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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posture. How to improve your bird photography, part 2.

In our last article on how to improve our bird photography, we looked at composition from the photographers side and what we can do to position ourselves in such a way as to  get the best possible composition here .
In this short article  we will look at the posture, position, or if you like, the attitude of the bird.

Patience. 
Being patient is the key here, wait till your subject is in a good posture or position  to show themselves off before tripping that shutter.

In this example below, the bird has wonderful, interesting, early morning light, falling on the face of the  bird, we are positioned correctly, sun is behind us and we are down low so the profile is great,  but I pressed the shutter with the birds  head in the wrong position.
It doesn’t take much to ruin the image or to lessen the impact the image, could have had if one had been patient.

Having the birds face angled away from us like this, detracts from the image.

Wood Ducks-1509

 

Remember, you are trying to show the bird off at its best, your photo should be all about the bird.

This image below has the bird looking alert with the face in a good position.

Wood Duck--19

 

Here is another example of how not to take a picture of your bird.
Going away, head facing away, just about everything about this image is wrong .
Bad boy Tony lol.

tētē the  Grey Teal-2569

 

Not all going away photos are bad.
This image still works well, because the all important face of the bird is still a strong feature in the image, especially the eye .

wood ducks-113-Edit

 

This next image should need no further explaining as to why it simply sucks.

It might be a tad over stated, it might be a bit on the extreme side, but we should be getting to point.

Lady Amherst's pheasant

 

Be  patient, wait, wait, wait,  till you get a chance of a shot that flatters the bird and shows him or her off at his or her best.

Lady Amherst's pheasant

 

This week I am starting a series of images on my face book page here  that showcase New Zealand landscapes  in the format of a virtual road trip.
Starting from the top of the North Island we will work our way down to Bluff at the bottom of the South Island on the West Coast side and then work our way back up on the East Coast.

We start our journey at Cape Reinga (Te Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairua in Māori), which  is basically ,the northern most point of New Zealand.

The joining of two oceans, the Tasman on the left and the Pacific Ocean to the right , certainly  no place to float a dingy .

Cape Reinga  or te rerenga wairua

 

Tourists watch the year ending as the sun slips quietly out of sight behind the horizon.
Sunset New Years eve 2012

Cape Reinga (Te Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairua in Māori)

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

December on the run.

December is always my busiest month of the year birding wise with it ending with our epic annual Christmas sojourn.
So much has happened this year that I have decided to write a separate article later covering this Christmas away.
December started in much the same way it always does each year …..namely on the 1st day of December, same as last year.
All was relatively quiet with Steve and I concentrating on  our Spotless Crake hunting abilities, until the word came in that there was a ruru, or Morepork family living in a patch of bush an hour’s drive away.
This caused no small amount of excitement for the local birding enthusiasts, myself included, so it was no surprise I found myself with a mate Chris Helliwell, stalking through the bush looking for these ruru or New Zealand Night Owl.
By the way just out of interest, in case you have noticed when I use maori names I don’t use capitals as the maori language does not use CAPITAL letters.
Anyway back to the rurus, after some effort we were deep in the jungle, Chris and I  were ruru-less and I was starting to think we would not meet up with the birds, when I spied a fantail nest ahead of me.
In my haste to investigate the nest, I failed to notice a young ruru perched in the tree right next door to the nest and it flew feet from me only to land in the perfect spot to be photographed.
The focus was now firmly transferred from Fantails to ruru and the session commenced with the sound of shutters clicking , trees were  being used as makeshift tripods because the light although good for in the woods, it was quite  slow even for ISO 1600 on the 1DX.

For a bigger image just click on the image

The rather bemused young ruru

ruru or more pork-3236-Edit
After we  got enough shots of the juvenile ruru we left it in peace with a bemused look on its face and went to investigate a pond that is in the same area.

First in the viewfinder was a pair of pango pango or scaup resting on a low flax stalk just high enough to be out of the water.

A pair of pango pango resting on a flax stalk.

pango pango or scaup--5
I love these birds, soft colours, always looking happy little chappies , they seem to cheer me up.

Next up was a close up of a friendly little shag.

little shag-
We spied a female Grebe using a man made structure to stand on and entice her hubby to go forth and multiply.
It worked they now have 2 fine youngsters to feed and look after.

untitled-3164-Edit

Up the Kapiti coast we went where we found a mother pied shag feeding her ravenous youngster on the water.

As you can see the young shag is a real mouthful for the poor mumma.

Pied Shag-3534-Edit

Next up a Black Fronted Dotterel and the day was looking like a ripper.

Black Fronted Dotterel-
A brave male Banded Dotterel guarding his nest was next and our day was over.

A proud father to be.

Banded Dotterel-3870-Edit
The next outing saw me shooting a White faced Heron feasting on sea worms

Yummy worms  lol

white faced heron-

Are those really my feet ?

white faced heron--6

Next up was another   crack at the ruru as we knew there was adult birds we had not seen yet, so the hunt was on, this time I was with Steve and we met up with Louise a member of my Facebook group  and we  enjoyed the ruru , this time we saw the parents as well.

I had to climb a tree to get this shot much to the amusement of the ever funny Louise.
Many helpful hints on how to climb through the thick branches  were dished out and I became known as the tree sloth lol

ruru  or New Zealand Morepork-4981-Edit

The Bigger female ruru

ruru  or Morkepork-4312-Edit
The rather smaller Male ruru

ruru  or Morkepork-4523-Edit

The growing youngster

ruru  or New Zealand Morepork-5074-Edit
I believe the male is the smaller of the adult birds.

ruru  or New Zealand Morepork-4954-Edit

We also managed to catch a Shining Cuckoo out in the open .
This image is a prime example of colour and how the lack of, can steal the bird of some of its brilliance.
I will do a short article later this year on complimentary colour and how it enhances an image.

The lack of colour from the background kind of steals the birds colour.

Shining Cuckoo-5213-Edit

 

Shining Cuckoo-5226-Edit

Mr kahu  or Hawk was my next subject a week or so later.
kahu get whiter with age so this one is getting on.
Im very pleased with this image.

Mr kahu doing the famous FLAIR that hawks, Eagles and Falcons do when they first spot you beneath them.

kahu the Australian Hawk--2

riroriro or Grey Warbler were up next.
These critters are hard to nail, they never sit still and you need a very fast shutter speed and good light to get a sharp image.

riroriro or grey warbler.-5854-Edit
Good light helps to nail them.

riroriro or grey warbler.-5862-Edit

Yellow Hammers are gorgeous in good light and this one was no exception.

Yellow Hammer-
This action kept us busy until it was time to go up north to really get serious about getting some birds we had been targeting lately and were on the top of our wanted list.
More on that later.
Hope you enjoy the images.
I also hope everyone had a great and safe Christmas break.

All ready this year is looking very exciting .
Ya just dont know whats round the next corner or tree lol

ruru  or Morkepork-4324-Edit

My Christmas and new years message

 

Mr Dotterel wishes everyone a happy and relaxing Christmas and a blessed new year.

Banded Dotterel

Well Christmas has rolled around once again.
For some of us there has been massive changes this time round, some good, some painful, some have big lessons attached, but one thing is for sure, we are here and so is Christmas.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I hate much of what Christmas has come to mean too many.
Rampant commercialism,  an excuse for over indulgent eating and drinking, credit card debt as people confuse the giving of gifts as a sign of ones love for one another leading to over spending at the stores.
Domestic abuse sky rockets this time of the year as the pressure mounts, arrests for drunken and disorderly behaviour, murder, rape and chaos in general as well.
One could be excused for walking away and forgetting about Christmas altogether.
But what Christmas means to others  is a very different thing, a time for family, a time to enjoy a rest and each other, a time to focus on Jesus.

I make no apology for this Christmas message, everything I am and do, flows from the grace of God and my walk with Him.

For me, Christmas is pretty much the same as any other day except Jesus is in the worlds spotlight a little more than normal.
This is a good thing.
Jesus has given us the greatest gift in all of history, Himself by being born a human, by dying on the cross, taking our place on that cross and being raised again from the dead, so we like wise can follow in His footsteps.
But first He had to become a human being in order to live like us and show us the way.
He gives eternal life to anyone who desires it and it and is willing to pay the price of self-denial to walk with Him and do things His way.
Why His way?
Not because He wants to dominate us, but because He does know what’s best for mankind.
God loves us so much He incarnated Himself into His creation and became one of us so He could lead the way by example and by becoming a human He can now walk with us through life, fully understanding our struggles and hurdles, encouraging us onwards towards the goal of becoming more like Him.
That’s what Christmas means to me.
I hope and pray that all of us have a wonderful Christmas doing what we love best; it’s a time of great celebration after all.
I want to thank everyone for making my year, the year it was.
Those people who took part in my workshops
Those I have met through our, NZ bird image share, facebook group.
Those I hope to meet over the coming summer.
Those that have contributed in NZ bird image share.
Thanks everyone for making this year such a great success.
Long may it continue.

So, enjoy your loved ones this Christmas and count your blessings and be grateful for what you have peoples.
For those who have lost a loved one, or are alone this Christmas, you have my sympathy and understanding.
Never give up hope, God came into this world to give us an abiding hope for the future, walk in it.

Being bachelors  and no family commitments, Steve and I will be out and about this Christmas , you just never know where we will pop up next, so if you see these two people this holiday, say hello , we don’t bite .
Steve is on the left, me on the right.

steve and tony-3753

 

God bless all you people heaps and heaps ❤