Thursday, December 1, 2011

In late October a friend and I set off for South Westland, an area famous for its dramatic coastline, sweeping beaches, rugged cliff tops, spectacular glaciers, and amazing wildlife! South Westland is so grand, that UNESCO declared it as important as the Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Mt Everest and other global natural treasures as it is holds natural and cultural features of world significance, and is now protected for perpetuity.

This is a part of the country so wild and undisturbed that the town of Haast was not linked by road to the rest of the West Coast until 1965! Haast was our base for five days and from there we ventured out in search of the varied wildlife that South Westland has to offer. Spending a little over week in South Westland in this wild part of the country was amazing! The wildness of the place was infectious and the bush lit up with the choir of native bird song! I couldn’t help closing my eyes thinking this is what pre-European New Zealand would have sounded like. I was excited to see Australasian bittern, fernbirds and a NZ falcon! But I would have to say that spending time with the penguins was the highlight of the trip!!

| Theo on the trail for penguins |

I absolutely love photographing penguins! I find that they are so full of character and very photogenic! I’ve photographed little blue, white-flippered and yellow-eyed penguins before, but I had never seen, let alone photographed, the fiordland crested penguins (Tawaki). Setting aside a week to photograph these amazingly beautiful penguins was fantastic and even though it rained for a few days I still was able to get some good days of photography in.

The first couple of days we were there it bucketed down in true West Coast fashion and we took the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing. We spent some time exploring the bush around Jackson Bay where I found myself following fantails throughout the thick bush where the canopy was providing some temporary relief from the rain. Jackson Bay has an interesting history full of hardship and grief… In the 1870s a population of 400 people (many Germans, Poles & Italians), were recruited to establish a settlement at Jackson Bay. Conditions were harsh and within 5 years the population declined to near 50 people, largely due to illness and accident; taming the landscape proved difficult if not impossible and fraught with grief and hardship!

I had a major scare with my camera on the first day of photographing the penguins!!!! Due to the difference in temperature and moisture from the previous day photographing in the wet bush around Jackson Bay and the now sunny warm beach weather my camera and lens totally fogged up – full of condensation! The top and back LCD screens, as well as the large front element of my telephoto lens, were completely fogged up! Auto focus didn’t work and all I could see through the viewfinder was a white! My heart stopped as I thought that could be the end of my trip before it even started, although after a couple of hours sitting in the sun the condensation slowing disappeared….phew! And I was able to capture the penguins as they entered and exited the ocean in order to feed their rapidly growing chicks.               

| Preening on the beach is common and indulged in quite intensively after they return to land |

The last day proved to be my favourite day as I was able to capture the intimacy between a pair of penguins as they preened one another and showed an amazing amount of tenderness and affection towards one another. AMAZING!

| Allopreening (preening each other) can be preformed between partners, and serves to strengthen the bond between partners |

Hope you enjoy the photos


  1. Amazing photography,stunning captures.

  2. This is inspiring art; they reflect a human personality, only more perfect. Nice work.