Linear Panoramas
New Zealand, March/April 2014
Landscapes

 

We visited New Zealand in March and April 2014, touring around the South Island and subsequently the North Island. The weather was mostly mild – in NZ’s autumn – and the general impression was one of space, quietness (NZ is around 6.5 times larger than NL, at about ¼ of the population), impressive landscapes and a very special fauna. Starting from Christchurch, where the 2011 earthquake is still very visible, we travelled south along the east coast to Stewart Island and from there along the west coast up to Picton, with many stops in between. From there, we took the ferry to Wellington on the North Island, to finish 3 weeks later in Auckland. Our stays were mostly B&Bs, but in more remote areas full catering was the only practical solution, whereas in other places it was completely self-catering, everything well arranged by our travel agency. In contrast to most of the trips mentioned in these pages, this was more a traditional vacation than a nature photography trip, but we did take cameras with us with lenses for landscape and not-too-distant wildlife.

The pictures reflect the diversity of the impressive NZ landscape, the interesting and sometimes elusive species we saw and – we hope – the general relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. We did take some special tours for the best photo opportunities – evening trips to see kiwi on Kapiti Island and on a small island off Stewart, albatross and dolphin/whale trips off Kaikoura and Stewart – and some of our hosts have been very supportive in locating the best photo opportunities (e.g. the fernbird at Bruce Bay). All by ourselves we have been fortunate to locate a “morepork” owl – named after the sound of his nocturnal call - which our various hosts assured us could often be heard but never be seen. Other species made a photographer’s life easier by keeping a shorter flight distance than we have been used to. The historical absence of predators may have something to do with that (although the later introduction of ferrets, stoats, cats etc has been a disaster to the unprepared flightless local species). Some islands – Kapiti is a good example – have again been made predator free with great effort and ongoing surveillance. As a result, we had no difficulty taking very close-up pics of the rare takahē and the - much less rare - weka. For one NZ species – the sand fly – we could have hoped for a somewhat larger flight distance, but we have no pics of the sand fly.

Special mention must be made of NZ’s night sky, which is significantly clearer than anything we have seen over the northern hemisphere. The observatory at lake Tekapo already offered good views, as did our cottages at Golden Bay and Hawke’s Bay (see also the 360 panoramas), but the private observatory “Stargazers” at Coromandel provided absolutely stunning gazing opportunities. That also allowed a 360 panorama to be made at night. It is - inevitably - a bit noisy, and with exposure times around 1 minute for each shot (4 in the round, with a Canon 8-15mm @8mm) the stars are a bit blurry. Some 360 panos can be found here.

Having brought Canon’s 300 mm F2.8 as our longest lens for this trip, there was ample opportunity to test its sharpness, handheld with a 2* converter. The combination has not always worked for us with previous generations of lenses and converters, but this combo produced some very satisfying pics (see e.g. the reef heron with fish, in "Waders").

A kind cicada, which sat almost perfectly still for a longer period of time, provided the opportunity to practice a bit of focus stacking – 12 pictures taken with a 100mm Macro and a focusing rail, stacked into 1 with Helicon Focus (see under "Insects").

All in all we had a great trip, enjoying the spectacular views, the pleasant climate, the great food and local wines, the very special landscape and NZ’s friendly and relaxed people. Warmly recommended.







 



Albatrosses
Australian gannets
Miscellaneous small birds
Insects
 
Waders
 
Petrels and shearwaters
Water birds Water faunaKiwis and others
Sunrise and sunset Observatory and starsParrots and parakeets
Volcanic geologyFlora landscapesPeter and Renee