I do not call myself a nature photographer in the sense of a true nature photographer who can capture the most astonishing photographs of all species of wildlife or natural history.
I am in complete awe of New Zealand’s nature photographers and am always thrilled when I can either photograph alongside or even engage in conversation with them. There is often an aspect of inquiring and learning that forms part of the discussions – not just by me but often unwittingly by them – and my mind is like a sponge and soaks it all up! One of the great joys of photography is the willingness by others to share their knowledge, which in the end helps other photographers to grow in their own journey.
Nature photography is two-fold for me but not for Chris. He is honest in his admission that birds do not interest him (feathered ones that is!), however he does not mock or dismiss my interest in wanting to photograph the birds I have so far not photographed, especially while on our Southern adventure. Part one is the desire to see and achieve while the other part is being at one with the environment and enjoying what is around me. Chris shares that aspect of photography and while I might go after the birds, as a photographer, he will always find something else to photograph, like some of the amazing fungi we have encountered.
I cannot quite describe the feeling that being amongst the birds gives me, but I know other bird photographers feel the same way. Our kids often mock us, or me, with wanting to photograph “birds, birds, birds”, of course which we ignore! Being outdoors in the fresh and often wild air, where one can observe the behaviour that is unique and interesting to the animal species brings a real sense of joy to me. If I am successful in photographing the bird and making a good (in my opinion) photograph, that is even better. Mind you, there are plenty of deletes along the journey!
Some species, such as the Australasian Gannets at Muriwai or Cape Kidnappers colonies their behaviour is full of ritual and repetition that after some time observing one can predict what comes next. With these birds, I love photographing them preening and the mating rituals. How you interpret that behaviour into a final image, also depends on one’s personal style of post processing and what story is to be tol
I was beginning to think the South Island birds were avoiding me. I can hear them singing to their heart’s content high above the treetops, but do you think they come down to my level? No!
Fortunately, at Lake Sylvan in Mount Aspiring National Park and at Lake Mahinapua on the West Coast the South Island Robin and (Petroica australis) and the New Zealand fantail (Piwakawaka) decided to come closer.
At both locations and others since then, the fantails are super friendly – flitting around us as if they are dancing, flirting, or wanting to stop and perch on us. On many instances the fantails fly and dance around us as soon as we start walking and follow us for quite a while. While it seems overly friendly, we are stirring up their food – the flies or small insects that they snack on – and then move on!
At Lake Sylvan I was excited to see and photograph a black fantail (Black tiwaiwaka) which are very rare in the North Island and make up only five percent of fantails in the South Island.
Being on the West Coast of the South Island has given us a unique perspective of life in the wild and also nature photography. Regardless of the amazing offering of landscape photography, the region is a nature photographer’s dream.
We have walked through bushes full of lush native trees, some hundreds of years old; ferns, flowers, and fungi that I never knew could be so intriguing and beautiful, and which demanded to be photographed. To the delicate water droplets hanging from the tips of the fringe-like ferns – there is enough to satisfy a photographer of any level, and enough to entice a return visit.
We bumped into a photographic colleague, who is one of New Zealand’s best and most respected nature photographers on one trail and his first comment was “what’s a North Islander doing down here…?” We were the last people he expected to run into in ‘fungi season’ which sees the true nature photographer chasing the fungi regardless of where it is. He had been on the road for four weeks, chasing the fungi. We left that discussion much wiser as to what is involved and required to achieve a worthy fungi photograph. It sounds like one needs to be a competent gardener (to prepare the surrounding area of the fungi), an expert with brushes (to remove the rubbish on top of the fungi), and that is before even lifting the camera! But I think I’ve given away trade secrets here!!
Yes, for us, the wild West Coast of New Zealand has ‘unfinished business’ and will constitute the first part of Moti’s travels in 2023.