As most of us know, this summer hasn’t quite been up to the relentless hot weather and clear summer days of the past. We did manage a trip to the popular tourist spot of Te Puia in Rotorua, but even then, rain shortened the stay. This meant there were not chances for geysers going off on a background of blue sky.
I took a different tack therefore, with shots I thought would be interesting with the overcast conditions. The first is of a thermal pool, framed by the rocks in the foreground and vegetation in the rear. The second is of a stream in the area, wreathed in steam. These photos are in my “It’s a beautiful world” album
The final shot I thought merited a black-and-white conversion. This is also in my “Colour Free” album.
One of the consequences of our fondness for beaches is pressure on native birds that live there. Whilst sea gulls may seem very robust, other birds are less so. One is the endangered NZ dotterel or tūturiwhatu. There’s only about 1700 birds left of this species, and the North Island populations are only found in the upper north. The nesting strategy for this bird is a simple scrape in the ground. This means the nests are easily damaged or disturbed by well, almost anything. This includes people, dogs, SUVs etc.
Close to where I live is the Okura reserve and there is an isolated sweep of beach (near the old Dancre cottage) that has a small population. Some days I’ve hiked out there with one of my sons and we’ve just sat, watching them through binoculars. I have for sometime, been trying to get some good pictures of them as well. Open beach is not easy to get close to birds with, and avoid startling or scaring them.
Last week I succeeded with a bit of planning and a bit of luck. One the planning side, I dressed carefully in stone or khaki clothing to blend into the beach. A stone-coloured brimmed hat finished the look, and I eschewed sunglasses. There would be no dark areas on my body or outline. There was also a large log washed up on the beach I could conceal myself behind by laying beside it. I had about an hour there, able to watch and take pictures. For the first time I ended up with a series that didn’t require cropping. In fact, the birds seemed curious about the shutter sound and came closer than I expected. Here’s a sample:
This time of year you might notice some flies repeatedly shaking their legs. A closer look will show a tiny, pale brown thing attached to the leg. This is actually one of our native pseudoscorpion Thalassochernes tairiensis. What is is doing is hitching a ride on the fly. This is a habit known as phoresy. It’s a way for the animal to get a ride somewhere else. For minute animals unable to cover a lot of ground, phoresy is quite handy.
Pseudoscorpions are an order of arachnids that are widely distributed. As an order, they are on par with spiders or scorpions or harvestmen. Despite being even more widely distributed than scorpions, most people are not aware of them. The reason is simple. These arachnids are tiny and cryptic. They dislike the light and move away from it. They’re usually very small. Most are much less than 2mm long.
They have a number of appealing traits however. The female feeds nymphs a nourishing liquid. They also have small silk glands, which in some families are used to make little domes to protect the female and her nymphs. Despite their pincers and segmented body, they’re not a descendant of scorpions. Their poison apparatus is on a tiny tooth, on one of the fingers of their claw. It’s pretty lethal if you’re a mm long and have 6 legs.
To get these pics I waited for the pseudoscorpion to detach herself. To boost the magnification (the arachnid here is about 2mm long) I attached a 24x Raynox microscope adapter. Then my macro flash (the two small heads of this are much easier to work up close than a ringflash) was attached to boost the shutter speed. I had hoped I could get some shots hand-holding the camera but this was impossible. The depth-of-field was critically narrow and for a moving subject, impossible. So it was then on to the tripod (and thankfully, the geared head).
Even with the 24x magnifier I still couldn’t see the edge of the carapace so a bit of guesswork was involved. At least with the arachnid being blind, I didn’t have to worry about getting the eyes in focus. They have a number of long, sensitive seta (trichobothria) on their claws that are used to locate prey.
Bear in mind with these pics, almost all the detail shown here is invisible to the naked eye.
It’s sometimes easy to imagine NZ only offers opportunities to take stunning pictures of nature. We don’t have the history of many other countries with ancient monuments, medieval Cathedrals or the like. That doesn’t mean opportunities don’t exist. You just have to be a bit more alert to them.
The following photos are the relics of New Zealand’s past. I’ve tended to use a black-and-white approach.
The first two pics are of the Copper-mine chimney on Kawau Island.
“To the Ruin”
The next pic is from the Denniston Mine on the West Coast of NZ.
I really liked this one. You’re looking out towards the Tasman sea, which gives a sense of the dramatic incline of the cable system. The harshness of the environment is also apparent.
All shots were taken with a Sony a700.
Original photos are in the “Natural Goodness” and “Colour-free” albums
The Huka Falls is in a narrow ravine that connects Lake Taupo with the Waikato River. At this point you get to see what over 200,000 litres of water per second looks like. This provides the opportunity for some dramatic photography. Hence these two shots. These shots were taken during steady rain. This has the effect of adding a bit of atmosphere and thinning out the tourists. The defect is having to shield the camera from rain to prevent drops appearing on the front element. I used a strategically placed hand, which ruined a few shots when the hand crept into the top frame of the pic.
Anyway, something wild and furious from NZ.
Both shots are in the photo album “Natural Goodness“
It seems odd that with sparrows Passer domesticus being a common (and introduced) bird here in NZ, I’ve taken so few pictures of them. It reflects I guess, my strong preference for photographing native birds rather than introduced. The population in NZ is based on releases in the late 1800s and sparrows flourished.
I guess the two main challenges is that they are a reasonably drab bird and they’re also relatively small. The first issue makes it difficult to take a picture that pops out at you. Rainbow lorikeets are much easier :) The second is you have to be very close to get a view of the bird that doesn’t require heroic cropping.
I managed both feats last week down at Lake Pupuke. Timing was in the early evening during the golden hour. And with no-one else around, the birds seemed a little less wary.
One female sparrow was reasonably photogenic, posing in some lovely early evening light. Shots taken with my a700 and 300/4 G lens.
Close-up of the bird
I'm afraid that NZ isn't all idyllic weather. Oceanic islands can get some pretty turbulent weather. It can get rough out there too. Photographing storms however, generates a few challenges. First, you need to keep rain and sea spray off your lens. Second, gale force winds can make it pretty hard to hold your camera steady. A solid tripod and a good eye for sheltered spots helps.
Here's a couple of pics I've taken at Waiake of storm activity.
The first is of an approaching storm.
The second is of a gale hitting Waiake hard. This was the more challenging shot, and I've processed it as a low-key picture than converted it to black and white.
(Both shots from this album)
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The tauhou or silvereye (or waxeye, depending on what common name you were acquainted with) is a recent immigrant to NZ. They established themselves from a population from Australia in the 1850s. With their natural colonisation (cross-Tasman winds) they’re considered a native bird. Many of our native birds do in fact, have an Australian origin.
What is better than one tauhou, is three :) Afterall, they usually move around in flocks. The shot has been taken in my garden using my a700 and 300/4 G lens.
The tauhou or silvereye (or waxeye, depending on what common name you were acquainted with) is a recent immigrant to NZ. They established themselves from a population from Australia in the 1850s. With their natural colonisation (cross-Tasman winds) they're considered a native bird. Many of our native birds do in fact, have an Australian origin.
What is better than one tauhou, is three :) Afterall, they usually move around in flocks.
Click for larger image
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All this wet weather and storms is hindering my ‘down time’ in local forests. That means I’ve had a bit more time to update my website- and to edit photos. This is looking up the Mokoroa Stream and (obviously) I’ve picked a portrait composition.
My website has also had an overhaul. I like the new look a lot better. As part of the ‘new look’ I’ve got a discount on prints (33%) until the end of October. The discount code is CWP10 and is entered at checkout.