Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Photour - Day One

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.

NZ Fur Seal

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.

Neerav and the Sealions

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.

You move me to inertia


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.

Hoiho away to bed

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Time To Come Up With Something New

I'm sick of this

It's been a year already so if you haven't already got a great wildlife photo, get out and shooting for the Otago Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010 competition.

It's a great comp, but personally, I'd like to see some changes this year. I heard some grumblings about last year's winner looking like a none-too-subtle bit of HDR manipulation. I've got to admit, it may have been done in camera, but it did look like some of the beautiful work done by Weta Digital.

To avoid that kind of suspicion, I think it fair to ask finalists to submit an original raw file of their work. I'd also like to see a higher profile expert judge, possibly from overseas, or at least an experienced judge from PSNZ on the judging panel this year. The competition deserves the added prestige this would add. I'd also like to see some more guidelines and criteria for entrants to go by. Animal portraiture is fine, but to my way of thinking, a winning wildlife shot should be more than a good portrait. It should have strong elements of behaviour, natural history, drama, humour or character. A true champion should have all these and more. Maybe it's time for a two-tier competition as we go into the second decade of this great event.

Let's raise that bar!

Introducing the Photourists

Okay, before I can tell the story of our great Southern Photo Safari, a few introductions are in order. Our little gang of Photourists had a very complimentary mix of picture-making skills.

First, TV host extraordinaire Jules Lund. Aussies will need no introduction to this guy but for everyone else, he's a cool customer who gets to travel the world fronting the "Getaway" travel show, and a bunch of other shows that either involve him dressing up, down or in something flameproof. Jules is an excellent photographer with the ability to see great shots anywhere. He brought a Canon 7D along for the ride and used it to great effect.

Jules gets direction

That's director Anna Thomas also in the picture. You might remember Anna as a "Fair Go" reporter. Nowadays, as well as attending Les Mills Boot Camp classes, raising a couple of kids and giving orders to an NZ Army major, Anna directs commercial TV and webcast projects like this. Personally, I have nothing nice to say about the woman until she destroys the photos taken of me sleeping in the rear of the crew vehicle. Small, easily concealed point-and-shoot cameras were made for guerilla photogs like Anna. She has an indefatiguable sense of humour and an alarming coffee addiction, but that comes with the job, y'know?

Neerav and the big one

Neerav Bhatt, Sydney-based travel and technology blogger. Loves kiwi chocolate, but that's a one-way street. Actually when Neerav mixes chocolate with air travel, it becomes a two-way street where bystanders need to watch for oncoming traffic. The trip was an excellent opportunity for Neerav to test a slew of products in the ever-changing Kiwi weather last week, including a gore-tex jacket, his new Canon s90 and a Sony Walkman A NWZA845B with built-in Digital Noise-Cancelling but what really got him excited was the 400mm lens kindly on loan to us from Canon Australia.

Camilla brings the house down

Camilla Lundbak, winner of the Canon 100% photography competition. Camilla is an exponent of the impressionistic style of photography, using motion blur or pans and zooms in camera rather than with post-production effects. Nowadays Camilla works for the NZ Treasury but her poise and gazelle-like ability to jump are clues to her former life as a dancer. Did you know Denmark has one of the oldest ballet companies in the world? I didn't. Canon had lent us their new 550 D for Camilla, which she found comfortably similar to her beloved 500 D which is just as well.

At the pace we all had to pack, unpack, re-pack for another mode of transport, walk, shoot, eat and generally experience the natural wonders and hospitality of the southern South Island, there was little time for reading camera manuals.

And that's just the way I like it.

Our sponsor, client and road manager for this trip, Tourism Dunedin's Heather Mollins has just about made her exclusive selections from my record of the trip. Once that's done, I'll begin to tell the story in pictures. Heather coined the phrase Photourism on our epic journey and it's a damn fine one. Expect to hear a lot more of it. If we have our way, our efforts will encourage you to become a photourist yourself!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Coming Soon...

My tour of Southland and Otago's photourist hotspots with the Jules Lund crew was done at a hectic pace, much of our destinations off the grid as far as uploading updates goes. Even when we were within 3G range, we were running and gunning too hard to share much from the road.

Helo over Mountain

CC & Anna Thomas

Now I'm home, I'm taking a look through some of my stuff, already reliving the great time we had. I'll be posting some of it soon but first I'd just like to thank all the folks who made it possible - Heather Mollins and Tourism Dunedin, Tourism New Zelanand, Venture Southland and Canon Australia. My special thanks goes to all the local operators who made our trip so amazing. Their dedication to providing a great experience as well as protecting and enhancing our precious natural assets was inspiring. It makes me proud to think that our international visitors can have these great experiences packaged in such a warm, personal Kiwi touch.

Jules light painting

Lastly, what a revelation Jules Lund was. I'd never even seen the guy on telly before, but I gather he's quite a star back home and deservedly so. I used to front TV many moons ago and know it's not as easy as it looks. Jules is a real pro. Always working, wonderfully energised and up for anything, he's a natural presenter. He is also a gifted photographer. For a guy so eager to learn from others, he sure has a lot of skill and a great eye. To see such dedication and talent in a guy who is also genuinely unaffected by the TV biz, approachable, modest and warm, well it just lead me to the conclusion that the rest of us mortals must band together to take him out. His pathetic attempts to light paint "NZ" on our night in Mason's Bay homestead were the only thing that made us take pity on him. Otherwise we'd have clubbed him to death with our long lenses and left his youthful, well-proportioned body in the dunes.

Right, unpacking to do and many Gigs of pix to look at. But first, my Saturday violin lesson.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Off the grid

Bad weather, a madcap schedule and remote locations have kept me off the grid on our little photo safari. Rest assured were getting great stuff from awesome locations. And then there's the food. more later.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day One: Great Success

The pace is hectic, and its late, but here are a few shots from the trip so far. Can't let you see the A shots I'm afraid, but these give you a taste of what we're up to. We ditched the sunrise, but conditions improved rapidly once we got out on Otago Peninsula and it became another great day for photography here in Dunedin.


After a little mountain biking, I took the team to my favourite ruin, while the crew filmed us shooting and swapping tips. Here's the stills crew: Camilla, Neerav, Jules and the one looking scarily like my Dad, well that's me.

Jules Lund Stills Crew

After an elegant repast at Larnach Castle, we departed with Elm Wildlife tours to spend some times with the Yellow eyed penguins and Hookers Sealions that call our little patch of the Peninsula home.

Hoiho - Yellow eyed Penguin

Hookers Sealion

This morning feels like a week ago. Batteries charged, shots downloaded. Time to pack for the big adventure tomorrow. And that picture tells me I've got to get some beauty sleep.

Flying to Stewart Island tomorrow, so it may be a day or so before I report back. Should have some fun stuff to share by then.

Southern Safari

Jetty 4

Day one of our 100% Photgraphy Southern Photo Safari! We're supposed to start with a sunrise at St Clair, so I went down yesterday for a little recce to see what we could do. The weather is not cooperating, so the sunrise was subtle and fleeting.

Jetty 2

Jetty 3 (after Mike Thorsen)

Conditions like this force us to be creative, so I don't really have a problem with taking the gang out for this kind of thing. But now it's raining and I've heard we've scratched the beach shoot. Probably a good idea. I'll find out what the new plan is over breakfast. Improvising! I love it. It's going to be an exciting day.

Jetty Blur

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'd Like To Share Something With You

It's this:

Coromandel Sunset

There's such a growing interest in photography these days that I've decided to advertise the fact that I run workshops and guide photo safaris to help people make pictures like this. This shot is one I took up in Coromandel, but there's so much to share right in my own back yard here in Dunedin and the surrounding regions. This has also been precipitated by the trip I'm taking for Tourism NZ et al at the end of the week.

I'm stoked to add that my mate Mike Thorsen is keen to help me in these adventures. Mike's a first rate wildlife and macro photog who also likes to share what he knows. So, I've added this page to my freelance business site, so people know where to find us. Get in touch!

Congrats Camilla!

Canon have just announced the winner of the Tourism NZ EOS Photochain comp. It's Camilla Lundbak. Camilla will be accompanied by Neerav Bhatt and myself on a truly fabulous photo safari at the end of this week, supported by Canon Australia, Tourism NZ, Tourism Dunedin and Venture Southland. Check out Camilla's winning picture here.

The competition judges said "The water, the mountains and the curtain of light seem more like layers in a pop up book." Nice call. Congratulations Camilla, looking forward to helping you capture some more great pictures from my neck of the woods!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Meet Some Friends Of Mine

My upcoming tour of Otago and Southland is to accompany the winner of the Canon 100% photography competition. I'm not sure who that's going to be yet, but I hope they're bringing some thermals. After several weeks of summer temperatures in the high 20's, a southerly blast is now lashing the new scarfies (university students) and fashionistas in town for ID fashion week (which my lucky mate Mike McQueen is shooting).

What I do know is that we'll be accompanied by travel and technology writer Neerav Bhatt. Neerav's a prodigious blogger, and you should check him out here. As well as a bunch of great gear lent by Canon from the trip, we're hoping to get our hands on their new 550D for Neerav to review.

Right now I'm also racing to put together some shots for a little show I'm putting on with Mike, Reatha Kenny and Mike Thorsen. Together we've formed an informal project-based group called The Light Brigade. Reatha has amazing skills at shooting people, some of which you can see here. I'm stoked to add that we've just been joined by my old mate Lindsay (Sid) Somerville. Lindsay's a seasoned pro, and you shouldn't let the fact that he and I have played in a couple of bands together stop you from checking out his stuff.

The little show? More on that later. Meanwhile, here's one of the shots I'm thinking of including.

Death, Baby

Friday, March 12, 2010

Road Tested

Time to gear up for my little road trip, so I'm posting this from my Android phone. The shot is one of the black capped terns that hang around the harbour here. Looking forward to sharing more of Otago and Southland's wildlife from the road!


Let Me Be Your Guide


OK, exciting news: In a week's time I'll be hitting the road as photography guide with some Aussies and a TV crew travelling through Dunedin and parts of Southland. We'll spend the week walking, driving and choppering into places like Otago Peninsula, Stewart Island and Milford Sound to take pictures. I'm honoured to have been chosen, and I'm excited about being able to promote my beautiful region in the best way I know.

We'll be using some top-of-the-line gear supplied courtesy of Canon Australia, blogging and tweeting about what we do and see along the way. We'll literally start the trip in my back yard, Otago Peninsula so here's a shot looking back down the peninsula to my neighbourhood (extreme R) and the rest of town.

I also booked another hair fashion shoot with my friends from Sliver Salon for April, have been approached to shoot an album cover for one of my favourite local bands, and have some scripts on offer. Not a bad week, really.

More details about the trip to come.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Living with Clutter

I picked up the hoarding habit from my Dad. Our garage was full of old tea chests, filled with assorted used spare parts from appliances and bits of tools I couldn't name. He hated throwing anything out, because he knew he'd find a use for it one day. If you look around our cupboards and sheds, you'll see he passed the gene on.

Twelve O'clock High

It's the same with my pictures. I delete complete failures straight away, but I'll keep everything else on my hard drive for months. I'm a believer that sometimes you just need time to see the value in a shot, and like my writing Guru JV says, "Your hard drive doesn't care how many drafts you keep on it." I'm preparing shots for a public screening soon, so decided to see if there was anything undiscovered in my early folders. I found this shot that I'd never really been ready to appreciate. Glad I kept it now.

One thing this exercise has taught me is that I really shoot a lot in portrait orientation, even my landscapes. Interesting. Speaking of landscapes, it looks like I've got a rather exciting shoot coming up in a couple of weeks.

Check back soon for the big announcement.