Well April has bittern-ed the dust and we have past the first quarter of 2017.
The seasons here in New Zealand are moving past late autumn and into the start of winter.
Things are slowing down in the birding world as the migratory birds have headed off up to the northern hemisphere to breed and do some sun bathing, leaving us behind with our local birds.
Being out with the camera during the winter months means shorter days and getting home at a more decent hour at night and an hour or more extra sleep in the morning, much more civilised for this budding photographer I’m thinking.
The month of April
April started off with Phil the Bittern still being the new kid on the block so its was up to Foxton in the Manawatu to visit him.
Phil was waiting for us and he put on a great display.
A Bitterns territory can cover many tens of miles, so the bird may be in a certain spot one day and miles away the next, never to return to that very spot , so NEVER EVER look a gift horse in the mouth when I comes to Bitterns.
Take the opportunity when it comes and make the most of it, tomorrow may produce nothing more than a Bittern taste in your mouth.
Ok no more bittern jokes, I promise.
Spot the Bittern, Phil’s temporary home on the Manawatu Estuary.
Phil is out in the open here so with no grass directly in the way of his head and neck, so one can get away with using the cameras multi point focus system and you will get great results , we will look a bit later on how to acquire focus when birds are in tighter cover in our next article.
I got three opportunities with Phil and then he was gone and has not been seen since.
Next on my highlight list was when the word came down the pipe from Imogen, aka, Wonder Woman , (so named because she has the knack of finding rare birds).
This time it was not just one bird, but 15 Glossy Ibis.
Glossy Ibis have been on my wanted list for a few years and it didn’t take much encouraging to get Steve motivated and THE plan was conceived and almost executed to perfection, almost but then the plans of mice and men being what it is ………….
A few Glossy Ibis pop over from Australia for our summer each year, but last year some were recorded successfully rearing young in New Zealand for the first time.
Large groups of Glossy Ibis are a very rare sight here in New Zealand so Imogens find was big news. We believe its most likely that the whole flock were blown over here by Cyclone Claire from Australia.
As I said we almost executed the perfect plan , we figured out where the birds were likely to be given the tide and we made our way towards the spot but this was as close as we got to these nervous birds.
We cant have enough Glossies so we hope they will stay.
This was as close as we got as the whole flock took to the air seconds after this shot was taken.
We both felt a little deflated watching the Glossies fly upriver until we could no longer see them, knowing full well that we could not follow them up there, so we decided to have a look around for some other subjects that we hoped would prove to be a bit more user friendly.
First up was a squadron of Lesser knots that had decided not to breed this year and stay on in the land of the long white cloud (Aotearoa) that is the native name for New Zealand.
A squadron of Knots curling in to land in front of us.
A Royal Spoonbill flaring away from us was next.
And then to top the day off, I got a shot a had always wanted of a Little Tern on the wing.
We went home that day very happy indeed.
On the way home we dropped in to Waikanae and were treated to a great sunset .
A young Pied Shag passing over head in the late evening.
A group of Mallards, 2 weeks from now Duck shooting season will be upon them.
Good luck little Duckies .
Silhouette Black Swans on the water.
Staglands Wildlife Reserve
Kath “Hey want to go to Staglands Wildlife Reserve , I will shout”
Tony ” Im in, after all how could I refuse such an offer lol ” and so it was to be, that Kath and I shared yet another exciting photographic adventure.
It had been many years since I had visited Staglands Wildlife Reserve and I had often wondered about its value for running workshops up there.
So Kath was to be my pretend student for the day .
I discovered that Staglands Wildlife Reserve ticks most of the boxes for a great workshop venue, consistent wildlife, great amenities, easy access and minimum fitness is required.
Another factor is that most of the wildlife is up close so you don’t need a long lens.
Staglands is ideal for people who are just starting out, but also it has some very challenging situations for more experienced photographers where they can learn heaps and come to grips with some more advanced techniques for difficult lighting situations.
Kath and I planned our attack and mid morning found us at the beginning of our big day out.
First off we encountered pāteke or the Brown Teal and a male Chestnut Breasted Shell Duck
A male pāteke or brown teal
The male pāteke is a bit more fancy then the female model but thems the breaks.
Chestnut-Breasted Shelducks are native to Australia but a rare sight in New Zealand .
This Male is well fed and has no intention of migrating back home.
I cannot figure out how they came to be called Chestnut-Breasted Shelducks, got any clues 😀
Now I have to admit , one of the reasons I love birds is because Im a real colour junkie, I love light and colour and one of the reasons I wanted to go to Staglands was because of two very special (at least to me ) ducks , the Wood Duck and the Mandarin Duck, both unbelievably colourful birds.
Kath and I found the Wood Ducks first, they were hiding under the over hanging sedges and ferns of the pond .
The light was not good as the sun was not high enough in the sky and I knew that my exposure system would want to flood the scene with extra brightness to even out the dark shadowy portions of the image.
So I dropped the exposure settings by 2/3rds of a stop so as not to blow out the highlights and give me just a little bit more shutter speed.
I took a shot and checked in the preview window just to make sure I wasn’t out of the ball park.
All seemed well exposure wise, but my shutter speed was still too low for my liking.
The rule of thumb is to try and get your shutter speed up to at least twice the speed of the focal length of your lens, I was hitting 150th of a sec at F.8 with the 300 mil lens, so I doubled my speed by opening the aperture up by one full stop, which was F 5.6.
This gave me 300th of a second and I know I can get pretty good sharp static images at that speed , just so long as the subject is not moving around a lot.
You can practice your steadiness till the cows come home, but if your subject is moving around fast and a lot, your going to need the raw speed to freeze the action.
Thankfully my subject was resting on the edge of the shadows so just to make the most of it , I lay on the boardwalk covered in duck poos and rested the camera on the wood.
This gave me a very good profile of the bird and kept the camera steady.
I was pleased with the results.
Having the camera set to shoot 2/3rds of a stop under what the camera chose as ideal, I got more speed and did not over expose the bird, as the camera sees the dark background and tires to lighten it up, thus over exposing the bird.
Experimenting and experience teaches us little tricks that save the day.
A Male Wood Duck.
A Female Wood Duck
The Male again
Finally a close up head shot
I could hear Kath furiously clicking away once, I had given her my settings and she was away, but being a lady she was unwilling emulate me lying flat on the deck liying in the duck poos .
How ever Kath had a big smile across her face and when we had finished it was time for lunch.
We decided after lunch to have another go with the Wood Ducks so back over to the pond we went in search of both the Wood ducks and the Mandarin Ducks which we had been unable to locate on our first attempt .
We finally found the Mandarin Ducks, but this was where it got real tricky, the birds were in an enclosure for the winter and there wasn’t much light at all.
I open the lens to F.4 and upped the ISO to 2,000
This was far from ideal as my depth of focus (the depth of the area that is in focus) was halved.
Shutting down or sometimes called closing down the F.stop, is like squinting your eye, it lets less light in through the lens to register your image onto the sensor, but increases the distance from the front of the area of focus to where focus starts to fade off .
In this case I increased the size of mt aperture from F.8 to F.4.
This increased the speed of amount of light needed for a good exposure by twice, but also lessened the depth of field by twice as much.
But to take what you get in this business and clikerty click went the shutter
Notice that the front of the bird is in focus, but the focus fades quickly as your eye moves towards the back end of the bird.
The area in focus is called the depth of field .
The higher F.stops you go, the greater that area of focus becomes, but the less light comes in through the lens to strike the sensor to make a successful on your camera making for a slower shutter speed.
Also the slower the shutter speed, the more likely you are to get motion blur as the subject moves around and you cant hold the camera steady for the longer period of time the shutter needs to be open, letting the correct amount of light strike the sensor and register your image.
Most lenses go like this.
Each F. number called a stop and either halves or doubles the amount of light that enters through the lens and onto the sensor, the higher F.stop you go halves the light the lower doubles it.
Over all I was pretty pleased with the results considering.
But man it was tough going.
At this stage we were both fading so we headed back to the car dropping in on the Woodies on the way.
April is not just all about birds in this country.
The first few weeks of April the deer are in mating mode known as the roar, the highlight of the deer hunters year .
A fine stag roaring his defiance to the world.
All in all we had a pretty good April .
I will be starting our winter workshops in another month so if your up to it contact me and we can take you out and start to show you how to master your camera and take wonderful pictures of birds and landscapes.
I hope this article has been helpful and bless you peoples, heaps and heaps. ❤