Okay enough teasing, time to tell the story of our fabulous Southern Photo Safari, or Photour, as the wonderfully inventive Heather Mollins put it.
First, sorry if you don't dig the watermarks, but business is business. Heather has already snaffled the cream of my shots, but my job behooves me to protect the rest.
Anyhoow, after an evening meeting at the fabulous St Clair Beach Resort, we decided the weather was just too overcast for a killer dawn shot, so after a fine breakfast at Swell cafe, we headed for my back doorstep - Otago Peninsula, for a little cycling photography with Pat & Mary of Peninsula Bike and Kayak. If you haven't already heard, the Peninsula has been named as one of Lonely Planet's top bike rides and it's a great way to spot photo ops that you just don't see as you whiz by in a vehicle. Naturally, I wanted to show off my favourite ruin. There's a shot of that and our sound operator Michael Kerslake in my earlier post here.
His opposite number, Grant Atkinson, is a marvellous chap I can't speak highly enough of, mainly because the NZ TV business is a small place and if I did say something like he's a Richter scale 9 snorer who had to sleep out in a tent on some locations, well, word might get around.
Treating our guests to the best the Peninsula had to offer, we had a sumptuous lunch at Larnach Castle before joining an Elm Wildlife tour to play with the long lenses Canon had lent us. First up was a small colony of New Zealand fur seals. I kind of take them for granted. A lot of us do in this part of the world, but our Aussie photourists were genuinely amazed that we could get so close to them so comfortably and not bother them at all. Of course where possible we stayed behind the barriers and were under the watchful eye of some very protective wildlife guides at all times.
After meeting a stoic-looking moulting Hoiho or Yellow-eyed pengiun on the access path, the team encountered some of our growing population of Hooker's sea lions. Faster than you can say 'f/8 and be there', Neerav had taken possession of the 400mm lens and was snapping away. Don't worry, he's not as close as he looks. Telephoto lenses foreshorten things. If you do happen upon one of our marine mammals on a beach and are unguided, please keep the recommended 10 metres between yourself and the animals. That's as much for your safety as it is for their comfort.
Our fascination with the Hookers was not returned. They show no fear of humans and little interest, which you have to respect, especially if you value your limbs. They're big, powerful and fast. Also easily bored by photogs, it seems.
Soon it was time to head for the hide and watch as those Hoiho that had been fishing for the day came up the beach and back to their nests. Like an optical illusion that changes before your eyes, these birds change from comical to stately in a blink. I'm happy to say that thanks to the predator trapping operation that the Elm tours support, this little population is growing while others are sadly in decline.
Day one: Great food and hospitality, healthy bike ride, picturesque ruins, the world's rarest penguin and New Zealand's rarest mammal. Not a bad start. By nightfall, we were pretty tired, and I still had to pack for the rest of the trip. I left the rest of the team at Larnach Castle, where, like the Hoiho, they climbed up the stairs to nest for the night. They had a big week ahead.