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.




Don’t get in a flap, photograph it instead

This is the second 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.

In this post, we are going to look at how to create images that impact your audience.
There are many ways of adding drama or making dynamic images when it comes to bird photography this short essay is but one of many things you can consider.

Wait for something to happen

Really effective portrait shots of birds, especially of waterfowl can simply feature birds at rest on the water.
A good simple image, taken as close as one can get to the eye level of the bird that the terrain and conditions allow, shows the bird off in all of its splendour.

This is a male pāpango, Black Teal or best known as the New Zealand Scaup at rest and  relaxed


A male kuruwhengi or Australasian shoveler at rest. We have the profile, we have the colour but do we have impact?

Don’t get in a flap, wait for it

When it comes to waterfowl wait for the classic pose known as THE FLAP.
The FLAP is dynamic, it adds drama and often addition colours of the bird not available when the bird is at rest on the water.

Mr pāpango, in a flap


Mrs pāpango, might not have the colour Mr pāpango has, but she can flap with the best of them.


Mr kuruwhengi showing off his flashy wing colours that we would otherwise never see in a resting pose.


This kawau paka or Little Shag, going through its black morph phase can also lay down his moves.


Even Mrs kōtare the Kingfisher gets in a flap every now and again.

How to know its coming.

Water Fowl generally let you know when they are about to flap their wings.
The telltale signs that the flap is on the way is when they duck their heads under the water and extend their necks lengthwise, then lift that neck and head stiffly until up out of the water until upright.
Some say this is how they drink, but that does not explain why the flap nearly always follows immediately after the dunking.
I say its part of the bathing process and nearly always comes at the end of the bathing process.  Doing this weird display allows water to flow down the neck and on to the shoulders and the flap is their way of drying off.
Either way, look for the Ridgid neck and head ducking, you then know the flap is on the way.

With the colours Mr Wood Duck has to show off, flapping your wings is making a real statement.


Mrs Wood Duck might not have the colours Mr Wood Duck has, but what a magnificent chest she has. I suspect this is a power move lol

There you have it, how not to avoid getting into a flap while catching it with your camera sensor at the same time.

Sunshine on a cloudy day.

Not every day out with the camera is going to be a drop dead gorgeous sunny day.
In fact there is a saying “good photographers sleep during the heat of the midday sun ”

Why? because bright, direct sun light, causes some of the worst photographing conditions around.
Ok, I admit it, I made that saying up, but still lol.

So for this article we will look at how to get the best images on those days when the sun hides behind the clouds and refuses to poke its nose out.

Firstly there are some great advantages to taking photos in cloudy, over cast conditions.
whites or highlights don’t blow out, blown out means whites become so bright that the camera cant record any detail, all you get is solid pure white, lacking any fine detail or slight colour variations.

Here is a perfect example of a happy mistake.

Image ID = kāruhiruhi the Pied Shag

I overexposed the above young Pied Shag by at least 2 stops but was able to drag some detail back into the bird with Lightroom.
the background is completely blown out and featureless.
I really like this image but from a technical point of view I blew it big time (pun intended )

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