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.

New Zealand – Fire Fall

Continuing in the same vane as my previous post and indeed from the same helicopter-shoot this photograph was taken within a couple of minutes of ‘Last Light’. With one side of the Southern Alps completely ensconced in cloud and the sun setting the heavy moisture laden clouds began to spill over the mountains. With the warm orange light of sunset it created a fire fall of cloud and light that was both spectacular and beautiful. Nature at its best.

New Zealand – Last Light on the Southern Alps

This photograph was taken from a chartered helicopter flight with the doors off (for better photography) at an altitude of approximately eleven thousand feet just as the sun was sinking below the horizon. Mount Tasman can be seen on the left and it’s taller brother Mount Cook (the tallest mountain in New Zealand) to its right. Fox Glacier can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the frame. There is something quite magical and elusive about Alpine Glow. The normal crisp clean whites of the snow and ice are cast in pink and mauve hues that add a wonderful dimensionality and colour that exists for only a few brief minutes when the conditions are perfect. I was very fortunate to be in this spectacular location with perfect weather in the dead of winter and to be able to photograph a wonderful example of Alpine Glow.This photograph was technically quite challenging. The light levels were already very low which meant punching the camera’s ISO right up to 800 in order to keep a shutter speed of at least 1/400th of a second. Shutter speeds of at least 1/400th of a second are needed to avoid any camera shake as a result of the helicopters vibration. I find the Canon EOS 1DSMK3 excellent up to ISO800 so was able to capture this image and apply minimal noise reduction in post processing and achieve an extremely clean tack sharp photograph.