Pauatahanui photography workshops

The aim of all serious bird photographers should be to create art from their images.

Anyone can take an image of a bird and make it look great on the internet, where most people view it on their cell phone.

If you are a serious photographer, your ultimate goal should be to take an image that you can make into a beautiful print, one you would be proud of hanging on the wall in your lounge.

If this is your goal then you must pick the right place at the right time.

I know a place that will produce wonderful images of waterfowl and wading birds in the right conditions. I also run Pauatahanui photography workshops in this location for anyone interested in participating in one.

Pauatahanui photography workshops

Pauatahanui Inlet runs eastward directly inland from the kāpiti-mana coast for about two miles.

The estuary runs directly to the sea in a straight line, touching the horizon without any serious obstructions.
This means that when the sun is almost sinking into the sea, the light still shines directly into the pond filling the place with an amazing, almost unbelievable golden glow.

The Pond

My spot is a small saltmarsh, complete with a tidal pond at the very end of the estuary, surrounded by native jointed wire rush or oi oi in Maori.
I know that when the light is right these wild rushes intensify the light, setting the place ablaze in glorious golden light.

The conditions

What I need is a combination of a fine night with little or no wind, then I know I’m going to get stunning images.

Just the other night such conditions were forecast and Rosie Nixon and I headed out to my spot in the hope that the conditions would not change.

In this image of a Spurwing Plover, the light is on the change, slowly the colour of the jointed wire rush or oi oi that surrounds the pond is changing from an almost pale dead straw colour to a much warmer golden glow.

pauatahanui photography workshops

Spur-wing plover


Thirty minutes and a cup of coffee later, the light is really starting to make its self felt.

The jointed wire rush or oi oi is starting to go through its colour shift.

pauatahanui photography workshops

jointed wire rush or oi oi

Ths sun is sinking lower and I know that the sun is now perfect to catch the red colour of the poaka or pied stilts eyes. Knowing this can allow us to capture beautiful images.

pauatahanui photography workshops

poaka the Pied Stilt

The light now being glorious has its downside, that being slower shutter speeds.
Getting flying birds with sharp wings now becomes more good luck than good management.

I have nailed the bird but the wings have motion blur.

pauatahanui photography workshops

poaka or pied stilt


Waiting a few more minutes means that will now be at its very best. The light is now at it’s very best and the colour is intense.
With the sun now lower, the very lowest parts of the pond have lost the direct sun. This creates a demarcation between the bright direct sun (top)and the more subdued indirect light (bottom), thus adding contrast.

pauatahanui photography workshops

A Male Canada Goose


The end of the golden light is fast approaching as the sun drops below the horizon.
With no chance of feezing the action, the only other option is to try and create an interesting image.
The light will often carry the emotional response for the viewer and that first initial response often dictates whether the viewer enjoys the image or not.

pauatahanui photography workshops

Canada Goose in flight during the last light of the day

Our night was soon over and Rosie seems very pleased with her evening’s efforts.
Not even the incessant flying insects can put a damper on that smile.

pauatahanui photography workshops

Rosie seems pleased with the way the evening went.

If you would like to go to one of my Pauatahanui photography workshops, please contact me here or on Facebook.




Watch your Background

This is the first post in a series I’m doing called, How to Improve your bird photos.
This series will provide basic tips on how to improve your bird images.

You’re telling the story

When you drop the shutter you have just started to write the first paragraph of a story.
This story is about what got your attention and what motivated you to take the shot in the first place.
In almost every case when it comes to photographing birds, the bird is the star of the show.
As such your bird should be on show in all it’s glory and nothing else in your photo should overwhelm or compete with your star.

Painting with Light

Photography basically means painting with light and there are a few rules of how the human eye reacts to light.
Firstly when looking at someone’s image the human eye is automatically attracted to the brightest part of the image overriding or bypassing all objects or lesser light values in the race to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Below is an example of how if your main subject is close to a much brighter patch of light, that light overwhelms and makes it hard to see detail in your subject.

In this case, the entire background is overwhelming my bird making it much harder for our eyes to comfortably rest on it and see the fine detail.

First appearances count, make it easy

That first and instantaneous appearance is important and if the attention of the viewer is immediately drawn away from your bird, they may not be bothered putting in the extra effort of shifting their focus back on to your main subject.
You must not muddy your story, you must make it as easy as possible for your viewer, guiding them immediately to the star of the show.

Watch your background

In this second image, I have looked closely at my background and choosen an area on the pond with a more suitable background.
I choose a background that not only won’t compete with my bird but has colours that actually enhance and complement my handsome bird. I simply positioned my self in the right spot and waited for my bird to drift past.

Being thoughtful and the patient, choosing your background can do better justice to your subject and increase the admiration in your viewers as your star stands out in all their glory.

I run workshops on the Kapiti Coast specialising in bird photography and if you’re interested in a workshop to help you improve your bird photography  I  do 4-hour workshops 1 on 1 or a small group up to 4 people.

Contact me HERE  or pm me on facebook