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On the Savannah Brendan Moyle Dec 29

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**This post first appeared as a blog-post on my zenfolio site.  The zenfolio website is optimised for photo viewing.

All photos below can be viewed at a larger-size with a mouse-click**

The workshop on ivory economics at Ol Pejeta lasted for two days.  While I plan to discuss it in more detail later, it was fairly intense.  Fortunately an early evening safari was planned on the first night to give us all a break.  This is what I’d dragged my “light safari” kit along for.  One of the challenges with this trip was that on the last leg (the flight from Nairobi to Nanyuki) the total luggage limit was 15kg.  I stuck to one camera (the a900), one long prime (300/4 G lens with 1.4x TC), one macro (100/2.8) and one wide angle (28/2.0).  Even so, the camera, lens and teleconverter was close to 2.5kg.

Anyway, some time among the wildlife was what I hoped to get.  It would have been a painful experience to fly all the way to Kenya with what was still a substantial camera and not get anything.  It’s happened before on trips to other places.  On the other hand the regret I’d have felt if I had gone all the way to Kenya and not been able to get some nice photos because I left the camera behind also tugged at me.  So, the safari experience, as short as it was, was most welcome.

I’ve selected some of the shots to show here. The pictures have been taken at the end of the raining season.  This is why the grass is still green.

First, perhaps the most photogenic hoofed animal in the area- the zebras

click for larger image

Another unusual sight were the rhinos.  The conservancy has a small population of both the northern and southern white rhino.  These are rare in East Africa after decades of poaching.  The larger of the two had been dehorned in the past, but the horn had been growing back since.  The bigger problem photography-wise, was we were parked close to these animals.  It was not always easy getting the animals in the frame with a fixed focal-length lens.


On the other hand, we stayed at a distance from the buffalo

Sadly neither the Oryx or antelope were very cooperative, so I only managed a couple of snapshots of them.

On the other hand the water bucks were more into posing

The lions were also determined to ignore us

The local birdlife was also impressive.  We spotted many plovers, bustards and vultures.  Photographing them was less straightforward.

I got a reasonably nice, if cropped, picture of a secretary bird atop a tree.  I was concerned it would be so highlighted against the bright sky behind it I would get nothing.

The white-bellied bustards however, were more cooperative.



I think the range of shots captured here are a good sign of how well maintained the conservancy is.  Overall I was pleased I gambled that the camera gear would be worth bringing.

Water everywhere Brendan Moyle Nov 09

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Originally posted at my photo website

Once exams finished I headed off the Napier to visit my parents (and other family there).  Sadly my parents are not as well as they used to be. I wanted to see them while I had the chance to get away from work.  In theory I’m going to Kenya in December so time is getting pressing.  I used some of the time I had available to take some pictures of the local scenery.

The first scene was of the Waipunga Falls.  This only needed a short stop on the Napier-Taupo Highway.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to as the rain was frequent on the drive over.

#1 Waipunga Falls

The next shots were from within the Tangoio Scenic Reserve.  The recent rain left the tracks soggy, making the hike a bit more challenging.  Balancing camera gear while avoiding mud and slippery tracks is always fun.  Hiking puttees are a useful thing to also have in your camera kit bag :)

The stream was swollen and had a good flow.  I used my 20/2.8mm lens for these shots, along with the a Lee 6-stop “Little Stopper”.  The carbon-fibre tripod and geared head is also quite handy.

#2 Magic

#3 Secret world

#4 The Pool

#5 Stillness




On the Otago Peninsula Brendan Moyle Oct 26

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I visited Dunedin on Friday and Saturday this week.  Friday was the very academic part of the trip.  I presented a seminar at the University of Otago on the elephant-ivory black-market.  One showed how shipping costs, African instability and interest rates affected poaching and smuggling levels.  The other was a paper I hope to submit soon on detecting laundering in the Chinese legal ivory factories.

On Saturday, I met up with V and we did some sight-seeing, and talked about research we wanted to do together.  I’d like to do more research on crocodilians as they provide some excellent examples of conservation success.

It was a perfect day in Dunedin (I’m from Auckland, the usual news we get from Dunedin is when they have atrocious weather). By the late afternoon we were up Mount Cargill or Kapukataumahaka. I had regret I didn’t bring a tripod. Or at that stage, thicker trousers.  The wind chill was not pleasant on the hiking trousers I’d been wearing through the day.  Still, nothing could detract from the views.  I recommend avoiding Signal Hill and going straight to Mount Cargill if you want these views.

Here’s a sample of four pics of the Otago Peninsula.  The area is ancient and of volcanic origin.  All shots taken with a Sony a900 and Minolta 28/2.0 lens.




#4- I think this is my favourite

Photography with Kodak Ektar Brendan Moyle Jul 11

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It is becoming a challenge to keep up the film photography, so last month aI made a concerted effort to get through one roll at least.  This was also my first chance to shoot with the Kodak Ektar 100 film.  This is reputed to scan well and to have a very fine grain.  Not being able to find anyone in NZ who stocked it, I imported it from the US.

The first subjects I tried were of the stream in the Pohuehue Reserve, which lies between Warkworth and Orewa.  I think one of the advantages of film is that it still has a wider dynamic range than digital.  So there’s less risk of the highlights blwoing out.

So we’ll start with a couple of shots from there.


#1 Rivelet


This second shot looked much better than digital version.  The bright sunlight streaming in at the rear of the scene threw out my DSLR’s attempt to capture the scene.

#2 On the edge

I then tried some ‘painting with film’.  In these shots, rather than keeping the camera solid, I’ve tried a long exposure to create a more impressionistic scene by moving the camera up and down to mimic brush strokes.

#3 Native Trees

#4 Nikau Palms

And finally

#5 Fern Spin

So, after a few forays out, I’m afraid it is harder to keep up the shooting with film.  While it remains the best medium for a film look and the dynamic range is superb, a number of problems persist.  The lighting is critical.  The difference between a good shot and a so-so is much more sensitive to light.  You can’t adjust white balances or contrasts or the like later.  If lighting is good, the shots will turn out great. If its poor- as more foray to Waterfall Gully was- the shots become duller, faster.

There’s also issue of having the ISO fixed.  You’re destined to shoot at the set ISO, and for film, that’s usually low.  That means a lot of shots can’t be attempted.  You can get a shot with a DSLR when you can’t with film.  And for long exposures, it’s very tricky.  You don’t get any opportunity to review the exposure, so the guess and hope factor becomes higher.

A winter visit to Waterfall Gully Brendan Moyle Jun 29

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Youngest child had a ‘thing’ on the Whangaparoa Peninsular on Saturday morning.  So we ventured north at a pre-dawn hour to get him there in time.  While he was engaged, I made a side trip to Shakespear Regional Park (yes, Shakespear is spelled without a final ‘e’).  There’s a waterfall in the bush there.  Usually it’s not impressive as it doesn’t get a lot of water flow over it.  On the other hand it has been raining regularly this winter. A lot.  So I thought there was a chance of a better flow.

It was also a chance to put my new Lee filters to the test.

The waterfall looked better than in summer months.  It’s nothing I guess, that anyone will put on a postcard.  But the setting in the native forest still appeals to me.

In the first shot, I’m using the a900 with the 20/2.8 Minolta lens.  The goal is to use the curve of that ventral bank to lead into the fall.

In the second shot, I’m getting all of the fall in the same shot.  Same lens as before.  

If you would like a close up of the top of the fall

Then I went further into the short bush.  One thing I’m struggling with is how to photograph NZ bush that still has the elements of a good photo.  The wall of dense vegetation tends to rule out isolating tree pictures, and often leaves little in the way of leading lines.  On the other hand, a stream might stand in.  

This required liberal use of an ND grad filter to balance the bright light at the canopy level with the shade at the bottom. I’m employing the very useful Minolta 28/2.0 lens here.

And just a stream pic to finish the hike off

Monday night spiders Brendan Moyle May 20

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Well, I seem to have got off on a classic Minolta lens binge at the moment.  Minolta made the first popular auto-focus camera back in 1985, with the Maxxum (or Dynax) 7000.  This was followed by a series of new AF lenses for this mount.  These replaced the existing manual focus lens (MD or MC). 

In the film era, camera companies tended to produce lenses with slightly different characteristics.  For Minolta, the thing that made their lenses stand out was the colours.  They had a colour fidelity and richness that appealed.  If you ever hear some photographer talking about ‘Minolta colours’, that’s what they mean.  I’m finding as I do more landscape photogaphy, this is what appeals to me.

As an indication of the lead Minolta built up in the 1980s, they had the first auto-focus 100mm macro lens.  This was such a superb design, the modern Sony lens equivalent has made only minor changes to it.  I acquired the RS version yesterday (this model went out of production in 1993).  I wanted to see how it lasted, so gave it a try with my a900 last night. 

These two spider shots are all done in manual mode.  I’ve selected both the exposure (shutter speed, aperture) and the flash setting for my twin flash.  The first spider I saw was a juvenile nursery-web spider- Dolemedes minor.  It was on some pruned back flax. 

The second was the nervous and wary Cambridgea sheetweb spider.  By this time one of the local cats had come to help me.  Despite this not being fully mature, I didn’t need to crop this pic at all.

Well, the good news is that the lens is in near perfect order.  Despite its age and who knows, how many owners, this has survived nicely. 

Going feral for the day Brendan Moyle May 09

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At the moment I am trying to write three papers at once on the research I’ve been doing on elephant ivory. It’s a bit ambitious, and it’s on top of a lot of other things.  So yesterday, I went ‘feral’ and disappeared into the Pohuehue Reserve up to the north of here.  The area has a waterfall I haven’t seen yet, and I hoped the stream would also give me some interesting shots.

So, gearing up.  Well, first there’s the tripod.  The tripod I have is heavy, it is actually the heaviest I could buy at the time because not only do I want it holding some heavy camera gear, I also want it to stay stable in extreme cases.  Then there’s the tripod head.  I run with a geared head.  This allows for precise, three way positioning of the camera and once the shot is there, it won’t budge, or drift down or anything. The camera stays exactly where you want it to be.  These aren’t light either.

Then its the lenses.  I’ve got two vintage Minolta lens.  One is the 20/2.8 RS and the other is a 28/2.0.  They’re compact.  Good to carry.  The 70-200/2.8 G isn’t.  That’s closer to 1.5kg.  I like my Minolta lenses.  They have a colour fidelity that I just can’t see in others. 

Two cameras- a Sony a900 and a Minolta Dynax 7.  The Minolta is a film camera by the way.  Plus filters to get long expsoures.

Then we need some good hiking boots for slippery conditions, some gaiters for the wet and muddy ground, and we’re away. Part of the fun here is being out of the office, away from computers, and just doing something physical with a bit of heavy gear to manage.  Conditions were pretty slippery.  The rain, leaf litter and rocks combine to force a slow and steady pace in places.

So, here’s the falls.  This is with the 20mm lens.  I don’t think it is the most spectacular falls in NZ, but I liked the lines on the shot and the light and dark areas.  I’ve avoided the front-on ‘post card’ look.

The second is with the 28mm lens.  As you can see, I got wet :).  This is one of my favourites.

And last of all, something with the 70-200/2.8.  A rivulet, done as a long exposure.

ANZAC Day 2014 at Browns Bay Brendan Moyle Apr 25

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Today was the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing in World War One, and for Australia and New Zealand, an event that left its mark on the numbers of men killed and wounded.  It is a poignant time. There is a sadness that propagates through the generation, in the stories, and in the quieter and sadder tone we grew up listening to.  Within my family, of the six men who went off to fight in World War One, only one came back alive.

It’s not a time for constant photography, or watching the event through the viewfinder.  So I mostly stood, listening to the service.  What I’ve tried to do is get a very small number of shots that depicted the event.

#1 Flagbearer at the start of the parade

#2 Getting a lift- not all are able to march in the parade anymore

#3 The Last Post- this is the most evocative from this morning. I was focusing on the bugler to the right of the picture (he can be seen very defocused there still) but as the notes from the Last Post played, I noticed the face and emotions on the young guard.  I switched over to focus on him

#4 Veteran lowering flag

#5 Veteran laying Wreath

#6 The young laying wreath

#7 Veteran with medals

#8 Veteran in Uniform


Tiger time in the Sping Thaw Brendan Moyle Apr 24

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Well as part of the last expedition to China we got up north. Very north.  There was still snow on the ground even though it was early spring.  This is one of the times when having a good relationship with the Chinese SFA matters. Got to see a couple of Amur tigers which I was able to photograph.


They seem to be enjoying the thaw and the sunshine.




Urban Grit Brendan Moyle Apr 16

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I think one of the challenges to travel photography is finding ways to capture the feel of a place.  The reason this becomes a challenge is that often, the feel is not the same as the tourist postcards. Beijing for instance, is not blue skies and the Forbidden Palace. It is a large urban city, and at times, that dominates your experience.

These are some shots I tried to get to capture some of that industrial, gritty feel. These were all taken with a Sony a900 camera and a 70-200/2.8 G lens. We’re in the general area of the Beijing Forestry University.


#1- The Tank

#2 The Crane

#3 Road Sign

#4- Impromptu Rubbish Bin

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