Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Studying your subject

I have heard many times that if you want to photograph something well then you need to study your subject. In Nature this becomes even more important in my thinking, as most of my subjects are moving living creatures. My focus of late has been on the kingfishers (kotare) and in the short time that I have been photographing them I have learnt a lot about their behaviour.

Kingfishers are territorial. From a photographers point of view this is fantastic as it means they will always be in the same place when they are out fishing. Another important fact is that they are very skittish and don't like you to get very close to them at all. One step too close and they are gone!

One of the most interesting things about the kingfisher that I noticed last night when I was out taking these images, is that they don't like to eat whole crabs. Once they have caught the crab they will fly back to a branch, usually a substantial one, and then bash the crab from side to side on the branch or log.

They are not trying to kill the crab, they are removing its legs so they can swallow the body. I found this behaviour fascinating to watch. I am sure if you went and looked under the logs you would find a huge amount of discarded crab legs.

Another interesting thing I noticed last night was that the kingfisher wags its tail like a dog when it is scoping out the area for food. When the tail wagging stops, then the camera needs to be ready because it is about to take off. I am finding it easier to predict their movements purely from observing their behaviour patterns.

If there is one thing that is essential when photographing kingfishers, it is patience. They work a circuit within their territory so when one area has been fished, they will move on to the next. If you try and follow them you will end up losing them completely. It is much better to find yourself a comfy seat and wait for them to return to you.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Day's Bay, Eastbourne

After the sunset.

Today's images are starting at the end. Yesterday evening we went round to Day's Bay in Eastbourne to capture another sunset. Once the sun had gone and the sky grew dark I got to play with long exposures to smooth out the water. I really enjoyed the contrast between the wharf and the water, and the muted soft colours of the hills in the background.  The long exposure has given this image light where there was none and I like it a lot!

The sun starting to drop behind the hills.

The sun was just going down when I finished setting up my camera and chair. This was the only opportunity I had to get the colours reflected on the water itself. The brightness of the sun made the image darker than it actually was and rather than correct it I decided I liked it this way.

Gulls soaking up the last of the sun.

I am a fan of silhouettes and when I saw the gulls lined up on the wharf I couldn't resist a shot or three. They were soaking up the last of the sunshine. As the sun went down behind the hills the sky found its golden glow. I love this time of night and was very happy with the image below.

Sunset at Day's Bay, Eastbourne

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Kingfisher doing what he does best!

This afternoon we headed over to Pauatahanui to see if the kingfishers were about. I had parked the car off the road in such a way that I could just move the seat back, open the window and use the car as a hide. It worked a treat, within a few minutes a kingfisher flew to the log not far from where I had parked.

I watched and photographed him for about fifteen minutes before he took off to clean up another patch of mud. I think I saw him eat about six crabs in that time. It seemed like he enjoyed playing with his food a bit too, though I am not sure what turning your head upside down does for your digestion.

I managed to capture him in flight, but again these are small crops and quite noisy. I am not sure how to get them any better at the moment. Research is required I think.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Something Different

Just before sunset the light was golden.
A friend of mine has been photographing lots of sunsets just lately, she is particularly good at it and her images are beautiful to look at. Last night I decided it was time I gave it another go myself. The last time I was photographing sunsets I was still using P mode on the camera, so this was an exercise in doing it in manual.

As the sun went down we were treated to pinks and reds in the sky and in the reflections.

I am constantly amazed at how quickly the sky changes at sunset and how many different changes there are in that short space of time. All of these images were taken on the same evening, yet they look so totally different. They are shown here in chronological order.

I moved to a slightly different spot to change the image foreground.
I played around with the shutter speed trying to soften the water while still keeping some of the birds in focus. Very tricky as the birds wouldn't hover exactly where I wanted them to.In the end I gave up on the birds - this time they were not my primary focus!

Same spot just looking in the other direction

These last couple of images are probably my favourites. I am really pleased with the results of the evening's shoot. I enjoyed the company of friends, had a few laughs and came away with my own beautiful sunset images. An exercise I definitely plan to repeat before the summer is gone.

After the sun was gone I played a bit more with shutter speeds to soften the water.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Respecting space

Juvenile spoonbill
There are a lot of nature photographers that frequent my usual haunts and for the most part they are a friendly considerate bunch. We may not all know each other but we will usually wave 'hello' or get into a discussion about the birds that are about and where to find them. 

We are also very careful not to upset the birds in their natural environment. We are observers and as such shouldn't make the birds uncomfortable with our presence. Royal Spoonbills I have noticed along with the White-faced Herons have a very definite 'space' and if you breach it in any way that's it they are gone.

Spoonbills over the far side of the lagoon.
Last evening I took my camp chair and parked myself at the Petone Estuary. I find that if I just sit and wait the birds will cease to see me as a threat and will come to me. It is way better than chasing them from one side of the lagoon to the other and way less stressful on the birds. I saw the spoonbills over the other side of the lagoon happily feeding and figured if I wait long enough they would make their way over.  Then a few minutes later I see another photographer all dressed in green with his tripod and camera scare the birds away in his attempt to get close to them.

In flight after being scared off.
To say I was annoyed was an understatement, as the birds flew off into the distance I decided I would have to make do with the gulls and oyster catchers. The other photographer headed off in the direction the spoonbills took and I didn't see him or the spoonbills again for a while.

Juvenile spoonbill
After about thirty minutes of sitting and watching, I was lucky enough to have the juvenile spoonbill and it's parent fly in to start feeding in the water nearby. I was in photographer's heaven when the other three adult birds joined them - right in front of me!

The four adult spoonbills

I clicked away happily enjoying their closeness thinking I should share this wonder. I rang friend and fellow photographer suggesting that she come down and bring her camera with her.

Adult spoonbill catching shrimp
Between calling my friend and her arriving, the other photographer dressed in green had followed the spoonbills to where I was. He walked past me and then set himself up in the bush above where the birds were feeding. Way to close for them to be comfortable as was plain to see by the way they instantly started moving away. Once they were out of reach of his lens and mine, (they flew back to the other side of the lagoon) he packed up and set about following them back to the other side to repeat the exercise.

Adult and juvenile spoonbill
Eventually he left, the spoonbills returned to feeding where we were still sitting, and both myself and my friend managed to get some great shots. I am still annoyed about the unnecessary stress placed on the birds - being chased from one end of the estuary to the other - and the fact that the other photographer didn't give a toss that he might be ruining someone else's chances at photographing them.

Still water provided a mirror image

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kingfishers and Spur-winged Plovers

Juvenile spur-winged plovers seeking food from the parent birds.
One of the things I like about Summer is that it is easy to pick up the camera after dinner and still have enough light to be able to photograph the birds. Last night we went for a drive round Pauatahanui Inlet and ended up parked by the kingfisher tree. We were there maybe two minutes before we saw at least three kingfishers zooming past.

So I set up camp in the reeds with my trusty chair hoping I would blend a little with the surrounding environment, and sat in wait. The kingfishers will usually be back every ten minutes of so if they are in fishing mode and I had the time to wait. My ever suffering husband was tucked away in the car with a book so I had until the light faded at least!

My camera is great for most things but I am finding it a bit of a frustration with the kingfishers. It doesn't cope well with high ISO (really noisy) and it isn't all that fast on continual burst mode. Both of which I need to be able to capture a great shot of the kingfisher in flight. Doesn't stop me trying though, I would love to prove myself wrong.

While I was waiting for the kingfishers I was distracted by a huge amount of noise. Three juvenile spur-winged plovers were literally bulling their parents for food. The parent birds weren't having a bar of it and in the end flew off a distance. I guess they forgot they had taught the kids to follow them because the procession of juveniles followed them from one end of the beach to the other. They were very comical to watch.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Frequent Flying at Zealandia

Male Hihi (Stitchbird)

We went back to Zealandia today even though there was light rain when we were heading out. It was a little chilly for a while and the seats were a bit wet to sit on for rests but otherwise it turned out to be a brilliant day. We arrived at the Kaka feeders just after they had been fed and there were a huge number of them jumping about and arguing with each other. I wasn't going to bother with them today but I couldn't resist stopping for a few minutes.


We walked up to the Discovery area where there are always lots of Hihi (Stitchbird)'s and we weren't disappointed. They flittered about around us between the trees and the feeders hardly ever stopping long enough for me to click the shutter. I thought the Fantails were the teases of the trees, but they have nothing on the Hihi There were bellbirds and robins there as well. The robin decided I must have something good in my camera bag so took a bit of time to check it out.

Male Hihi (Stitchbird)

North Is Robin
We took the boat on the way back and were lucky enough to have it to ourselves. There were no shags sitting on the raft which was a shame but there were a few playing about in the water that I managed to get a few shots of. Michael (the boat operator) was most accommodating after seeing my camera. He unzipped the plastic windows and turned the boat this way and that, and backed off for me when he got too close to the birds. He pointed out all the birds of interest and their nests along the way. A real treat!

Pateke and duckling

Pateke and duckling

Pied shag playing about in the water

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Medieval Mahem at Harcourt Park

I had some time spare this afternoon so went to have a look at the goings on at Harcourt Park. The medieval folk are there this weekend for the National Jousting tournament. I didn't see any horses or jousting while I was there (which wasn't that long) but there were some battles going on.

These images are from a 'capture the flag' battle between the blue team and the red team. The blue's won easily. I am told from one observer that the reds were using the wrong weapon to be able to win. It certainly looked that way but the end result.

There was lots to photograph there, people in costumes, tents and such like. Unfortunately it was way too hot for me to be walking around so I headed back home to the shade. I wouldn't want to be wearing some of those heavy costumes in this weather, they must really be cooking inside them.

Tomorrow I am heading to Zealandia, so it will be back to the birds again :)