New Zealand – Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki in the South Island of New Zealand is an iconic spot for both tourists and photographers. Located only a few minutes easy walk from the main highway the unusual layered nature of the rock formations makes for an outstanding subject for landscape photography. The Pancake Rocks are columns of limestone resembling stacks of pancakes – hence the name. This photograph was taken at sunset on a clear evening. I was lucky that the horizon was clear so that the last rays of sunlight would illuminate the rock in a wonderful warm orange glow. This glow lasts only a few seconds before the rocks take on more chalky white appearance. I used a three stop soft neutral density filter to hold back the sky and keep detail in the foreground rocks. The combination of the unusual rocks with the warm orange glow of last light, the crashing wave and the native New Zealand bird (can only be seen in a large print – See Crop Below) make for a composition and photograph that I like very much.

Pancake Rocks
Ocean Bird - Zoom

Where the Elves Lived

I was going through my image library having a sort of semi yearly clean out of shots that I no longer wanted and re-discovered this photograph, which was taken back in May 2008 near Marysville in Victoria – Near the Beech Forest on Lady Talbot Drive. It immediately jumped out at me as this area was completely devastated in the 2009 Black Saturday Bush Fires that ravaged Victoria. As a result of those fires (in which more than 150 people lost their lives) this area no longer exists in this pristine, natural state. After the fires this area was nothing more than a blackened and charred moon scape, devoid of vegetation and animals. Now just over a year on there are signs of vegetation regrowth across the landscape, but it will be many many years before the area fully recovers. The boulders that bear the blackened scars of the fires will serve as a reminder of how badly this area was damaged in the fires for decades to come.

New Zealand – Sea Lion

Whilst in Kaikoura in the South Island of New Zealand I was able to spend a few hours photographing the native Sea Lions after returning from a morning shoot photographing Sperm Whales. The Sea Lions congregate amongst the extensive rock formations right along the side of the road as it winds its way along the coast – there are actually signs on the side of the road for drivers to watch out for them. I found they are quite approachable as long as you stay out of their threat range; which seemed to be something in the order of twenty feet or so. I shot a couple of hundred frames of the seals waiting to capture one of them actually doing something (most of the time they just lie around in the sun and open an occasional eye to keep a look out how close one gets). I was told by my guide that many people mistake the New Zealand Sea Lion for a seal; which it is not. Apparently they are distinguishable from seals by their ears. This fellow kindly posed for me and let out a growl (yawn) for me to show off his teeth. Photographing the wild New Zealand Sea Lion in its natural environment was very enjoyable and was possible without a super telephoto lens. This frame was shot at close to 100mm on the full frame Canon 1DS MK 3.

Buckland Valley

Sometimes a photograph presents itself even when you think the day might be a lost cause. Which, is exactly what happened to me this morning. I had set the alarm the evening before to get up just before five AM to drive up to the top of Mount Buffalo to photograph first light on Lake Catani. Unfortunately it turned out to be ‘just one of those mornings’ when there was too much low cloud in combination with the wrong atmospheric conditions for any colour or decent light. As the sun came up it was buried behind layers of clouds and instead of the transparent soft light of a rosy dawn it just got lighter – bugger.

Somewhat despondent I packed up all my gear for the forty five minute drive back down the mountain with a view to salvaging the morning with a nice cooked breakfast (it seemed the decent thing to do!). I rounded a bend on the trip back down a good twenty five minutes or so after sunrise, just as the sun broke through the thick layers of cloud and threw a warrm glow into the morning fog in the valley. I slammed on the brakes, grabbed my camera and had time to squeeze off just two frames before it disappeared into cold grey monotones; which it stayed for the rest of the day. Sometimes in landscape it just lasts for a few seconds.  And much like air travel, landscape photography can be hours of sheer boredom… followed by ten seconds of sheer panic (during landing) when the light is right. The joys of landscape photography.