14 December 2014
A couple of days ago Dave and I decided the weather was stable enough (just) to risk a trip down country about 160km to Sanctuary Mountain at Maungatautari.
The reserve itself is huge, 3400 hectares, and we saw less than a tiny fraction of it. The southern enclosure is fully surrounded by a predator-free fence, and is the main hang-out of the kaka (Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis) — as well as a long list of other native birds. Stopping to take photos of flora and fauna every few steps means the distance we covered was minimal, because there is just so much to see. It would be a fantastic place to revisit with the prime purpose of walking, rather than photo-taking.
The only tricky part, from a photography enthusiast’s perspective, is the lack of light. It was a grey, overcast day (with occasional drizzle — so much for summer!) when we were there, and even at an ISO of 4000 and F8 I was only just achieving sufficient shutter speeds (1/400) to hand-hold my lens at 400 mm. Even though the high-ISO performance of my 70D is absolutely streets ahead of my old 550D, there is still a lot of grain present in the images.
The highlight of the trip, however, wasn’t caught on film.
We entered the bush about 20 minutes after a guided tour, and quickly caught them at ‘The Clearing’, a small area where the staff feed the kaka with a few peanuts in their shells. The group of people moved off shortly after, but we hung about to watch the kaka and finches. As I crouched down right next to one of the benches to get a finch-eye-perspective, I heard Dave say, “Look to your left.” And hopping brazenly along the bench towards me was a kaka. Bold as anything he decided to taste my bright-pink windcheater! Not much later, when we were up the tower (a tall, wooden structure of stairs and platforms) I was leaning on one of the rails lining up a kaka sat atop the structure higher up, and again Dave called out to, “Look behind you.” Another kaka decided to check me out, coming within half an arm’s length of my face, and studying me intently. I sat still and talked to him (wanting all the time to reach out and pat him but figuring that wouldn’t be wise!) and slowly moved the camera around so he could see it better–and he promptly latched his beak on to the lens hood. Talk about cheeky!
I’m guessing both of these birds (if, indeed, they were not the same one) were youngsters curiously exploring their environment. I’m also not sure about the colour vision of a kaka: perhaps my bright attire was a point of interest? Or perhaps I just looked a lot like the two-legged beings that hand out the peanuts!
On the other hand, with the tripod (carried the whole way by the long-suffering, ever-patient husband) the fungi shots were more successful. I did some focus-stacking, but still managed to get a fuzzy edge on the left side of the tree in the second image.
My mission now is to find out what they’re called!
10 December 2014
An overcast day here, with lots of rain to come overnight. Diffuse light through the window makes for great macro shooting conditions, so more focus-stacking experiments were in order. No interesting bugs, so I settled on a past-its-best rose (with bonus aphids).
8 December 2014
I find beauty in the most mundane of places.
This is a chive flower from my garden, viewed from underneath.
And then this mildly successful focus-stacking experiment. This is a combination of 12 different images–and I still didn’t manage to get everything in focus.
7 December 2014
Today is Pearl Harbour Day. It is also the 20th anniversary of the day I purchased my first car. However, those two things have nothing whatsoever to do with today’s post.
Yesterday, by chance, we discovered the Puhinui three-day event was already at day two (cross-country). Today was the show jumping. And, given that it’s close to home and the weather was finally summery, we decided to spectate.
The light was pretty dreadful–bright sun–so a lot of post-processing effort had to go into attempting to recover heavy shadows and bright highlights.
Eventing is also plagued, I discovered, by sponsors’ faff: brightly coloured signs and displays (in this case cars) positioned to get in nearly every photograph from every angle. And if you do manage to avoid those sorts of distractions, then all the spectators and tents mess up the background. So the only option left is to crop them out (if surreptitious cloning doesn’t work).
Regardless, some beautifully presented horses working very hard for their skilful riders. Highly recommend it as a spectator sport.
6 December 2014
I’m trying to learn to focus-stack properly, using Photoshop’s FILE–SCRIPT–LOAD FILES INTO STACK and then EDIT–AUTO BLEND LAYERS functions.
Hunting around for something that might be appropriate for some macro action, I picked some roses from the garden. The focus-stacking was relatively successful, although the final image was nothing inspiring. I need some interesting bugs that are willing to sit still for ages.
So decided to have a play with combining the focus-stacked, sharp image with an intentionally blurry one. And this is what I came up with.
24 November 2014
A bit of a disaster on the white-eye front today: one stunned itself on the window and, quick as a flash, Moustache had it. One white-eye down. :(
But continuing a theme (because I have been at my desk a lot studying for a route check), some more images of the ones that are still alive…