Come what MAY .

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

the team-



Staglands Wildlife Park.

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

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

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

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

female wood duck


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

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

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

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


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

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

Mute Swan-7839-Edit


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


Mute Swan-7845-Edit



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

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

Female Wood Ducks-


and this male is almost perfect.

Wood Duck-8544-Edit


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

tētē or Grey Teal--5


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

Staglands pond-1542-Edit


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



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



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

White Eyes-


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


April the month of seasonal transistion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

matuku the Australasian bittern -0925-Edit

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

The Glossies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glossy Ibis-

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

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

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

Lesser Knots-

A Royal Spoonbill  flaring away from us was next.

Royal Spoon Bill

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

We went home that day very happy indeed.

Little Tern-

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

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

Young Pied Shag

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

Good luck little Duckies .


Silhouette Black Swans on the water. 

Black Swan


Staglands Wildlife Reserve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A male pāteke or brown teal

pāteke or brown teal  -3618-Edit

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

pāteke or brown teal  -3621-Edit

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

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

Chestnut-Breasted Shelduck-3540-Edit

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

Chestnut-Breasted Shelduck--2


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

Wood Ducks.

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

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

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

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

A Male Wood Duck.

Wood Duck-3427-Edit

A Female Wood Duck

Wood Duck-3363-Edit

The Male again

Wood Duck-3011-Edit

Finally a close up head shot

Wood Duck-


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


Mandarin Ducks

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

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

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


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

Over all I was pretty pleased with the results considering.

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

Mandarin Duck.-4693-Edit


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

Wood Duck-3004-Edit


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

A fine stag roaring his defiance to the world.

Red deer-7236-Edit


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

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








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


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


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.



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

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……, 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.


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.




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 ❤

A November to remember.

This November will be one I will never forget.
Bird photography is very similar to hunting in this country.
Planning and strategies are the same.
Effort is needed in finding areas that your intended trophy/target species lives in  and perseverance, to return to areas known to  be their home, again and again and again, until at last you succeed in your quest.
This November will never be forgotten as it ended a five year quest for a particular Bittern shot, but more on this later.
Breeding birds are in full swing in November and this November was no exception.
November  started off with a morning with Toya a fellow bird photographer , shooting her New Zealand tuis and White Eyes out  her lounge double doors into her back yard, then followed by a quick trip out to the south Wellington coast to search for some Double Banded Dotterels and their chicks .

White eyes or silver eyes as I know them are good practice , quick and nimble, never staying long in one spot.

white eyes-9816-Edit


white eyes--4

The reason this image looks better than perhaps it is, is because of what I call complementary colours.
we will do a whole blog on the use of complementary colours one day.

Mr tui in his tux

New Zealand Tui

A blustery cold Southerly greeted us on the exposed beach and fast moving, patchy cloud  pretty much kept the light conditions changing all the time.
I always keep my camera settings based around my aperture,  that way  I chose the depth of field which is  normally  set at F.8  and the ISO on 1,600, That way the 1DX will then give me the fastest shutter speed available for those settings and light conditions.
In this way, no matter where I point the camera all over Gods creation, the exposure will be fine and Im getting the fastest shutter speed possible without having to constantly change or worry about my settings, all I need to do is keep my subject in the centre of the view finder and keep pressing the shutter button.
It wasn’t long before I spotted a small but very quick Dotterel chick zooming off among the rocks hot footing it out of there but not before I got one quick shot off.

Always heading away from me  lol

Banded Dotterals-0520-Edit
Once these chicks get more than a week old they can move very fast and man this one was a contender for the 100 meter sprint for the next Olympics.
One shot was it and I gave up trying to keep up with it and choose to have a go at some adults flying into the wind and chasing one another out of their breeding territories further down the beach.

Banded Dotterals-0699-Edit
The day came to a close with some images I was very pleased with.

Banded Dotterals-
A Male Dotterel guarding his territory loudly.

Banded Dotterel



My next outing came the following weekend when Steve and I met up with another friend who had been hearing a few Shining Cuckoos where he ran his dog, so out there we went with high expectations.
Now shining cuckoo shots are hard to get and I have only had a few over the last 5-6  years we have been chasing them, so it was exciting to have at least 6 birds come into our calls  that evening and we were able to get some good shoots of some of them.



These birds look best on overcast days



Native Wood Pigeons (kereru) were also out in good numbers

peskey shadows kind of spoilt this shot




I went to bed that night with little shining cuckoos flying around the ceiling of my bedroom as I relived the action until the biggest earthquake, 7.8 I have ever experienced had me rushing outside into the dark , not something I want to relive any time soon.
The following weekend we were off to Otaki to see if the Dotterel chicks we photographed 3 weeks previous were alive and well.
On the way we spotted some Royal Spoonbills in spectacular breeding plumage and Ideal light on them so it was out of the car and the big stalk across the mud flats getting quite close to them.
I love these birds, they are sometimes referred to as the clowns of the estuary and are always fun to photograph.

During mating season these birds grow long loving feathers on the back of their heads.

Royal Spoonbills-1469-Edit

Cleared for landing

Royal Spoonbills-1301-Edit

Light and contrast makes an image, always look for these two components

Royal Spoonbills-1500-Edit

Once I had the shots I wanted we resumed our travels north to drop into to Otaki where we found one juvenile Dotterel that was cheerfully running around the place and more than capable of flying away every time we tried to get close.

Juvenile Banded Dotterel

Banded Dotterel-1776-Edit

The following weekend we were to meet up with Imogen AKA (Wonder woman) .
Known for her good fortune in locating rare and hard to find birds Imogen had given us the heads up on a Little Tern resting over in her local Estuary at Foxton So the following weekend we headed her way.
Saturday saw us meeting with Imogen and another friend Kath and her rather bemused hubby on the banks of the Manawatu River just up from the mouth and it was not long before we spied the Little Tern.
As we made our way closer we all became aware of another tern that looked different from the resident White Fronted Terns
Heart beats increased as it was confirmed to be a Common Tern.
Common Terns might be common in other parts of the world, but here, there has only been two  individuals recorded in the country this year, this being one of them.
Imogen’s good fortune had delivered again and clickerty click went a heap of cameras as we celebrated the rare sighting.

Mr Common Tern having his say in things

Common Tern--3

The Little Tern

Little Tern-2076-Edit


All lined up for their group photo.
From left to right.
White Fronted Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern.

three tern species
Halfway through the week we decided we needed to visit a wetland in search of spotless Crakes and Mr matuku the Bittern that we knew inhabited the swamp.
Now let me tell you , there are many more Crakeless spots in New Zealand than Spotless crake spots lol.
As we sneaked  through the swamp hunched over, moving slowly , a strong wind was coming from our right to left and we snapped a Bittern right out in the open to our left and he froze instantly 30 meters away.
Now the Bittern shot to end all shots is the LAUNCH shot, the one that every serious Bittern hunter wants.
Normally these birds launch directly away from the intruder but this time the wind would force him to launch into it and directly facing me.
I waited, I know he would not stick around much longer and wham I caught him in the launch and thus ended 5 years of missed chances, almost and not quiets, general stuff ups and out of focus, panicky attempts.
The Launch

matuku the Australasian bittern --7


matuku the Australasian bittern --7

Looking at the images in the view Finder Steve was convinced I had nailed the mutha  but I was nervous all the way home until I could confirm I had the shots when I saw them on the 30 inch screen, sharp and clear.
That was that, November came and went. just like that.

My pick for the month

bittern n-
Its mid-December, as I write this and already December is stacking up to be a great month for us as well.
I hope you enjoy my write-ups.

Octoberfest 2016

Well October has come and gone.
Many miles have been put under the wheels of the  wagon as we have busied ourselves keeping up with the birds and their early spring activities.
The first bit of action came after a lady friend Imogen who lives in Foxton alerted us to the presence  of a little Red Necked Stint.
These birds are not often seen in our neck of the woods so we hurried up the coast to photograph this little blighter before he continued his migration north.
Many migratory birds rest over at  the The Manawatu Estuary and the place
is listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as a Wetland of International Importance.
Read more about it here
We arrived in Foxton more or less on time, to find Imogen already out on the mud flats  keeping an eye on our most welcome visitor.
With hellos, hoz it going over,  the long creep across the sand and mud flats began.

Red Necked Stint--4
Amazingly the little red stint was very accommodating, Imogen had tamed it very well with her womanly charms and I was able to get very close to him and that was cool because these birds are tiny , almost sparrow sized.

To give us an idea of just how tiny these birds are , here we find him using a gumboot print in the soft sand  to hide out of the wind.

Red Necked Stint-8652-Edit
A great big thank you is due to Imogen and after I had all the shots I wanted we went back to her place for a bite to eat and attempted to keep her retired greyhound dog to stay awake for more than 2 minutes on the trot ,  which we failed miserably in doing  lol

The following weekend it was over to the Waikanae Estuary and the Waimanu Lagoons to see what was going on.
But first before we got there, a short recce out to the beach at Queen Elizabeth Park was called for where we saw NO pheasants  but I did get a pretty good shot of Mr Hare hiding in the lupin bushes.

Mrs Black Bird was nicely contrasted feeding in amongst the yellow flowers so clikerty click went the camera and I was pleased with the result

Song Thrush -
Once we had moved on to Waikanae the day was well and truly under way  and the first thing that caught my eye was the light shining through the flowers .

Back lighting (the sunlight coming onto the subject  from behind) is always worth investigating

Once I was convinced I had a good shot, I moved on to birds, it was busy on the water as most birds were either impressing each other in their mating rituals or feeding their already growing youngsters.

This goose chick looks like it got a wiff of something smelly lol


Mummy Black Swan opens the salad bar  for her youngsters

Black Swan-
This Black Swan chick adds new meaning to the words salad dressing. lol

Black Swan-9200-Edit
Males will try anything to impress their mates.
This male pango pango or scaup  has added some modifications to impress his mate.

pango pango  or scaup-



After lunch it was north to Otaki  my home town and down to the beach to check out the banded Dotterel’s and see if any had chicks.
We were not disappointed.
Good fortune smiled on us as the birds were camped out on a isolated island of Ice plants and beach debris completely out in the open.

First up Mr Banded Dotterel

Banded Dotteral -9258-Edit
Mrs Dotterel

Banded Dotteral -9253-Edit

Junior giving us his best stone impression

Banded Dotteral --6
The fun began, we could see the baby Dotterel’s ducking here and there fussing with  their parents and we moved closer.
Then  they spotted us and split off in opposite directions.
It got tricky as these babies were not much bigger than a thumb and they hid very well so we sat down after checking we would not be squashing them and waited.

Bit of scale  provides us with an idea of just how small these little critters are .

Banded Dotteral -9434-Edit

After some time they re emerged and we were able to get a few shots of them chicks while mum and dad kept a close eye on us.

Mum and baby .

Banded Dotteral --4
With all the excitement over  as we did not want to interfere with the birds activities too much we were off home, but not before  stopping in on our Pheasant grounds on the way.

A Cock Pheasant  crowing and displaying for his women.

October was a busy month.
Get out there  and go for it , summer is on the way and the heat haze is already making its prescience felt as close scrutiny of the bird above shows

But the last word goes to the star of the show for me.

Red Necked Stint-8734-Edit


Size Counts

Today’s essay is all about size really does count.

Mostly this post is dealing with birds, big birds, little birds, huge birds and tiny birds.

Often we isolate our subject from any surrounding distractions in order to draw the viewer’s attention to the finer details of our subject, feather patterns, colour , shape and in doing so we divorce our subject from its place in the world.
We take away the relationship our subject has with its surroundings.
It is hard to tell their real size when the image has completely divorced the bird from its environment.
Remember our image tells a story to the viewer and size can be a very important part of the story .
Right lets start off with this little critter a young Variable Oyster catcher chick.

We have a nice closeup of the chick, plenty of detail to look at but just how big is it ?

Variable Oyster catcher-1678-Edit


Lets zoom out a little bit  and give the chick a bit of environment so we can tell just how big he or she is.

Variable Oyster catcher-1669-Edit

Just having the driftwood in the frame gives us something to compare the size of the chick with.

Lets try another bird, this one is a terek sandpiper.

Terek sandpipers

This is a pretty good shot of a fairly rare bird in New Zealand .
Again lots of detail  but tells us nothing of the true size on the bird.

Here is mister Terek again , this time we have some Bar tailed Godwits to make a comparison with.
Mr Terek is a very small bird not readily apparent in the first shot and has quite  a nervous disposition .

The Southern Royal Albatross is the heaviest flying bird in the world and only just misses out on the widest wingspan to the Snowy Albatross by a fraction.

Southern royal albatross-9974-Edit
This picture above does not give credit to the birds real size.
These birds are enormous.

The following picture gives us a better idea of the true size of these monster birds.
the lead bird is a White Cap Albatross , not a small bird by any standards but it is dwarfed by the Southern.

Southern royal albatross-5314-Edit

Next up is a pukeko chick.
most of us know the average size of the pukeko  so here we have a reference point , the head of the muma pukeko


Now here is a day old Banded Dotteral Chick

Banded Dotteral -9344-Edit
We know its small but just how small is it?

Pretty freakin small lol

Banded Dotteral -9434-Edit
Landscapes can also understate your subject without a reference point.

Elephant rocks in Otago , they look alright but how big is how big ?

Using Steve as our reference  we can grasp the size more accurately.
Now Steve aint the tallest person on earth but we can still use him as a comparison.

Finally  there is nothing like an open space to give context .
A young Spurwing Plover out in the open.

Spur-winged plover

Keep pressing the shutter button folks .
Spring has well and truly sprung, lets make the most of it before the heat shimmer makes late morning photography a delusion .


Blur and the impression of speed.

Two weeks ago I posted about the need for speed and the fast shutter to freeze the action and give sharp in focus images.
This post is going in the opposite direction, the use of a slow shutter speed to give the impression of, or to convey to the viewer the motion and speed of the subject.
Remember, each image should be telling a story.
Scale, placement, the use of background or foreground are all aspects that help tell that story , but sometimes we need a bit extra, movement of the subject.
Movement , can tell the story for you.
Let me show you.

In the first image , the bird is sharp and it’s the arrow like shape of the bird that tells the story, but its not all of the story.

Takapu the Australasian Gannet    (morus serrator )

In the second image, the bird might be quiet as sharp but we can see the subject speeding past the background.

Takapu the Australasian Gannet    (morus serrator )
The most powerful tool we photographers have when we present a image for someone to look at is the initial emotional impact that the image invokes.
To show the movement of an object moving through the frame the object must interact with the foreground and background.
We do this by slowing the shutter speed by either increasing the depth of field F.stop  which by default slows the shutter speed down if your in AV mode or decreasing the ISO sensitivity to light, causing the same shutter speed reaction..
You can also choose a dark background which will cause the sensor to drag more light through the lens  keeping the shutter open a bit longer, but the trade off will be an over exposed subject that may end up rendering the image unusable .
There is no substitute for experience and no excuse in this day of the digital photographer to go out there and practice, practice and practice until we can use our cameras intuitively and on the fly, I call it using the force.
Experience will teach you which technique to use.
One good way to practice is to find a good spot along a stretch of roadway and take photos of the cars as they speed past.
Close down you aperture to around F 16-22  and try and pan with the car as it speeds past

this image of a windmill gives the general idea of movment

Windmill in Foxton
Once again this was simply taken out of the window as we sped past the trees on both sides of the road.

warp speed
This tui was defending his territory  wildly flapping his wings

The New Zealand Tui-3069-Edit-2
when it comes to wildlife and movement  you must try and get the head in focus or the shot doesn’t normally  work.

this young red deer hind has been caught out in the open early morning and doesnt like it one bit lol
notice that if the head was not sharp, the image would not have the same impact.

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)
then again this works and nothing is pin sharp.

Black Swan-
once again sharp head, blurred wings

Pāpango the New Zealand scaup or Black Teal(Aythya novaeseelandiae)
one last one , nothing is sharp in this one, I spose you cant win them all

Kakī, the Black Stilt  (Himantopus novaezelandiae)
Most of all go out and have fun with your camera , try different things, tell your story through the lens of the camera.

If you want I can do a one on one or a small group workshop on this technique anywhere in the wellington region , just contact me .

Waikanae workshop

Two weekends ago, Steve and I had the pleasure of having a wonderful father/ daughter team on one of our workshops.
Corinne and her Dad Adam shared a day with us at the Waikanae river estuary on the Kapiti coast.
The day started out cold and blustery with lots of shags heading out to sea into the wind to fish for the day, they would become a good test for Corinne and Adam later on.
Steve and I had a quick walk around the ponds and estuary before Corinne and Adam arrived so we could plan our workshop around what was available for the day.
The Father and daughter team arrived on time and it didn’t take long before we had the cameras out and locked and loaded.

Steve gives Corinne some pointers on how to focus

A short talk on F.stops, light and how the camera sensor kind of works in relation to the lens and we hit track around the ponds.
Both Corinne and Adam were keen, quick learners and a joy to work with and encourage. The shutter buttons were working overtime as we walked along side them, handing out important tips and pointers that helped improve their creative artistic side as well as the technical approach to bird photography. As they shot their way around the place, we were also racking up an impressive number of bird species some of which neither Adam nor Corinne had seen before.

A pair of paradise ducks taken by Corrine





Corrine nailed this shag , I would be very proud of this shot myself.



Lunch time popped up and it was back to the wagon for a bite to eat.
A bit more talk about cameras and technique and we hit the beach and river mouth to see what was out there on the barren landscape.
Next on the agenda was the incoming shags , their flight path was predictable so we lined the team up and fired away.

Steve and Adam line up on the shags as they fly over head .
Fantastic practice can be had  with these birds multiple encounters.

The wind had dropped away and it was a pleasant walk out the surf, getting some great shots of Oyster Catchers shags and seagulls.

The shot of the day goes to Adam .
One oyster catcher attacking another and bowling it over 

By 3pm we were getting a little weary and returned to the car for a snack and wind up talk.
It was a wonderful day, one high light was the very friendly Kingfisher which caught a small fish and allowed Corinne very close to photograph it.
All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable day and rewarding for all concerned.

A young little shag allowed us to approach very close.

Another lovely shot by Corinne

The friendly local Kingfisher  put in an appearance early afternoon giving us lots of photo opportunities, Adam and Corinne made the most of it.




How not to take a photo lol
Dont stand with the sun behind you and your subjects having to squint into the sun lol

Father and Daughter team

Anyone interested  in a workshop  in the future please email me for more details.
or look at my workshop
We would be more than pleased  to share a day with you.



The need for speed part1

I was sitting in a road side café with a fellow wildlife photographer when she asked me a question.
She was about to purchase a new camera body and wanted to know the difference between the $1,500  model she was looking at and a $4,000 model she was also considering.
After careful consideration I gave her my answer
Speed, the need for speed with little or no cost to image quality.
When dealing with long lenses such as the ones we wildlife photographers commonly use, speed is the critical factor next to image quality.
The rule of thumb for getting a sharp image of a stationary subject with a long lens is accepted as being twice the shutter speed of the length of the lens used.
In other words if your using a 400mil lens, you’re going to need a shutter speed of at least 1/800th of a sec and a steady hand to get a sharp image.

Movement is the great enemy of the wildlife photographer.
There are two hurdles to overcome, two types of movement.
1. The photographer being unable to hold the camera steady.

2. Subject movement, which plays an equally important part.
Birds and animals are seldom still unless sleeping, especially the head.
Get the head in sharp focus you can get away with the other parts being less than perfect, but get the head out of focus and that image is heading for the recycle bin.

What is speed?
In this case speed refers to the amount of time the shutter is opened allowing light to strike the sensor in your camera which records all the visual information that you can see through the viewfinder.
The sensor needs a certain amount of light and information to be recorded or absorbed by the sensor to provide the details that make up our photo and time is the critical factor.
The longer it takes for the sensor to absorbed all the information to make a good exposure the more risk of movement resulting in a blurry image.

Under Exposure

Too little light and only the brightest parts of the subject matter will be recorded and the darker parts will be filled with what we call digital noise.
Digital noise replaces detail where the sensor has been unable to gather enough picture information to record the fine details in those darker areas and those details are replaced with dots of grain like sand we call noise.
Colour noise is made up of dots of unnatural colour this indicates insufficient detail recorded by the sensor also.
Expensive camera bodies have more sophisticated light sensitive sensors capable of operating at higher ISO speeds (more sensitivity to light) without introducing too much noise.
There are four components or tools you can adjust in your camera to give you a fastest shutter speed increasing your chances of getting a good sharp image.
We will deal with each component as its own blog post.
They are
1. F. stop or aperture settings
2. Iso speed the degree of sensitivity of the sensor, each higher ISO setting increases the sensitivity of the sensor but there is always a trade off on image quality.
3.  Focal length bringing the subject closer to the sensor and seeing more detail
4.  Compensation exposure, fine tuning the exposure manually with intuition.

When you show an image to someone the image should be telling a story .
Some times movement helps tell that story.
If the head is in focus you can get away with movement.

Pāpango the New Zealand scaup or Black Teal(Aythya novaeseelandiae)

 this bird was moving to fast for the shutter speed although its still a keeper.

This photo is not a great picture although the head is in focus.



Shoveler Ducks are among our fastest flyers , you need supper fast shutter speeds to freeze the action.
I hit 4,000th of a second on this bunch.

shoveler ducks

Next time we will look at F. stop or aperture settings.