I have been looking forward to the Wild Dunedin events this year as every year something has come up and I haven’t been able to attend yet (Covid lockdowns, a friend’s wedding, and my exhibition in Ōtautahi/Christchurch).

The festival is officially 14-23 April, so the week ahead is going to be PACKED with events for me to absorb all things nature and gardening and photography (the talks I’m most looking forward to are a talk on bird photography, and a WHOLE DAY of talks about soil). However, there was a special on a photography-focused sunset cruise from Monarch Wildlife which included transport from Dunedin and back – very important as I don’t have a car!

The Monarch, waiting for us to board

It was my first time photographing from a boat (actually it was my first time on a boat this small, so it was a bit of a gamble!) so I went in with the goal of at least getting 2-3 decent photos, and letting myself use it as an opportunity for practice. I also just thought it would be fun to get out on a boat and see more of our marine wildlife.

We had a very quick glimpse at a hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin) but it dipped below the water pretty quickly, and some Hector’s dolphins – both of which are endemic, and threatened. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to get photos of either of them. It almost felt like the dolphins were teasing us, jumping up above the water and then vanishing into the sea. It reminded me of how the pīwakawaka/fantails tease our cat, who has never once been able to catch one, no matter how many times they sweep down in front of her, laughing away.

Hoiho/Yellow-eyed penguin, Megadyptes antipodes

The albatross were the first of the wildlife that I really got a chance to capture – Northern royal, or toroa in te reo Māori – and my first goal was just to get one in focus. I wasn’t used to being stationary (but also moving!) and I had to get used to using a wider focus area pretty quickly. From there, I was trying to get some different compositions and also put the albatross in context of its setting. The lighthouse and moon shots below were my successes here.

Right at the start of the cruise we also saw a young kekeno/fur seal pup suckling from its mother. I took a few shots of it actually suckling, but I love the expression on its face in the image above.

The other thing I’m working on is post-processing. I’m not very familiar with photo editing programs (beyond global changes and cropping) and quite frankly I spend enough time in front of screens to have any desire to spend hours more at the computer. But, I know it’s a part of the process so I’m trying to do some work in post on a few select images. It’s also a goal this year to enter a few more competitions and I know that I need to get my head around post-processing if I’m going to stand a chance. So below are two images I was a bit heavier-handed and intentional with. I’m pleased with them as a starting point, and even kinda enjoyed myself.

I must admit I felt a wee bit queasy near the end of the trip (not too bad, though!) but even some of the more seasoned sailors said it was choppier than usual. Perhaps next time I’ll take some Gin-Gin’s with me! I certainly intend to take advantage of some more of their Wild Dunedin specials and go out again.

Golden hour 💛

Artist Date: Monarch Sunset Cruise