New Zealand Wildlife – Whales

One of  my favourite expressions in photography is ‘It’s not a chiche if I haven’t done it before.’ Meaning of course, a photograph may have been taken hundreds or even thousands of times by other photographers, but is not something I have ever photographed before and therefore not a cliche. I dont know who first coined the phrase; but it rings true for me. So forgive me if you find these next photographs somewhat of a cliche; but its the first time I have done them. 🙂

Whilst I was in the South Island of  New Zealand earlier this year I took the opportunity to take a whale charter to find and photograph Sperm whales. I have never photographed whales before, but I have seen enough photographs of them to know that the decisive moment is either catching the fluke just before a sounding, or if one is really lucky a breach. Sperm whales rarely breach so I knew I would have to be extremley fortunate to see such an event, let alone capture it on the camera’s sensor.As fate would have it there were no whale breaches on the day. But, I was lucky enough to see and photograph several whale soundings. I used a 70-200mm F2.8L IS lens with a 1.4X Tele Extender on my 1DS MK3 for these photographs. I did not have the 300mm F2.8L IS in New Zealand; which would have been my preferred lens for this shoot. We were fortunate in that we had three independent whale sightings in the few hours we were at sea. The weather was overcast and grey throughout the day; which made keeping a high enough shutter speed to freeze the action somewhat of a challenge. The other interesting challenge is keeping the horizon in the photograph to keep the whale in the context of it’s surroundings. Getting low is the key and all of these photographs were taken kneeling down for the lowest possible angle of view from the bow of the boat.Wildlife photography is not something I do a lot of. I typically do not find the larger Australian mammals all that photogenic and there is somewhat of a shortage of big cats and wild game in this country!. This opportunity to photograph Sperm Whales off the coast of New Zealand certainly rates as one of my best wildlife photography experiences and one I hope to repeat soon.

Redwoods at the Otways

Whilst down the coast for work last weekend I took the opportunity to squeeze in some photography at a relatively unknown location deep in the Otway forest. The area is simply known as ‘The Redwoods’ and is comprised of a relatively small plantation of the giant Californian Sequoia Redwood trees. These trees grow to be some of the largest in nature. Their girth and height can be truly immense. This small plantation is approximately sixty years  old and as  yet no where near fully grown, however, it already stretches more than a hundred feet into the sky.

The weather was overcast and drizzly for most of the weekend, ideal for forest photography. Direct sunlight creates too much contrast under a forest canopy. In full sunlight under the canopy the camera’s sensor is unable to capture the full dynamic range of light and dark areas. This leads to either blown highlights or complete loss of shadow detail. A cloudy overcast sky greatly reduces the contrast and gives a soft-box effect to the light that is far more suitable and pleasing. The rain and drizzle adds a lovely saturation to the foliage and forest floor. The inclusion of the small forest fern in the foreground, dwarfed by the Sequoias completes the composition and results in a very pleasing photograph to my eye.

Tasmania – Crescent Bay

Sometimes it takes several edits to make sure I have selected all the best frames from a given shoot and today was no exception. While reviewing some of the photographs from my recent Tasmania trip this one jumped out at me. I had initially passed it over, but on reflection feel the combination of composition and light is strong and that there is indeed a story to be told.  The photograph was taken at Crescent Bay near Port Arthur (close to the South Eastern most tip of Tasmania). The foreground rocks that mimic the shape of the bays name greatly appeal to me. As does the thin band of cloud between the horizon and the soft upper clouds.  The confused seas add a storm element that completes the photograph. This was quite a difficult location to get to as it required scrambling down quite a steep cliff to access this rocky ledge. I used a tripod with a three stop graduated neutral density filter to hold back the sky and a slow shutter speed to semi blur the water. I then timed the waves to set up and get the photograph before the next big set rolled over the rocks. Tasmania is one of my favorite locations for photography in Australia and I already can’t wait to go back.