Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bath time fun...

I went out this morning to the Petone Estuary to see what was happening  and after sitting there in the cold wind for a short while decided the answer was not much at all. There were some black backed gulls picking away at a couple of dead fish, and some red billed gulls playing in the wind currents but not a whole lot else. So I packed up and came home.

Not having my weekend photo fix satisfied, I got creative. I opened the one of the French doors and pulled the curtains – clipping them together creating a makeshift hide for myself and the camera. Then I tossed some bread scraps on the lawn to attract the birds. I was expecting sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and chaffinches and all of them arrived in quick order. What I was not expecting was the waxeyes as they tend to ignore the bread scraps.

These two flew in to see what all the fuss was about with the other birds and found the puddle of water nearby. I guess they decided it was bath time because they had a good play in the water for the next 20 minutes or so.  I got so many great images of the two of them, far too many to put here.

I was also experimenting with my camera settings as I have started shooting the birds on total manual mode. I have found that the big lens has a sweet spot at F8, so I work from there if I can keeping the shutter speed as fast as possible to capture the birds in flight. So far it has been working fine but I really do need a bright day to get the best out of it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Royal Spoonbills in Flight

We had a very busy day today, but as the sun was starting it’s decent in the sky we found the time to head over to Pauatahanui in search of kingfishers again. This is something we will be doing until I get the shot I want of a kingfisher in flight. I got very close to achieving it today but they were just too far away to be of any quality. However while I sit waiting for the kingfishers there is always something going on at the inlet.

The tide was way out there were swans in the distance on the water’s edge. Plenty of seagulls flying about and splashing around in the water. A couple of white-faced herons were scratching about in the mud looking for crabs, and of course the kingfishers were flitting about in the distance. What caught my eye though, was the Royal Spoonbills as they flew into the inlet.

They flew in on mass and then settled straight into feeding. It is almost like they are following a regimented routine. They have their camera radar fully engaged and stay a safe distance away from all and any photographers, but today they didn't quite stay far enough away. I managed a few quick shots before they disappeared into the distance along with the swans and geese.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nature workshop with Simon Woolf & Murry Cave

Today I attended a Nature Photography workshop at Zealandia run by Simon Woolf and Murry Cave. After a brief run down on health and safety, we headed out into the valley an hour before it was open to the public. Definitely the best time to be at Zealandia on a sunny day, there were birds everywhere! We started out with a stop at the green geckos where everyone had an opportunity to photograph them through the glass of the enclosure, then the group split off into two. Simon and the first ten headed off while the rest of us stayed a bit longer with the geckos.

Eventually we all started to slowly move further into the valley stopping every time we saw something move. Murry was great, giving instruction on camera settings for any given situation and advice on how to capture the birds, what to look for and where to focus. We saw tui flitting about in the air above us, shags flying off to feed, fantails darting about around us. It was hard to know which direction to point the camera in!
I am happy that I got so many good images of the fantails, they have proven very difficult in the past but today they were very obliging. I do wish I had managed to get one with its tail fanned out though, but I was just not quick enough. Something to aspire to in the future.

There were lots of juvenile shags sitting about on the raft and branches around the lake edges. One of them put on a bit of a wing display for us, another was playing in the water with a stick. As soon as we pointed the camera at it, it dived under for a game of hide and seek. I managed to capture a couple of images on the few times that it popped up out of the water.

I had a bit of a rest at the kaka feeding station because by this time my aches and pains were making themselves felt in a big way but when the group headed up the hill to the discovery area I did manage to get myself there too (with the aid of Murry’s monopod substituting as a walking stick – Thanks Murry). Once there I think I shot off two photos of a Hihi before we had to head back for lunch. Thankfully one of the two was an ok shot.

As we headed back we checked in with the Tuatara but unfortunately they were still hiding – probably from the shag! It was a game lots of them were playing. We were told once we were eating lunch in the café that the tuatara had come out but by that time I had had enough.

Anyway walking back to the café at the visitor centre was such a daunting prospect I decided that the boat was the better option. Paula and I boarded the boat and had it all to ourselves! We were treated to a close up encounter with the shags on the raft, and a close look at the nesting shags in the tree overhanging the lake. There was one nest with very young chicks in it; we saw a head popping up now and then and a very tired looking mum watching over her chicks. Above that nest there was another with larger chicks all hassling their parents for instant feeding. We watched while one of the chicks just about lost itself down its parent’s beak searching for food.

After lunch Simon showed us some of his prints sharing his experience with different papers and printers, followed by a question and answer session. We were a very quiet group as there weren’t a lot of questions asked. Guess we were all just enjoying the rest time. The two groups then headed back out to the valley for more time with the birds and nature, but Paula and I decided it was time to go, so we left them to it.

It was interesting to hear both Simon’s and Murry’s experiences with nature photography and once I have absorbed all that was shared today, I hope I can improve my nature shots too. The main thing that came out of the day for me was that you need to be taking photos all the time. Your camera needs to be so familiar to you that you don’t have to think about the settings you are using, you just instinctively do it from experience. With nature photography, and in particular birds, often in the time you take to think about the settings, you lose the shot.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sitting at the beach...

I woke up this morning to brilliant sunshine streaming through the windows. We had already decided that today was to be a day of doing very little so that I could stay off my feet and rest them. My ankles have not been too good just lately and I wanted them in good condition for the nature workshop I am doing tomorrow at Zealandia. But the sun was shining and I so wanted to be out with my big lens on such a perfect day!

Mallard duck and ducklings
So I came up with the idea of taking my new camping chair to the Petone Estuary and sitting with my camera.  I wasn’t going to go looking for birds; I was just going to wait for them to come to me. Best idea I have had in a long time! The tide had turned and was on its way out, but there was still a lot of water about and very few birds. So I sat and watched. Within minutes I saw what I can only describe as a duck train! Mother duck and a train of ducklings following close behind – very cute.

Red Billed Gull
The gulls were the first to arrive as the tide receded, I noted several different species of gulls, both red billed and black billed gulls were fishing side by side. Next came the Caspian Tern. It landed on the start of the sand bar and waited. It was still waiting an hour later when the water was almost totally gone. I was starting to make up stories for it – I could imagine it had said to a fellow tern “meet you at the sand bar”, and it had been stood up. Another hour waiting and it finally decided to have a fly about, but having found no other terns, went back to waiting. I felt sorry for the lonely tern.

Caspian Tern with wings spread
Next to arrive at the Estuary was the oyster catchers. I have never really watched them before but one by one they all carried out the same little routine. Fly in and land, then take a bath. Meticulous care was taken on the wing feathers before splashing about one more time, then getting on to feeding themselves. It was almost like they just had to be looking their best for the camera.

Oyster Catchers
Oyster Catcher
The grey heron put in an appearance next. It wandered up and down the beach in front of me, stirring up the water with one foot them diving its head into the water to grab any unsuspecting crab that showed itself.  I didn’t spend too much time watching the grey heron as it wasn’t doing anything unusual and you can have only so many heron photos.

Grey Heron
Next up came the swans! This was indeed a surprise for me as I have never seen the swans here before. I knew they were there from time to time but never when I personally have been there. Four of them casually swam in feeding along the way on the weeds in the water. They stayed for a bit then left just as gracefully as they arrived.
Black Swans
The last of the birds to arrive was the starlings. LOTS of starlings. They strutted around amongst the oyster catchers, often getting squawked at for getting too close. The sun showed off their stunning colours as they pecked about on the sand bar.

One of the birds that I really wanted to catch in flight was the kingfishers. Today I saw one pair in the distance flitting about but none where I was sitting. I had purposely sat where I knew the kingfishers usually were but they chose today of all days to go elsewhere. Never mind, there is a lot of summer to come for me to catch up with the kingfishers again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Celebrating Women In Construction" Exhibition

I have had the pleasure of being involved in the NAWIC (National Association of Women In Construction)'s exhibition Celebrating Women in Construction.

Being the principal photographer for the exhibition I got to meet and photograph some amazing women around Wellington and the Hutt Valley.  I found myself in all sorts of situations to be able to photograph these women in their work environments - climbing scaffolding (never again), perching out tiny windows, going to power substations and lots of construction sites.

If you get the chance, the exhibition is currently at the Thistle Hall Gallery in Cuba St, Wellington. Open daily from 10am to 6pm until Sept 24th. The exhibition will also being going to Christchurch and possibly Auckland as well. I will post dates when I know them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Last Sunday there was a break in the weather for a short while so we headed off to Zealandia. It was still a bit windy but nothing like the day before. I am still getting the hang of using my big lens at Zealandia as it is quite dark in the bush. I ended up resorting to using flash in the end.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Birds in our front yard

The power went off at about 11.30am this morning and killed a lot of my plans for the day. So after cooking lunch on the camp stove I tossed out a couple of left over crusts to the birds. It was raining with gale force winds, so I really didn't expect the birds to be out - I was wrong. Within minutes there were sparrows and chaffinches flitting about the trees.

I also have a banana hanging in one of the trees with cut out windows in the skin. The waxeyes really love banana, so much so that even they came out in this foul weather. So what could I do? I just had to get out the camera. I was also suprised to see the waxeyes drinking rain drops off the tree branches.

Five hours later I finally got to see the photos that I had taken. The light was really bad making it hard to get a good shutter speed on the camera but I am happy with what I achieved. I had fun and that is the main thing!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wellington Supreme Court

Over the last few months, I have been photographing women who work in the construction industry for an exhibition that is to be put on by the Wellington branch of  NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction). Today was the last shoot of the series and indeed pretty much a last minute shoot as the exhibition is less than two weeks away now. Today I was photographing one of the structural engineers involved in the construction of the Wellington Supreme Court. I have never been inside the building before and was amazed at the design of the courtroom itself. So much so that I had to shoot a few extra photos to post here without my model of the day. The room is a dome, so perspective looks a little out on the images but I like them just as they are.

If anyone is interested in viewing the exhibition "Celebrating Women in Construction" it is open from Sept 18 through to the 23rd from 10am to 6pm daily at the Thistle Hall Gallery, Upper Cuba St. I have photographed most of the images in the exhibition.