to make the best of it.
The wildlife and landscape photographer looks for the positive in all weather conditions.

It was a perfect day to go fly a kite, a really, really big kite lol

sunsets
A Black Shag on the move.

Black Shag-4750-Edit
We made it back home after three days, tired but satisfied with our efforts.
Bruce was pleased with the new skill he had learnt.
We can learn through reading books, but nothing compares to being shown the tricks of the trade and being able to try them out immediately out in the field.

 

 

Eastern Rockhopper Penguin, South  Wairarapa Coast .

Word started filtering down to us that a Eastern Rockhopper Penguin, moulting on the South Wairarapa Coast had been spotted.
Penguins must come ashore and stay put when moulting for about 3 weeks.
This means a forced fast from food and long boring days staring longingly out to sea.
This would be  the first ever official recorded sighting of a Eastern Rockhopper Penguin in the North Island of New Zealand.
My contacts soon came in handy and after a short exchange of emails, Steve and I had a pretty good idea where the bird was to be found and how long it had been there, so we waited till the bird had basically finished his moult and would be looking his best, then went looking for him.
We found him after doing a great deal of rock hopping ourselves, as the bird had chosen a hidden, quiet place, to moult , away of the prying eyes of the public.
He was tucked away in one of the many  crevices among the rocks looking far from happy.

We had to do heaps of rock hopping ourselves to find our prize .

Rockhopper penguin-5774-Edit

I was over the moon to see my first Rockhopper, a lot more so than the Rock hopper was pleased to see us , but we tried to keep the disturbance to a minimum.
The Rockhopper merely tolerated us as he sat there in his luckless state, still unable to launch himself out to sea where food and freedom beckoned.

My first ever Rockhopper.

Eastern Rockhopper penguin-

 

 
He didn’t seem to have lost too much condition during his 3 week stay on dry land
He left 2 days after this photo was taken.

Eastern Rockhopper penguin--5

 

 
He was not a happy chappie being forced into a 3 week stay on dry land, while his new water proofed outfit for the coming year  was being tailor fitted.

Eastern Rockhopper penguin--6

 

The Rockhopper was totally surrounded by loud energetic fur seal pups, that kept him on his toes with their comings and goings .

Give me a truck load of baby seals any day and they will keep me amused and busy photographing their antics all day long.

They are not the brightest looking creature on Gods planet for sure. lol

New Zealand Fur Seal-
But there is never a dull moment

New Zealand Fur Seal or kekeno-5501-Edit
And they do consider themselves supreme beings  lol

New Zealand Fur Seal or kekeno-5504-Edit

 

February

Next on the list was a photo-shoot where I covered a presentation to our minister of health at Parliament, that was an eye opener.

I cant show images from inside so here is one from the out side.

The Bee Hive,  Parliament the seat of power in New Zealand. 

Parliament

The next day was followed up with a workshop with Anna from Auckland who accompanied her husband Scott, who did the presentation at parliament.

We chose the Zealandia Wildlife Centre in the heart of Wellington city for our workshop, as our Anna had a hankering to photograph the cheeky kākā.

Zealandia is the  place to photograph  kākā , they are so successful at breeding them there completely wild, that they provide many juvenile kākā  for re population projects around the country, Zealandia IS  kākā central.

I love running workshops at Zealandia , no where that I know of, can provide the amazing diversity of New Zealand native birds with such easy assess to them in a wonderful bush setting.

Mr kākā perching at head height.

kaka-7581-Edit
We shared a wonderful, warm afternoon with the kākā and Anna got some great photos .
Anna also had a great time with the Bell birds, North Island Saddleback,  or tiekeshags and Red Fronted parakeets or kākāriki.

 

You get NO points for guessing why they have the name Red Fronted Parakeets 

kākāriki -7545-Edit

 

There are Tuatara at Zealandia , supposed to be the oldest living link to a now extinct line of lizards.

This one seems unimpressed with his valuable lineage.

tuatara
North Island Saddleback,  or tieke

Saddleback or tieke-

 

Very young Pied Shag chicks.

Pied shag

 

kākā are similar to the New Zealand kea, only different  😀

kaka-7375-Edit

 

It was two exhausted, but happy people who staggered back down the track to the car late in the afternoon.

Some private Crake therapy .

Next up it was time for some personal Crake therapy.
Both Steve and I had learnt a great deal more about Spotless Crakes or or puweto as they are called by the Moari, just by being able to watch them up north over Christmas and armed with a that new information and raw  enthusiasm, we hit the swamp with a soul full of hope and pretty soon  gumboots full of water.
I had my spot sorted for the evening  and I settled in for the long haul and gave a few calls on the cell phone. No answers though……..
I had my coffee flask, bananas and peanut butter sammies, to keep me company.

One hour turned into two and still no sign of any activity, but I knew there were Crakes in the area so I stayed put…………………………….. then I heard one answer my call.
Soon I had two calling on their own and I could track them moving around in the dense raupo forest across the water from me and then one simply materialised right in front of me.

There is nothing like a Spotless Crake appearing suddenly, out of the gloom of the raupo, to send your heart racing up into your throat and take your breathe away.
You know, often all you have is a few  seconds to get the shot, before it streaks back into thick cover and its gone for the night.

And suddenly it was right there, on the edge, between darkness and light.

Spotless Crake or puweto--13
Then bless his little soul, he came right out into the open, before wheeling around and darting back into the thick raupo, never to be seen again , leaving, me with a wildly beating heart and praising God lol.

I was happiness filled with this shot .

Spotless Crake or puweto--18
Spotless Crakes love raupo ,this is a prime Crake habitat, a raupo swamp at the southern end of Lake Taupo, its thick and has good cover from flying predators like hawks and full of insects and bugs.

Tokaanu Lake Taupo

 

Next up  was a general get together with Louise AKA (Danger Mouse) and her Hubby Dean aka Oscar,  for a crack at some newly hatched dabchicks on a pond we all visit.
We were joined by a surprise visit from an old friend Danny and the fun began.

Young dabchicks ride on their parents backs, hiding under the wings out of view, until they feel safe, then they poke their heads out demanding to be fed.

Pretty cute eh?

New Zealand dabchick or weweia--5
There was a horse jumping event going on across the paddocks, so i wandered over and took a few shots.
This  was the first time I had tried photographing horses , I really enjoyed the experience, I will be back again when the jumps are on.

Wellington Events  Horse Jumping event-

Wellington Events  Horse Jumping event-8798-Edit

 

Wellington Events  Horse Jumping event--2
Back to the Dabchicks again

New Zealand dabchick or weweia-8722-Edit

 

But wait there is more not many I promise lol

The end of March found Kath and I booked in for a day on the Foxton estuary, hoping to photograph some Bartail Godwits before they return to the northern hemisphere to breed.

Once again word came down the internet pipeline that a Bittern Had been in Foxton just the day before,so the idea was to proceed with plan A (the Godwits)  but keep a keen eye out for the bittern.
As it turned out the Godwits had all left and so had our joy,  when I turned around for some reason, just in time to see the bittern land 300 meters away right on the edge of the swamp.
There we were 300 meters across , 1200 meters around the edge and he was completely out in the open.
Kath I said in my best convincing voice, we got to get round there , you may never get a chance like this again in your life time.
Now Kath may not be  a spring Chicken, but she is made of stern stuff.
We made haste slowly over the sand and mud down and around to the other side of the estuary, not one complaint was heard from poor Kath as she made her way determinedly towards our goal.
An hour later we had manoeuvred our way in and where meters from the Bittern and Kath got some wonderful pictures of a bird, very few people including hard core bird photographers get in this Country.
Bittern over seas might be quite tolerant of humans close by, but not in this country.
Im really proud of Kath with the amount of effort it took to get round the edge of that swamp to get her shots.
When Kath and I got close to the Bittern, we went to town on that bird making the most of it.

 Opportunities like this, do not come round very often .

matuku the Australasian bittern -9977-Edit
You just do not see this everyday.

matuku the Australasian bittern -0302-Edit
Such a graceful bird in flight.

matuku the Australasian bittern --5

One last one , my favourite. 

matuku the Australasian bittern --6
The next post wont be half this long, I promise and for those who read all of it , a great big thank you and bless ya heaps and heaps.

For those who I had the pleasure of spending some exciting times together with our cameras, bless ya even more ❤

 

 

 

 

The great Crake quest part 3,The Crake arena.

We finished part 2 with Steve and I back home in Upper Hutt, waiting for the windows on the wagon to get fixed, determined not to let the thieves spoil our trip.
The down time was spent at home processing the images I  already had for the trip  and fine tuning the third phase of our trip, while also keeping an eye on the birding community, just in case something big was happening up country that we could poke our nose into.

Word soon filtered through to us that Donald had replaced Steve “CRAKE” Richards as the Shakespeare Crake Spotter in “Steve’s spot” with great success.
But what was even more exciting was that Oscar, his sidekick had located a whole community of Spotless Crakes feeding on the wet mud, surrounding a small pond hidden among the toi toi bushes in the spot I had casually pointed out to Don as being an ideal spot for Crakes.
Dons photos of the Crakes started appearing in the forums fuelling our determination to return to the north.
Mike Ashbee and his partner Amber from Christchurch in the South Island had lucked out timing a trip up north on a pelagic trip that coincided with the finding of the Crakes and ended up with the  massive bonus of being able to photograph them. 
Spotless Crakes are very rare in the South Island and in fact I dont know anyone who  has ever seen one down there ,  Mike was over the moon with his images.

Steve made new windows for the wagon out of some material he found lying around,  as we had no time to wait till the local businesses to re-open after the new year’s holiday.
Steve had spent many years living on the isolated steward Island, where he learnt many skills and fixing stuff was one of them.
An opportunity like this is rare indeed, so the gear was thrown into the wagon and back up past Auckland we headed.

Day 1: Heading North
As it was, this gave us another chance at the Black Kite on the way north , so Oram Road, the birds happy hunting ground was our first destination.
It was late afternoon around 5pm when we made Huntly a small town 20 mins south of Oram road, here  we held a meeting of the board of directors and it was unanimously decided that dinner (supper if you’re a yank) would be purchased in Huntly and then devoured in the wagon at a well known corner on Oram Road where the Black Kite had been spotted before and so it transpired.

We had just pulled up and parked off the road, my packet of fish and chips, once safely wrapped in paper, was now spread open on my lap, a generous amount of tomato sauce was being applied to the chips when I happened to look out the window.
(&%$$^%$””)  Not 30 meters away, here comes the Black Kite flying directly at us.
Camera on the floor under my feet, a lap loaded with fish and chips, tomato sauce bottle open, all in all a recipe for a great big mess lol.
Steve was outside the wagon looking over an area of swamp with his back to me.
KITE, KITE, KITE, I hissed, making sure it was more than loud enough to get Steve’s attention.

I cant say Im aware of exactly what happened in the next few seconds but most of my fish and chips remained in the paper and there is to this day NO tomato sauce stains on the seats .
But I was out side in a jiffy trying to focus on that bird as it glided past oblivious to the frantic panicking going on below.  Click click  I managed to nail it on the way past .

For the uninitiated  this a packet of fish and chips once wrapped in paper , now spread open on my lap

Hokitika-

I nailed the Black Kite on the way past.

black Kite-1922-Edit


It glided past up the road out of sight, Steve was now in the driving seat, engine roaring and off up the road in a  a spray of pebbles, and dust we went in hot pursuit.
We got to the end of the road without seeing it again, Back down the road we came, lamenting such a missed opportunity when Steve spotted the bird coming out of the sun, if it stayed on its current course it would pass right in front of us.
This time we were prepared , the wagon glided to a stop , out of the wagon spilt our two heroes and clikerty click, click went the cameras as the bird glided  right over us.

The sky was very bright over cast and the sun still well above the bird so I choose to shoot one and a half stops over the reading the camera had made its mind up to use.
This way the bird would not appear as a sharp black silhouette in a pure white sky.
I always shoot in pattern or average exposure mode, so the camera looks at all that bright white sky and the little dark object (the bird) and decides to set the exposure for and over all average exposure based on that combined information , the result is devastation for the user as they end up with a perfectly exposed sky and a jet black bird. Solution? force the camera to over expose the sky  called over compensation and hope you are in the ball park.
Experience plays a major role in knowing how to push the camera exposure in the right direction and by how much.
Much back patting went on as we both had pretty good images of a bird seldom seen in New Zealand, we were off to a great start.

I could have done with pushing the exposure another half a stop,  but you takes what you get  in this game.

Black Kite-1981-Edit

 

Day 2 :The Crake Arena
Day 2 found us at the Crake Arena and we set up and settled down well hidden with a feeling of great excitement and anticipation .

The pond is perfectly placed in the centre of a mixed forest of toi toi and flax bushes, with  an open area of about 30 feet in circumference.
Several Crake families were using the area to feed and disputes were frequent hence the name Crake Arena.
Some of us will remember a computer game called Quake Arena, so that’s where the idea came from.

Crakes love damp to very wet gooey mud, close to cover that contains worms and many insects.
With summer now in full swing the water table in the swamp had dropped reducing the wet areas the Crakes use to feed, this made the Crake arena a hot spot of activity and it wasn’t long before we got our first customer.
The first character to appear was a young Crake chick, I lay as still as I could, flat on the damp ground the camera out in front of me and me trying to hide behind it.
The Crake did not seem to care, it fed incredibly close and my eyes must have been popping out of my head.
This first image will give us an idea of just how small these birds are.
This bird is almost full size , the blades of grass are just inches high

Spotless Crake or puweto-21
This juvenile is almost adult size

Spotless Crake or puweto-9
Off and on various Crakes visited the arena and as the day wore on the light became very harsh and we retired to Dons house for a snooze and a bite to eat.
Unfortunately that night, it became very overcast and the light faded very quickly.
Spotless Crakes are food for just about everything out there and certainly all the predatory birds in the sky as well as ground based predators, so they are super, scatty, nervous, creatures that are ever on the alert.
Crakes move around with quick, jerky movements, never stopping , often speeding off into cover for no good reason. Sometimes they just leave you scratching your head.
Without good light my shutter speed was not going to be fast enough to give me sharp images on these fast moving birds, so it was pack it in for the day and hope for a better luck tomorrow.

Day 3: The Crake Arena revisited.
Tomorrow arrived and it looked like just what we wanted.

Day 3 dawned perfect for what we wanted

sunset-

For most of the day the arena was visited by a mixture of chicks and juveniles, but there was also more going on in and around the arena than just the Crakes.
tui flew, or more accurately, hovered, above the arena snatching insect’s out of the air on the wing, very impressive.

Anyone who has tried to photograph tui on the wing will appreciate just how hard it is and Im very pleased with these shots as the light at the time was less than favourable.

tui-1

 

The shutter speed was not fast enough to freeze the wing beat of this bird,  but I was very happy with this shot .

tui--2
Eastern Rosella landed close by and I managed to stalk a few, there was always something going on to keep us amused, most valuable though by far was being able to watch the Crakes completely out in the open doing their thing  and we learnt heaps about their feeding habits and survival skills.

Eastern Rosella landed close by and I managed to stalk a few.

eastern rosella-2572-Edit

 

Mostly  the arena was visited by youngsters , this one was very young .

Spotless Crake or puweto-43

Two sizes

Spotless Crake or puweto-3

 

As the day wore on, the sun began to slip from the sky the adults came out to feed, talk about a challenge. Them little muthas were close and moving at speed, I was lying flat along the ground in the grass to get my preferred head level straight at the bird profile shots, trying to keep them in the view finder kept me busy.
To have these birds so close to us at last, was a real treat.
The adult birds tended to stalk stealthy in on the insects, then rush at them at the last moment, click blast  missed, click ,click, click……..click, blast missed again, it was tricky to say the least .

Spotless Crake or puweto-24

 

Ready to pounce

Spotless Crake-2487-Edit
A bit of breeze up the bum every now and again made for interesting images

Spotless Crake or puweto-11
Insect eating, mud monster

Spotless Crake or puweto-15

 

 

Day 4 : Pureora Forest Park

However, how many similar shots of one species of bird does one need in the same environment ?
The next day would be wasted spending it with the Crakes yet again, as we would getting the same type of images, so it was throw everything into the back in the wagon and blast back down the Island to our beloved, koekoeā or Long tail Cuckoo  spot, in the Pureora Forest Park, deep in the heartland of the King Country.

Every year for the past 4 years this has been our grand finale.
As far as Im concerned to get good photos of these birds in flight is the most rewarding  and satisfying. 
These bird have caused me to create new and unheard of swear words over the few years, just especially for them, they are truly in a class of their own lol.
When they do pass you by, they do not fly level, they fly almost nap or the earth, that means they follow the contour of the landscape up over high points, diving down in the dips.
You just don’t get to appreciate how fast these bird fly and how tricky they are till you try to keep them in the viewfinder.
These Cuckoos migrate here each summer to lay eggs in the Whitehead nests, a bird about the size of a sparrow.
pōpokotea or  Whitehead is about the size of a house sparrow

pōpokotea or the Whitehead

 

During winter, long-tails live on a heap of different Islands scattered around the Pacific Ocean where they spent their time lazing around in the sun all day, but each year they fly here to New Zealand, pop out an egg or two into a Whitehead nest and force their kids onto the poor unsuspecting whitehead, who is then forced to feed a baby that becomes 6 times their size for the summer months.
Then they and the chicks fly back up north into the Pacific during our winter, have a friendly family party of it , patting each other on the back celebrating a job well done.

Some one really needs to sit down with these birds and explain just how irresponsible parents they are.

It would be a lot easier if the birds could be found in the same areas every year, but that just isn’t so.
We have to hunt and scout for them each year, but when we track them down the fun begins.
We are not really looking for single birds, what we are after mainly is communities of these birds, that’s where the action really is.
This year it took us 2 days to find them but when we did, man did it go off.
If you can imagine 2 rows  of trees about 150 meters long  with an open corridor of about 4 meters between them  with over a dozen birds screeching at each other from the trees on both sides.

A long tail flies over head, a very challenging target 

koekoeā the Long tail Cuckoo--24
Low and hard out  its even more challenging lol

koekoeā the Long tail Cuckoo--14

 

It was deafening and impossible to photograph them most of the time as they flew from  one side to the other before we could get anywhere near ready , they are also experts at putting branches between them and us once they know we are after them.
We snuck up and down those trees trying to photograph the birds screeching and hollering making such a racket it was hard to hold onto to our sanity. These birds make no wing beat noise when they fly so we had no warning when one would break cover to fly across in front or behind us. We were pretty much nervous wrecks by the time we left them to it.

Sneaking up and down the row of trees, as stealthy as possible, has its occasional rewards.

koekoeā the Long tail Cuckoo--18

What a way to finish what had certainly been our most rewarding trip to date.
but  the longtails are not the only game in Pureora.

An adult Bell bird with its chick.

Bell Bird-3692-Edit
The bell bird is so  named after the bell sounding call it makes.

Bell Bird-3698-Edit

A tomtit singing for all its worth.

Tomtit-4151-Edit

 
So much had happened over the last  few  weeks and as per normal we were already planning or next trip away during the winter months.
We had learnt a lot of new information and it would prove to be invaluable in aiding us on the Crakes we had lined up closer to home.
What a trip we had this year.

I manged to knock the top of my wish list  for a home run.
Marsh Crake
Spotless Crake
Banded Rail
Black Kite
Fairy Tern.
This summer trip will be long remembered not just for the birds  but for the shared memories .
Sharing the excitement with my mate Steve CRAKE Richards  lol   and meeting up with some amazing people.
A big thanks goes out to Don, his partner  and Anna  for putting up with us .
I will leave the last say to the longtails
please have a listen to these incredible birds here .
Go to the speaker Icon on the right with the heading “songs/calls from several birds”  to get an idea of what the longtails sound like.

Bless you peoples heaps , its back to the normal monthly reports , tips and tricks and notices about upcoming workshops  in the months to come.