NZ Nature Photos: Blog en-us NZ Nature Photos [email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Fri, 29 Dec 2023 01:28:00 GMT Fri, 29 Dec 2023 01:28:00 GMT NZ Nature Photos: Blog 120 120 A Farewell to 2023 When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions - Hamlet

This year has been very tough on my photography. Both events around New Zealand and in my personal life threw up many obstacles. The floods in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), the damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, the death of my mother, an assault, getting hit by a motorist while biking to work (it took months to recover from the injuries), going to China for 2 months and catching Covid19 there, all prevented a lot of photography.

On the gear front I've sold my Sony ɑ7Riii, ɑ9 (and an old ɑ7R) and bought a Sony FX30 and ɑ1. The ɑ1 is a great all-round camera. It solved the dilemma over which camera to bring on a trip. Before I used the ɑ7Riii for my landscape work and the ɑ9 for wildlife and birds. What if I wanted to shoot both subjects? I'd either have to bring both or accept I'd not get the photos I really wanted. The ɑ1 is just better at landscapes and birds than either camera. And with its video tools (up to 8K video recording) it excelled there also. It's the camera that can do it all.

Sony a1 CameraSony a1 camera with Zeiss Loxia lens

My plans for 2024 are to rework my website into a more modern layout. I've begun that process. And I'm hoping to specialise increasingly in seascape photography. Since the Waitakere Ranges have had their tracks closed to protect the Kauri trees, my waterfall photography has taken a dive. The forests were filled with streams and waterfalls, big and small. Tāmaki Makaurau however is almost surrounded by the sea. It seems a good subject to specialise in, especially as I've been taking seascape photos for many years anyway.

So that's pretty much it for 2023. It hasn't been my favourite year and I'm hoping 2024 will be the year things improve.

Noho ora mai my friends.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) photography Fri, 29 Dec 2023 01:27:39 GMT
Sunset at O’Neill Bay Sunset at O'Neill BaySunset at O'Neill BayA view of the setting sun, by the rocks of Kauwahaia Island at O'Neill Bay.

Taken with an a7Riii and Zeiss Loxia 21/2.8

#Photo150 Wide-angle Photo for my 2020 Project (Week 1)

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) nz phtotos o'neill bay seascape sunset sunstar te henga Sat, 09 Jan 2021 02:58:25 GMT
A little macro, a little creative #Photo150

I'm into Week 1 of this year's photo challenge. My theory is if I can manage one good session a week with the camera, I should be able to sustain my efforts.

In this case I'm trying something I've dabbled with before. It's a technique known as focus stacking. Instead of taking one image at a small aperture, you take a series of photos. The series is taken at a much wider aperture (I went with f5.6). Most lenses reach their peak optical performance at f5.6-f8. Beyond that the image starts to soften with diffraction. Each photo in the series has a different focal plane, so you end up taking a series of 'slices' of the subject. I started with the closest part of the flower in focus and then shifted the focal point further and further back. You then stack all the photos in a stacking program so it merges all the focused areas into one.

In this case I was taken with the contrast between the white flower in this bed, and all the much smaller red flowers in the background.

White on ScarletWhite on ScarletGarden flower bed

Two other things are important here. The first is that the camera doesn't move, so a good tripod is essential. The second is that the subject doesn't move either. Ideally you should also shot in Manual Mode and manually focus the lens.

The image was a composite of five photos, stacked in Helicon Focus 7. Each photo was taken with a Sony a7Riii camera and a Voigtländer 110/2.5 Macro lens at 1/100sec, and f5.6.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Flower focus stacking macro photography Sony a7Riii stacked image Wed, 06 Jan 2021 00:19:01 GMT
The 2021 Photo Project #Photo150

It's been a quiet couple of years on the photography front. 2019 was rather horrible on the personal front. Times in hospital for me. A string of deaths in the family. And 2020, was well, 2020. There was little time left for photography.

So this year I'm keen to kick-start things with a more regular photography schedule. It's also motivated by my (almost) complete shift now to the Sony E-mount system. For years I have been shooting with the Minolta alpha-mount (succeeded by the Sony A-mount). Now I am shooting mostly with a Sony a7Riii and a nice collection of Zeiss and Voigtlander prime lenses. These are some of the best lenses I have used, so it seems like a good idea to use them more frequently.

The project I'm doing (in conjunction with several other members of the Dyxum photography site) is a project of 150 photos (3 per week) for the rest of the year. We will be using the hashtag #Photo150 if you want to check things out on Twitter or IG. Within that project I've got 3 parallel challenges. Each week I'll post something from these challenges.

The first challenge is to try something creative. This could be a stacked image, or a stitched panorama, or a long exposure etc. Basically to either refine my skill with some techniques or do something I haven't tried before. So nothing that's straight from the camera. It might even be some video clips or time lapses.

The second challenge is a macro challenge. While I do have a macro lens (a Voigtlander 110/2.5) there are ways to use ordinary primes to take macro photos.

The third challenge is a wide-angle lens challenge. That will mean photos with either my 15mm, 21mm or 35mm lens. This may not stretch me much but I haven't used a 15mm lens ever. And the focal length promises to be interesting.

Ngā mihi o te tau hou and hopefully, more things photographic.

Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) photography Sun, 03 Jan 2021 23:14:36 GMT
Walking in water: First trip to the Pararaha Stream The track wasn't marked on the map. It was supposed to be for experienced hikers only.  I'd decided to tackle the Pararaha Stream from the Lone Kauri Road end. It's an area of the Waitakere Ranges I hadn't explored before, so I was unsure what to expect.  I guessed I'd need my hands free. So the tripod was carried in a tripod bag (which could be slung over my back). I took just a camera, 2 lenses and some Lee filters in another shoulder bag.  

"The Track" The TrackThe TrackWhat a track for "experienced hikers only" looks like

It quickly proved impossible to keep the boots dry. The stream was running relatively high and to get purchase on the rocks, I had to dig deep into the stream floor to avoid slipping. Then there was the mud. This was definitely a trail for proper hiking boots. There was also a lot of up and down as some sections weren't safe enough to navigate the stream edge. The trail would lead up cliff faces and down again. Having the tripod bag to free up the hands was a prudent move.

I reached a a stretch of the stream I thought was photogenic. A nice cascade of water in the foreground, and with a visible cascade further back.

The other good thing about the shot above, is you can't see the bleeding scratches on my calves from some of that terrain I went through. Shorts though are the most practical attire for crossing streams.  Also, a handy hint for traversing rock faces over rushing water. Always keep 3 points of contact on the rocks at all times.

The Photos

I got three shots from photographing these scenes I liked.

#1 Pararaha StreamPararaha StreamThis was taken on one of my first hikes down the Pararaha Stream. My eventual goal was to photograph the waterfall, but the rahui in the Waitakere Ranges ended that plan. This is definitely not one of the tracks that is open, as it is rugged and for experienced hikers only.

I liked this scene as in the background, you can see the water dropping down through some more rocks. But the primary interest is the passage through these rocks. and of course, all the native forest around me.



Pararaha StreamPararaha Stream


Pararaha StreamPararaha Stream


It is a great place to explore, but I need a backpack rather than shoulder bag to manage the gear for balance. Also, gaiters.  This was a trip where I should have taken gaiters for the lower legs as well.  Good hiking gear is a necessity that is easy to overlook. And I'm conscious that this is terrain where I'm traveling alone with no cellphone contact. Not breaking a leg or getting swept into a deep pool are things I need to avoid.

I know further downstream is a large waterfall, but it might be prudent to approach it from the Parahara Camping Site end.  The shots above were taken with my Sony a7R and either my Minolta 17-35mm f3.5 G lens, or Minolta 35-105mm f3.5-4.5 lens.  The later is one of the original Minolta designs from the mid-1980s.  It's surprisingly good. Also compact.  The tripod was an Induro CT314 Carbon-Fibre tripod, with a Manfrotto geared 410 head, and an FLP LB-15 levelling base.  All in all, it adds up to a decent weight.  First thing to do when getting home was to extend it all out to dry, and unscrew the spiked feet to let these drain and dry properly too. 

Legs by the end of the hike were feeling the workout. It's very much a track for experienced hikers.  




[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) auckland photos induro tripods lee filters long exposure nz forest streams nz photos pararaha stream pararaha valley sony a7r stream stream photos waitakere ranges waterfalls Tue, 26 Sep 2017 19:36:17 GMT
The Waterfalls of Tangoio Reserve It was supposed to have stopped raining in the afternoon. It hadn't. A light, but steady drizzle remained.  This was going to make the photography harder.  It doesn't take more than a couple of rain drops to land on a filter, to ruin a photograph. My previous trip to the Tangoio Reserve has ended in a lot of discarded shots because of that.

The Tangoio Reserve is just north of Napier in the Hawkes Bay.  It has two waterfalls.  These are Tangoio and Te Ana.  They're nice to visit, but I think there are still nicer falls in the region.  Still, it is an aim of mine to photograph as many different NZ waterfalls as I can.  I was happy with the photos I'd taken of Waipunga Waterfall on the way over. 

All the shots below were taken with a Sony a7R.

Tangoio Waterfall

Tangoio waterfall is what the reserve is named for.  This shot was taken from the lookout.  One day when i have time, I'll figure out how to find a route to approach the falls from a different perspective.  That'll mean going cross country I fear. 

Tangoio WaterfallTangoio Waterfall

Te Ana Waterfall


The other waterfall in the reserve is a simple horse-tail fall. With the greater flow of water, the falls ended up with more structure however.  

Te Ana WaterfallTe Ana Waterfall

By this stage, my cloths for drying the lenses of rain droplets was getting very wet.  I've used the rocks to produce a stronger foreground.

Te Ana waterfallTe Ana waterfall


Further downstream, the dark forest and damp conditions created a moss-covered world. It was worth some more photos before my drying cloths become so soaked, they couldn't keep the filters dry anymore.

Mossy Stream at Tangoio ReserveMossy Stream at Tangoio ReserveThis stream descends from the Te Ana Falls in the Tangoio Reserve near Napier. With recent heavy rainfall, the stream was fuller than usual. This was taken near a bend in the stream that is naturally dark. This encourages the moss has spread over much of the rocks and banks. Mossy Stream at Tangoio ReserveMossy Stream at Tangoio ReserveThis stream descends from the Te Ana Falls in the Tangoio Reserve near Napier. With recent heavy rainfall, the stream was fuller than usual. This was taken near a bend in the stream that is naturally dark. This encourages the moss has spread over much of the rocks and banks.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) . beautiful hawkes bay explore nz long exposure napier waterfalls nz waterfall photos nz waterfalls sonya7r tangoio reserve tangoio waterfall te ana waterfall waterfall photos Tue, 19 Sep 2017 21:39:11 GMT
What a lot of water: Waipunga Waterfall I stood in the drizzle, watching the large waterfall sending clouds of spray and mist upwards. It has been raining a lot in NZ.  Not only have we had several cyclones dump a lot of water on the North Island, winter has had some decent downpours as well.  This is partly good news for waterfall photography. The hard bit is finding a break in the weather that coincides with some free time.

When the opportunity to visit my parents in the Hawks Bay arose over the weekend however, I grabbed. it.  One of the sights that along the route is Waipunga Waterfall.  This is on the Napier-Taupo highway, and a very convenient stop.  The waterfall drops off the edge of a volcanic plateau created by Taupo eruptions centuries earlier.  Sometimes you can see the Waiarua waterfall as well.  Waipunga Waterfall is probably one of the most photographed waterfalls in the country, and most are taken from the perspective of the lookout. I wasn't going to change that this trip.

The Photographs

It's hard to go wrong with a good close-up of the falls. It also required some patience. For about 10 minutes I stood in light drizzle, hoping that the rain would clear. People drove in to the carpark, took snaps on their phones, and left, while I stood there. Waiting.  When the rain first stopped the sun came out strong. I had to wait for a large cloud to slowly make its way to block the sun.

Waipunga WaterfallWaipunga WaterfallWaipunga waterfall after heavy rainfall. This perspective focuses more on the falls themselves. The pounding waters created a lot of mist and spray in the right-hand side of the image.

Stepping back I got some shots that included more of the river in the foreground.  Usually when I pass these falls, the mist and spray isn't so dominant.

Waipunga WaterfallWaipunga Waterfall

Waipunga WaterfallWaipunga WaterfallWaipunga waterfall after heavy rainfall. This perspective includes more of the river flowing down from the falls. The pounding waters created a lot of mist and spray in the right-hand side of the image.

Finally, I took 4 shots to stitch together a composite. Usually you don't see much of the Waiarau waterfall to the left of these falls. The recent heavy rain changed all that.  By going for 4 stitched shots I got a perspective that a wide-angle lens couldn't. It also makes a nice 68MP image.

Waiarua and Waipunga FallsWaiarua and Waipunga FallsThis is actually a stitched shot of 4 photos, with Waiarua waterfall on the left and Waipunga waterfall on the centre-right. Both falls spill over the edge of a giant volanic plateau, produced by an eruption at Taupo centuries earlier. The abrupt edge of the plateau I thought was interesting.

This plateau has a diameter of 100-130km, and still includes active volcanoes and tectonic activity. I got lucky with the light winds and the sheltered position of the falls.


I have been taking photos of these falls since 2013, and these are the best I've taken. In part it is just a product of the much greater waterflows.  It's created a water dynamic my earlier photos never had.  The other fortuitous part is just the lighting. The weather wasn't too dull and the wind was relatively calm.

All the photos were taken with my Sony a7R and 70-200 f2.8mm G lens.  I was using an Induro carbon-fibre tripod (CT314) and a Lee 3-stop ND grad filter to slow the shutter a bit.


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) explore nz hawkes bay waterfalls landscape long exposure napier waterfalls nz photos nz waterfall photos nz waterfalls scenic sony a7r waipunga waterfall wairau waterfall waterfall photos Tue, 05 Sep 2017 22:59:27 GMT
New Photos added this week Introduction

It was a better week for photography this week.  Work demands slackened briefly at the start of the week. And kid #3 is slowly progressing back to full health.  We haven't got him back to school full-time yet, but given he's been ill and off school for months and months, I'm not complaining.  Also, a big thanks to everyone who has bought a print, or some digital downloads this last year.  It's helped out a lot.

Anyway, I was emboldened to try a waterfall again this week. Not too far in case I had to pick kid up from school early. That made the waterfalls at Omeru appealing. Later in the week was the Winter Solstice for us, so I stopped at a local beach to get some morning shots of the day.  This also coincided with a gale that kept me away from outside photography for the rest of the week. 


The waterfall shots were taken with my a7R, and either a 135mm f2.8 T4.5 STF lens, or a 17-35mm f3.5 G lens.  Clambering around these streams also prompted my wearing of my 'long gumboots'. These are actually rubber leggings from an ex-Army chemical warfare suit. They go up to the mid thigh, so make deep wading possible.  One thing I did discover is they don't have enough traction on muddy river banks. So in the end, there was more sliding and mud than I would have considered optimal (wince).

Waterfall at Omeru Reserve


Waterfall at Omeru ReserveWaterfall at Omeru Reserve

This was taken accidentally with my 135mm lens.  I was going to stand closer and use a 50mm but I'd forgotten to put a Lee adapter ring in the kit bag for the 50mm lens.  By a serendipitous bit of luck, going further down stream to fit in the waterfall, meant the trees on the edges could form a natural frame.

Omeru Waterfall

Omeru WaterfallOmeru Waterfall

Again, I was a little disadvantaged by the lack of a 50mm lens. This was taken using the 35mm end of the 17-35mm wide angle.  I've cropped it to a 24MP size image.

The Shortest Day


The Shortest Day

The sun rising over the Hauraki Gulf, through clouds. Photo taken from the Tor at Waiake Beach. I liked the atompshered of this shot. It took 2 filters to balance the exposure and get the ideal shutter speed.

Incoming Waves

Waves at Waiake Beach

Shutter slowed to capture a sense of wave motion, as the incoming gale churned up the sea in the Gulf.  Rangitito Island is on the horizon.


The gale hits

Waves hitting the rocks of the Tor, at Waiake beach.



[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland photos Hauraki Gulf NZ photos NZ waterfalls New zealand waterfalls Omeru Reserve Omeru Waterfall Torbay Waiake Waiake Beach Winter Solstice seascape waterfall Fri, 23 Jun 2017 04:12:26 GMT
A seascape for the shortest day


It’s the shortest day in NZ today.  We’re also expecting more bad weather.  That augured well for some seascape photos down at one of the local beaches.  Normally the swells on the gulf around the beaches here are sedate. Unimpressive.  A good storm can give them an interesting dynamic.  After dropping kiddo 3 at school, I stopped by at Waiake.


I kept it simple. My tripod. Its geared head. The Sony a7R (because 36MP is a great size for large prints) and a Minolta 17-35mm f3.5 G.  It’s an old Minolta wide angle that I quite like using for landscapes and seascapes.  Plus a minimal set of filters. For today,


One of the earlier shots.  I’m shooting toward the rising, morning sun.  The clouds are thickening in this direction.  I slowed the shutter down to get a sense of motion in the swell. Just one second is enough.

Morning Sunrise

Then its around to the other size to get a view across toward Rangitoto Island. The clouds are not as thick.  I’m trying to guess with a 2 second shutter delay, when I should press the shutter to get the waves at the right point.  There’s a lot of near misses here. But I got one!

The WaveWave stirred up by gale hitting rocks at the Tor, in Torbay

The gale is on its way.


The session has its moments. The wind was very gusty, and I was pleased that the tripod held up to it.  On the other hand, the sea spray quickly coated my glasses. I was in the end, composing without my glasses and relying on focus peaking to focus the shot properly. I lost my bill-cap briefly as well, as a gust tore it off my head. Fortunately it landed in a rock pool instead.  I’m left wondering how much wilder it will be tomorrow.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Rangitoto Island auckland photos explore nz hauraki gulf landscape lee filters nz photos rocks seascape sonyalpha tor torbay waiake bay waiake beach waves Wed, 21 Jun 2017 04:01:55 GMT
Fun with the Sony a7R Earlier this year I acquired a Sony a7R.  For those of you not familiar with it, it's a mirror-less full-frame camera with a 36 MP sensor.


I tend not to buy a lot of new gear.  It's easy to get into that trap with photography (Gear-Acquisition-Syndrome or GAS).  But I've rarely noticed that the latest camera makes up for anyone's weak photographic skills.  The best way to take better photos is to learn how to take better photos.  Nonetheless, sometimes you do notice that you can't get some shots you want with your current gear.  So, my rule of thumb is to upgrade (so to speak) once I find the current camera is just not able to get some of the photos I want.

This has taken a while.  My main camera for a while has been the Sony a900.  While this is a very good, full-frame 24MP DSLR camera, it also came out in 2008. There's been quite a few technological changes since then.

So, what's the advantages of the a7R?

  • It's much smaller and lighter.  I've been doing a lot of international travel and fieldwork in the last few years.  Having a camera that is both smaller, and easily able to fit into my bags is helpful.  The battery can also be charged via a standard micro-USB cable.  This reduces the numbers of chargers I need.
  • It lacks an AA-filter.  Many DSLR cameras come with an anti-moire (or AA) filter over the sensor.  This has the effect of slightly reducing sharpness.  The result is that the a7R produces slightly sharper images.  This is useful for some applications like landscapes or macro photos.
  • It has a 36 MP sensor.  This isn't necessarily a good thing.  The cost of packing more pixels into a sensor is often an increase in 'noise' in the photos.  However, for landscape photography, where I am usually shooting at ISO50-ISO200, it's not a problem.  It also means that prints can be made much larger.  This large print option is a good thing. Noise is actually very well controlled in this sensor as it benefits from Sony's new gapless sensor array.
  • It does video.  I appreciate that most DSLRs do now. But when I got my a900 it didn't.  I still recommend an external microphone.
  • I can operate it with my phone or iPad. Sony has a nice app I can use to operate the camera, using the camera's own WiFi.  When I say operate, that means the screen of my device shows the image.  And I can adjust the camera's setting with the device.  This includes a useful bulb-function.  This is helpful for shots I want to take where I can't stand behind the camera. I really like this feature.
  • It has a dual axis electronic level.  This is helpful for panoramic shots.
  • It has less noise at ISO1600+ than the a900.  Technological advances do help improve images.
  • It has focus-peaking.  This feature kicks in with manual focus, and lets you see what regions of the photos appear in focus (as coloured lines on screen).  Thus for the landscape photography, you can see if the main subjects in your shot are in focus or need some tweaking.
  • It's lens-brand independent.  In this sense it's more like an open-source camera when it comes to lenses.  You can add adapters to it to shoot with almost any rival brand's lenses. Usually camera's lock you into only one system of lenses.

A7R with Minolta MD lens and adapterA7R with Minolta MD lens and adapter

Nonetheless, it has some disadvantages as well.

  • It lacks body stabilisation.  The a900 has the Steady Shot Stabiliser in the body of the camera.  This gives me 2-3 stops of extra leeway when shooting handheld with the a900.  On the other hand, I can shoot at higher ISOs with the a7R than I can with the a900.
  • It shoots at a lower frame rate (frames per second or fps).  It shoots at 1.5 fps compared to 5.  This precludes using it for wildlife, sports or anything involving action.
  • The a900 has a better Auto-Focus system. 
  • The shutter-shock problem.  For the most part I've escaped this by shooting on a 2 second delay, and on tripod.  If shooting hand-held I like to keep the shutter up over 1/100 second, which also seems to avoid the problem. 
  • I've found it harder to shoot nocturnal macro shots with it. The optical view finder of the a900 just seems better in very low light conditions. 
  • It burns through batteries.  The batteries it uses are smaller than the a900. And there's a lot more electronics going on inside the a7R. 


Where the a7R simply excels is with landscapes.  It's my first choice in the camera bag for when I'm intending to take landscape photos.  I've been able to take photos with it, that I couldn't before. 



[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Sony a7R Sony a900 a7R camera a900 camera cameras cameras for landscapes full-frame cameras photography sony alpha which camera Sat, 01 Oct 2016 01:31:43 GMT
Blowing bubbles We were on a family holiday up in the Bay of Islands.  This is a deep area of water, that used to be a giant volcanic crater.  The islands and peninsula are relics of these ancient crater-rims.  It makes for a good harbour for boats, and for marine life.  So obviously we had to try to see some dolphins.


This was my favourite shot of the trip.  The reason is that almost all my other shots are of dolphins swimming alongside us, or riding the bow.  This is one of the few times a dolphin swam towards us.  And despite being underwater, the tip of the nose was as sharp as I would expect for a land shot.  I guess that says something about the water quality.

Bottle-Nose DolphinBottle-Nose DolphinNZ Bottle-nosed dolphin from the Bay of Islands.

Taken with a900 and 70-200mm f2.8 G

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ dolphins NZ photos NZ wildlife bay of islands dolphin dolphin photo Sun, 31 Jul 2016 22:17:48 GMT
Time in amongst the trees It was Sunday. That also meant it was time for an escape.  I packed a light kit of gear and headed up into the Okura Bush Walkway.  By light I meant a MeFoto tripod, a Sony a7R, a Minolta 17-35mm f3.5 G lens and some filters.  I didn't know what to expect. I just wanted to be down in the trees again.

It was possibly a mistake I didn't take a longer telephoto. I was able to watch a pair of male miromiro (NZ tomtits, which paradoxically, aren't tomtits at all) cavorting about the track.  With the grey skies and low tide however, photo opportunities were rare.  I stuck to the trees.

#1 Fallen Log


This log shot also gives a good perspective on how dense NZ native forest can be,  and how little light often reaches the forest floor.


#2 Photukawa

The Pohutakawa is a coastal tree that clings to the margins of beaches and cliffs. It creates a very sprawling and organic shape.


#3 Some Duotones and Black-and-White
With the light conditions, is was also on the look out for shapes and textures that would suit a colour-free approach.



[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ forest NZ trees Okura Okura Bush Walkway Sony a7R new zealand nz photos pohutakawa tree photos Wed, 22 Jun 2016 01:33:06 GMT
Nihotupu Falls I didn't realise we had so many waterfalls around the Auckland area until I started exploring.  Some waterfalls I had been aware of, just because they're relatively well-known.  The Fairy Falls in the Waitakeres is one.  Many others are not so well known.  One of these falls I recently found was Nihotupu. 

This weekend a few things came together to allow a return to these falls.  Light winds, overcast conditions, and I had the time spare.  It was a fotunate convergence of factors.  It's also not a difficult hike to the waterfall.  About 30 minutes even with a bit of gear. The heaviest bit of gear is perversely, the carbon-fibre tripod.  Mostly because I've fitted a very solid, Manfrotto geared-head to it.  I like this tripod-head for two reasons.  First, it gives very precise framing of shots across three axes.  Second, it is very, very stable.  There's no lens-droop or one iota of movement in the camera.  The main disadvantage is that it is a heavy head- much more so than the ball-heads I also own.  

The drive over was lovely. I took the Scenic Drive through the Waitekere Ranges.  Low cloud hung over the range and for most of the tip, I was blanketed in mist.  I hoped it would persist lower down when I got to Nihotupu.  But that was not to be. 

All of the shots below were taken with my Sony a7R, producing images of 36 megapixel, full-frame goodness.


This shot I think, is my favourite of the trip.  The waterfall is conspicuous and the rocks in the foreground give the image increased depth.


With this shot, I've gone for frame-filling goodness.  One of the features that appeals to me of this fall, is the texture of the water as it falls down the rocks.  Sometimes you just get a solid wall of water with this type of waterfall.  Nihotupu however, retains a shape and structure with the underlying rocks.




This shot I've gone slightly wider to place the waterfall in its forest setting.


Further upstream of the waterfall, are other smaller falls.  This is from an earlier expedition.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ photos Nihotupu Falls Nihotupu Waterfall long exposure new zealand scenic sony a7R' waterfall Tue, 22 Mar 2016 08:06:50 GMT
Fallen Log Forest StreamForest Stream

I'd first seen this log over this stream when I was hiking along this track with my son. I returned today with my a7R rather than camera phone. I needed both a circular polariser and an ND grad for this shot. (I'm a keen user of Lee Filters). One of the reasons I've gone for this style is exposure to the art of Ray Harris-Ching. When young I was impressed with the delicate and detailed style he approached NZ subjects.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) long exposure nihotupu waitakere ranges waitakeres waterfall Sat, 19 Mar 2016 08:35:05 GMT
Singing Cicada

I finally had all the gear I wanted to try out my a7r as a macrophotography camera. My theory is that the combination of a 36MP sensor and no AA filter, would let me take sharp shots of a large size. But just having a camera isn't enough. Macrophotography also depends on good lighting. And Sony's E-mount cameras don't have a macro flash. I do have one for the older Minolta AF and Sony alpha ranges. But as the hot-shoe had changed, I needed an adapter. It arrived yesterday. I gave it a try today at lunch-time. It's the end of summer here in NZ and the cicadas are being particularly loud. I found this male singing happily in a bush in garden. The shot is pretty much fresh from the camera. I've cropped the aspect ratio to 1:1, otherwise the insect isn't cropped at all. It's what I saw through the camera.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) cicada macro Tue, 23 Feb 2016 08:28:26 GMT
A trip to Fairy Falls My last two attempts to photograph the Fairy Falls (in the Waitekere Ranges) were thwarted by the weather. On the first occasion, bright sunlight blew out the highlights on the water. On the second occasion, it rained. Yesterday we had rain and bouts of bright sunshine. But the bits in between worked out okay. 

 I have discovered that most waterfalls aren't conveniently located within 100m of the carpark. Having some good hiking gear is still an essential to indulge in this type of photography.  Nonetheless, that moment when you are by yourself, next to these sights- with native birds flitting about or calling- is quite special. It feels good to connect back to nature this way.  And the one thing I like about landscape photography, is you really study what is around you.  You see things, appreciate things, that perhaps a casual walker would miss.

The Fairy Falls are deep in NZ forest, and drops down many steps through the trees. This constrains the perspectives you can produce.  I traveled as light as I could with just two lenses (Minolta 17-35mm f3.5 G, and Minolta 85mm f1.4 G). Camera is still my Sony a900.

The falls have two main parts.  The first shots are from the upper part.

You can see the higher steps of the falls through the trees.

Fairy FallsFairy FallsSONY DSC

Fairy FallsFairy FallsSONY DSC

The Pool - this is one of the main pools the waterfall descends into

Fairy FallsFairy FallsSONY DSC


Looking back up the falls
Fairy FallsFairy FallsSONY DSC

The last part of the falls

This part was the trickiest to take in the end, as I slipped on the rocks, mid stream.  By letting my wrist take the weight of the fall, I protected the camera. Also...ouch


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology Fairy Falls NZ photos new zealand waterfall Wed, 21 Oct 2015 21:36:00 GMT
A pair of dotterrels The NZ dotterrel (or tuturiwhatu) is an endangered shore bird.  Photography has to be done with care.  In this case I was concealed behind a log in the beach, wearing clothes that would blend in to the sand.  This, along with my 300mm f4 lens, allowed me to get quite a nice range of photos.


With this shot, the closer dotterel is walking towards me.  By lying down, I'm at its eye level (and don't look threatening).  Behind it, is another dotterel.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ NZ dotterrel NZ photos bird new zealand photo photos tuturiwhatu Sun, 20 Sep 2015 05:07:24 GMT
Fresh from the Camera: Maraetotara Falls Maraetotara FallsMaraetotara FallsThe Maraetotara Falls are located in a small reserve, south of Havelock North. They have an impressive flow and the deep green of the pool, appealed to me. This is from a series of shots I took of the falls. Photo taken with my a900 and a Sony 70-200/2.8 G lens.

The Maraetotara Falls are located in a small reserve, south of Havelock North. They have an impressive flow and the deep green of the pool, appealed to me. This is from a series of shots I took of the falls.

Photo taken with my a900 and a Sony 70-200/2.8 G lens. I needed the long reach to get from the far margin of the pool to the actual falls.


I was in the Hawkes Bay visiting my parents, and other relatives at the time.  I'd brought along my camera gear in case the opportunity for photos presented itself.  

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Fri, 04 Sep 2015 22:15:07 GMT
Auckland Waterfalls: Omeru It was another quick trip to the Omeru Reserve before work yesterday. There's a couple of good ways to start the work day. One is a strong, fresh cup of espresso coffee. Another is standing by a waterfall in a stream, taking pictures.  With the university study-break I had the chance to go for option 2. And of course, option 1 later on.

Weather conditions were near perfect for waterfall photography. 

Omeru FallsOmeru FallsSONY DSC

Omeru FallsOmeru FallsWaterfall at Omeru Reserve


I also took a close up of just a section of the falls.

Omeru FallsOmeru FallsSONY DSC


I then moved around to the waterfall in an adjacent pool.




[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ Photos NZ waterfalls Omeru Reserve waterfall Thu, 27 Aug 2015 23:06:19 GMT
Forest Stream Goodness There are a good number of local forest reserves around the North Shore.  These are nice to escape into, and for a while, be among native birds, trees and other natural goodness.  So feeling the desire, on Sunday afternoon I went out to visit the Paremoremo Reserve.  It was also a chance to give my Minolta 17-35mm G lens a run. I haven't had it long, but I'm testing it against the option of carrying several prime lenses instead.  

The stream that runs through the reserve shows a lot of variation.  I took a sample of three pics while out on the hike.

Forest Pool



Among the Trees

Among the treesAmong the treesThe Paremoremo Stream winds through native forest in the Paremoremo Reserve. This shot had to be taken on an isolated bank, midstream. This is always an interesting manoeuvre. I'm never entirely settled wading through swollen streams with a lot of camera gear. The scene appealed for two reasons. The small waterfalls in the foreground gave something of interest in the lower part of the image. The frame of native trees in the background provided the second element.

The shot was taken with my Minolta 17-35mm G and my Sony a900.

It flows


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ photos Paremoremo Reserve forest stream waterfall Sun, 23 Aug 2015 22:49:41 GMT
A damp chaffinch SONY DSC

It's been a wet Sunday. Not one of those dramatic rainy days. A day of drizzle, little wind and bland grey skies. I decided to try my hand at using a radio trigger to photograph some garden birds. With camera on tripod and a telephoto lens directed at a branch next to a feeder, I waited. The shots were fired at a distance from a distant location. Not a lot of the shots worked. I got a few. This was one of them. The bird has tiny droplets on its head.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) birds finch sparrow Sat, 25 Jul 2015 05:04:29 GMT
The return to Piha I'm trying to spend more time over the next three days taking photos.  It kind of helps that it is the school holidays.  That makes it a little easier to get to some more remote parts of Auckland. Remote in the sense of being distant from my current location on the North Shore.  No school traffic makes things a bit smoother. 

The weather was mostly overcast, with showers today.  So I decided I'd return to the Piha Regional Park and try getting some more photos of the Kite Kite Falls.  If conditions are too bright, then photographing waterfalls becomes a greater challenge.  Sunlight striking the falls can easily cause burn outs in the final image.  If conditions are too dull, then we won't see the colours I want.  Today looked optimal, albeit I was hoping as I drove over, the clouds would hang around.

The recent heavy rain had already boosted the water flow over the falls, so they looked impressive.  Less idea was the higher water levels.  It was a time for getting my boots wet. The odd rain shower contributed to this as well.  It wasn't just the boots that ended up wet.  Also, it's funny how less agile you become when carrying a bag of lenses, a bag of filters, a tripod and a camera.  

One of the first shots I took was of the falls from the base.  I'm perched atop a large boulder, water flowing around me on all sides.  This ended up being one of my favourite shots from the trip.

I also got a shot of the whole falls from the track that lead to the falls.  It gives some context for the scenery, and also shows how tall the falls are.


Heading back along the track, I looked out for potential stream shots.  A lot of these didn't quite work out, but I did like these two.

Mossy RocksMossy RocksDownstream of the Kitekite Falls in the Waitakere Ranges. This was taken as part of a trip to the Piha Regional Park.

Under fernsUnder fernsWhat appealed to me in this scene, was the lichens on the rocks on the other side of the bank. The green colours of the moss and the ferns were also appealing.
I had to set up the tripod in the stream to get this shot. The stream had many, low steps to reach this point. This shot had a longer exposure than the previous, smoothing the water-flow.

All photos were taken with a Sony a900, and either a 50mm lens or a 28mm lens.  One of the useful gadgets this time was the Lee lehs hood.  This served the additional of keeping errant showers from landing droplets on my lenses also.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland photos Kitekite Falls NZ photos long exposure stream waterfall waterfall photos Wed, 08 Jul 2015 06:40:14 GMT
Inside Canterbury Cathedral I have been quiet of late because of an expedition to England and Austria.  Which from New Zealand is a far distance to fly.  The main event was a symposium at the University of Kent.  This had the advantage of being in Canterbury, so with some time to spare, I visited the Canterbury Cathedral.  

The Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an impressive structure.  The shots taken in the interior were with my Sony a900 and a 20mm prime lens.  This is about as wide as I can go with my current kit, and the relatively small size of the 20mm lens is pretty travel friendly.  But the Cathedral is really  something that does not suit cellphone cameras very well.  The scale of the cathedral is impressive and the history of the place profound.  So, here's a sample of shots from the inside. 








[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Canterbury Cathedral Canterbury photos architecture cathedral photo Mon, 29 Jun 2015 22:29:06 GMT
Monday again It wasn't until Sunday that I got time to get away with the camera.  The youngest kid is still recovering from his concussion, and everyone else had other tasks to do.  I wanted to get outside for a while.  So I opted to try out Long Bay again, as I have some ideas I want to experiments.  Those experiments however, were frustrated by the weather- the intermittent showers and incoming tide weren't ideal.  Nonetheless, it seemed like a good time to use the circular polariser with the other filters.

The first shot was taken at Long Bay with the 20mm lens.  

SONY DSC I've put the rocks in the foreground for interest, and lined up some rocks heading deeper into the gulf.  This was when the weather was at its finest.

I then moved a bit further north to "Granny's Bay".  This small bay has varied rocks and reefs.  

SONY DSC I've used a 6-stop (Lee little stopper) to slow the shutter down and capture some sense of the wave motion flowing around the rocks.

Moving along a bit, the weather started closing in again.

SONY DSC This is probably my favourite of the session. 

Then the last before the rain began. I switched to the 10-stop Big Stopper and dragged the shutter out to  2 minutes.

SONY DSC Enjoy :)


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland Photos Bay Granny's Hauraki Gulf Long NZ photos photo seascape Mon, 08 Jun 2015 00:09:21 GMT
I saw some sun this weekend It hasn't been the most glorious of Queens Birthday weekends in NZ.  The promised wet weather hit. And I had a few deadlines to meet.  Nonetheless, by Monday it was time to get out and try my hand at something.  I ventured down to Waiake Beach, expecting it to be busy. It wasn't. There were a few fishers around the Tor, but the cold wind seemed to reduce their enthusiasm. Most didn't stay for long.

I was able to take a range of shots around the Tor of the gulf.  Here's the two I liked the most.  Both of these were 25 second exposures, with a 28mm lens, a Lee CPL, Little Stopper and ND3 grad (to hold back highlights in the sky).  Other lesson was if you mount the tripod down as low it goes, the vibrations caused by the wind are less of a concern.  The CPL also means I could angle the light to see below the surface of the water.  Rangitoto Island is once again, on the horizon.



[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland photos Hauraki gulf NZ photos Rangitoto Island Torbay Waiake Beach photo seascape' Tue, 02 Jun 2015 01:57:41 GMT
When it rains With the weather news in India and Texas, it's been easy to overlook that a few days ago, the largest storm on earth was hitting NZ. Well, the outer 20% of it anyway.  I've been struggling to get much photography done the last few weeks. One spawn has a concussion. And workloads at work suddenly spiked. In that 'I need to spend every waking moment' on this, kind of spike.

Anyway, by Wednesday I was in need of a break. So I left early, took a short diversion, and visited the Oremu Reserve on the way to work. It's not exactly en route but wasn't going to eat too much into the morning.  I was also hopeful that all the recent bad weather would have increased the waterflow in the streams and waterfalls there.

Another goal was to try out a new piece of kit. I've added a Lee Circular Polariser to the landscape kit.  Polarisers have useful effects on water or forest scenes, that aren't easily duplicated on the computer.  


I had about 30 minutes in the reserve and ended up with four pics I liked. Each are taken with an a900 and Minolta 20mm lens. Enjoy :)

StepsStepsThe Oremu Reserve is located north of Auckland. It contains two waterfalls in native forest. This is the larger of the two falls. I chose to visit after a period of heavy rain, hoping this would boost the flow of water over the falls. This shot is composed to show the water flowing over the steps, down to the pool at the base of the falls. SONY DSC SONY DSC

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ photos Oremu Reserve long exposure new zealand photography waterfall Thu, 28 May 2015 21:54:47 GMT
A short sojourn in Birkenhead I took the youngest to an all days sports event in Birkenhead on Sunday. It wasn't really one of those spectator type events. So I used the time to take some photos around Birkenhead.  This is an area of Auckland's North Shore that faced more the Waitemata Harbour, than the Hauraki Gulf.  It was also a very calm day on the harbour. 

I tried a range of places. One that worked quite well was Kauri Glen Scenic Reserve.  In theory there is a waterfall in this reserve. I think that's a little generous to the term 'waterfall'. More like a stream that at a point, flowed downhill a bit faster than normal.  Nonetheless, there it looked relatively scenic.

Kauri Glen StreamKauri Glen StreamThere are a few areas of native forest, still preserved on the North Shore. I've been exploring these of late. Kauri Glen has a decent enough stream running through it, and at one point it flows over some rocks. The sign says this is a waterfall. It is nicely framed in native vegetation, and by braving some mud and slippery banks, I came away with a couple of shots I liked.

I had to use two filters to balance the light in the foreground and higher in the tree canopy.  The pool had a nice sweep to it.

The beaches around the area were not as photogenic. That was partly the issue of visiting long after dawn and long before dusk.  The last bay I visited ended up giving me a couple of shots I liked.  This was at Island Bay.  The camera and tripod also has a way of attracting the attention of wandering walkers.

There was barely any wave motion on the Harbour, so 30 seconds was enough to blend the water.  I then edited the photo as a toned image, stretching both the shadows and highlights. A little bit of post-rpocessing magic.

West Auckland is at the opposite end of the harbour. 

I picked up the youngest at the end of the day. He was tired. His team was relatively small so that meant a high participation rate in the events. Fortunately dinner plans were well underway by then. Pizza. We're popular. Sometimes its just the right day to pay someone else to cook for you.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland photos Island Bay Kauri Glen waterfall NZ photos Waitemata Harbour forest seascape stream waterfall Sun, 03 May 2015 23:45:05 GMT
Oakley Creek Waterfall One of the kids had arranged a viewing of Marvel's Age of Ultron on Sunday with friends. The cinema chosen was Henderson, which took me close to the Oakley Creek Scenic Reserve.  Auckland, say unlike Fiordland, isn't normally known for its waterfalls.  Nonetheless, there is actually one in Central Auckland at Oakley Creek.   So while the children were being entertained, I tried this waterfall out. 

Most pictures of this fall (on the web) are from the right hand bank, where a grassy area takes you close to the fall.  That didn't create a lot of foreground interest, so I went for the left bank.  This gave me the chance to use the pools along the stream as foreground.  I had to wedge the tripod on a narrow platform on the bank to line up this shot. One tripod leg was actually placed horizontally to wedge the spike into the bank. May I say once again, spiked feet on a tripod are a great invention.  This is also one of my first shots with the Minolta 85mm f1.4 G lens.

For a say, urban waterfall, frequented by people and sometimes their dogs, it is quite appealing.

Oakley Creek WaterfallOakley Creek WaterfallThis is practically the only waterfall that exists in central Auckland. It's within the Oakley Creek Reserve, that runs alongside Great North Road. For a waterfall that is situated within the central Auckland, it is rather scenic.

I had to wedge the tripod on a narrow platform on the bank to line up this shot. One tripod leg was actually placed horizontally to wedge the spike into the bank. This is one of my first shots with the Minolta 85mm f1.4 G lens.

Photo has been edited to remove some of the graffiti carved on the sides of the cliff.


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland photos NZ photos NZ waterfall photos Oakley Creek long exposure waterfall Sun, 26 Apr 2015 23:21:05 GMT
Sunday Seascape A shot from Sunday afternoon. I grabbed the tripod, the camera, some filters and a 20mm lens and went down to a local beach for a time.


A 10 second exposure, taken at low tide at Long Bay.  One the left edge of the horizon is Whangaparoa Peninsula and Tiritiri Matangi Island. 


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland photos Hauraki Gulf Long Bay Long Bay Regional Park NZ photos NZ seascapes long exposure seascape Sun, 19 Apr 2015 22:47:00 GMT
April Foolishness: Pic 6 On Day 6 (Monday) I hit Waiake Beach to see what I can find. 

It's on the Tor that I finally get the shot I like. The only problem is I neglected the tide, and had to wade through the sea back to the beach. Soaked boots and lower legs. Not a smart move. SONY DSC

My second idea was to convert the pic into a duotone image.  This also appealed to me, it seemed to have a mood about it that the colour version lacked.

Rocky PerchRocky PerchThis picture is taken at the Tor, at Waiake Beach. Rangitoto Island is on the horizon. I've timed the shot so that the last of the day light is still falling on the rocks. I didn't time the photo so well for the incoming tide. There was a bit of wading through the current to reach the beach safely.

The shot has been converted to this duotone style. The image is first made into a black and white, then the shadows and highlights tinted different tones.

The outtake of the session was one of my first shots, from the other end of the beach.



[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland photos Hauraki Gulf NZ landscapes NZ photos long exposure seascape Tue, 07 Apr 2015 00:25:33 GMT
April Foolishness: Pics 3-5 More progress on the challenge.  All shots are taken with a 20mm wide-angle lens.  





Along the  coastAlong the coastSONY DSC



[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ photos landscapes scenic seascapes Sun, 05 Apr 2015 19:55:37 GMT
April Foolishness: Pic 2 SONY DSC


This is a scene from Lucas Creek, in Albany, Auckland.  It's a few minutes from where I work, so I made a diversion on the way to work to stop here.  I've used an ND3 grad to reduce the brightness of the sky in the top of the scene.  A Lee Big Stopper was used to slow the exposure.  

I did apply a light vignette to the edges to draw more attention to the waterfall.  In this case, the 20mm lens wasn't optimal for the scene.  It gives a very wide perspective, and I couldn't get closer to the waterfall.  I'd have preferred to make the waterfall a larger element of the photo.


Nonetheless, the challenge is to shoot this month with just one prime lens. 


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Albany Auckland photos Lucas Creek Lucas Creek photo NZ photos waterfall Sat, 04 Apr 2015 08:41:00 GMT
April Foolishness: Pic 1 This month I'm participating in a photographic challenge.  The goal is to use just one prime lens. I've picked the Minolta 20mm f2.8 RS.  It is a good, wide angle lens.  I've set myself the target of five photos every week.  This does mean most of the photos are likely to be local scenes. I'm not planning on anymore trips this month.  

The first shot was a short diversion after the 'school run', to Waiake.  

"The Tor"

The TorThe TorAn autumn morning on the Hauraki Gulf. Both the tor at Waiake and Rangitoto Island are in view.

Waiake is one of the beaches in Torbay, which is part of the Hauraki Gulf.  The actual tor, from which Torbay derives its name, is to the right of the picture.  Rangitoto Island is on the horizon.  This is also a 60 second exposure.  I employed the Lee Big Stopper to smooth out the water motion.  Not that there was much.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland photos Hauraki Gulf NZ photos Photo Torbay Waiake seascape Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:36:34 GMT
Inside the Forbidden City The day we visited the Forbidden City, there was a large crowd of visitors.  For some reason most of their interest was in the various palaces, so while tourists were densely packed together, they were concentrated in a few places.  This gave me the chance to get some shots of the neglected parts of the Forbidden City.

There is doubtlessly, millions of photos already taken by tourists and accomplished photographers of the Forbidden City.  Camera phones were in constant use around me.  I opted for compositions I thought that would suit a 'vintage' type treatment in editing.  So here's a selection of four pics, which I hope, depart from the 'typical' tourist snapshot.  Also, well, the postcard type professional shot is hard to pull off when there are crowds of people and the air pollution is pressing. 

A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Beijing China photos Forbidden City architecture history sculptures statues Mon, 30 Mar 2015 21:46:40 GMT
A busy day in the Forbidden City A CWP Photo

(Click for larger version)

After arriving in Beijing on Monday, I decided to be a tourist for a bit. The weather, well, by Beijing standards, was pretty spectacular.  A colleague had opted to give the Forbidden Palace a whirl, and I was willing to try it too.  While I'd been on two previous occasions, I had a hankering for a good walk outside also.  Being cooped up in a plane, or taxi, or airport, for hours on end is a bit aggravating.


This time I'd packed the Nex-5 camera over an SLR.  It's light, its compact, and it fits the tourist persona well.  It also has a useful panoramic function I hoped would be valuable.  The shot above is taken in panoramic mode.  It's just one part of the Forbidden Palace.  I know the tourist post-card shots show the Forbidden Place typically with a blue sky, but, I suspect that is photoshopped in later. Beijing has some nice days.  Clear blue skies are pretty rare though.  I've never seen one...


As you can see, the site wasn't just popular with us.  A lot of Chinese locals were also visiting.  What I hope is that this view gives some sense of the immense scale of the palace.






[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Beijing China City Forbidden architecture history photo photos Tue, 24 Mar 2015 09:20:43 GMT
Blue BlueBlueA CWP Photo

This is a 5 minute (300 second) exposure of the Hauraki Gulf.  The sun had already set so light conditions were already dim.  I dragged the exposure out to 5 minutes by using a 6-stop ND filter.  The only light hue left was this blue shade.


A light vignette has also been employed in the final edit to accentuate the central, lighter zone.  You can see Rangitoto Island right on the horizon.  I'm perched on the rocks, just above the surging waves.  

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) long exposure Hauraki Gulf Auckland photo NZ photos seascape waves Tue, 24 Mar 2015 08:53:56 GMT
Sitting on a rock Monday evening.  I'm sitting on a rock and watching the swell advance towards me.  I'm trying to time the shots manually now.  The exercise is being frustrated by the ebbing light.  Light readings at the start of the shot don't last the 5 to 10 minutes I need.

At least it's quiet.  For a time, I can just sit, watch the waves (sometimes anxiously). It's a moment where you just sit and appreciate the view. While glancing at the stop watch.  Waiting.   Hoping I've got the exposure time right.

The lack of light also drains the scene of colours.  This is why I opt for a black and white conversion.  I'm hoping I can get four or five good shots (or keepers) before I run out of light.  I ended up with two. Both were taken with the Sony a900 and the Minolta 20mm f2.8 RS.  I'd brought along 4 lenses but in the end, the 20mm turned out to be ideal.  


Both shots below were 300 seconds long, from slightly different perspectives.  I avoided boosting the exposure too high to keep the late in the day feel.

Hauraki A view of the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland, with Rangitoto Island in the distance. This shot was taken in the early evening, after sunset. The exposure was 300 seconds.

Above the rocksA view of the Hauraki Gulf, with Rangitoto Island in the distance. This was an early evening shot (after sunset) and took 300 seconds.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland photos Hauraki Gulf NZ photos Rangitoto Island long exposure photo sea seascape Mon, 16 Mar 2015 20:20:24 GMT
The Pam Effect The news this weekend has really been about two things.  The Cricket World Cup and Tropical Cyclone Pam.  Of these, only one had any effect on photography.  After devastating Vanuatu, Pam heading south, heading to New Zealand.  By this morning the wind had picked up, and swells on the normal tranquil Hauraki Gulf had risen.  Having already cleared gutters, secured outdoor furniture and removed bird feeders from trees, it was time to try some photography.  The trick was to get the shots I wanted before Pam arrived in force.  That will be later tonight.  While its full force should track east of the country, it is large enough to do damage elsewhere.

Not being a complete idiot, I decided it was best to get some photos of the unusual swell before the rain and stronger winds arrived.  The kit was a just 3 lenses, the Lee filters, the Induros tripod and the Sony a900 camera.  At the very least, it would test the Induros tripod's ability to provide a stable platform under inimical conditions.  


All shots are from Granny's Bay, in the Long Bay Regional Park in the very north of Auckland.  

#1 The Swell (a900, 50/2.8mm)

A CWP Photo

#2 Pouring Waves (a900, 20mm f2.8)

A CWP Photo

#3 Turbulent Swells (a900, 20mm f2.8)

A CWP Photo

#4 Incoming (a900, 20mm f2.8)

A CWP Photo

#5 Raging Swell (a variant of the shot above, on a longer exposure- a900 with 20mm f2.8)

A CWP Photo

#6 The Gulf - a two tone conversion of a 25 second exposure, achieved with the Lee 10-stop 'Big Stopper'.

A CWP Photo

Feet got very wet- there were enough waves coming in hard and fast that my position would get soaked.  The tripod though remained stable throughout (got to love those spiked feet and good design).  


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland photos Granny's Bay Hauraki Gulf Long Bay Regional Park New Zealand landscapes beach long exposure seascape surf Sun, 15 Mar 2015 04:08:49 GMT
Up the creek I was staring at the computer monitor.  The words for my book chapter I am writing were not flowing.  Outside, the cicadas were going at it full tilt, serenading their mates with a raucous din.  On the desk was a notepad, listing some local reserves I had planned to visit.  That was the last bit of motivation I needed.  It was time to throw together the camera kit and get outside for a few hours.

I ended up at the Paremoremo Scenic Reserve.  Oddly, despite being within 10km of where I live, I hadn't been before.  Paremoremo is also the site of a large prison.  That part of the area is not very scenic. The weather was humid. Light showers were about.  Fortunately finding the reserve was easy.  I was the only one there.  I guess everyone else was watching the cricket.

The track into the bush surprised me.  There was rather more fallen trees to climb over than I expected.  It didn't look like the track got a lot of regular use.  There seemed to be a lot more clambering and crawling than I anticipated. The creek however, gave me the chance to try out some shots.  I wasn't optimistic.  At the end of summer most creeks and waterfalls have less water flowing through them.  And summer tends to produce harsher light than I like.  My main intent really was to just get outside and to scout out for scenes I could photograph later- when conditions were better. 

Anyway, I ended up with three shots I liked.

The first used a 20mm lens to create an unusual perspective- and to also capture the ferns being reflected in the pool above this rivulet.  Also spiked tripod feet are much better for this type of work.

A CWP Photo

The second I cropped into a panoramic view.  I used my 50mm macro for this.  I think it will be good to return when there is more water flowing and I can stitch together a proper panorama.

A CWP Photo

The third I used the Minolta 35-105mm- it fell short of what I was aiming to capture.  I think it needs a higher volume of water flowing down the steps, and I need to find a different perspective.

A CWP Photo

So in the end, the scenery was better than I'd anticipated. And I finished the trip with the requisite sore muscles, sweat and wet feet and legs.  A success :)



[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ stream photos NZ waterfall photos NZ waterfalls Paremoremo Reserve long exposure waterfall Sun, 22 Feb 2015 21:25:41 GMT
Omeru Reserve I've been taking an interest in the waterfalls around the Auckland area.  One of the reasons is obvious. They're a lot easier to get to than say, waterfalls in South Island when you live in Auckland.  Also, it is kind of relaxing way to take photographs. The scenery is great. You take your time. Unlike birds or wildlife, the waterfall isn't going anywhere. The fleeting moments of time you might get for a bird or insect, doesn't operate as a constraint here.  I think another reason is I'm running out of ideas for photos of the Hauraki Gulf.  So the waterfalls give me a chance to try something new, and immerse myself in the native forests.

The latest falls I've explored are in the Omeru Reserve, up near Kaukapakapa.  There's actually two main falls, but my best shots only came from the curtain one.  The other trick here is to be very patient.  In order to prevent too many highlight blow-outs in the water, I tried to time the shots for when cloud moved over the sun.  You can't hurry that up.  What I've discovered is I get see a lot of eels this way.  If you are standing still and quiet for minutes at a time, eels feel free to frolic, slither and swim about.  I think I've seen more eels in the wild this way than any oher casual approach.

If you're interested, the gear here was a Sony a900 FF camera, either the Sony 70-200/2.8G lens or the Minolta 28/2.0.  I had an Induro CT314 carbon-fibre tripod, and a Manfrotto geared-head. Expsoures were slowed with a Lee 'Little-Stopper' (6-stops).

#1 My favourite in the end- might try a slightly higher vantage point next time.  Taken with the 28/2.0 A CWP Photo

#2 A shot that uses the steps of the scene.   A CWP Photo

#3 Composed with using the foreground rocks as a stronger element A CWP Photo

One thing I might add is that it would have been smarter to have screwed in the tripod leg-spikes for this trip.  The rubber feet were a little impractical on wet, slippery rocks. 

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Long Exposure NZ waterfalls Omeru Reserve photo waterfall photos Tue, 10 Feb 2015 23:24:10 GMT
Lakes in Hangzhou In late January I was back in China.  It was a short trip. It was for a workshop on ivory demand in Hangzhou.  On the plus side, the workshop was in Hangzhou, based in a hotel close to the West Lake.  On the minus, well, it was winter. There was rain. And I was only there for three days.  Most of that time was consumed with meetings.  Photography options would be very limited.

I did venture out early in the morning a couple of times.  By early I mean before breakfast time. Which also meant that most of the local Chinese were staying indoors where it was warm and dry. Fortunately I'd the right outdoor gear packed with me.  So I got to play the role of crazy NZ tourist and get photos at a time when few others were about.  In short, I was able to get photos of landscapes in a major China city and not have people in the shot. Avoiding people in the scene is not easy to achieve there.

The other advantage to China is it is relatively safe to carry camera gear openly.  This trip was short so I travelled light. I packed my old a700, the ever reliable Carl-Zeiss 16-80mm f3.5-4.5 and a 50mm f/1.4. I also grabbed some Lee Filters (the 6-stop Little Stopper) and a small Manfrotto travel tripod.  The scene was the West Lake in Hangzhou and this had smaller lakes and canals connecting to it.  With it being winter and near freezing, I had the chance to use the early morning mist in the shots too.

The other surprising feature were local cats.  These looked plump enough to be foraging food off the local visitors.  But were deeply unhappy at near zero temperatures and light rain.  I know this, because they were very keen to tell me about their unhappiness when I got close.  

I'm including three photos. I really couldn't get a lot taken with the very short time frame.  Hope you like them.  All were taken with the Lee Little Stopper to take the shutter speed down to 20-30 seconds.  


A Misty Morning

Early morning mistEarly morning mistA CWP Photo


One the Lake

Misty MorningMisty MorningA CWP Photo


A Frozen Moment

A Moment Frozen in TimeA Moment Frozen in TimeA CWP Photo

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) China photos Hangzhou Lake photos Long Exposure West Lake lakes mist water Tue, 03 Feb 2015 01:22:05 GMT
By the waterhole The site at Ol Pejeta was by a waterhole.  A ditch and fence blocked (in theory) access between us and the animals.  The appeal of the waterhole to the local wildlife though, was obvious.  It was a little harder to get shots this time round because there was no way to get closer to the animals.  As a result, most of these shots are cropped to a degree.  If there was one piece of kit I really missed, it was the monopod.  I think my keeper rate was hampered by trying to handhold the camera (a900) and lens (300/4 with 1.4x TC).  That's about 2.5kg.  

Fortunately most of the time I had free to take some wildlife pics, was early in the morning or very late afternoon.  We were in the workshop for the rest of the time (i.e. the hottest part of the day).  So when I had time to take pics there was usually more animals around.  

One common animal that visited the water hole were the impala deer.  The first picture below is of several female impala with some zebras in the background.  Click a picture to be taken to its original gallery.

A CWP Photo

The zebras also appreciated the water hole.

A CWP Photo

What the trip was all about- elephants.  An elephant and her calf make the early evening trip to visit the waterhole.  These were much warier of people.

A CWP Photo

The next two pictures are of the Marabou stork.  This is possibly the ugliest bird I've seen.  It is a scavenger and for that reason, has lost its head and neck feathers (like vultures).  That also explains the dried, crusty bits on top of its head.  Still, it was a lot less wary of people than the elephants.

A CWP Photo A CWP Photo

Where there are large grazing animals, there are flies.

A CWP Photo

Warthogs were also common visitors to the waterhole.

A CWP Photo

They didn't mind sharing the water with the zebras.

A CWP Photo


So overall the area was quite diverse.  There were a lot more birds about than I expected, and oddly, less insects and reptiles.  If I had known what was about, I would've bargained hard for an extra day there.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Kenya Kenyan wildlife Ol Pejeta elephant impala marabou stork photo warthog wildlife photos zebra Tue, 06 Jan 2015 23:20:03 GMT
On the Savannah 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

Zebra and foalClick image to be taken to gallery

The ItchClick to be taken to gallery

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.

The LookClick to be taken to gallery

The TankClick to be taken to gallery

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

WaryClick to be taken to gallery

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

A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

On the other hand the water bucks were more into posing

A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

The lions were also determined to ignore us

A CWP Photo

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.

A CWP Photo

The white-bellied bustards however, were more cooperative.

A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

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.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Kenya Ol Pejeta Oryx conservation photo rhino secretary bird water buck white-bellied bustard wildlife zebra Sun, 28 Dec 2014 23:11:03 GMT
A short stay in Kenya The World Bank is pressing forward with a study on reducing the illegal trade in ivory.  Part of that process involved getting feedback from a number of experts in the field.  As most of these experts are based in East or Southern Africa, Kenya was chosen for the meeting point.  I though, am based in New Zealand.  That meant I had to do a lot more traveling than most.  Adding in the wait times at airports and the queuing, it took about 34 hours to get to Nairobi.  

First up, the new Airbus A380. Very nice.  For those of us destined to travel economy class, the marginally larger seat space is a welcome boon. I also discovered that noise-cancelling earplugs under noise-cancelling headphones to be very efficient.  Given my mission was to sleep as much as possible, this worked out nicely. 

The Dubai-Nairobi leg of the trip though was in an ancient Airbus 330.  My seat was right up against the toilet wall.  This meant not only could I not recline by the slightest smidgeon, the sound of flushing behind me was a regular interruption.  Also I was prevented from stretching my legs under the seat in front of me. There was a raised object on the floor level attached to the wall.  Also, during the flight, the passenger's seat in front of me malfunctioned and was stuck in a partially reclined position.  The flight was also full. The cramped seating became even more cramped. I adopted a contortionist position for the next 5 hours. My opinion of Emirates was revised...

The arrival terminal at Nairobi burnt down a while ago, so they use a modified car-park building instead.  A nurse frantically tried to measure everyone's temperature as they came through, to check for Ebola.  I think she had about a 50% success rate.  I dutifully filled out the 2-3 forms I needed to enter Kenya. I couldn't find anyone in customs who wanted them though, so once I'd got my visa, I was through. I ended up bringing all the forms back with me to NZ.  This is a bit of a change from China.  Kenya is also keen to get awarded one of the forthcoming summer Olympics.  I think they might need to lift the rigour of their border-protection.

My theory that there is a rough correlation between a nation's GDP and the speed with which the baggage appears, received another data point.  My checked-in bag appeared at a glacial pace.  There were a lot of worried faces hanging around the carousel.  And then it was off to the Hotel.  The shower went on for quite some time.  What was very cool though, was that this hotel bordered a national park.  So you could drink cold beer and watch birds and other animals in comfort.

Next leg was a flight to Nanyuki and the Ol Pejata conservancy for the workshop.  One of the advantages of the astonishing jet-lag was the ability to wake up before the sunrise.  In fact, hours before the sunrise.  So as part of the trip, I got a couple of shots of Mount Kenya I quite liked.  I'm just going to lead in with these.  On the 11th, there was a period of about 5-10 minutes before the sun appeared over the horizon, when the light was playing with the clouds in the sky.  

I'd taken a travel tripod for the trip.  It weighs a mere 800g and is of low value in strong winds, but here, it worked perfectly.

#1 Mount Kenya, a900 with Minolta 28/2.0

Mount KenyaClick image to be taken to gallery

#2 Mount Kenya with Ibis in waterhole, a900 with Minolta 100/2.8

Ibis by Mount KenyaClick image to be taken to gallery

Both pics have been uploaded to my "It's a beautiful world" album

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology Kenya Mount Kenya elephant poaching ivory trade sunrise Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:25:19 GMT
Terns for Tuesday The balancing act of research, family and blogging has taken a bit of a hit on the blogging side.  Nonetheless, on the research side I'll be heading to Kenya in mid-December for some ivory-related business.

These pictures are a series I took at Aramoana.  It was part of the trip to the University of Otago to present a seminar on the illegal trade in ivory.  The next day we did a bit of an exploration.  Fortunately the weather was decent also.  This is not guaranteed in Dunedin.  Nonetheless, at Aramoana on the coast the wind was so strong the terns were grounded.  In fact, they all lined up directly to face the wind. These were all shots I took with my a900 and 70-200/2.8 lens.

#1 Terns in a row

#2 Talk Talk


#3 Welcome to the wind tunnel

#4 Meet the gang

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ bird photos NZ tern bird photos white-fronted tern Tue, 18 Nov 2014 01:22:52 GMT
Water everywhere 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

WaipungaWaipungaThis shot is of the Waipunga Falls, situated on the Napier-Taupo highway. Click to go to gallery

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

EnchantedEnchantedTaken in the Tangoio Scenic Reserve. Click to go to gallery

#3 Secret world  SerenitySerenityTaken in the Tangoio Scenic Reserve. Click to go to gallery

#4 The Pool The PoolClick to go to gallery


Green AvenueClick to go to gallery





[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Hawkes Bay photos NZ waterfall New Zealand photos Tangoio Reserve Waipunga Falls long exposure photos photo river stream Sat, 08 Nov 2014 03:50:10 GMT
At the beach On Friday I decided to take a side excursion to Waiake Beach on the way to work.  The weather wasn't picture perfect, but I wanted to take some photos before hitting the office.  These were very low angle shots, using Rangitoto Island in the background.  I wanted to try some ideas out with the tripod and filters, so these are long exposure shots.  

It also turns out that setting up a tripod at the edge of the sea is a powerful lure for curious dogs.  Deterring their interest is also part of the mix.  I didn't have time to get many shots in the bag, but finished with these three.  All were 10 second exposures.


A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

HaurakiHaurakiA CWP Photo

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ photo Rangitoto Island Waiake new zealand photo Sun, 02 Nov 2014 01:19:13 GMT
On the Otago Peninsula 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.

A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Kapukataumahaka Mount Cargill New Zealand landscape Otago Peninsula landscape photo Sun, 26 Oct 2014 04:44:44 GMT
Six Red Tulips It was yet another wet weekend in Auckland.  This is not inimical to the type of photography I like to do.  Which usually involves being outside but not being rained upon.  Sunday morning however, was an early start.  The youngest was attending a commemoration parade at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.  It was the anniversary of the Battle of Britain victory in World War Two.  

With one child safely deposited into the safe hands of the NZ Air Force, I had some time free to practice some flower photography.  All shots taken here with my a900 and a Minolta 100/2.8 macro lens.  This series is all of red tulips.

A CWP Photo


A CWP Photo


A CWP Photo


A CWP Photo


A CWP Photo


A CWP Photo

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) flower photo photos red tulip tulips Sun, 14 Sep 2014 05:39:06 GMT
Inside an ivory-carving factory As part of the ongoing investigations of the ivory markets in China we have been visiting carving factories.  We're slowly getting through them.  Of late we have also been interviewing every carver about their output, experience and when they started their employment.  

This series of photos all came from Beijing ICF.  Just before the 1990 CITES ban, this factory employed 800 people, of which 650 were carvers.  Prior to the 2008 CITES decision to allow a one-off sale of ivory to China (and Japan) the factory was down to 8 carvers.  This factory so far is unusual because the carvers do nearly all the work.  In other factories the carvers just carve the pieces, while specialised polishers finish the piece by, well, polishing it.

As is typical of many legal factories the output is with larger pieces.  Most carvers do not produce small generic items like chopsticks or necklaces.  New carvers were added in 2009 and none since.  As the pictures show, a factory is not a large establishment.  Production while aided with power tools now, is still artisanal.  Pieces will often take months to complete.  

#1 Interior - this scene is taken from some stairs, and captures all but two of the workstations.  The number of workstations provides a check to the number of carvers employed.

A CWP Photo

#2 Senior Carver- large tusks are the exclusive preserve of very experienced carvers.  If you make a mistake carving ivory, you cannot rub it out and start all over.  The ink-code on the tusk indicates it is from Namibia and 9.65kg.

A CWP Photo

#3 Carver - carvers often specialise and stick to a narrow range of subjects. 

A CWP Photo

#4 Desk- this gives a view of the equipment used.  

A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

This carver has made a clay figure first before starting on his piece.

A CWP Photo

Attention to detail

A CWP Photo

Production is still artisanal, but some modern comforts are still employed

A CWP Photo

A view of some of the equipment used

A CWP Photo

It can get dusty.  Worked pieces will generate a lot of dust in the production process

A CWP Photo

Concentration and patience are necessary skills

A CWP Photo

Good lighting is also a prerequisite to making quality carvings

A CWP Photo

Faces are reputedly difficult to get exactly right.  Some carvers will specialise in one gender and can baulk at attempting the opposite

A CWP Photo

Another senior carver.  There were four of these in the factory.  Most had started their careers in the 1970s.

A CWP Photo

The detail work applied to large tusks can take a long time to complete.  Some tusks take a year to finish.

A CWP Photo

One of the carvers was on maternity leave

A CWP Photo



Close up of the Namibian tusk.  There is much left to be done.

A CWP Photo

Close up of the equipment.  Carving in fact, requires a lot of drilling

A CWP Photo




[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Beijing ICF CITES China elephant ivory ivory carving ivory factory Wed, 03 Sep 2014 08:34:00 GMT
Trees on Saturday Yesterday gave me the chance for another short, photographic expedition.  Earlier the day had got bogged down in domestic stuff. With an unexpected distraction as one of the offspring decided to start vomiting.  

By the late afternoon, I saw I had a chance, and tossed my camera gear together quickly.  That was the first mistake. I left behind the mounting plate for the tripod (oops, no long exposures).  And also no spare batteries. 

I'm aiming to develop some of my tree photography.  I think the issue is, that copying the tree photos of the northern hemisphere isn't going to work. Our trees are more subtropical and less temperate.  The forests here are also quite dark when you're under the tree canopy.

Nonetheless, there's a certain organic and free-form nature to some of our trees I thought would make a good subject.  I started with some puriri trees. 

A CWP Photo

A CWP Photo

The it was down to one of the local beaches- Granny's Bay.  There's a Pohutakawa tree I photograph from time to time. Originally, I had hoped to mix it up with some ND filters to soften the sea, but without a tripod, well, I had to get creative another way.  So in this case, I saw something I hoped would suit a black-and-white conversion.  It was a matter of using the setting sun to the left. I thought this was one of the more successful shots of the trip.

A CWP Photo

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) NZ photography NZ tree photos pohutakawa tree puriri tree Sun, 10 Aug 2014 01:07:15 GMT
Looking for spiders Winter isn't the optimal time to be looking for creepy-crawlies in New Zealand.  Even though expectations were low, I still wanted to try fine-tuning my nocturnal photography macro-rig.  The problem seems to be finding some way to mount the small video light I have, along the central axis of the macro lens.  This time I used rubber bands to attach it to the front of my flash.  It worked, sort of.  The video light is necessary to locate the spider and focus in on its eyes.  For some reason, the light doesn't bother them much.

I spurned the local snail population- and the curious neighbourhood cats- in favour of something more creepy-crawly.  Fortunately a male Cambridgea foliata obliged.  For these shots I'm under the spider, looking up at it.  

A CWP Photo Fortunately they're a relatively large species.  For the second shot I adjusted the lighting from the flashes, and tried to get a close up of the carapace.

A CWP Photo

Sadly no more attempts were possible.  I knocked one of the myriad of warning threads these spiders have in the dark, and it dashed for safety.  



[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology NZ spider macro photo spider photo Sun, 03 Aug 2014 01:07:51 GMT
Photography with Kodak Ektar 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

A CWP Photo


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

A CWP Photo

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
A CWP Photo

#4 Nikau Palms

A CWP Photo

And finally

#5 Fern Spin

A CWP Photo

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.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology ektar film kodak photo photography Fri, 11 Jul 2014 02:34:29 GMT
A winter visit to Waterfall Gully 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.

A CWP Photo

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

A CWP Photo

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

A CWP Photo 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.

A CWP Photo

And just a stream pic to finish the hike off

A CWP Photo

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology NZ waterfall Shakespear Regional Park landscape new zealand photo waterfall Sun, 29 Jun 2014 06:00:57 GMT
Elephant poaching in decline Ahead of the Standing Committee CITES meeting in July, a number of documents have been circulated.  One is SC65-42-01 .  This is the report on the status of elephants, poaching levels and illegal trade.

One of the monitoring mechanism for African Elephants is PIKE.  This uses several indicator-sites through African range states to estimate the poaching rates of elephants.  Elephant populations have an intrinsic growth rate of around 5%.  hence, in general terms, this means if poaching rates are below 5% then this is sustainable.  Elephant populations will still increase (assuming habitat isn’t lost).  This doesn’t mean that the increase will be uniform.  One of the pressing issues with elephant poaching is that it is unsustainable in some regions.  For most of the last two decades however, the increases in Southern and Eastern African range states have exceeded the losses in Central and Northern African range states.

The latest PIKE data shows that the estimated poaching rates peaked in 2011.  They have actually been in decline since then.  They have not dropped below unsustainable levels as yet, but the track is encouraging.  I’ve added Figure 2 from the report below.


The vertical axis is the poaching rate, with the 5% line shown in red.  The 95% confidence intervals are shown at the top of each bar, in the bar graph.  This shows that the decline seems to have set in.

I think there are some grounds for optimism.  The first is that over 40 tons of raw ivory were intercepted in 2013.  That has to hurt the bad guys.  That is a sizable chunk of their trade that they have lost.  A business model where you are bleeding millions of dollars of stock to law enforcement has got to be causing pain.  So there may be a reduction in traffic as the bad guys try to work what to do next.

The second is, I think the evidence supports a stockpiling explanation for the poaching increase.  It is a mistake to think of ivory as primarily a consumption-good.  It is an investment good.  The bad guys have been stocking up big, probably because a lot is on offer from Central African range states and the means to get it out (low shipping costs) have coincided.  The thing is, this won’t continue indefinitely.  If there’s an optimal size for this stockpile (for economic reasons) then once the bad guys have got it, they won’t want to keep adding at the same rate.  If you’re sitting on a pile of tusks that could last you maybe 15-20 years, adding more to go to 25, or 30, is starting to look costly (and risky).  Their appetite for ivory one hopes, should be sated.

It’s going to be premature to bring out the champagne glasses just yet, but we may yet dodge the dire predictions.


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) CITES Elephant Environment and Ecology economics of wildlife trade elephant poaching ivory Tue, 24 Jun 2014 14:57:19 GMT
It's been raining It still is. But I needed to photograph something this weekend.  I've been head down, working on a lot of research projects of late, and the time to get out and decompress has been hard to find.

Fortunately, one of the things that thrives in wet conditions, is fungi.  So between showers on Sunday  went out and tried my hand at it.  The gear is the a900, a Minolta 100/2.8mm macro lens, and the Sony twin-macro flash.  The flash has these convenient extending arms.  These allow for more precise placement of the light.  With the wet, reflective surfaces of the fungi I also went with the flash diffuers to soften the light.

It's a subject I'm dabbling with, and here are some of the fungi you can see in the NZ bush at the moment.



A CWP Photo


A CWP Photo

"Like Rubber"

A CWP Photo

"Natural Vase"

A CWP Photo

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology alpha fungi macro mushrooms sony Sun, 22 Jun 2014 21:32:02 GMT
Photography fun The weather on the long weekend was rather glorious, and my daughter wanted to take some photos around the Auckland Museum.  So off we went on Sunday morning.  It was a good few hours. While photography is often a solitary affair, just wandering around, chatting and taking pictures is quite rewarding.  Well, that it was my daughter probably helped.  She quite enjoyed using the a700. 

Anyway, the sun shone, the sky was clear and blue, and the slight chill made for good shots.  Crossing the harbour bridge brought up one of those vistas of the Auckland harbour and skyline that never fails to impress. 

While most of my pictures were taken with my Dynax 7 (a film camera, so no pics to show yet), I wanted to take some shots that would suit an 'antique' post-processing style.  So this is about trying to imagine what the shots would look like after they're transformed.

I found two scenes that worked for me

#1 Urn in a Pond

A CWP Photo

#2 Withered Vines

A CWP Photo

The last is an older shot from Okarito. 

#3 Weathered Boat Shed

A CWP Photo

This is part of the charm of digital photography I think.  The scope for creativity is improving.  And by that, I don't mean just slapping some filters on a snapshot, but taking pictures of scenes that are designed to be transformed beforehand.  The ease and speed is much improved over film.  Despite that, finding a good composition remains the same challenge as always.


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland Museum Environment and Ecology photography Wed, 04 Jun 2014 23:30:23 GMT
Monday night spiders 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. 

A CWP Photo

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.

A CWP Photo

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. 

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology Minolta NZ spiders macro nurseryweb spider photo sheetweb spider spider spider photos Mon, 19 May 2014 22:28:53 GMT
Back to Pohuehue It seems I've had too many 'blue days' of late, so I opted to take another break up north again.  There were some scenes I wanted to take pictures of again, and some other areas I wanted to scout out.

I haven't quite figured out what to do with my filters and my 20mm lens, as this vignettes once I add them on.  So it was down to the 28/2.0, my 70-200/2.8 G and my macro bag (lens, flash etc).  It was a good way to get a break.

As I'd already been to the Pohuehue Falls once, there were some new things I wanted to try this time round.

#1- From the front


#2 From the side.  This is two exposures I had to merge in the end, to get both the bright area of the falls and the dark area of the vegetation visible.


# 3 Rocky


Then there was a side trip to Mahurangi.  

#4 Sullivans Bay


#5 Farming at Mahurangi


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland waterfalls Environment and Ecology NZ waterfall photos Pohuehue Falls waterfall photos Sat, 17 May 2014 05:13:52 GMT
Going feral for the day 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.

Pohuehue FallsPohuehue FallsThe Pohuehue Falls- located between Orewa and Warkworth

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.


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology NZ landscapes NZ waterfall Pohuehue Falls Pohuehue Reserve photo Thu, 08 May 2014 21:06:26 GMT
ANZAC Day 2014 at Browns Bay 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


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) ANZAC Day Environment and Ecology new zealand photo Fri, 25 Apr 2014 00:46:19 GMT
Tiger time in the Sping Thaw 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.






[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology conservation photo tiger Wed, 23 Apr 2014 21:40:49 GMT
Ivory Crimes: Supply or Demand Shock? One of the unsettled issues with the surge in elephant poaching seen after 2008/9 is explaining why it took off. The scale represents a break from the past.  It seems inexplicable in terms of what we understood the drivers of poaching were.  These were basically either affluence in consumer markets (like Asia) or poor governance in African countries.  Neither of these changed dramatically in the 2008/9 period.

One popular theory advanced by some NGOs and conservationists is that there has been a massive demand shock. It’s claimed demand for ivory has exploded in China after CITES approved the 2008 shipment of stockpiled ivory from 4 African countries to China and Japan.  This explanation has a number of problems.  The first is it’s hard to reconcile it with other events in this era like the Global Financial Crisis.

The second problem is that it doesn’t fit the actual picture of illegal activity we have. Using the data collated from the ETIS we can see that the illegal activity in worked ivory pieces is pretty stable.  The harsh truth that while most seizures are of very small items of ivory, these seizures add up to a small total.  If there had been a demand shock, we’d see the worked ivory following the same trend as the raw.

raw vs worked

The second problem with the demand shock explanation is that these ivory items are simply not for sale. Contrary to what some NGOs may want you to believe, buying illegal ivory hasn’t become a national past-time in China. People aren’t joining queues to buy ivory. One thing we did in our last expedition was just eyeball the ID-cards for ivory-pieces for sale in registered retail stores.  They’re still carrying stocks that are several years old. We used locals to see how easy it was to find certain ivory pieces for sale legally and illegally.  The old chopsticks some small antique dealer may have under his counter, doesn’t actually add up to a lot of ivory.  This is a point that has already been made by the CITES Secretariat.  The numbers we’re getting out of China from a diverse group of organisations is just too low to reconcile with a demand explosion.

The other possibility is what we see with this rapid increase in poaching and raw ivory smuggling, is a supply shock.  There are two important events that have occurred since 2008/9.  The first is that Central Africa has got a lot less stable. One casualty of bitter civil conflicts is elephants. Spending on national parks and wildlife protection collapses, whilst money-hungry armed-groups try to cash in with poaching. That’s one supply-factor that has changed.

The second is that shipping costs after the GFC collapsed. Sending raw ivory from Africa to consumer markets for stockpiling got a lot cheaper. We’re not talking about say a 10 or 20% drop in costs. We’re looking costs that have fallen to less than a third what the used to be.  Nearly all of the illegal activity in the graph above, comes from seizures of raw ivory in shipping containers.

These are major and important events that are inconsistent with the demand-shock explanation. Civil war in Africa isn’t going to an increase in demand in China. Neither is cheaper shipping costs. What we seem to have is a significant supply-shock that criminal organisations are taking advantage of to store more raw ivory in final markets- like Asia.  We’re not seeing it for sale in the streets because it’s being stored and it’s likely not in their interests to be dumping lots of ivory into consumer markets.

One final piece of evidence is the time it takes to make a carving.  Raw ivory hits a production bottle-neck because turning ivory into a carving is a slow process.  Production is basically artisanal.  One thing we explored in China in various factories was production time.  To illustrate, the figure below, roughly 1 kg, would take an experienced carver about 2 months to complete, and an inexperienced carver 4 or 5 months. The throughput of raw ivory into carvings is not a rapid process.

A CWP Photo




[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology elephant ivory elephants ivory trade poaching smuggling wildlife smuggling Tue, 22 Apr 2014 06:46:19 GMT
Urban Grit 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 SONY DSC

#3 Road Sign

#4- Impromptu Rubbish Bin


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Beijing Environment and Ecology industrial photo urban grit Wed, 16 Apr 2014 02:10:22 GMT
Unsafe for everyone Fine particulates less than 2.5 micrometers across are recognised as hazardous to human populations.  The particles are so fine they cannot be easily expelled from the lungs. When the index value of these reaches between 300 to 500 then its is considered unsafe for everyone.  Below about 150 its unsafe for sensitive groups.  I took these shots one afternoon in Beijing when the rating was 400.

These pics show the effect of this pollution. You're not seeing mist or cloud here. That's fine particulates and emissions.

"Lost Skyline"

"Above the Road"

Shooting into the sun is usually not recommended. But I wanted a shot to show how much light the pollution was absorbing. And to emphasise the scene wasn't a product of shooting later in the evening.


The colloquial term for the coughing that's endemic in Beijing is the "Beijing Ke"- literally, the Beijing cough.  It's often cured by leaving Beijing.

"Situation normal" - this just seemed poignant at the time.

I'm glad to be back in NZ. I only lasted an hour out there.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Being China pollution Environment and Ecology fine particulates pollution pollution" Sun, 30 Mar 2014 20:01:37 GMT
Summer Singers The cicadas have been particularly vocal this month.  This has been helped by the numbers of them.  The local population has exploded.  Oddly, the neighbour's cat had decided they're good to hunt.  Also to eat- the crunchy sounds of a cicada succumbing to the jaws of a domestic cat are interesting.  

I've got a couple of shots of the 'green' species kihikihi wawa Amphipsalta zealandica here.

1. "The Singer" - the wings are blurred as it vibrates the sound.

The SingerThe SingerA CWP Photo

2. "The Embrace" - the female is clinging to the grass stalk, while the male is err, clinging to the female :)

The EmbraceThe EmbraceA CWP Photo


Both shots are from my "Small beasties" album.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology NZ insects NZ photos cicada insect macro Sun, 23 Feb 2014 07:32:00 GMT
Ivory News: Some Snippets Some snippets of news on the illegal trade in ivory from around the world.

  • The USA has been contemplating a ban (or moratorium) on the domestic sale of ivory items.  This would mean even antiques and other pre-ban items could no longer be sold.  This now looks almost certain.  I’d expect an announcement soon.
  • From the South China Morning Post, an Op-Ed written by Daniel Stiles and myself, arguing that the recent ivory crushes are a gamble that could play into the hands of the criminal organisations stocking ivory.
  • Following recent destruction, anecdotal evidence that ivory prices have risen, reported in the Telegraph.
  • Operation Cobra II was concluded in coordination with African, Asian and North American law enforcment agencies.  In the haul was 36 rhino horns and 3000kg of ivory.  There have been 400 arrests of people in Asia and Africa.



[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Elephant Environment and Ecology elephant poaching ivory ivory destruction ivory smuggling ivory trade Tue, 11 Feb 2014 11:55:36 GMT
Fresh from the camera: Kereru New Zealand has two native pigeons, and  the kereru is the species found on the main islands.  It is a large bird, found in native forest, and for these reasons seems to be a ponderous flier.  It is also an important seed-disperser.  It consumes many native berries that are later deposited elsewhere.  Sadly it's also considered threatened as populations are in decline.

The main challenges to photographing keruru is they like living up in the tree canopy.  If your goal is to take lots of photos of pigeon-backsides, as you look upwards into the branches, you'll be very happy.  To get photos of the bird acting naturally means finding a way to get both close and high. 

I managed that this weekend, finding a position that got me right next to the ripe fruit of a cabbage-tree (or Cordyline).  There's a few shots to go through, and the canopy issue still means having to shot at a low shutter speed, but I got a few keepers.  These shots were taken with a 300mm prime, and I've been close enough not to need to crop. Enjoy :)





[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology NZ bird photos NZ wood pigeon", "kereru" bird bird photo Mon, 10 Feb 2014 23:05:04 GMT
Good weather not required- a visit to Te Puia 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

Wild NZ: Hot PoolWild NZ: Hot PoolThermal hot pool at Te Puia, Rotorua

Steam wreathed streamSteam wreathed streamStream in the Te Puia thermal area, Rotorua.

The final shot I thought merited a black-and-white conversion.  This is also in my "Colour Free" album.

WitheringWitheringShrubs in the Te Puia thermal area, Rotorua.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology NZ Photo Rotorua Te Puia photo thermal area Fri, 07 Feb 2014 02:23:55 GMT
Time on the beach 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:



The Long WalkThe Long WalkEndnagered NZ dotterel at Okura

ConcentrationConcentrationThe endangered NZ dotterel or tūturiwhatu at Okura. This small shore bird has declined to about 1700 birds in scattered populations. Many of these fragments are found around the beaches of Northland. The bird does not cope with disturbances to its nests, which are simple camouflaged scrapes.

It is rare to be able to get close to these birds, and in this case, I had a point of concealment behind a large log on the beach.


BeachcomberBeachcomberThe endangered NZ dotterel or tūturiwhatu at Okura. This small shore bird has declined to about 1700 birds in scattered populations. Many of these fragments are found around the beaches of Northland. The bird does not cope with disturbances to its nests, which are simple camouflaged scrapes.

Mature males have distinct rust-coloured breast feathers in the breeding season.


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology NZ dotterel bird bird photo conservation photo Tue, 21 Jan 2014 21:12:57 GMT
Small hitchhikers 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.





[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology arachnid false scorpion macro macro photo phoresy photo pseudoscorpion Mon, 02 Dec 2013 21:25:24 GMT
In the ruins 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.


"The Ruin"

The RuinThe RuinThe remains of the Coppermine Engine House (built 1854) on Kawau Island.

"To the Ruin"

To the RuinTo the RuinSONY DSC

The next pic is from the Denniston Mine on the West Coast of NZ.



Mountain MineMountain MineOn the edge of the Denniston Plateau.

This coal mine used to have a settlement of workers on the top, and nearly all transport up and down the mountain was done via a steeply graded rail track. People and supplies were brought up, coal went down. It was closed in 1969.

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


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Denniston mine Environment and Ecology Kawau Island NZ history NZ photo photo ruin scenic photo Sun, 24 Nov 2013 20:13:36 GMT
In the summer A few summers back we visited Waiheke Island. This was the classic NZ holiday, a rustic campground (no power) with days of sunshine. It's got a lot to recommend it.  It's also nice to get the chance to put in some time photographing different subjects. It's hard during the standard working week to squeeze in much time with the camera.  There are a lot of other things that take priority.

The first shot is a skyline of Auckland from Waiheke Island around dusk.  I've had to use a 300mm lens to focus on the city.  It's actually a bit of a way off.  That early evening however, had a lot of appeal. It's a distinctive shot of a scene I've not seen replicated in years.

#1 Red Auckland
Red AucklandRed AucklandThis picture was taken from Waiheke Island, looking towards central Auckland. I've used a long telephoto to draw attention to the skyline. The tallest feature is the sky tower.

The shot is taken after sunset in Summer. This contributes to the red hue of the sky.

The next shot is of one of those gorgeous little bays on Waiheke Island.  We spent a lot of time kayaking or swimming there.  

#2 Summer

SummerSummerSONY DSC

The next shot has a kind of texture I felt suited a back and white treatment.  It's a coastal Manuka tree that's suffered a bit of exposure of the years.  

WitheredWitheredA coastal Manuka tree on Waiheke Island.

All shots are also in my 'Natural Goodness' album.

Hope you enjoyed the scenes :)

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Auckland photo Environment and Ecology NZ photos Waiheke Island landscapes new zealand scenic Sun, 17 Nov 2013 02:17:47 GMT
An NZ maelstrom 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.

The SpinThe SpinHuka Falls in rainy conditions.

SoakedSoakedHuka Falls near Taupo on a rainy afternoon.

Both shots are in the photo album "Natural Goodness"






[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology Huka Falls NZ scenery NZ waterfall new zealand photo waterfall Wed, 13 Nov 2013 20:49:24 GMT
Sated- Female Sparrow 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.

SatedSatedFemale sparrow taking a rest from an early evening meal

Close-up of the bird

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology bird new zealand photo sparrow Mon, 04 Nov 2013 22:09:53 GMT
Wild NZ One of the great things about New Zealand is we're not starved for good landscape scenes.  On the other hand the weather isn't always cooperative.  In fact, the thing about being on an Oceanic Island is that the weather can change a lot.  Sometimes I can choose when to go out and photograph.  Sometimes you don't get any choice.

A case in point was our expedition to the West Coast last summer.  I envisaged lovely summer weather, sunshine and glorious pictures of the Fox Glacier and the like.  Instead it rained, a lot.  We got hit with floods in Golden Bay. We seemed to be under a near constant rain cloud that whole trip. Ok, it wasn't that bad, there were definitely good moments.  But overall, the visions were not being served.

Fox Glacier was pretty poor weather.  My goal of pristine shots of massive walls of ice were instantly thwarted.  Nonetheless, there's a way to make the experience more genuine.   Try to use the gray skies, rains and cloud to convey a different impression of the area. Hence these shots of the area.


Wild NZ - Fox Glacier

Wild NZWild NZFox Glacier

Wild NZ - Twisted Rock

Twisted RockTwisted RockRock cliffs ground smooth by the passage of ice

Wild NZ - Spilled Rock

Spilled RockSpilled RockA waterfall along the valley floor of Fox Glacier

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology fox glacier landscape new zealand Mon, 28 Oct 2013 00:20:40 GMT
Feeding Time: NZ tauhou or silvereyes 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.
Link to Album
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Ecology Environment Panorama and bird photo silvereye tauhou Wed, 02 Oct 2013 20:15:00 GMT
Traveling for the Itinerant Conservationist & Photographer Traveling is one of those things you can end up doing a lot of as a conservationist. Generally I seem to spend a fair bit of time in the Asia-Pacific region.  There are a few things that are useful to be aware of.


A sharp knife for instance, can be very useful in all sorts of places. Once certain parasites reach a suitable size under your skin, it's straightforward to dig them out with a sharp knife (and oh, it feels good too).


If you intend to risk being arrested by the local army, then it's wise to remain calm & polite. Having your camera loaded up with photos of wildlife will mean you will look less like a Western Spy. Bottles of whisky are still a suitable gift or bribe in many jurisdictions.


A suspicious looking photo

Mobile Radar UnitThis is the sort of thing that increases suspicion

Road is a much more elastic term in many developing countries. It can merely mean a boggy surface lined by jungle. In which case, the purpose of your vehicle is to hold your bags while you get out and push the vehicle through the mud. Road can also be a very temporary phenomena. In a good rain, the road will be washing away faster than your rate of progress. This gets even more exciting when you're driving over mountains.


If you need to sleep somewhere rural, try to find a hut with lots of geckos. Shake out your bedding first to evict any cockroaches. Then with luck, the geckos will take out all the cockroaches before they make it back to the safety of your bed.


A shotgun in your land-cruiser can be a useful negotiating tool with local bandits. Be aware however, that bullets holes in your land-cruiser are often a hindrance to driving in remote locations.


Try to learn enough of the local language to avoid inadvertently agreeing to marry any villager's daughters. Four very useful phrases to know in any language are "hello", "thank you", "goodbye" and "I'd like a beer". Try not to get ill. Local medicines may be unpalatable and worse than your actual disease.


Local Medicines

_DSC9956Local MedicinesCopyright 2013

While some camouflage attire is often comfortable in tropical areas and can be an aid to wildlife photography, it can also make local rebels nervous. Eschew the paramilitary look.


If you are going to work in conflict areas, try to find regions where the insurrectionists have poor bomb-making skills.  This way the bombs are less likely to go off. Also, there's an important difference between a short haircut and a military-looking one. It is only funny being confused with the bomb-disposal guy weeks after the event.


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Tue, 01 Oct 2013 22:24:12 GMT
NZ Forest Stream 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.  
UpstreamUpstreamLooking upstream along the Mokoroa
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.
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Ecology Environment Mokora and photo stream Sat, 28 Sep 2013 00:59:31 GMT
The largest pigeon in the world The NZ kereru is a (threatened) but extant pigeon.  It is the only native pigeon species in NZ and is also the largest.  This leads it to have an odd flight path, where its downward action seems to risk it crashing into the ground. 
These shot are of a kereru perched in a native tree in some forest close to us.  The trick really is to see if it will sit partly exposed in sunlight to capture the sheen of its neck and head feathers.
At the moment, they're also making a mess of our deck with the discarded seeds of berries they're consuming :)
KereruKereruA CWP Photo
The PerchThe PerchThe threatened NZ native wood pigeon, or kereru, is one of the largest, extant pigeons in the world. It is our only native pigeon species and sadly, is considered threatened.

It is a challenge to get the sheen on the 'neck and head' feathers right as you need sunlight to strike the body. For a bird that lives in tree canopies this rarely occurs.

The trick here was to be at the same elevation as the bird for this shot when it was perched in full sun.
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology bird kereru photo wood pigeon Tue, 24 Sep 2013 09:06:31 GMT
Breaking the Rules Photography composition often used a number of rules or guidelines to improve a composition.  These include the placement of elements (via the rule of thirds) or the use of leading lines, or foreground interest to give the feeling of depth.  
Sometimes it's fun to try to break these rules and see what happens.  This is a long exposure shot (30 seconds) taken down at Waiake after sunset.  The shot is towards Rangitoto Island and the exposed rocks  create some depth to the photo.  There's still enough light to pick up details in the scene and the water is calm and still enough to create a simplistic composition.
"Purple" PurplePurpleA rule-breaking shot of Rangitoto Island on the Hauraki Gulf at dusk. The still water and setting light created a slightly ethereal effect I wanted to capture.
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Ecology Environment and exposure gulf hauraki island long photo rangitoto seascape Sun, 22 Sep 2013 06:06:27 GMT
Feathered Rainbow- a lorikeet picture While I appreciate I've been quiet for a bit, I have also been busy.  So I'm returning with this photo of a Rainbow Lorikeet.  These are a small parrot, native to Australia, often found in large numbers. One of the challenges is actually getting a picture of just one of them :)
I've taken this shot more as a portrait and then adjusted the background to a solid black.  This brings up the colours of the feathers.
Feathered RainbowFeathered RainbowPortrait of the Australian Orange-collared Lorikeet. This specie sis closely related to the rainbow lorikeet. I've converted the background to black to accentuate the colours.
Link to Album
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Australia Ecology Environment and bird lorikeet parrot photo Fri, 20 Sep 2013 08:10:19 GMT
A high-key pic
I decided that lighting was too poor to get a highly detailed pic of one of the birds. Nonetheless, there atmosphere (and hey, effort of carrying the camera gear on a decent hike) suggested a different tack. I selected these three godwits sheltering from the wind, and went for a high-key composition.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology photo bird high-key okura godwit Sat, 07 Sep 2013 01:16:40 GMT
Xishuangbanna: The Butterfly Edition
Next time... never forget the macro

First pic is of one of the local caterpillars. These abounded in many trees in the region of the 'Elephant Vale'. It's also where we saw one of the biggest 'dick' moves by a Chinese tourist. H e wandered right up to one of these insects, and then scorched it with his cigarette for fun. Bastard.

#1 Caterpillar

The diversity of butterflies was impressive







#8 - From the Elephant Vale Butterfly House

#9 - From the Elephant Vale Butterfly House
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) china Yunnan Xishuangbanna Environment and Ecology butterfly travel insect macro Mon, 12 Aug 2013 17:55:40 GMT
The Large Animal Xishuangbanna Edition
Nonetheless, there were some elephants in a recovery centre that we were able to visit. We also got the chance to see some of the local reptile life.

The elephants here had been recaptured off drug smugglers, who were using them to move drugs across the border into China. Elephants have the advantage of not using roads a lot, and not generally being bothered for passports and identity cards.

Melancholic Elephant


Big Lizard!

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) china elephant Xishuangbanna Environment and Ecology Fri, 09 Aug 2013 18:37:19 GMT
The Xishuangbanna Edition: Black and whites
These are the pics I got:

Farm Building - near Mohang

Farm Building - near Mohang

Farm Equipment- Mohang Market

Border Post at Laos-China Border (Mohang)

Dai Village wall

On the road to Mohang
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) travel Environment and Ecology china photo black-and-white Yunnan Xishuangbanna Fri, 09 Aug 2013 16:38:13 GMT
A quick look at Xishuangbanna
Just thought I'd share some pics I took of the reserve area. More will come later :)

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) china travel insects Xishuangbanna Environment and Ecology Fri, 02 Aug 2013 16:28:40 GMT
More pics from Monday And we have three more photos from the hike along the Mokora Stream near Muriwai. As with all of these pics, an essential tool is the tripod. Generally speaking, the terms 'light' and 'stable' don't belong together. If a tripod is going to remain solid and unmoving in a stream bed or high winds, it needs to be well, heavy. I also use a geared head on it, which allows for very precise movements. It's also a pretty solid bit of gear. But the point is, the combination will remain unmoving for minutes at a time. There will be no wavering or trembles. The tricky part is, well, you do have to carry it.

# Long Long Exposure

#2 Stream Bed

#3 Up Stream

For more photos please visit
|Zenfolio Albums|

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology Mokoroa photo stream waterfall Wed, 10 Jul 2013 17:16:10 GMT
Going feral again Well students are turning up next week for the new semester. This motivated an escape back up to the Mokoroa Stream near Muriwai for some more photography. Things were going well until my filter holder on the lens broke. This limited what I could do with filter effects.

Essentials remain a solid and stable tripod, a cable release for some of the pics (which took 2-5 minutes for some exposures) and a willingness to get your boots wet and muddy :)

Here's three pics from the day (so far).

#1 Mossy Stream

#2 Rock Pool

#3 Steps

For more photos please visit
|Zenfolio Albums|

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology Mokoroa photo stream waterfall Mon, 08 Jul 2013 02:02:13 GMT
Native Crab Spider
Crab spiders are not web builders, but ambush predators. The lack of web means there's often less clues as to their presence.
The local species around here is Sidymella angulata. These shots were taken with my macro lens and the Raynox 6x microscope adapter. (And a card behind the spider)

One advantage to being an ambush predator, is that they stay pretty still for photos :)

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) spider crab spider raynox macro Environment and Ecology Sidymella angulata Wed, 26 Jun 2013 14:42:59 GMT
What do you find in herb gardens?
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Reptile photo skink lizard Environment and Ecology Fri, 21 Jun 2013 19:44:00 GMT
Back to tigers? Waiting on the paper work
I think one of the problems with wildlife poaching is that its traditionally been seen as a conservation (i.e. biology) problem. One of the key things we need to grasp is that black markets for wildlife also have a strong economic dimension. People aren't poaching tigers and leopards because they're bad people. They're not doing it because they're misinformed. They're doing it because crime pays. Wildlife poaching is an economic activity that is profitable to its participants.

Sundarban Tiger - Source: Shutterstock

Poachers hunt animals because it works for them. They may have particular skill sets and knowledge that makes them adept at hunting. And the risks aren't off-putting. The frequency with which big-cat poachers get caught and prosecuted isn't high. Likewise smugglers are doing it for similar reasons. They're adept at transporting contraband over big distances and international borders.

So, we do need to understand how these criminal organisation operate at the economic level. How is they source their products, locate their customers and organise its distribution? What are the risk-reducing strategies they adopt? What is it that is driving the demand for tiger parts and the like? There are a lot of suggestions that seem reasonable, that also don't withstand a lot of scrutiny. It's been suggested that rich Chinese businessmen are the main customers for tiger skins. Well, with perhaps 300 tigers a year being poached, we can be pretty certain that the vast majority of rich businessmen aren't buying tiger skins. As a trait of the average consumer of tiger parts, this needs a lot of refinement.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) tiger smuggling economics black market poaching Environment and Ecology Tue, 18 Jun 2013 16:45:22 GMT
The long long exposure
One requirement is that you have a very steady tripod. The camera has to sit still for many seconds at a time. Not a breeze or vibration should affect it. The other dilemma I found, was that the camera meter couldn't calculate the exposure with the lack of light. So I had to work it out manually. Next tie, I'm bringing my light-meter.

Anyway, it's not a fantastic shot. I got rained on twice waiting for it to be clear enough to get the shot at Long Bay. But it shows what you can do with a very slow shutter speed (30 seconds)

It's the stream running into the sea down the beach by MERC. I've tried to compose the pic with three large stones mid-flow.

For more photos please visit
|Zenfolio Albums| or |Committed Photography|]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) photo scenic Environment and Ecology Tue, 11 Jun 2013 17:56:21 GMT
While winter here means flowering plants are thin on the ground, the Kniphofia (red hot poker plant) is flowering. It's also popular with the silver-eyes (tauhou). This time round, it was the rain-drops hanging on the flowers that appealed.

These shots were taken with a 90mm macro and a 6x Raynox microscope adapter to "fill the frame"

For more photos please visit
|Zenfolio Albums| or |Committed Photography|]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) macro Environment and Ecology flower raindrops Sun, 09 Jun 2013 00:36:08 GMT
Going feral in the weekend
The last hike was back into Okura. I figured that the actual rain would keep a lot of people away and I knew the secluded beach had a small population of NZ dotterels (tuturiwhatu). This small shore bird is actually endangered. So, it is kind of a special place to visit. Last weekend I had watched them with my son, from the edge of the beach with binoculars. This time around, I thought I'd try for some photos.

I guessed right with the rain keeping people away. So it was just a matter of hiking through the forest to reach the beach. Along the ridge lines the forest thinned out into manuka and tanekaha trees.

Down at the beach it was close to high tide. This means the shore birds were close enough to photograph, with sufficient patience. The trick so often is to try to shoot at their eye level. That means getting down low- or lying flat on damp sand. The bonus is you look a lot less threatening to the birds.

To start with, there's a couple of dotterel photos. The first is my favourite and required very little cropping.

The mature males are in their breeding colours

The beach also has a thriving population of oyster catchers

While the land contiguous to the beach had a lot of chaffinches...

and even the odd kingfisher

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) oyster-catcher dotterel kingfisher conservation chaffinch Environment and Ecology endangered species bird tuturiwhatu Sun, 19 May 2013 15:42:56 GMT
Bird photo for Friday
This is the time of the year when we get the local groups of tauhou (silver-eyes) visiting. These small birds like the 'high octane' diet of nectar and fruit.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) waxeye photo bird photo Environment and Ecology new zealand tauhou bird silvereye Thu, 09 May 2013 15:35:00 GMT
Not just for the birds- Archaeopteryx common descent. Common descent meant that every species today, descended from different species in the past. Many of the species today would also share the same common ancestor.

Darwin did not have much in the way of evidence to support this. The Origin of The Species did not employ fossil evidence to demonstrate evolution because in 1859, there wasn't a lot of fossil evidence of any kind. Likewise, Darwin did not have the molecular evidence we have today.

This made the discovery of Archeopteryx in Germany, in Late Jurassic rocks, suddenly important. This 1861 discovery, soon after the publication of the Origin, provided fossil vindication of what Darwin had deduced. Here was a species that was a genuine mosaic of avian and non-avian (theropod) traits. Birds aren't found throughout the geological column- there are none in the Permian or the Triassic. They don't appear until the Jurassic. Their ancestor had to be non-avian. This fossil confirmed that.

What set Archeopteryx apart from many earlier transitional fossils (Caudipteryx, Anchiornis) was that it was capable of basic flight. With its laterally facing shoulder joint and split propulsion lift wing, with asymmetric feathers, basic flight was now possible. The hallux (the 4th digit) also appears reversed which would give a basic perching function [1].

Nonetheless, the long bony tail of Archeopteryx, the simple shape of its sternum, the fact it still had bony jaws with teeth, all showed its transitional status [1]. Without a keel on the sternum, the flight muscles would be limited in size. Likewise, the long bony tail (the species lacked the pygostyle of modern birds) would also have compromised flying ability.


[1] Sereno, P.C. (1999) The Evolution of Dinosaurs, Science 284:5423, pp2137-2147]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) fossil bird evolution Science Archaeopteryx Archeopteryx Dawrin Wed, 01 May 2013 18:18:23 GMT
Can the surge in elephant killing be stopped?
At the policy level, the conflict remains one of whether a strict international ban on the trade in tusks will succeed, or whether a regulated trade will work instead. The skepticism about the international ban approach (which dates back to the 1989 CITE meeting) stems from several factors. These include the failure of the ban and accompanying education campaigns to reduce demand in foreign markets (which are to be honest, not exclusively Asian).

Source: Stock.Xchng
To move the debate on a bit, I'd like to reproduce an argument Michael Eustace made in a letter to the Business Day

DEAR SIR, The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species banned trade in ivory in 1989 but that has not stopped elephant poaching. There are many different estimates as to how many elephant are poached each year but 20,000 would seem a reasonable assumption. Most of the ivory of about 200 tons is sold to Chinese buyers with criminals making all the profit. The wildlife donor agencies persist in promoting increased law enforcement and changing the Chinese mindset as being the solution but neither is working as is evidenced by the ongoing poaching. Law enforcement in a corrupt society is ineffective and changing the Chinese mindset has been tried over many years and proved futile. China wants ivory and Africa has ivory. Both would prefer a legal trade rather than a criminal trade. Africa can sell the ivory that is gathered from natural deaths to China so as to satisfy some of the demand. There are about 500,000 elephant in Africa and some 10,000 die each year of natural causes. They leave 100 tons of ivory. That ivory could be sold by a broker, with a monopoly over all legal supplies of ivory, to a Chinese cartel of ivory carvers who could then sell to licensed retailers. That would establish a clear legal pipeline and China, as part of the deal, could undertake to close down the illegal trade and also confiscate stocks from speculators. With the price of ivory having risen strongly in recent years, speculation is likely to have been a significant part of overall demand. Some poaching will continue but it will be a lot less and a legal trade will save the lives of at least 10,000 elephants every year. In addition there would be $100 million in profits each year for Africa’s parks rather than international criminals.

This neatly encapsulates some of the frustration some conservationists have with the ban. It is the bans failure that motivates the rethink of the strategy. The basic weakness as I see it, is the ban was implemented to frustrate the illegal market of the 1980s. Expecting it to still work in the 2000s depends on the black-market not having changed- that the criminal conspiracies have not worked out means to circumvent it. The problem is the black market has changed. It is no longer hidden within the legal market. It operates with independent smuggling and sale into an underground market (at least, within China the unregistered factories and shops serve this function).

There is also a lot of elephants in Southern and Eastern Africa. That's where the 500,000 mentioned above comes from.

Source:; Author: Riccardo Pravettoni, GRID-Arendal
We are in a position where natural deaths could supply a lot of demand in China. To put things into perspective, the one-off sale in 2008 to China of ivory, was an export of 62 tonnes- which they are eeking out by releasing 4-5 tonnes a year. As the letter above notes, we can actually supply a lot more than that, every year.

At the moment, the Chinese legal trade is really, just too small-scale to be impacting on the illegal trade. If we are serious about reducing poaching then this trade will have to increase in volume to crowd out the illegal market.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) ivory conservation smuggling CITES poaching Environment and Ecology wildlife elephants Tue, 23 Apr 2013 18:37:25 GMT
Film is still alive!
It also means you can't do a lot of photo-editing later on a digital image. If you want to use some filter effects, you have to add them as you're shooting with a physical filter. I took a 3-stop ND filter and a circular-polariser with me. Also, a tripod was also essential given the low ISO rating of the film and the lack of stabilisation on my camera body (or lenses).

In this roll, I pulled the film speed down to ISO-64 to eek out a bit more motion blur.

My picks were

#1 The Pumphouse Tower (Takapuna)

1/60 sec, 70mm @f4, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Tokina 28-70/2.8mm

#2 Pumphouse Amphitheatre Seating

1/2 sec, 45mm @f8, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Tokina 28-70/2.8mm

#3 Lichen

1 sec, 70mm @f8, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Tokina 28-70/2.8mm

#4 Waipunga Falls

1 sec, 130mm @f16, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Sony 70-200/2.8 G

#5 Waipunga Falls (again)

1 sec, 180mm @f16, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Sony 70-200/2.8 G

#6 Downstream

2 sec, 35mm @f16, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Tokina 28-70/2.8mm

#7 Eskdale Church- Window

1/6 sec, 70mm @f8, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Tokina 28-70/2.8mm

#8 Eskdale Church

1/15 sec, 50mm @f8, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Tokina 28-70/2.8mm

Crossing the Napier-Taupo highway involves crossing a mountain range. At this point I was above clouds trapped between two major ridges. the effect with the morning sun was startling.

#9 Above the clouds A

1/200 sec, 70mm @f8, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Tokina 28-70/2.8mm

#10 Amongst the clouds

1/250 sec, 45mm @f8, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Tokina 28-70/2.8mm

#11 Above the clouds B

1/200 sec, 50mm @f8, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Tokina 28-70/2.8mm

#12 Lake Karapiro

1/60 sec, 70mm @f4, Dynax 7, ISO-64, Kodak Portra 160VC, Tokina 28-70/2.8mm]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology minolta photography cloud waterfall Kodal portra film Thu, 11 Apr 2013 15:16:14 GMT
How to write a news report on Wildlife Poaching
1) Always support the trade-ban. Trade bans are always the right thing to do. They are a brilliant conservation strategy that creates much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the actual black-markets. Removing legal competition, inflating prices and creating a niche for organised crime always discourages poaching. Because everyone knows that bloating the profits of crime syndicates through a ban, is the last thing these guys want. Rhinos have been subject to an international trade-ban since 1977. Don't question its effectiveness. Making criminals rich has got to deter poaching eventually.

2) Tantalise and shock the reader. Everyone needs to be told that wildlife is poached for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). And TCM is only ever used for one thing of course- aphrodisiacs. Readers love being told this stuff. On no account should you actually tell the readers that wildlife is poached for a myriad of reasons and it is almost always, has nothing to do with aphrodisiacs.

3) Call for more law enforcement. Obviously nobody has since say, 1977 for rhinos, ever thought of this before. The shoot-to-kill policy adopted towards some poachers in African states is just us being soft towards poaching. What we need to do is 'more'. Whatever that means.

4) Call for more education. Anti-consumption 'education' campaigns have been running in many Asian countries since the 1990s. We're not entirely sure where the consumers are or what their motives are, so broach-brush approaches are being used. Because nothing kills off demand faster than the constant reminder to people that the wildlife products have medicinal properties in their culture.

5) Make proposals to reduce value of the wildlife. For example, dehorning rhinos was started in the late 1980s as a way to discourage poachers. With barely any horn left, poachers would have little desire to hunt the rhinos. We've been waiting for this to work for two decades of course.

6) Mock anyone who expresses doubt. The trade-ban is the corner-stone of a brilliant conservation strategy. The collapse of rhino numbers due to poaching, the extinction of the Western Black subspecies, the loss of all wild rhinos in Vietnam- are all utterly minor setbacks. Anyone who wonders if we should be considering legal trade isn't a "true" conservationist. They're in the pay of the Chinese or the hunting fraternity or something. The trade-ban is brilliant so there's nothing to debate. We just need to spend more money on doing what's been failing for over 30 years.

(Sorry, I'm in a slightly dark mood)
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) conservation poaching Environment and Ecology rhino Tue, 06 Nov 2012 15:37:37 GMT
Mapping tiger smuggling
At the last SCB meeting I gave a paper on the breakdown of interdictions inside China. This data was obtained after some patient relationship building within China. The basic breakdown is as follows:

Figure 1: Smuggling Map 1999-2010

Province in coloured as deep-red are hotspots. These are provinces that have had multiple cases of smugglers being intercepted. The obvious characteristic is each is a province that borders range states with wild tiger populations.

Provinces in pale-red are low-interdiction cases. These are province that have had one arrest only.

The map also is instructive as it gives some idea of the scope of the international borders smugglers can take advantage of. It should come as no surprise that parts also show geographical trends also. Amur tigers are intercepted in the north (Heilong-Jiang/Jilin), Indo-Chinese & Bengali in the south (Yunnan), and Bengali in the west (Tibet).

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) tigers tiger smuggling poaching Environment and Ecology Sun, 04 Nov 2012 13:32:15 GMT
Smuggler caught with 16 Tiger Cubs BBC-News Thailand

The story is principally about a truck-driver, paid to smuggle 16 tiger cubs from Thailand into Laos. The driver was caught when he attempted to avoid a police checkpoint. With 16 cubs, it is practically certain these same from a 'breeding facility' within Thailand. Tigers can produce 4 cubs in a litter but less is also common. Getting 16 cubs from the wild within Thailand would involve a very serious effort in search, risks of mortality in transporting cubs out of the wild, and risks of being caught within the reserves. It would be much easier and less risky to get the cubs from a captive source. Such animals would also be more familiar with people and hence, more sedate to transport.

The interception is indicative of two enforcement issues. First, crossing borders is the riskiest aspect of the illegal supply chain. From an economic perspective, the 'black-market firm' is better placed to pass this risk on to people who are willing to bear it at a lower price. The driver said he'd been paid 15,000 baht ($US 490 or £300) for the job. The second is that the size of the shipment (16 live animals) shows that enforcement agencies are being ineffective. A good sign that enforcement is effective is reductions in shipment size. This is the easiest thing for smugglers to do to reduce their risks. It does inflate their other costs (fewer units transported each trip drives up the average costs). So, the fact they are making large shipments here mean that they have little to worry about from law enforcement.

The story implies that the cubs are being smuggled for parts for traditional medicines. This seems unlikely. It would be much easier to kill the tigers within Thailand and transport the parts in a more cryptic way. This would also mean the smugglers did not have live animals to care for and feed for the duration of the trip. I suspect the most likely explanation is that this is the nucleus for a 'tiger farm' within Laos. Thailand and Vietnam are known to have breeding of tigers occurring in 'commercial quantities'. This may now be a reflection of the attempt to do the same within Laos. With actual wild tiger numbers in Indo-China being critically low, captive sources of tigers are much easier to locate and transport.

This also means that the CITES resolutions that call upon certain range states to end such breeding is largely being ignored.
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) tigers Thailand Laos tiger smuggling Indo-China poaching Environment and Ecology Sun, 28 Oct 2012 16:25:04 GMT
Tuesday #Travel - The beat goes on
On one evening we went 'cultural' and part of the performance was these traditional Chinese drummers.
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) china Jilin travel photo Environment and Ecology drummers Mon, 22 Oct 2012 14:57:14 GMT
The Birds of Spring
Once you start shooting at these kind of focal lengths (my rule of thumb, 500mm or more) stability is an issue. This is why tripods are normally used as an adjunct for the big lenses.

I didn't really have time to pack and setup a tripod however on Sunday, so I did it the hard way with a handheld shot. I'm usually pretty steady with a camera and lens (which helps with a lot of the macro shots I do), but cranked the shutter speed up to 1/1000 sec and ensured the camera stabiliser was working. This should buy me a few extra stops of stability.

Tuis are starting to increase in abundance our way, so I went out for some snapshots. Lighting conditions weren't ideal. I like to have a bit of directional light with our native birds, especially as they often have a metallic sheen to them when the sun hits them at certain angles.

Anyway, this is my hand-held, manual focus shot of a local tui.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) photo photography bird tui teleconverter Environment and Ecology Sun, 07 Oct 2012 13:32:46 GMT
It is done
There was a couple of minor hiccups on the drive over with short-lived, stomach wrenching anxiety-surges. But once I got there and started interacting it went fine. Plus I've also picked up some suitably nerdy information on cryptography and the tango.

I tried to impart numerous bits of advise to the audience on a range of topics- mostly on how to investigate illegal wildlife activity without getting shot, arrested or suffering acute alcohol poisoning. Along the way we discussed a bit on tiger conservation. Anyways, I'm in a good place at moment. And keen to do more of these sorts of events.]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Science nerdnite Tue, 02 Oct 2012 18:16:44 GMT
Wednesday #Wildlife: Fluffy!
The Lake is home to a number of bird species and this includes the Australian swan. The adult swans are I confess, one of the least endearing birds I've encountered. Large aggressive birds are a tad lacking in charisma.

Still, its hard to deny that juvenile birds, clothed in down, have a much greater appeal. The weather conditions were keeping this group of cygnets close to their mother. Enjoy :)

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) swan cygnet Environment and Ecology bird photo bird Australian swan Tue, 18 Sep 2012 16:18:16 GMT
Tuesday #Travel: Auckland City

Click link if image doesn't display on your monitor|

For more photos please visit
|Zenfolio Albums| or |Committed Photography|]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology auckland photo Mon, 17 Sep 2012 14:38:58 GMT
Monday #Macro: Under the Cover of the Night
This led to the spotting of two crane-flies locked in coitus

This shot used my new Macro twin Flash with the side-arm on the right extended and angled to give some side light and pick out more fine detail on the antenna and body hairs. I also had a 6x Raynox adapter attached to the macro lens.]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) photo insects Environment and Ecology new zealand crane-flies macro flies mating Sun, 16 Sep 2012 15:13:11 GMT
Wednesday #Wildlife: Birdlife

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) tauhou waxeye photo bird silvereye Environment and Ecology Tue, 11 Sep 2012 15:59:03 GMT
Tuesday #Travel: Watching You
Now, not everybody who watches border areas are interested in wildlife. It seems military forces also take an interest in what their neighbours are doing. This Chinese mobile unit (radar?) is positioned facing North Korea.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) travel tiger smuggling military Environment and Ecology Mon, 10 Sep 2012 15:00:46 GMT
Monday #Macro: down low

Of course, if any local mushroom experts want to help me with an ID, I'd be very appreciative.]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) mushroom photo fungi macro Environment and Ecology fungus Sun, 09 Sep 2012 14:31:25 GMT
Scenic photos from Mokoroa #Stream
The minor issue was cutting my fingers out in the bush, so bleeding was an added hassle. Some of my gear has a new patina of red :/

#1 A momentary respite

#2 Rush

#3 Steps

Larger versions of these Mokoroa photos can be viewed at:
|Zenfolio Albums| or |Committed Photography|]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) stream photo scenic Environment and Ecology new zealand nature rainforest Mokoroa waterfall green Fri, 07 Sep 2012 23:18:29 GMT
Take me to the river: Mokoroa #Waterfall
This fall is quite spectacular, but the constant water spray ruined many of my shots

The other fall is more picturesque than powerful. The mature trees at the top of the falls gives some idea of the scale.

The flow of water over the rock faces is appealing.

Larger versions of these Mokoroa photos can be viewed at:
|Zenfolio Albums| or |Committed Photography|

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) green waterfall Mokoroa rainforest nature new zealand Environment and Ecology scenic photo stream Wed, 05 Sep 2012 14:22:13 GMT
Relax- Mokoroa #Stream
#1 Liquid Green

#2 Marooned

Larger versions of these photos can be viewed at:
|Zenfolio Albums| or |Committed Photography|

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) new zealand photo Mokoroa Environment and Ecology stream scenic nature rainforest waterfall green Tue, 04 Sep 2012 14:23:37 GMT
Wednesday #Wildlife - Southern Bell Frog
I found this Southern Bell Frog (originally a native from Tasmania) on my trip to the Mokoroa Stream. The effect of it sitting in the dewy grass appealed. As I didn't have a macro lens with me at the time, I used my Carl-Zeiss 16-80mm zoom with a 20mm extension tube.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology photo Southern Bell Frog frog wildlife Tue, 04 Sep 2012 12:39:43 GMT
Tuesday #Travel: Sunset
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) new zealand travel photo West Coast Environment and Ecology Mon, 03 Sep 2012 14:42:07 GMT
Time for a cool change

Last Wednesday in Auckland had the coincidence of clear skies, cool temperatures and a study-break on campus. I put in for leave for the day, and then went off to explore the Mokoroa Stream in Goldies Bush. This is an area of native forest, some of it regenerating, between Waitekere and Muriwai. I hadn't been there before, so I tried to travel light. Which actually isn't as easy as it sounds when you're packing camera gear and a solid tripod.

The thing I like about New Zealand forest streams, is that they tend to emphasise cool tones of blues and greens. The low light conditions are what makes the tripod compulsory for getting shots.

#1- this photo had an exposure time of 20 seconds.



Larger versions of these photos can be viewed at:
|Zenfolio Albums| or |Committed Photography|

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology long exposure Mokoroa Stream nature photo river stream waterfall Sun, 02 Sep 2012 14:53:37 GMT
Monday #Macro – Gnaphosid spider

Exploring the bush for spiders (and other creep-crawlies at night) can be a hit and miss affair. Your vision is rather limited. I use a head lamp but this is a compromise. If you use too strong a headlamp the light will spook more creatures. If the lamp is too weak, you can't see as much.

Often the web-builders are easier to see, because webs will reflect light back to you, showing evidence of the spider. For the ground-hunters, the odds of seeing them drop away quickly. Not only do you lack the tell-tale sign of a web, but they're more active spiders and more likely to be spooked by vibrations or light.

I spotted this gnaphosid spider however on the side of a tree trunk, then set up the gear to get some pics. This is actually a widely spread family of spiders and a common inhabitant of native bush. It doesn't mean it's any asier to spot at night however :)

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology gnaphosid Gnaphosidae macro photo spider Sun, 02 Sep 2012 14:11:19 GMT
Wednesday #Wildlife : Don’t Blink

It's a bit of a belated Wednesday blog post as I went feral yesterday and disappeared into some native bush for the day. That will have to be the subject of a different blog post of course.

Anyway, this pic is of that very impressive, very large and redoubtable Estuarine crocodile. Most of the body mass is kept concelaed under the waterline. At 5 metres long, one of these reptiles can weigh 500kg.

|Zenfolio Albums| |Committed Photography|

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology crocodile photo saltwater crocodile wildlife Wed, 29 Aug 2012 13:18:32 GMT
Tuesday #Travel – TCM shops

This pic is of a row of Traditional Chinese Medicine shops at the Xi'an market. For the most part, the ingredients for TCM are plants and fungi. Animal parts make up a minority of treatments. The purpose of the visit here was to scope out the market and see if claims that endnagered animal parts are 'sold openly' via the TCM system were true.

We failed to find any evidence of such traffic. Albeit if you want to buy fake animal parts, this isn't such a bad location. One shop had some lovely pieces of bone on display, and a quick inspection made the mould lines of the resin-cast they used obvious. To mimic the appearance of marrow they'd stuffed lots of fine twigs in the middle. I have to say the covetous look the shop-owner got when I asked about the price was amusing. I assume that a lot of Chinese urban consumers aren't familiar with basic bone anatomy.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology traditional chinese medicine travel. TCM Xi'an Mon, 27 Aug 2012 13:54:51 GMT
Monday #Macro – Moth

To prove that I don't always take macro photos of spiders, here's a small moth I located last week in an evening session. I'm afraid I'm no expert on NZ moths and have absolutely no idea what species it is. I did like the way it was hanging vicariously on the small twig on the tree though.

The lighting effects came from my Macro Twin Flash. Also, taking photographs of arthropods in the dark of night is a lot harder than you might think…

|Zenfolio Albums| |Committed Photography Prints|

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology insect macro moth new zealand photo Sun, 26 Aug 2012 13:03:47 GMT
Wednesday #Wildlife 2

Juvenile Meerkats at Auckland Zoo. Can you withstand the 'cute'? :)

These guys appeared late afternoon on my last trip there. It was a time when I appreciated having the fast 70-200/2.8 G with me to cope with the low light. Even so, not a lot of pictures were keepers.

|Zenfolio||Committed Photography|

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology Auckland Zoo meerkat wildlife Tue, 21 Aug 2012 15:55:06 GMT
Tuesday #Travel Photo 2

A picture of the marina at Picton (South Island, NZ)

(I liked the way the late afternoon light interacted with the whites and greens in this scene)

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology marina photo Picton travel Mon, 20 Aug 2012 14:13:03 GMT
Monday Macro – 20 August

Late winter in NZ isn't conducive to a lot of creepy-crawly type photos. The wet weather however, does mean that fungi are relatively plentiful. Photographing fungi on the NZ forest floor is however a challenge because of the lighting issues. There's not enough natural light to exploit, and if you use a flash it's very easy to get dark shadows blanketing details- or fine details destroyed with the bright light of the flash.

This time I used the Sony Macro Twin Flash with its array of diffusers and arms. This creates a lot more flexibility how lighting can be applied.

With this shot I had both a side light (with a diffused flash mounted on an arm) and an over-head light (also with a diffuser). This soft but highly directed light has brought up the details of the gills in these mushrooms.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology fungi macro mushroom photo Sony Macro Twin Flash Sun, 19 Aug 2012 14:41:03 GMT
The benefits of Basic Research- Genetics and insulin

It's sometimes difficult articulating what the benefits of basic research can be. This week I had to explain this to my students- and sadly the textbook was not as helpful as I had hoped. It was the standard fare, vague claims of benefits that could emerge in the future.

Left to my own devices I came up with I think, was a far better illustration. If we go back to the 1930s to early 1960s we have a lot of basic research going on into genetics. Whilst we take it for granted that DNA is the molecule of inheritance, this had to be discovered. There was for a while, an alternative hypothesis that protein molecules within the cell acted as the inheritance mechanism. The Watson-Crick discovery of the structure of DNA didn't take place until 1953. This basic research then led to some very important medical applications years later.

In the late 1970s there was a looming insulin crisis. Insulin is used to treat diabetes. For decades, insulin was extracted from slaughtered animals and used to treat people. This had two problems. The minor problem was that a small percentage of people had adverse reactions to this animal insulin. The major problem was that the number of diabetics was increasing and the number of slaughtered animals was not. The forecast was that by the early 1980s there would be insufficient insulin supplies. More and more people would simply be excluded from insulin-treatment. This would result in both shortened lives, suffering and of course, deaths. Bear in mind this is from an era where diabetes rates was around 2-2.5% of the population. It is more than double that now.

The solution was elegant. A gene that produces insulin was inserted into a bacterium. Bacteria started producing medical insulin- and at a level that kept pace with medical need. Millions of people with diabetes are basically alive today because of the basic research that occurred decades earlier. Without knowing about genes, where they're located and how they function, none of this would have followed.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Science and Society basic research diabetes insulin Thu, 16 Aug 2012 19:36:17 GMT
Wednesday Wildife – #Tiger

While I spent last night photographing local predators (assorted NZ spiders), I thought people would probably appreciate a tiger more:

Sadly, as yet I've not been to Indonesia so have not had the chance to see a Sumatran tiger in the wild. This pic, as some of you can probably deduce, is from Auckland Zoo. Captive breeding of this endangered sub-species is being spearheaded by Australian and NZ zoos.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology photo tiger wildlife Tue, 14 Aug 2012 16:54:47 GMT
Tuesday Travels

Cyclist in the border-city of Hekeu (Jilin province). They don't seem to big on helmet laws. Or cap laws.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Science and Society china cyclist travel Mon, 13 Aug 2012 15:57:41 GMT
A first look at the HVL-MT24AM

As noted earlier this macro-flash from Sony is basically a rebadge of the Minolta flash that preceded it. This isn't a bad thing because it was a pretty good flash to begin with.

It does mean however that the unit lacks two features found in many more modern flashes. It can't be triggered with a remote flash and it lacks ADI. You can only shot with this flash in TTL or manual mode.

These aren't critical issues for a macro-flash however.

The main difference between this flash and the Sigma EM-140 I was using before is the flexibility with the position and direciton of the light. The Sigma works on 2 lamps set at 180 degrees apart and the light is diffused through a ring mounted on the lens.

If we start with the Sony macro twin flash, you can see it starts with a mounting ring

This shows you can set the two flashes 45 degrees, 90 degrees and 180 degrees apart. The mounting shoes are fixed onto the ring.

You then attach a lens adapter to the ring to screw it on to the front of your lens.

This shoes the adapter for a 55mm diameter lens.

The flash controller mounts on the hotshoe of the camera.

Back-view of the controller. You can also see the dials that are used to manually adjust output of each flash when you shot in manual (M) mode.

The front of the controller has the sockets to attach the flash cables.

The flash heads are then mounted on the ring. They also swivel so they can point inwards towards the subject, front on or outwards.

To modify the flash you can
1) Attach it to a mounting arm that can also be positioned at a 90 degree or 60 degree arc.

2) The arm can be extended to create even more side light

3) The lamps can be fitted with wide-angle diffusers

4) Or with their own diffusers to soften the light further.

So how does it all work?
Well I had a quick trial last night (before it rained) on a tunnel-web spider that was occupying a tree-trunk. The challenge with this subject is the tunnel. Also you're shooting at night-time. So what I did for this shot was to place the lamps 90 degrees apart. The lamp located at the top of the ring was angled to direct light into the tunnel itself. The second lamp was positioned at 90 degrees to throw light on the actual spider. I went with TTL metering and exposure compensation of -3 (to minimise hotspots).

The spider

Closeup #1

Closeup #2

Now, I'm very pleased with this. The tunnel has received enough illumination to pick out the details of the legs and other body sections. The direction of the light has also meant that the hairs on the fangs and underneath the front legs have been revealed in sharper detail.

So overall, I am very pleased with the flexibility and usefulness of this unit for macro photography.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology HVL-MT24AM review macro photography sony spider Sun, 12 Aug 2012 15:35:50 GMT
The Watcher

Sometimes you can be happy with the subject of a picture, but the background kind of competes with it. So one solution is to replace the background with something simpler. This can happen with more natural shots taken in situ, as the subject- say a bird- isn't inclined to pose for you.

This was my solution to this sulphur crested cockatoo pic. With the bird being so white, I went for a replacement black background. End result, well, I liked it much better :)

The Watcher

Photo is available on my
Zenfolio Website and at
Committed Photography

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology bird cockatoo parrot photo photography Thu, 09 Aug 2012 18:48:13 GMT
It’s arrived

My HVL-MT24AM has arrived.

The positives is that it has a lot of scope for adjusting light. It even comes with its own diffusers. Less appealing is that it is fiddly to put together in all its manifold variations. But there's a lot of variations.

I like that the flash output can be easily dialed in for each flash head with a physical dial. No pesky menus to have to navigate there.

The challenge now is to work out how I can attach it to those lenses of mine with a diameter greater than 55mm. The proprietary rings for screwing onto lenses only came in 49 and 55mm.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Science and Society macro photography Tue, 07 Aug 2012 19:08:38 GMT
Winning medals at the Olympics

At the moment New Zealand is doing well at the London Olympics. As of this morning, we're ranked number 14 in the medal table (yeah, that means ahead of Australia). There are all sorts of other ways to rank this too. Crude ways to look at medal tallies include relating it to population (in which case we look fantastic) or to GDP (drop a few places lower).

The problem is that a lot of these ways are crude. This relates to a host of factors. First up, how we rank countries isn't based on the total number of medals. Australia has got (as of today), 1 gold and 12 silver. NZ has 3 gold and 0 silver. The ranking-system means that 1 gold medal always beats 1 silver…or 10 silver…or 100 silver. Gold medals are really nice to have. Gold medals should count for more than silver. It's just hard accepting that no amount of silver medals would ever equal a gold.

The second problem is that medals aren't statistically independent of each other. In some sports the ability to win a gold medal in one event, is strongly linked to others. A good example is sprinting. If you are an Olympic-class sprinter, then the odds you can win gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 4×100 relay and long-jump are actually linked. Jessie Owens proved it at Berlin. Carl Lewis proved at Los Angeles. These are events that use similar physical aptitudes. Conversely, there's less options with boxing or long-distance running. You'll notice that Marathon runners don't come back with a bag of medals. The events you compete in, give different medal tally distributions.

There are some general things that do affect medal-tallies. Population-size is one of them. It's not a precise line up, but if we imagine the distribution of athletic talent follows some kind of bell-curve, then countries with big populations will have a larger upper tail to recruit athletes from. This isn't a simple translation of population to medals. To be a top athlete also requires motivation (it's not obvious that this is linked to GDP, athletic prowess can be a path out of poverty to some). It also requires both training and exposure to top-level competition. So this might be linked to GDP. Nonetheless, it doesn't have to be. In fact, the enormous variation in medal performance linked to GDP, suggests this is a poor way to predict or explain sporting success.

In the end and irrespective of the ways we measure success at the Olympics, I am enjoying the gold-medals we've been accumulating. We're doing well :)

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Science and Society new zealand Olympics Sun, 05 Aug 2012 17:18:41 GMT
#Macro photography- don’t forget the light

I think one of the major benefits of spending a lot of years peering down a microscope, is that you develop a deep appreciation for how important lighting is. In order to see details, you don't just use a good microscope. You also spend a lot of time playing with different angles and levels of light. That's why you have light sources above and below the slide, and also fibre-optic lights on goose-neck lamps. Having the highest quality microscope in the world, means nothing of you can't work with light.

The same principle carries over to macro-photography. I've noticed a lot of people who start up with macro photography who think it's all about the lens. So they're willing to spend a lot of money on a top-grade lens, and then there's nothing left over for macro-flashes. The thing is, having light sources you can use to bring up relief on the subject matters a great deal.

This orbweb spider below is one of my favourite shots

One of the reasons is the lighting. I've got a green card set up behind the spider to reflect light back on it, and it's been hit with two flash sources. This is a spider I've photographed in the dead of night, in NZ bush. There is no other lighting here other than the sources I carried in. There's no streetlights, and the forest canopy is preventing moon or star-light from impacting on the picture. So by using light from different directions the spider ends up having shape and detail.

One of the reasons I went with Sony in my early DSLR days was because I saw the potential in this system for macro photography. The camera bodies had stabilisation, which gave hand-held macro shots a helping boost. The other factor was the weak AA filters used on the Sony sensors. This gave a notorious level of noise to images at high ISOs, but more detail in photos at low ISOs. Given I shoot macro at low ISOs, this suited me just fine.

Weaknesses however remained. Whilst Minolta had an excellent 200/4 long macro lens, Sony never resumed production of this lens- nor brought in a replacement. That left the macro lineup as a 50mm, and 100mm and later a 30mm. The gap at the long macro can be offset by using 3rd party lenses, but I really wanted to see a 200/4 back in offer.

The second weakness was lighting. Again Minolta had a ringflash in production prior to the Sony acquisition. This has been replaced with a ring-light instead- which suffers the problem of not actually being a flash and of very limited use for macro photography. The only other option was the Sony HVL-24. This is another Minolta rebadge of a specialist macro lens.

Up to now however, I've always baulked at paying the retail price for this unit. In the mean time I've been using a Sigma EM-140 ringflash. This wasn't available when I first got into macro-photography again, and it's actually a good unit. Nonetheless, you're still restricted by a ring-flash. It's difficult to make meaningful adjustments to the direction the light comes from.

Well, I've now bought a 2nd hand copy of the Sony HVL-24. This solved my issue with the retail price new :) And hopefully, I can offer some thoughts on its value after some use.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Science and Society lighting macro minolta photography sony Sun, 29 Jul 2012 16:41:44 GMT
Size Matters: Manual focus with the NEX camera

Part III: The Art of Manual Focus

The Nex system has, possibly not by intent, become an excellent manual focusing system also. This means many lenses from the manual focus era (yes, there was a time before cameras developed autofocus functions where everything had to be focused by hand) have a new lease of life.

The reason manual-focus has become much more popular is a feature called focus-peaking. This was added to the first models in the Nex system by firmware and is now standard. What this does is show you what is in focus in your frame by colouring it. You even get a choice of colours (I use red). As part of the manual focus, you can magnify the view by either 7x or 14x. This allows for both accurate and straightforward manual focusing. In the past with film cameras, manual focusing was always associated with a level of frustration. That frustration has been replaced by enjoyment. The NEX-system doesn’t just give you the option of manual focus, it takes that concept to give you almost an entirely new way to take pictures.

The red areas (peaked) in the screen reveal what will be in sharp focus in the final shot

If you want to use lenses that are not E-Mount, you will need to use an adapter. If you already have Sony or Minolta AF lenses one such option is the LA-EA1. This preserves aperture controls (so you can adjust the f-stop) and if you have an SSM or SAM lens, it will also give you autofocus. Nonetheless, the autofocus speed is not exemplary (the camera is still stuck with contrast detection). A more expensive option is the LA-EA2 which is bulkier and adds the phase-detection autofocus via an translucent mirror mechanism. This makes it a lot better at autofocus, but if your main intention is to use the camera for manual focus, it is a very expensive option.

The LA-EA1

Side-view: the tripod mount is useful to balance the camera and take the weight off the camera body

NEX-5 with LA-EA1 Adapter and 70-200/2.8 G SSM lens

The effect of this adapter can be illustrated with these snap-shots.

Local Pukeko, NEX-5, 70-200/2.8 G

Cow, NEX-5, 70-200/2.8 G

Now, neither the camera or the lens will have any stabilisation so having the means to stabilise the shot is handy. I use a gorillapod for SLR camera with a small Giottos ballhead.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Science and Society digital cameras e-mount LA-EA1 mirrorless camera photography Sony NEX Mon, 23 Jul 2012 16:48:10 GMT
It's not just heavy, it's a pigeon
It has an IUCN threat category of near-threatened. Numbers have declined and competition for food from introduced pests remain a problem. The species is protected and benefits from active pest management.

The area I'm in is close to some areas of native bush, and we've got some birds about. More importantly, I've got some spots where I can photograph the birds at tree level. So, my collection of photos of kereru backsides generated by pointing cameras up into trees, can be consigned to the back of my PC.

I got the following shots early Sunday morning

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) new zealand bird kereru pigeon bird photo Environment and Ecology Wed, 22 Feb 2012 15:32:16 GMT
What is wrong with some people?
What I thought was going to be a quick job picking up some bottles, ended up being a major exercise in trash removal. Someone a bit further up the ridge, had a rather filthy approach to garbage disposal. By the time I finished three full trash bags of garbage had been cleared.

The trash including cutlery, ice-cream containers, three pairs of rotting underpants(!) and the usual suspects of coke and beer bottles and chip packets. I of course, am loath to generalise but it seems the perpetrators had a fondness for cask wine, Coruba rum and coke drinks, and corona beer.

So what was an idyllic area of kauri, nikau and other bush, where tuis and kereru were common, was reduced to someone's trash dump. I don't understand the laziness and temperament that would prompt someone to toss these into a bush area, rather than a rubbish bag.]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology new zealand litter Sun, 19 Feb 2012 13:48:48 GMT
Wasted days and nights [email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Science and Society photography Mon, 13 Feb 2012 15:16:20 GMT Photographic fun with NZ parrots
I should have better shots of kea but well, just don't seem to have made it to kea mountain-country for a long time. Possibly this little thing about studying crocodiles gets me heading in the wrong direction.

Anyway, here's some sample shots and please, if you can, visit the main album and maybe leave some comments.

These thumbnails are 'clickable' and will bring up larger versions of the shot.
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) new zealand kakapo bird kea bird photo Environment and Ecology parrot kaka Mon, 13 Feb 2012 11:47:28 GMT
Darwin Day thoughts February 12 is the anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, and there is some momentum to recognise this as Darwin Day. The idea has merit- the Theory of Evolution generated a revolution in biology and forever changed how we viewed our place in the world.

Darwin wasn't the first to recognise that evolution occurred. The period of canal construction in England at the start of the Industrial Revolution had yielded geological stratas showing gradual changes in the marine animals preserved as fossils. The famous French naturalist Lamark had already proposed a theory of evolution.

Over 60 families of trilobites from the Cambrian to Permian are now known- a detailed record of gradual evolution

Darwin recognised however, that natural selection would lead inevitably to evolution. Wallace also reached the same insight, largely through his familiarity with the diversity of life in the tropics. Darwin however had amassed far more evidence for natural selection prior to this. This drew on investigations in geology, human selection for domestic breeds, research into diverse groups of organisms like barnacles, and of course the evidence collected from his journey on the Beagle.

It was this combination of geology with biology that led to one of his first brilliant insights. This was that geographic gradients of species-diversity, would mimic time-gradients. This would show evolution in action.

The second insight was a very straightforward deduction. If populations show variation in traits and natural selection operated to eliminate adverse traits, then so long as there was an inheritance mechanism, evolution was inevitable. This deduction rested on two presumptions. The first was that the earth was very old (for a time, Lord Kelvin's estimation of the age of the earth was an obstacle on this, until the NZ physicist Rutherford proved Kelvin's estimate to be wrong).

The second presumption was that this inheritance mechanism existed. This was part of Darwin's brilliance. In the mid-19th C, the mechanism of inheritance was completely unknown. It was only Darwin's broad knowledge of nature that allowed this prediction to be confidently made. Genetics has long since vindicated Darwin.

Darwin was also able to recognise that the sexual selection- preferences by mates for certain traits- would also yield evolution. In this case it would create sexually dimorphic forms- males and females differentiated by traits the mate selects for. The classic example is the plumage of the male peacock.

For human evolution, Darwin combined his knowledge of the distribution of the great apes with our similarities in form. This led to the prediction, long before genetics, molecular biology or fossils could corroborate this point, that we would have evolved from a common ancestor to these great apes. The geographical distribution of these apes also pinpointed our origin to Africa. Darwin has since been proven correct.

Finger nails, opposable thumbs and forward-looking eyes link all primates

For modern biologists, Darwin did much to launch biology as a proper science. The transformation was significant- rather than trying to manipulate the data to fit the conception that a creator-god did everything, the data was allowed to speak for itself. We followed the evidence and based conclusion on where that evidence led us. And that has created a grand and rich story of life on this planet, one stretching back nearly 4bn years.


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Darwin Darwin Day Science and Society biology evolution Sun, 12 Feb 2012 13:12:53 GMT
The depressing thing about being a conservation biologist The nice thing about mixing with conservation biologists is the enthusiasm they have for the natural world. That's something I do enjoy about meetings on conservation.

Nonetheless, it's also got to be one of the most depressing disciplines within biology. There is kind of a popular view of conservation, one that portrays biologists as struggling against the odds to bring species after species back from the brink of extinction. That's probably what we all aspire to achieve.

The reality is actually a bit grimmer. What we really are doing is recording the loss of biodiversity. A great deal of research is about the loss of more and more populations, the increasing catalogue of threats facing nature. The sudden upswing in extinction rates we've caused is showing no signs that it's abating. Poaching of tigers is still as serious as ever despite three decades of efforts to bring it under control. Poaching of rhinos and elephants is now worse than the horror days of the 1980s.

The reserves that are established aren't sufficient to arrest these declines. There's too much poaching, or too many invasive species, or there's civil insurrection or illegal mining and forestry, or the reserves are actually getting delisted, or the reserves are too small to sustain viable populations, or they're too far apart from others to cope with environmental changes.

It's a pretty depressing time to be concerned about this planet's wildlife.


[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Environment and Ecology conservation wildlife Thu, 02 Feb 2012 16:01:04 GMT
Moving time
The point though, is that I haven't been able to do any photo-editing for a while. That should change sometime next week (cross fingers).

The new place also backs onto a bit of bush, and my fast Mark-2 eyeball survey of the place reveals a good spider fauna. I feel like doing some more macro.

One of the other things I am trying to work through though, is just trying to enjoy the internet more. Since the stalking started in 2010 (and this has continued with little abatement right into this month), its hard to shake the feeling that being on the web, being part of the community, sharing stuff- it really isn't as fun as it used to be. I'm a lot warier of making connections to other people, and desire to share photos and the like has waned. If it's not fun, it's harder to sustain.]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) photography Science and Society macro Tue, 31 Jan 2012 14:00:31 GMT
Today's #Kotuku Photo
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) photo kotuko bird kotuku bird photo white heron Environment and Ecology Mon, 30 Jan 2012 14:52:20 GMT
It tastes good! #kaka feeding
The kaka has also been in decline. This is largely due to the competition and predation by introduced pests. Where pest control is effective, kaka populations do much better.

At Puhaka (Mount Bruce) 12 kaka were released into the reserve a few years ago. Numbers have increased quickly and the bird is now a relatively common site in the area. The birds are still wild, but largely habituated to the presence of people. This certainly helped me get some photos.

This shot is of a kaka feeding on flax flowers. If you look closely you should be able to see its tongue inside the beak.

Link to larger image
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) conservation bird photo Environment and Ecology kaka endangered species new zealand bird parrot Wed, 18 Jan 2012 12:28:56 GMT
Today's #kotuku photo

Link to larger image]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) new zealand kotuko bird kotuku bird photo white heron Environment and Ecology Tue, 17 Jan 2012 12:43:36 GMT
#Kotuku in nuptial feathers

Link to larger image

This can be contrasted to adults outside the breeding season. The shot below is of the same species, but this time in Australia (the Northern Territory).

One of the advantages of photographing white herons in New Zealand however, is we don't have to worry about crocodiles :). The shot from Australia above was hindered somewhat by the presence of a 4m crocodile hidden 'somewhere' close by.]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) heron bird photo white heron Environment and Ecology new zealand okarito bird kotuko kotuku Sun, 15 Jan 2012 14:30:29 GMT
Back into civilisation- kotuku photo
Well, the delight of moving 1200 photos from my memory cards to PC has been accomplished, and the slower process of processing and editing photos has begun.

I thought I'd begin with pair of juvenile kotuku (white herons) at their nesting site in Okarito. Okarito lagoon is the only location in New Zealand where this species breeds.

Link to larger image

Hope you enjoy :)]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) bird bird photo white heron Environment and Ecology new zealand okarito kotuko kotuku Sat, 14 Jan 2012 21:13:00 GMT
Sea-Eagle Panorama
Each frame was taken at 1/4000 second. The tricky bit was being in a small boat on the Mary River at the time, as this isn't the most stable of platforms.

(From my Australian Birds of Prey photo album]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) eagle photo bird Environment and Ecology sea eagle Mon, 19 Dec 2011 19:19:48 GMT
An intense moment: Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet

(From my Parrots photo album)]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) parrot Environment and Ecology rainbow lorikeet bird photo Mon, 19 Dec 2011 15:39:39 GMT
Last night at the #ICCB
The NEX-5 has maximum ISO-rating of 12800, so that's what I was shooting at. I was also using the kit lens which for all its merits, really isn't a low-light lens (wide open it's f5.6 at the long end). The big advantage of the camera is really its compact size combined with the larger APS-C sensor.

Anyway, this is a round about way of saying that this was more of an 'on the ground' experiment under some pretty extreme conditions. So here's what a couple of these performers looked like (I did in the end, do a black and white conversion of the shots).

1. Dancer 1

2. Dancer 2

The shots are clearly not as good as what you could get from a pro-photographer rig. But they're still of a reasonable quality. These still enough detail in them, and perfectly adequate for viewing on the web.]]>
[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) Science and Society NEX-5 photography ICCB Technology Tue, 13 Dec 2011 12:39:24 GMT
Some ICCB tiger thoughts
The Society for Conservation Biology 25th Annual Meeting concluded on Friday. This was the first SCB meeting I'd been to since the Hilo meeting in Hawaii.

My fear that my paper on the tiger black-market inside China would have poor attendance (it was literally the last paper of the last session in the last day) was poorly founded. The room was fairly packed with people standing in the back.

In terms of other tiger news, well, Emma Stokes from WCS confirmed that even if there are tigers in Cambodia, there's no breeding population left. That pretty makes Thailand the most important range state for the Indo-Chinese subspecies now.

The more positive news is that Petri Viljoen has succeeded with the rewilding of the S China tigers in South Africa. The S China subspecies was only known from zoo populations a few years ago, and had less than 100 animals. A small population was translocated to South Africa to undertake a rewilding programme, and this has grown (there are second generation tigers present now). Eight tigers are now rewilded and can hunt an ungulate of similar size to the sika deer (this would be its main prey back in China). The tigers actually proved very adept at learning to hunt by themselves, and have even managed some successful strategies for hunting in the open. In some ways, this isn't a surprise as the tiger is an extremely adaptable predator. Its range extends from Siberia all the way to the tropical islands of Indonesia.

This rewilding is actually pretty big news. It means that say, if Australia and NZ wanted to reintroduce Sumatran tigers back into the wild, there is now the techniques to do so. Australia and NZ zoos decided to coordinate and specialise in a captive breeding programme of the Sumatran tiger some years ago. We have an important backstop population, but prior to this, no actual way to put tigers back into the wild.

I confess also to some perverse pleasure at the success of the rewilding. I had been assured by various tiger "experts" that rewilding tigers was actually impossible. The claim was that cubs needed their mothers around to teach them how to hunt prey.

In less positive news Davidar reported on the decline in tiger numbers in the Similapal Tiger Reserve in the W Ghats. Numbers have declined from about 100 to an estimated 22. One of the causes of continued wildlife decline is the insurgency. A significant number (28%) of reserves in India are also the scene of insurgency. The insurgents are drawn from tribals living within the reserves. In Similapal the megafauna (tigers, elephants) are being killed as icons of the state the insurgents are fighting against. They're not being poached for any commercial gain, just killed and left there. It's getting hard to be optimistic about the future of tigers in many Indian reserves.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) rewilding conservation black market Environment and Ecology poaching tiger Sun, 11 Dec 2011 13:14:15 GMT
Tonight's Wildlife Photo: Monitor Lizard
This is a round about way of saying I didn't actually have any of my usual long telephotos for wildlife work. In this case I was using my old Minolta 70-210/4 beercan lens. They're very impressive reptiles nonetheless.

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) wildlife Environment and Ecology monitor lizard lizard photo Reptile Sat, 03 Dec 2011 22:44:46 GMT
A pair of swallow photos
I've used Adobe Lightroom 3 here to process the images again. This is a much better tool to dealing with image noise. I made two versions of each shot. One version was developed with an aggressive approach to noise. The second version was developed with detail being emphasised. The two shots were then merged.

I like this shot for the fact the swallow spotted a midge above its head. I had no idea at the time it was present until I had the image viewed on the PC :)

[email protected] (NZ Nature Photos) bird bird photo swallow Environment and Ecology Sun, 20 Nov 2011 00:20:54 GMT